Dofflemyer Point with Boston Harbor in background, South Puget Sound. The next morning it is blowing 20+ knots from the south and raining. While bummed about the sudden change in weather, I am stoked for a good sail. We pull-out of Olympia by 11.30AM and head out of Budd Inlet. I am careful to follow the dredged channel. Amy somehow gets our daughter to take a nap, so I delay hoisting sail for fear of waking her. Instead I work on getting my new Simrad/Robertson autopilot interfaced with Visual Navigation Suite. The configuration process is surprisingly simple (the wiring was already done) and within about 15 minutes I have the system up and running.

Near Dana Passage I spy a beautiful old schooner beating to weather up the western shore. She is flying everything but her topsails and makes a pretty sight with the Olympic Mountain range as a backdrop. Meanwhile we are being flushed out of the South Sound like a... well, I will spare you my analogy. Suffice it to say, we are making good time. At Dana Passage the current is ebbing at about 2.5 knots to the east. We pass a stout cutter headed the opposite direction under sail. It looks like he is having a fun ride, but having a tough go at making much headway against the current and headwind. I can almost see the amazement on their faces as they watch us motor along in such fine conditions for sailing. However, the value of a nap for an overtired toddler can’t be underestimated.

Schooner beating to weather. Olympic Mountain Range in background, South Puget Sound. For a change of scenery, I decide to take the long route and sail around Anderson SouthSoundMap Island instead of sailing the more direct Drayton/Balch passage route (click here to go back to the page with the map of the South Sound). Anderson Island was the epicenter for the February 28, 2001 Nisqually Earthquake. This 6.8 magnitude earthquake hit the region at 10:54 in the morning. While the earthquake caused billions of dollars of damage, the depth of the quake (30 miles) and fact that the epicenter was in a fairly unpopulated area undoubtedly reduced damage. The 2001 quake was similar in size and location to a 1949 7.1 magnitude earthquake. The theory is that both the '49 and the '01 quake were caused by tensions associated with the Juan de Fuca Tectonic Plate plunging under the North American Plate.

Headed northbound through the Tacoma Narrows, South Puget Sound To the south of Anderson Island and to our starboard is a broad river delta called the Nisqually River Delta. The headwaters of the Nisqually River start about 45 miles away at Mount Rainier. Many years ago, I rafted a part of this river with my twin brothers. It was astonishingly miserable—the part of the river we rafted was incredibly mellow and it poured rain.

The estuary around the river delta has been converted into a wildlife preserve. The Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge was officially established in 1974. The refuge has 7 miles of trails and a modern education center. The mud flats to the north of the estuary are extensive and anchorage is exposed at best. The best way to enjoy the refuge is probably to come by car—take I-5 south from Seattle at follow the signs at exit 114.

Seattle skyline. Elliott Bay in foreground, Cascade Mountain Range and Lake Washington in background. I start sailing while we are transiting Nisqually Reach and we enjoy 6+ knots under only the jib. The rain stops and we actually get some broken sun and clouds as we near the Tacoma Narrows. An ugly looking squall follows us all the way from the Nisqually River Delta to the Narrows, but never catches us. We are making excellent time with the 4+ knot tide that is ebbing through the Narrows. Conditions get very gusty as we near Point Defiance, but the wind continues to blow from the right direction. With only the jib up, the boat is pretty easy to single-hand. The automated weather station at West Point near Seattle is reporting about 20 knots of wind with gusts to 25. I would say we have been experiencing about the same conditions.

Elliott Bay Marina as viewed from a seaplane, Central Puget Sound We are headed to Quartermaster Harbor for the night. There is a nice King County Park with moorage near Dockton. The park is about 2.5 nautical miles into the harbor and is on the Maury Island side of the harbor. Once we enter Quartermaster Harbor the wave action completely dies and we experience very puffy conditions for about 2 miles. The puffs are fun as we accelerate to about 7 knots in the flat calm water, and then decelerate to about 2 knots. I sail almost all the way to the park and then start the trusty diesel and furl the jib. I try docking single-handed on my first approach, but the wind blows me off. Amy and a fellow mariner on the dock help me out on the second approach and everything goes without a hitch. The docks are almost empty save a few powerboats. We go for a short walk, and then retire below for dinner. It blows over 20 knots for most of the night.

The next morning we are up early and get under way. The wind has died and it is again flat calm and sunny. We pass Des Moines and head up East Channel. The rest of the trip is uneventful and soon we are pulling into homeport, Elliott Bay.

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