Archive for November, 2016

Port Blakely

Wednesday, November 9th, 2016

Blakely Harbor is a pretty quiet place today, but in the 1800s this was the site of the world’s most productive sawmill. The original car ferry from Seattle to Bainbridge Island had its terminal here. Now there’s a park instead, its uplands unmanicured but well-designed.  I launched here yesterday for a trip around Restoration Point, seen below in the distance, toward Fort Ward.


There are two plausible put-in spots, and I started from the one further back in the bay, which allowed the use of wheels to get the kayak from the road nearly as far as the beach. (I donned drysuit and boots to carry the boat across a swampy little pool, and loaded it on gravel beside deeper water.)

Not only have most signs of industry faded, but some lavish residences have appeared. The dock in the picture above is just the first of several along the north shore, one of them with a boat house big enough to shelter a matching one-and-a-half-story houseboat inside.

The south shore of the bay is in some ways even grander.  I knew from the map that it was bordered by Country Club Road, so I looked for a building to match. This one seemed like a good candidate, but the small windows and adjacent rail fences suggest that it may be just the stables. Later research showed that this area is in fact called The Country Club at Seattle, a nine-hole golf course wrapping around the point and shared by the owners of the eighteen houses built there, and mostly handed down within families, since the nineteenth century.


Around the point, I had a good view of Manchester but soon tired of the southerly breeze and decided to save this part of the trip for another day, starting next time at Fort Ward.  On my way back progress was easier, but when I arrived at the park I found my earlier launch site thronged by youngsters, so I landed at the official boat launch, the one shown in the first picture. So far so good; but that meant moving the boat artisanally up the dozen or so fairly steep steps to the road. On such a nice, leisurely November afternoon, it seemed nearly a pleasure.

This was not my first trip to Port Blakely. I had paddled here from Eagle Harbor about a month before and explored its inner lagoon, but had trouble then understanding how road access might work. A map like the one posted on the kiosk near the beach seems no longer available on the web. On the other hand, there is a detailed history of the area, with plenty of old photographs.

The Distant Shore

Friday, November 4th, 2016

As Seattle’s coastline became more familiar, we shifted our gaze to those farther shores that lie on the other side of Puget Sound.


Here a ferry returns from one of those lands — Bremerton, or maybe Bainbridge Island –passing West Seattle on its way downtown.  In this picture Alki Point appears as just a little spit, pointing west toward Blake Island. Beyond that island lies the Kitsap Peninsula, to the north as far as Manchester and Orchard Point. Still further north the more prominent mass of Bainbridge Island hides the channel that separates them, Rich Passage.

Actually, this isn’t quite the view from our house. For composition and clarity, the photo was taken from a spot a couple of blocks north — and four hundred feet higher — revealing some detail not normally available to us from home. Still, we consider all of this to be part of our local landscape.  Who could resist taking a closer look?

The Sound can’t be much more than five miles across in most places hereabouts, certainly not a stretch for an intrepid solo paddler, but I have chosen practicality over the thrill of the “purist” approach.  I figure it will take about seven ferry trips to different launching points to cover all the visible shoreline.  The first two are already done, and are described in the next entry.

The Kitsap Peninsula

Friday, November 4th, 2016

I decided to start my examination of the distant shore at Manchester.

The big peninsula that gives Northwest Washington its odd shape, the peninsula with Mount Olympus and the famous rain forests, is the Olympic Peninsula. Protruding from it, or, perhaps more accurately, within it, is an arrowhead-shaped land mass called the Kitsap Peninsula, separated from the rest by a long narrow channel called Hood Canal. Islands flank the eastern side of the peninsula like little bits broken off from it, hiding much of it from Seattle; but a few miles are exposed to us, and this stretch of the skyline offers attractive facilities and a chance to reconnoiter some places that will be important later, like Blake Island and the southern end of Bainbridge.

One day in July I picked up the boat at Salmon Bay, put it on the car and arrived at Fauntleroy before 9:30, in time for the one of the last reverse-commute ferry sailings. Even with an intermediate stop at Vashon Island it was a quick and pleasant crossing to Southworth.

Driving north from there, following my recollection of the map I had sketched the night before, I soon arrived at Pomeroy Park. I wasn’t sure whether the Port of Manchester expects people without boat trailers to pay for parking, but I bought a ticket just in case, for $7, from a machine that takes credit cards. There are two docks, one attractive to kayakers but still high enough to require some effort getting in and out. The deck grating provides useful finger-holds.  A small adjacent beach would be an alternative.


I chatted a bit with a fellow who was fishing for crabs, and then paddled off to the north. The first landmark is a big pier with signs warning that it belongs to the government and to keep away. This is Orchard Point, which appears on the charts without much explanation, perhaps not to attract the attention of evil-doers. The Navy has a lot of facilities between here and Bremerton; they also had a very big ship anchored off Manchester, but there seemed to be plenty of space for me to go between.

I paddled past Clam Bay, skirting an array of buoys there. arriving at the beach at Manchester State Park sooner than I was expecting, and paused for a snack.  There was a selection of logs for seating, complete with a neighborly ground squirrel. Upland there was some kind of event organized for youngsters, but they seemed mostly occupied with food and games.


I took a good look across Rich Passage toward Fort Ward. I had chosen this day in part for its small and well-timed tidal exchange, thinking that I might try crossing to Bainbridge Island. But exploring the other park looked like a bigger project than I wanted, so I topped off my water bottle and just headed back. I had come further than necessary already: my part of Seattle was well out of view until I was back at Clam Bay. I glimpsed a marine mammal spying on me there. I think it was probably a seal, but it didn’t wait around for introductions.  There were also many jellyfish along the way.

That first trip to Manchester took care of only a very small portion of the visible coast.  I returned just before the end of September to paddle a few miles south toward the mouth of Curly Creek, and then followed the shoreline east just a bit to an old pier where I was sure that Seattle was well hidden behind Blake Island.  Each way I kept a respectful distance from a float where a number of seals were resting and sunning themselves; but both times one of their number launched to follow me and make sure that I left their area safely.   The ship is one of several, probably idled by a shipping company’s bankruptcy, anchored near Seattle.


Back at the Southworth ferry dock I took some time to examine the facilities there and especially the parking arrangements.  This will be the place to launch for an eventual overnight trip to Blake Island.