From the November 2004 issue of 48° North by Jo Bailey & Carl Nyberg
Unbelievable as it may seem, Thanksgiving is inevitably approaching at the end of this month. With it comes the question of where to spend at least part of the four day holiday weekend.
We’ve had some memorable celebrations sailing to various northwest ports in the past nearly 50 years, often cruising after the Turkey Day feast at home is over.
From Olympia we’d spend part of the weekend at one of our favorite South Puget Sound destinations: delightful Jarrell Cove State Park on Harstene Island, or the charming community at Longbranch.
In the San Juans we’d cruise to one of our choice marine state parks at Jones or Stuart Island, or even to Sucia for the long weekend.
Scheherazade occasionally heads out of Seattle for Bainbridge Island for the holiday cruise. In other words, no matter where you live in this marvelous cruising area it’s not hard to find a great spot for a getaway.
And although we don’t usually write too much about cooking, we take along either plenty of leftovers or else roast a chicken, with dressing, in the ship’s oven to parlay the holiday food festivities.
From Seattle across to Bainbridge is most often a comfortable sail, only occasionally encountering a bit of fog or perhaps a need to shorten sail in heavy weather, adding interest and a bit of challenge to the delight we find in the protection of quiet bays —gunkholes.
Two of our favorites on the island are Manzanita Bay on the west shore and Blakely Harbor on the island’s southeast shore.
This lovely bay indents the southeast shoreline of Bainbridge Island about 0.7 mile. Blakely Rock stands guard off the harbor entrance with its white 4-second light on the higher southeast side flashing the rock’s presence to mariners. The 200-yard long rock heap, with kelp stringing around it, is easily passed on either side, but we give it a wider berth on the north where it’s shoal for nearly 0.2 mile.
After passing the rock we go virtually straight into the harbor, bounded on the north by Blakely Point, unnamed on charts, and on the southeast by Restoration Point.
The view from inside the harbor is spectacular. Looking east at night, the lights of Seattle twinkle across the dark. There is no longer a milltown or anything commercial in the harbor and the shore is a mix of old and new homes, cabins and trees. It’s quiet and snug, a nearly perfect gunkhole.
However, lest we get too carried away, the winds in Port Blakely can be somewhat unpredictable, and Blakely Rock, about 1.3 miles from the head of the harbor, does not necessarily act as a breakwater from large ship wakes or waves caused by flukey winds. Several times we’ve wakened in the middle of the night to Scheherazade rolling in lumpy swells, but we haven’t dragged yet. Unless there’s an unusually strong easterly wind, all things considered, this is a fairly well-protected harbor.
It’s hard to imagine the harbor as it was in its busy heydays a century ago. Anchoring is possible throughout the harbor. We usually anchor east of the cable area off the north shore in 25 to 50 feet, mud bottom. There are often a number of permanently anchored boats in here.
We enjoy Blakely Harbor as there’s a contented ambiance, possibly because it’s so quiet and peaceful.
On our very first Thanksgiving together, years ago, we cruised to Port Blakely for a delightful non-turkey weekend with extremely pleasant weather. Maybe that’s why we have such good feelings about Blakely.
If you like to dinghy ashore and explore, you’ll love Blakely Harbor. The whole head of the harbor is now Blakely Harbor Park, a fairly new, low-impact 20 acre park that is part of Bainbridge Island’s extensive park system. This is good news for cruisers as it means we can now let the dogs and kids run, take a hike, walk some of the island roads or explore the beaches, tidepools and the remains of the old Port Blakely Mill. Relics of the huge old mill, remnants of old wharves, stub pilings and the remains of a dam, are still at the head of the harbor. It is a delightful spot. This beautiful park and beach are within walking distance of a new environmental learning center, Island Wood.
Manzanita Bay is the boot-shaped bay on the west side of Bainbridge Island, about 2.2 miles south of the Agate Pass Bridge. It can be reached by going around the north end of the island and then south in Agate Pass, or by going around the south end of Bainbridge, through dog-legged Rich Passage and north about five miles through Port Orchard channel.
It is a peaceful, secure bay, with lovely homes and cabins, some with private docks, on the surrounding shores, but there are still plenty of evergreens above the beach to give a feeling of being well away from the big city. Only about a half-mile long and from 200 to 500 yards wide, the bay can provide protection in most winds. We usually anchor in 20 to 30 feet, mud bottom, although some friends prefer anchoring in the south end of the bay in about 10 fathoms. Be aware of permanently moored local boats and give them plenty of room.
An added plus in Manzanita Bay is the public access road end in the northeast part of the bay as indicated on the chart. This is the old Manzanita Landing at the foot of one block long Dock Street, a steamer landing from 1895 to 1927. You can dinghy ashore for a walk or run, or just to stretch your legs. Kids and dogs really appreciate it.
From the water, the narrow public beach access between two waterfront homes is visible at the three foot high concrete “ecology blocks” marking the street end. Large steps lead down to the beach on the north side of the blocks. A gray house with a rock bulkhead is north of the beach access. On the south side is a rock wall with a charming brown shake house.
The road end has a sandy beach, making it a a summertime favorite, good place to swim in the not-too-chilly water, especially on an incoming tide over warm sand. Many islanders also enjoy the public access. All other land and beaches in Manzanita Bay are private. Visitors should keep kids and dogs from running out-of-control and pick up after their pooches.
Manzanita Park is nearby if you want a walk through the woods. This 120 acre park has hiking and equestrian trails. Walk north along Manzanita Road to Day Road, take a right, walk until you see signs, turn into the forest and follow the trails.
Manzanita Bay, what a lovely spot – and favorite gunkhole. It just feels right. We’ve spent many a pleasant night here, quiet and serene. A good holiday choice. Add a moon rising over the trees to the east and you’ll think you’re in heaven.
Happy Thanksgiving gunkholing!
NOAA charts & other helpful publications:
Chart 18446, Puget Sound, Apple Cove Point to Keyport, scale 1:25,000, soundings in feet
Chart 18449, Puget Sound, Seattle Bremerton, scale 1:25,000, soundings in feet
Chart 18473, Oak Bay to Shilshole, scale 1:40,000, soundings in feet
Chart 18474, Puget Sound, Shilshole Bay to Commencement Bay, scale 1:40,000, soundings in feet
Tidal Current Tables
Tidal Current Charts, Puget Sound, Northern Part
Bainbridge Island is covered in depth Chapters 5, 6 and 7 in Jo Bailey and Carl Nyberg’s book Gunkholing in South Puget Sound, from Kingston Edmonds South to Olympia. They’re also authors of Gunkholing in the San Juan Islands, a Comprehensive Cruising Guide Encompassing Deception Pass to the Canadian Boundary.
A Note on Currents
Currents in Agate Pass may run as much as six knots on extreme tides. The charted current speeds shown on chart 18445 are average current speeds and are misleading, and not to be confused with those predicted speeds in the Current Tables and on the Current Charts. Mariners with slower boats or kayaks should check tidal current tables.
Care is also advised in Rich Passage where currents up to six knots may also be encountered, sometimes simultaneously with ferry and other large ship traffic.
Blakely Rock low tides: At extreme low tides there is a sandy shoal along the western side of the rock, complete with seals if no humans are around. At minus tides it’s enjoyed by many who land small boats, dig clams or beachcomb. Blakely Rock is also favorite scuba diving spot.