Ever since we’ve had boats that stay in the water, we have kept them moored in Tacoma. Often, we look for a quick weekend getaway or overnight trip close to home, and our favorite spot over the years has been the county park marina at Dockton on Maury Island. On our Cal 27 Moondance, it took a couple hours to get there on a Friday evening, sometimes a little faster if there was favorable wind. Being slow and always anxious to secure our guest moorage, we almost always went straight to the marina and parked for the weekend, never really going farther into Quartermaster Harbor to explore. In all the years we’ve been going there, only one time did we venture in to look around.

On that single exploration, we noted what looked to be a large park on the east shore of Vashon Island. Sure enough, it is Jensen Point Park and it has good anchorage just offshore. We never stayed there on Moondance, but we filed it away for future reference. It was particularly memorable because, as we were cruising past quite close to shore, Tekla spotted a bald eagle that appeared to be running on the beach. It was a bizarre sight, and neither of us had ever imagined that a bald eagle would run if it could. But there it was, bouncing along as fast as it could go, wings spread wide as if something were chasing it. To watch something that beautifully graceful when soaring through the sky running on the beach was about as awkward a thing as I have ever seen, and comical!

Fast forward a few years to Fourth of July weekend 2023. We hatched last minute plans to get out of the house and spend the weekend on the water aboard Sea Lab, our C-Dory 22 cruiser. Sure, we have much more weekend range on Sea Lab than we did in Moondance, but where else would we go? Dockton. We like it there.

We arrived in 40 minutes from Tacoma. The marina was about half full (on a holiday weekend no less) and we tied up and commenced relaxation protocol, breaking out our books and a cold drink. Though the marina wasn’t very busy, the local teenage hangout was in full swing and there were hordes of youngsters doing what they’re really good at, namely being loud and rambunctious.

We were still in the early stages of our protocol, and I suggested to Tekla that maybe we should go check out “Eagle Run Park” and see if we can anchor out in a quieter location. The decision was made, and we pulled the dock lines and headed out, relishing our quick mobility in the C-Dory. We decided to do a whole tour of Quartermaster Harbor and end up at the park. We could see in the distance there were lots of boats anchored at the head of the harbor, so we went to check it out. While we had spent Fourth of July weekend in Dockton before, we discovered that we hadn’t ventured to where the real party was. There were several rafts of big boats, eight to ten together as well as what appeared to be hundreds of smaller boats all anchored out for the weekend. This was certainly not the quiet anchorage we were looking for, so we headed back south to Jensen Point.

There were only a few boats there and it was sufficiently far away from the party to be quiet enough that we could get a good night’s sleep. We scouted the area and dropped the hook in 20 feet of water, settling in quickly so we could launch the kayaks and get Tim Tim the sailor dog to the beach for his relief tour. When we arrived on the beach, we found a very fine park with good bathroom facilities and a big kayak rental operation, as well as lots of beach to explore and walking trails through the woods. It reminded us that we should try new things more often instead of always going with what we know and feel comfortable with.

The day wore on and we made our way back to Sea Lab to resume our relaxing day before we would fire up the grill for dinner and watch the sun go down. A few more boats had come into the anchorage, quietly enjoying themselves like us. We thought this was a great spot as an alternative to Dockton.

The sun sank into the horizon and, looking over at the beach, I noticed several motorhomes and camping setups. I found this a little odd because there were signs that said “no overnight camping” but I dismissed it as a Vashon quirk, figuring the authorities must allow it on special holiday weekends or something. It got dark and we were tired from our day of exploration, so we crawled in for our favorite part of cruising, rocking to sleep in the gentle waves of a calm night at anchor.

Flash – Bang! You’ve heard them, like a stick of dynamite that goes up and explodes in the sky and you can feel the sound. No sparkly colors cascading down through the sky, just the sound and fury of the explosion. Startled awake, I stuck my head out of the hatch to see what was going on as Tim Tim leapt into the V-berth and sat quivering in terror. Through the binoculars I could clearly see the party going on at the beach and figured, well it’s Independence Day and they’re having a good time. Surely, they can’t get too crazy, and they’ll go to sleep pretty soon. I hunkered back down, trying to soothe Tim, and finally got him to calm down and fell asleep myself. Flash – Bang! What the…? So much for a peaceful night at anchor!

It seems the fireworks guys on the beach were rationing their aerial explosions because they only did one about every 45 minutes, all night. Usually it seems, fireworks revelers shoot the works and get it over with, but these guys must have set a timer and were good at keeping their schedule.

The voices were real! A mysterious crowd assembled at Jensen Point Park at dawn.

At around 4:30 a.m., yet another one went off but I had long since stopped popping up through the hatch to look. I was in as irritable a mood as I have ever been on the boat as I tried to go back to sleep. Then I started hearing voices, like the murmur of lots of voices in regular conversation. Lying there awake, it continued to get louder and sounded like a lot of people talking and I could make no sense of it, so I popped up through the hatch to see hundreds of people standing on the beach in the first light of dawn and said to Tekla, “What the hell is going on here?” To which she responded, “How would I know? I don’t know! What time is it?” So, I again tried to get back to sleep.

After only a few minutes of trying, I heard the sudden loud roar of an unmuffled engine starting and immediately the sound was coming toward us in a hurry. I jumped up through the hatch again and saw a hydroplane speeding away through the anchorage and many other hydroplanes on the beach ramp one by one starting and roaring off to circle Quartermaster Harbor in the coming light of day. I stared in disbelief.

Here comes the rooster. The hydros had assembled for Vashon Island’s 4th of July Hydro Run.

In a short time, the last one came off the beach to circle with the others, then they all headed toward the point of land where the crowd was. A loud cannon went off from a big boat that had come in and anchored after dark. The race was on and all the hydros disappeared around the corner from the bay! Still not really knowing what was happening, I got my phone and started Googling hydros and Vashon and quickly found out about the 4th of July Hydro Run that has been held annually for nearly 70 years. By this time, we were up and dressed and I was taking back all the unseemly things I had been saying about the anchorage and feeling downright festive as we made breakfast awaiting the return of the fast boats.

Pretty soon we heard the whining motors wound up tight in the distance and they started coming around the point to circle back around Quartermaster and head for the boat ramp; the winner several minutes ahead of the others. From the cockpit of our boat, it looked like the hydros were coming straight at us and, alarmingly, they came tearing through the anchored boats at full speed and didn’t slow until they were right next to the beach. A few of them did an extra lap or two right through the anchored boats at high speed, thrilling and dangerous!

Full speed through the anchorage.

By around 10 in the morning, the boats were all loaded up and hauled away and the talking crowds dispersed, the RVs and campers were all gone, and the anchorage was quiet. We sat in the morning sun drinking coffee, feeling both tired and like we had really had some fun. We certainly would have some good stories to tell, and now we had some local knowledge about where not to anchor on Fourth of July if we’re looking for a peaceful night.

Dennis and his mate, Tekla, reside in Auburn, WA and usually keep Sea Lab in the water at Tyee Marina.