2017 Family Cruise to the South Sound

Posted 3 years, 2 months ago

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Last summer's cruise was kind of an epic cruise, at least by our standards.  Five different crews, about a month total duration, and Kenmore Air crew swaps at Princess Louisa Inlet.  The year after a cruise like that, we go more low-key.  For example when we went to Desolation Sound, the next year we went to Alderbrook on Hood Canal.  This is one of those years:  the family cruise destination is...Olympia.  It is kind of cool to think the boat will have covered the Washington Marine Parks from their far north to their far south within a few weeks' span.

I successfully patched the hole in the kayak, cleaned the boat, re-provisioned, and we were off to our first stop:  Des Moines.  Is it dez-moins or duh-moin?  Kim insists it is the former and says she did extensive research on this including promary source interviews with actual Des Moines residents. 

We stayed for "free" on a reciprocal from the Three Tree Point Yacht Club.  Thanks guys!  Normally we would need to pay and get reimbursed, but the marina manager said don't bother and just scrawled "BOAT SHOW" on our receipt.  The showers were a bit odd.  They didn't take money to operate, but did need to be turned on with a key.  I had the manager turn them on before he left so I would be able to take a shower after dinner.  The explanation was something to do with the homeless abusing the shower, but the bathroom takes a code to get in to start with so how are the homeless getting in?  Tailgaiting I guess.  There were always a few homeless dudes near the bathroom while we were there, any time of morning day or night.

We had dinner at Anthony's.  We were hungry, it was right there, and it turned out to be a good choice.  We were in time for the sunset dinner special, and boy does that deal pack them in at the Des Moines Anthony's.  You get a starter and an appetizer, entree and dessert for $24.  What a deal.  It was pretty good for what it is.  The rice pilaf I am sure is unchanged from 30 years ago, but hey it's Anthony's!  I guess a drunk blonde lady got up and made a speech about a dude at the table next to her celebrating his 90th birthday, apropos of nothing, but I was in the bathroom while all that went down so I had to settle for the story.  I joked that we could make this an Anthony's-themed cruise as I was confident there was one in Tacoma and pretty sure Olympia had one (correct on both counts!) but it was not to be.

Next day we are off through the Tacoma Narrows with a destination of Penrose Point State Park.  I read up a bit on the Narrows as I had never been through before.  Turns out they are really no big deal as long as you account for the current.  We had it with us, so that was good.  There really are no swishy-swirlies or whirlpools waiting to smash you like Scylla and Charybdis:  it is a wide and pretty straight shot where the water just flows rather fast.

Penrose Point was quite a nice little park.  Very few boats.  I did start poking my nose into the channel to the park dock and lagoon-like inner cove, but when the depth hit 8 feet I got the hell out of there.  The park has some very nice beaches.  We did a hike and some swimming and investigated the pay shower situation.  They require tokens purchased from the ranger.  Duly noted.  It looked like a great day for a sun shower, so that's what I did instead.

We found something odd when wading out to swim.  On a sandy bottom some dark objects about the size of a pack of cards.  I thought they were weeds or some odd kind of eelgrass, but when I prodded one with my toe I was surprised to find they were hard.  I picked one up to find it was a live sand dollar.  It was a bed of hundreds of them.  And they were mostly standing up on edge.  Crazy.

I made chicken tikka massala for dinner.  Third time in 3 weeks, but still pretty good.

The next day we went all the way to Olympia.  I had hoped to get into the Olympia Yacht Club's reciprocal dock but it was all full of 40+ foot powerboats.  I swear a couple of them were still there when we left which would put them over the 2 day maximum stay.  Whatever...the city dock at Percival Landing was pretty great and dirt cheap at under $30 a night.  To register, I had to walk up to the Olympia Center, which seems to be the Parks & Rec HQ along with the senior center.  It also had a nice public bathroom and was open 8:00 AM to 10:00 PM.  Our other bathroom and shower option was right next to a busy playground, and like in Des Moines, the area around the municipal dock and bathrooms is also a haunt of the local homeless population.  Seattle is not alone in the northwest in being in the middle of a crisis of homelessness.

