During the last week of June, Barb and I took part in the inaugural Salish 100; a gathering of a hundred small, trailerable boats that cruised in tandem from Olympia to Port Townsend, Washington. The event measured a hundred miles long and was spread over a week. It had an eclectic mix of pedal-boats, stand-up paddle boards, pretty wooden craft, and tried-&-true ‘glass sailboats. The event was split into manageable legs that finished each day either at a quiet anchorage situated off a Washington State Park, or a charming town.
We put Quinque on her trailer and towed her to the start of the event. We crossed to Tsawwassen on a BC ferry and slept a night in the truck in the Burlington Walmart parking lot before driving the rest of the way to Swantown Marina in Olympia.
Here’s my take on the Salish 100 in snippets:
Day zero – Olympia
- Olympia doesn’t disappoint: there is plenty to see and do. We meet a few of the Salish crew as they ready their boats, and we bump into Ed: a friendly fellow who is riding the same classic BMW motorcycle as we are restoring back home.
- Ed steers us to some grub. No trip to Olympia is complete without a stop at Old School Pizzeria!
Day 1 – Olympia to Henderson Inlet
- What a sight! A hundred small boats spread over the horizon!
- Barb: “Hey! Quinque has pretty good boat speed!”
- A fun sail as we beat our way up Henderson Inlet to anchor under the old train wharf
Day 2 – Henderson to Penrose Point State Park
- We sail through a pack of colourful kayaks paddled by brown men in turbans singing Bhangra music, with their ‘leader’ at the back shouting “Guys! Guys! STAY IN SYNC GUYS! STAY – IN – SYNC!” Is he referring to their paddling or their singing?
- We sail in company with the fine William Garden schooner Toadstool.
- A balloon is drifting on the tideline. We grab it and recycle it as a ‘balloon jib’.
- The boats behind us get some wind and we all pass through narrow Pitt Passage as one giant fleet. Someone launches a drone to capture the spectacle. A seagull attacks the drone. Are we supposed to wave at the drone, or pretend it’s not there? Discuss.
- We anchor and go ashore for a walk at Penrose Point State Park – one of Washington’s oldest parks. That evening we pull Andy and Scott’s boats together (did we pull Scott’s anchor loose?) for a jam session of fiddle, guitar and five-string banjo. Small world: Andy and I have previously sailed together on the schooner Maryke Violet at the Port Townsend Wooden Boat Festival!
- There’s a lot of wildlife in the anchorage – so many different birds! There’s a big dog galloping down the beach with a twenty-foot long leash. The owners are tearing after it yelling “ARCHIE!!! ARCHIE!!!” Archie don’t care.
- We fall asleep in the glassy, flat-calm bay only to be awoken thirty minutes later by an extremely heavy swell. Like, huge. Chaos ensues. Rafted boats are grinding against each other, banging their aluminum masts together. Neighbouring boats are rolling gunwale-to-gunwale and shipping water over the sides. I’m being flung back and forth in my sleeping bag. “Madness! MADNESS!” I declare to Barb before eventually falling back to sleep… It’s a mystery as to what caused it. My guess: a passing submarine?
Day 3 – Penrose to Gig Harbour
- We catch an early wind out of Penrose and avoid the row some of the late risers had ahead of them. Hale Passage is eye candy to us with its low bridge and fancy waterfront homes.
- Barb rows us under the mighty Tacoma Narrows Bridge. A cyclist stops high above and we exchange waves. I’d like to ride across that bridge someday.
- We arrive in Gig harbour. We drive Quinque up onto the hard beach in front of the Gig Harbour Boatshop. I walk the anchor and chain up the beach. An over-imbibed, know-it-all dock-side admiral approaches with beer can in hand to inform us we are doing it all wrong. I tell him his beer goggles are on too tight. He turns and stumbles away.
- A trip into town for a couple of lattes is in order, and then a fine bbq hosted by the boatshop. When the party breaks, we row across the bay and anchor in a quiet spot. Barb plays her fiddle. It’s fitting for the location.
Day 4 – Gig Harbour to Blake Island State Park
- We eat breakfast aboard while a variety of elite competition paddling boats practice around us. After breakfast, we pack up to head back across the bay to do some laundry in the boatyard sink. On the way, I joke that we should put Quinque on the race start line. We end up rowing for our lives to get out of their way.
- Colvos Passage: where the current always runs north, despite what the tide is doing! Cool… it’s going our direction.
- Today is hot and mostly windless. We row. A lot.
- We stop mid channel for some swimming, snacks and music!
- More rowing…
- We watch in awe as a couple boats put themselves in a dangerous position with the Southworth ferry.
- We arrive at the day’s ultimate destination: Blake Island State Marine Park. It’s a gem of an island situated so close to the Emerald City of Seattle. Ashore for a walk we witness the mean Canadian Geese & the fearless raccoon marauders. I’ve never seen so many raccoons in one spot – nor so many mean Canadians. That night we see excellent phosphorescence and brilliant stars!
Day 5 – Blake Island to Kingston
- We start the day with some carefully orchestrated ferry crossings in large groups of small boats. Strength in numbers?
