Saturday, January 14, 2012

A Sunny Winter Cruise

The last few trips out on the boat haven't been the most enjoyable, thanks to several winter gales and the failed heater.  Last week, however, the forecast looked good for some winter cruising...light winds and sunny skies.  Initially I thought about heading north into the Canadian Gulf Islands and perhaps across the Strait of Georgia to Princess Louisa Inlet.  But winter weather forecasts aren't all that accurate, and I didn't want to get stuck somewhere.  Instead, I opted to head south for Seattle.  I've spent lots of time on Lake Washington in the summer, but I'd never spent much time exploring the South Sound.  This stretch of good winter weather seemed like an ideal time to explore the area with few crowds.

The trip down from Twin Bridges to Elliott Bay was smooth and easy with a light north wind and minimal following seas.  I spent the first night at Blake Island State Park, just 8 miles from downtown Seattle but seemingly a world apart.  Despite the beautiful weather, I shared the docks with just one other boat.

Blake Island offers spectacular views of Mt. Rainier.  One of the benefits of the short winter days is it's easy to watch sunrises, and they did not disappoint during this trip.

Mt. Rainier sunrise from Blake Island

Sunrise at Blake Island

Day two started lazily.  After wandering around Blake Island for a bit, I headed towards downtown Seattle without any real plan.  I worked my way through Elliott Bay and up towards Shilshole Marina.  From there I headed through the Ballard Locks and into the fresh water of Lake Union.  Since I was alone I was glad to be put in the small lock where lines don't have to be constantly tended to and the locking was uneventful.

The ship canal and Lake Union are filled with commercial ships and the marine related businesses that support them.  It's fascinating to see it all up close from the water.

I spent the night at Luther Burbank park on Mercer Island.  I don't think overnight use is technically permitted, but I didn't see any signs on the docks that prohibited overnight moorage and nobody bothered me during the night.

Mercer Island sunrise, from Luther Burbank Park

First light on the top of the Space Needle as a floatplane departs Lake Union

My mom came down early the next morning for a trip over to Bainbridge Island.  The docks were icy when we left.  We got through the locks by 9:00 AM (this time tied to the wall of the big lock), fueled up at Shilshole, and were tied up in Eagle Harbor by 10:30.  We wandered around Winslow for a few hours and ate lunch before slowly heading back across to Bell Harbor for the night.

Mt. Rainier sunset from Bell Harbor Marina

My brother and some of his friends came down for a nighttime tour of Elliott Bay.  We headed (slowly) across to Alki, tied up at the Alki Water Taxi dock for a few minutes, and then headed back to Bell Harbor.  I've spent quite a bit of time boating at night, and radar has proved invaluable.  It certainly was useful crossing Elliott Bay in the dark.

Seattle skyline at night from Alki

Sunrise over Seattle as I headed back up to Twin Bridges

The weather looked like it would deteriorate on Saturday, so I headed back up to Twin Bridges Friday morning.  The trip couldn't have been easier, with glassy seas and almost no wind.  The roughly 60 nautical mile trip burned about 14 gallons of gas cruising at 13 knots, providing substantially better than 4 nautical miles per gallon.  Pretty good for a boat!


  1. Wow that is amazing fuel mileage! Twin briges to seattle on 14 gallons! I guess I need a 4 stroke!