We lunched at the farmer's market, which seemed pretty great with tons of fresh local produce and not quite so much arts & crafts as many "farmer's" markets display.  Then we hoofed it to the record store, where I bought a couple classical records, including a nice 6-eye Columbia Masterworks deep groove LP of Beethoven's 5th and 6th piano quartet.  Then we went to Three Magnets Brewing which was recommended to me by our neighbor, where I bought and drank a flight.  It really wasn't very great.  Not a ton of flavor profile differentiation and everything was very hazy/cloudy, which I equate to not really caring about the finer details of the craft, plus there is the uric acid issue with the suspended brewer's yeast  There is a lot of just OK to mediocre craft brewing going on out there.  Anders, my favorite publican, has counseled me to always ask for a sample before committing to a pint of something new.

After all that mediocre beer, it was time for a nap, and we were off to dinner after that, with some serious talk about Anthony's because it was practically right there and we would be in time for the Sunset Dinner menu again.  But along the way we passed the Budd Bay Cafe and got sucked into it.  I had very floury/goopy chowder and blackened salmon that had no zing or spice at all, but was perfectly cooked.

This was followed by a whole day in Olympia.  Of course we went up to the capitol for a tour.  Kim took the tour off on a tangent with many questions about how people actually live in Olympia...where do they live?  where do they work?  where do they buy groceries? But despite that 20 minute diversion from a one hour tour we still got to learn all about Marcus Whitman, the sisters of Providence, "did you know the term Skid Row originated in Seattle?!?", the number of tiffany lamps in the capitol, and many other factoids about our wonderful state capitol.  It was pretty great.  None of us had ever been there before, and it was definitely worth the visit.  Dinner was at the Fish Brewing brewpub, which was decent I guess.  I had the Reuben which was pretty forgettable.  On a positive note, the beer was pretty tasty!

In the morning we hit the pump out on our way out.  I was impressed by the fact that everywhere we stayed where there was a dock, there was a pumpout station.  Then we were ready to get our freedom back, so it was off to Jarrell Cove State Park.  This is tucked into a tight little cove on the north end of Harstine Island.  Like Penrose Point, it looked like a great car camping destination with showers, salt water swimming, and well-spaced campsites.  Boy is it sure packed in with parks and private mooring buoys though.  I wouldn't want to try anchoring and managing the swing with the very tight spacing of the buoys in a generally small cove.

Next stop was the highlight of the trip, tiny Eagle Island State Park between Anderson and McNeil Islands.  There are two buoys on opposite sides of this island.  I am glad we got one because the current absolutely rips through here.  This spot is remarkable for several reasons.  

It had well over 100 seals beached on the island when we arrived, maybe 150 feet from our mooring buoy.  They didn't seem to mind us until I accidentally dropped the dinghy into the water with a splash that set them all off in a stampede to get back in the water.  I had not heard seals vocalize like these seals did.  There was a constant chorus of moans and exclamations from the seals, quite reminiscent of the babbling our youngest daughter was prone to when she was an infant.  It was entertaining but also a bit eery.  In the morning, both Kim and CJ said they heard (through the hull) seals under the boat in the middle of the night.

We also had a magnificent view of Mt. Rainier from this location, and the island is so tiny and bereft of facillities that it doesn't even have a pay station for the parks buoy.  I walked all over the island looking for one, but didn't find anything other than a couple picnic tables and some generic signage.  When I got back to the boat Kim pointed out that the buoy didn't say anything about paying, as opposed to the other parks buoys we've used that are all clearly labeled "PAY ON SHORE".  I guess this park is too remote and with too low of a utilization rate to merit sending a ranger around in a boat to collect.  Cool, free buoy!

We had steak, baked potatoes, and salad for dinner, which is one of our favorite boat meals.  Augmented with some Mama Lil's peppers left behind by the San Juan Islands crew, it was one of the best boat steak dinners evah!

After two nights of sun showers, we were ready for the amenities of Tacoma.  

It was nice to spend time in two cities which are so near but in which I have spent so very little time.  Olympia was cute and historic but ultimately felt a little lifeless.  Tacoma, as our Lyft driver opined, just needs jobs.  I am sure it is going to take off like a rocket some time in the next 15 years, probably sooner.

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