- A sixty-foot long boat speeds under power towards us. We are rowing and have the sails up, so clearly we have the right-of-way. Does he not see us? I begin to alter course to starboard to avoid his imminent collision course. Then I see his distraction: a pod of transient Killer Whales surfaces within a hundred feet of him. I shout at him to back off and shut down his engine. He looks right at me but pretends not to see me. What an ignoramus. His wife comes up from below to the bridge, sees what is happening, and punches him in the shoulder. He slows down… somewhat.
- Fickle winds push us wing-on-wing into Kingston Harbour. We are one of the last boats to arrive at today’s destination. There is a bbq being hosted at a waterfront home for the Salish 100 participants. I check the chart and look at a satellite image of the approach. There are no dangers, so I elect to sail right up on to the beach. Barb chimes in, ”Are you sure you want to try this?” In my mind I envision a spectacularly executed landing right under the party-goers on the beach. I will step out and perform a rock-star ‘mike drop’. All will applause my excellent seamanship skilz. Of course, back in reality, Poseidon has other plans for me. 200 feet out from the beach we slowly skid to a stop in the mud. The sails are hanging full, but we are not moving. “Doh!” How embarrassing. A fellow sailor wades part of the distance out to tell us to avoid most of the beach as it is thigh-deep mud. Back to the marina I row, kicking myself for being such a glory-seeking, pig-headed, ego-maniac. Rock-star to Jester-clown in under 200 feet…
- Because of my antics, we miss the bbq and thus dinner. We search around town and find some food, restock our groceries, and return to the marina’s dinghy dock where Quinque is tied up. At the dock we meet a bunch of cool likeminded sailors in our group.
Day 6 – Kingston to Mats Mats Bay
- We awaken far too early and take our first showers of the trip. We leave Kingston harbour and row out into a 20 knot headwind with a confused sea. Most of the morning is a downwind run with Quinque surfing down the back of four-foot seas. At one point we hit 7.9 knots – under just the foresail alone! The boat is shaped and balanced so that she just plants herself firmly into the waves. She delivers us safely and in comfort around Point No Point and past Foulweather Bluff, towards Mats Mats Bay.
- Mats Mats Bay is a gorgeous oasis of an anchorage. Its narrow entrance is almost invisible against the surrounding trees. Outside the entrance is a candlestick marking a reef with several dangers around it. I go one way around it; a bunch of boats go the other. There is a tense moment that I second-guess my navigation, but then the vhf-radio begins reporting conversations about how a few folks are “seeing a rock down there!”
- Once inside Mats Mats, we drop the hook in a corner of the bay. It starts to rain cats & dogs so we put up the tent (kinda lopsided ‘cause we are in a hurry and getting wet). Once inside our dry Sultan’s Palace, we sit in comfort watching the heavy raindrops bounce back off the water’s surface.
- Another jam session out on the anchored boats produces a start to a Salish 100 ‘theme’ song. Brian has worked out a tune, and with the accompaniment of Scott, Kirk, and Barb, they build a song. Several folks row by and contribute verses.
Day 7 – Mats Mats to Port Townsend
- Crossing Oak Bay we come across three more balloons in the water. One of them is juxtapositioned by a small dead fish laying beside it. Sad, really.
- Today we transit the Port Townsend Canal. We were warned that the strong flood against us would hamper any attempt on the canal before mid afternoon. We arrive a couple hours ahead of schedule. We have a decent following wind and are making five to six knots so I look up some predictions for the current and decide we have enough speed on to get through. It is quite fun to work our way towards the opposite end of the narrow passage, and what a wonderful sight it is to look back behind us and see so many small boats spread out over Oak Bay.
- Off the Port Townsend waterfront we somehow find ourselves between a nuclear submarine (within half a mile of the town) and an entourage of folks eager to get a photo of the terrifying behemoth. Funny how keen some people are to get a photo of a machine that’s capable of wiping out not only the last 100 miles I just covered, but the entire Pacific Northwest. I digress. I’ll go back to picking up balloons now…
- We briefly tie up Quinque in front of the schooner Martha at the Northwest Maritime Centre and tromp up the ramp for a latte. It’s a wrap! We’ve proudly covered the entire 100 nautical miles under sail and oar!
- We put Quinque back on her trailer, then Friday night is spent at Scott’s house, polishing the Salish 100 tune, showering, and sharing a wonderful meal.
- Saturday we hit the PT Uptown farmer’s market, visit our dear friends Jake & Karen at Admiralty Distillers, and briefly look in at Duckworks Boatbuilder’s Supply before heading homewards on the Coho ferry out of Port Angeles.
All in all, Barb and I had a fantastic sailing holiday making new friends, enjoying new places, and getting to know Quinque a little more too. If there’s a 2020 Salish 100 Small Boat Cruise, I highly recommend taking part. With so many neat people and different boats involved, there’s something in it for everyone!
Onwards we go… Onwards we row…
*Thank you to the organizers: Marty Loken and the Port Townsend Pocket Yachters Association. Thank you to the many event sponsors. Thank you Nate and Ted for photographing the event from the rad ‘Grasshopper’. Thank you Gig Harbour Boatshop for the hospitality and bbq, and for letting me wash my gaunchies in your sink. Thank you Ellie for driving our truck & trailer to PT. And thank you very much to the South Sound Sailing Society who provided a terrific network of larger ‘Mother hen’ support vessels that carefully watched over all the ‘Little Ducklings”. – Stephen