South Puget Sound begins at the Tacoma Narrows bridge, pictured below, and extends south to Olympia. Many boaters, including us, usually go north to the San Juan Islands or to Canada for their cruising. We decided to turn south and see what it had to offer. We are glad we did.
The weather was decent as we left Seattle, calm seas and no rain. The current can run fast through the Tacoma Narrows, as all of the water going into and out of the South Sound flows through here as the tides ebb and flow. We timed our transit on a flood tide so the current would be with us. On a slow boat such as ours, every knot counts. As we continued south, Mt. Rainier comes into view. Our destination for the night was Longbranch Marina.
We tied to the dock where transient moorage is designated by the yellow bull rail, and were the only transient boat in the marina. In fact, the harbormaster wasn’t even there so we were on the honor system for payment, which we left in the mailbox. March is slow for boating here apparently. We walked up the ramp to the parking lot and wandered down the paved road. Nothing much to see, but the walk was nice. We snapped a photo of the phone numbers in case we got locked out.
The next morning we continued south to Olympia, the state capitol. The marine forecast included a small craft advisory for Puget Sound and Hood Canal; however, the winds and seas were calm here. There are several Olympia marinas to choose from; we docked at Swantown Marina. Their guest moorage docks were being rebuilt and were not available so they put us on the breakwater dock adjoining the boat ramp. There were a few other boats there, but we had plenty of space.
The state capitol building and downtown Olympia are within easy walking distance and the weather was great. We took the guided capitol building tour and walked around the nicely landscaped grounds-a great way to spend the day!
After two nights in Olympia we left for Jarrell Cove State Park, the most popular marine park in the South Sound because it has a very protected and scenic bay with two docks and numerous buoys. Onshore is a campground with hiking trails. The weather forecast showed a “vigorous” front moving through over the next couple of days. Jarrell Cove would be a good place to wait out the weather.
After two nights at Jarrell Cove we headed for Tacoma’s Dock Street Marina ahead of an approaching weather system with 25-30 knot winds forecast. The wind and seas enroute were tolerable until we turned the corner at Point Defiance where large waves were hitting us broadside and causing the boat to roll. It was very uncomfortable and a little scary. We were in it for about 45 minutes and very glad to get to Tacoma and safely tied to the dock. This rolling experience convinced us that we needed to install stabilizers.
Winds were calm the next day for the final leg home.