January 29, 2016   Scott Galbraith


After a month of fixing up a few projects created by my last outing on the water, it was time to get Shaula, my Kendall 32, off the dock again. Anna and I only had two days to spend on the water and since I’d never been to Poulsbo during the winter it seemed like a good option for a weekend trip. The biggest consideration was catching the right tides to get through Agate Pass on the northwest corner of Bainbridge Island. Shaula does about 5 knots on a good day, so it was super important to time our passage right: ride the flood into Poulsbo and the ebb out. This meant leaving the dock Saturday morning at 5 am. In the pouring rain.

It was a dark, almost windless ride across the Sound. We got to the Agate Pass Bridge just before daylight showed us how hard it really

Turn left at the top of the marina ramp to enjoy this boardwalk!

Turn left at the top of the marina ramp to enjoy this boardwalk!

was raining. With the engine nicely rattling away and fresh cups of coffee at the ready, the ride was comfortable and we stayed warm for the three hours it took from dock to dock. The marina in Poulsbo is the cool place to be during the summer, especially for 3rd of July raft-up parties. But even on a rainy winter weekend, it was still busy, with a couple visiting yacht clubs and a few sailboats. We found a spot front and center, right on downtown Poulsbo’s doorstep. It’s sweet to be able to walk up the ramp and turn left into a beautiful park with a waterfront boardwalk. Or you can head right and have four or five restaurants, three bars, a brewery, and several cozy coffee shops to choose from.

I’m used to cruising and spending most of the daylight hours enjoying the sail to our destination. It was pretty wild this time to finish sailing before 9am. We had all day to explore this little Norwegian hamlet and with no schedule to follow, we took off our watches, turned off our phones, and let our noses lead the way to a breakfast treat. At the Fat Apple Bakery, we shed our sailing gear, enjoyed a hot cup of coffee, and I had some great biscuits and gravy.

We made a solid effort to try every coffee shop in the few blocks that make up downtown. Poulsbohemian won favorite stop of the trip. Just up a small hill from the marina, they had tasty coffee and a seating area overlooking Liberty Bay. Longship Marine was close by and their aisles of used and discount marine gear had me wishing I’d brought a list of everything I wanted for Shaula because I’m pretty sure it was all there.

The new Maritime Museum across the street caught our attention next and we were warmly invited to check out the exhibits about the history of Poulsbo and its maritime connections. They are busy expanding the museum and told us to visit again in six months to see their planned additions. Continuing our wandering around town, we found the Slippery Pig brewery. This is basically right in front of the marina – you can see the sign from the dock. It was a pleasure to find such a close-by, comfortable place to grab a pint and enjoy awesome, inexpensive tamales while we watched the rain and wind all afternoon.

The park by the marina is beautiful, even in the rain.

The park by the marina is beautiful, even in the rain.

It was a pretty wet weekend overall. Maybe not the best conditions for spending a full day in an open cockpit, but one “resolution” I made for the new year was to get Shaula off the dock and overnight somewhere at least once each month. Winter weather in the Northwest brings a lot of variables, and with a mix of schedules between Anna and myself, this weekend fell into place and we stuck with the plans despite the weather. I recently finished a lexan slider top for the dodger on the boat, which allowed us to keep the boat open in the rain, and let Jay Jay the boat cat check in once his nemesis the diesel engine was turned off. Shaula has a Dickinson wood stove which does a wonderful job of keeping the cabin around seventy degrees underway. Mix that with a warm drink and it’s pretty easy to stay happy while on the water during winter. A cockpit bimini is also getting larger on my project radar and would be a great addition for crew morale.

We spent the rest of the first day checking out the eclectic small shops that are all beautifully decorated in Scandinavian architecture and scenes. We stopped by Liberty Bay Books and found another brewery, Valholl. This small brewery just behind Poulsbo’s main drag is a great little spot. It’s filled with locals who all seem to be friends, watching the game and passing around a regular’s baby. They had a delicious IPA. We each ordered two.

I thoroughly enjoy taking a liveaboard boat out cruising. My house and all my stuff comes along and I have everything I need to be comfortable on and off the water. Extra jackets? Done. Fully stocked galley with the spices that are always missing on a charter boat? Yep. It’s all there, plus when I hop inside and fire up the woodstove, it’s like being in a log cabin. We whipped up a simple, yet incredibly filling dinner and sat together rehashing our favorite coffee shops and wondering what the weather was going to be like for the ride home the next day.

Sluy's Bakery is always a Pouslbo highlight!

Sluy’s Bakery is always a Pouslbo highlight!

Day two in Poulsbo started with heavy rain falling on the forward hatch. It’s super hard to leave a warm bed and a cat who just wants to snuggle when gloom surrounds the boat, but we managed to escape and soon found ourselves sitting at Cups Espresso enjoying some breakfast sammys and coffee. Then we went to complete our Poulsbo experiences at Sluy’s Bakery. Do not pass this by! I’ve had a few maple bars in my life, but the one I had there was insane! If you are craving more than one little donut, you can get a Viking donut–about eight times the size of a typical one.

Throughout the day, I was looking pretty closely at the weather. I allowed myself to turn on my phone three times a day and check the latest NOAA weather report and forecast, which called for 15-25 knots in Puget Sound and Hood Canal all day with a small craft advisory attached. I also closely watched West Point Buoy and Washington State Ferry Weather for actual reports. Despite the strong wind forecasts these sites only showed 10-20 knots. This eased my worries about getting back across the Sound without beating up Shaula. The max ebb through Agate Pass was my other interest, and with a big flow out at almost 2pm, we had most of the day to hang out and explore.

After a quick walk up and over the hill to the “other” side of town, we headed back to Slippery Pig for a Kingsman Red Ale to wait for the Poulsbo Marine Science Center to open at 11am. While Anna checked out the tidepools full of starfish and crabs attacking each other, I watched the staff try to feed a six foot long eel some squid. It was fun, informative, and best of all had a salmon pillow I could lay on while watching the short films there, all for free!

The Science Center was a hit, then it was time to grab lunch. We dropped by The Loft for a quick bite and gobbled up the delicious food before heading back to Shaula. I was finally getting in the rhythm of cruising and now it was time to head back….

Getting off the dock in the winter isn't always easy, but it's almost always worth it.

Getting off the dock in the winter isn’t always easy, but it’s almost always worth it.

The engine fired up easily and we got a few sails ready to go in case the wind came aft of the bow. The slips in Poulsbo have short finger piers which made it easy to rotate around and head out back towards Shilshole. The rain came and went. By the time we were at Point Bolin and entering Agate Pass, the staysail and main were set and the engine was off. We might have motored to Poulsbo in the darkness and rain, but heading home we had a perfect 10-15 knots with a beautiful sunset as we sailed back across the Sound towards home.

It was great to get Shaula off the dock again and test out some of the changes I made since the last time out. Picking Poulsbo as our destination was the perfect choice. At only around three hours away with restaurants, bars, and shops just a few feet away from the marina, I would go back again any day. Liberty Bay is also perfectly protected for anchoring; a great option for alone time if you want to avoid the marina atmosphere. Even if you anchor out, the dinghy dock at the marina, offers easy access to town. I’d love to go back in the spring before the height of summer cruising to see the trees in bloom, catch a live concert in the park, see what changes the maritime museum has, and bring that giant list of boat jewelry I want to get for Shaula. See you soon!

Scott Galbraith is the Club Manager at Seattle Sailing Club. He lives aboard at Shilshole, too, so he’s got a long commute…