51 Nautical Miles

Olympia to Des Moines
Olympia to Des Moines
9-Oct-2005: We have successfully moved the boat from Olympia to our new covered berth in Des Moines, just 5 miles from our house. The journey covers 51 nautical miles and takes over 3 hours. Such a journey is a big deal after merely putting around an inlet or two in the South Sound so we’re both apprehensive and excited.Our Power Squadron training is put to use as we make our plans. We study the weather, the route, the marine charts and the tides over and over.

We’ll be traveling through the South Sound and passing through the natural gateway known as the Tacoma Narrows into the Central Sound. Funneling millions of gallons of water through the Narrows can cause giant whirlpools, waves and strong currents that have wreaked havoc on much larger boats and many boaters avoid it but we plan to pass through at slack tide when the tides slow down and change direction. We were going to head North on Saturday but it was raining all afternoon so we delay our trip until today, hoping for better conditions for what turns out to be an amazing trip.

The Tacoma Narrow bridge
The Tacoma Narrow bridge

We awake to a 10 mph wind from the SW, 1 foot wind waves, overcast skies and good visibility — no problem. Between Boston Harbor and the Tacoma Narrows, the South Sound is virtually devoid of boaters due to boating season being officially over. All our planning has paid off. We pass through the Narrows one hour after slack tide and it is utterly uneventful. This notorious section of water is quite calm and only sporting one small whirlpool. (See real time current conditions on the Mobile Geographics website.) Point Defiance, at the North end of the Narrows, is another matter — lots of big waves, loads of fishing boats and a whole pack of harbor seals swimming among the boats trying to steal salmon off fishing lines. The seals remind us of dogs so we start referring to them as dogs in wetsuits. We slow way down to a crawl and weave our way through them.

Docked in Des Moines
Docked in Des Moines

We arrive at the Des Moines Marina and head down the “E” lane to our slip. Wow! It looks way too narrow but with Inga’s superb assistance, we back in and rope up just fine. The long journey has left the boat covered in salt spray so a good, thorough bath is in order. We settle right in to our new home and even meet some of our neighbors along with a naughty sea otter who’s been making a stinky mess of many a boat by dragging crabs on to docked boats to dine in comfort and then pooping and peeing on them. This reminds of us of cat behavior so we start referring to otters as cats in wetsuits.

What a sense of accomplishment we’re feeling. We have a superb boat and are marveling at the amazing place we live in having seen Puget Sound from such a perspective. We’ve had a wonderful time visiting Olympia but if feels great having the boat so close to home now and we are looking forward to exploring the Central Sound. — Scott Bruce Duncan */:-)

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