Here’s our latest installment from Jim Burgoyne of on a little known part of Puget Sound…

The trip up Hammersley Inlet, to the southwestern-most reaches of Puget Sound, offers some surprises. (Photo by Salish Sea Pilot)

Lynne and I often tell others that south Puget Sound reminds us of Northwestern Ontario and the lake country where we grew up.

Though it’s probably true that the similarities are more cultural than topographical. Cultural, perhaps, because like Northwestern Ontario, the boats are smaller, more runabout than yacht, the homes more cottage than castle, and the sand beaches have more bikinis, oodles more, with boys on jet-skis working so hard to impress.

But that was not so much the case entering Hammersley Inlet at the southwestern end of Puget Sound. It is a world of its own, different again from elsewhere in the sound and the lake country we know.

Hammersley Inlet is a narrow, shallow channel that meanders westward for some seven miles from Pickering Passage to Oakland Bay and the city of Shelton, the sound’s farthest west community.

It should be taken with the flow by most vessels as the currents on flood and ebb reach around five knots. And along the way, care must be taken, even in boats of moderate draft, not to stray into shoal waters.

Workers move the young oysters from bags onto rocks where they will grow to maturity. (Photo by Salish Sea Pilot).

Among lovers of seafood it is a waterway of some repute. The sandy shoreline in front of the stylish homes is busy with aquaculture operations producing famous Hammersley Inlet Oysters, or as they are known to gourmands, Hammers, a nickname that scrupulously reflects their meatiness, apparently.

It’s one of the largest shellfish growing areas in the U.S., with almost five million pounds of oysters and clams produced annually.

The transient dock at the Oakland Bay Marina, from where it is a 10-minute walk into the town of Shelton. (Photo by Salish Sea Pilot).

And you can sit off the shores of the inlet and watch the sea farmers at work. The newborn oysters, spat, are grown in bags, and when old enough they are moved onto rocks until harvested.

Moving on to the head of the inlet is Oakland Bay and the community of Shelton, a mill town where timber is king. Its nickname is The Christmas Tree Capital, and even holds a Guinness world record for the most lighted trees in one location.

On the water here is the Oakland Bay Marina, a well-kept facility that was recently purchased by the Shelton Yacht Club. Their plan is to continue operating the marina as a public facility, with transients welcomed even if they do not have reciprocal privileges.

Downtown Shelton is quieter than a nearby ice cream shop. (Photo by Salish Sea Pilot).

The marina is a 15-minute walk from town where there are the usual services, including a Safeway, cafés, restaurants, a secondhand store and other shops you would expect to find. Perhaps the busiest business, at least when we were there, was the Dairy Queen we passed walking into town.

We last left the Shelton anchorage this summer, on a morning turn to ebb. We had just left Oakland Bay and entered the narrow inlet passage when we were met by a wall of fog that came at us like a slow motion explosion from the channel ahead.

A wall of fog fills floats toward us in Hammersley Inlet. (Photo by Salish Sea Pilot).

So we dropped anchor to wait it out, an hour or so until the fog began to lift, and the busy aquaculture operations along the shore came into focus in the mist.

It added to the uniqueness of a side trip into Hammersley Inlet, a different experience than anything else you might encounter in Puget Sound, or even in the lake country of Northwestern Ontario.

(Oakland Bay and the community of Shelton are covered in Salish Sea Pilot’s Cruising Guide to Puget Sound.)