As we went through our normal pre-departure routine before leaving Seattle, I flipped on the instruments, engine panel and VHF. While I waited for Bruce to finish up the engine room check, I became a ware of a lot of activity on the radio. Coast Guard chatter back and forth. Things like “Vessel is evading!” “Subject heading north, 35 knots!” “Giving chase!” and “Come to a full dead stop NOW!” got my attention. I told Bruce something was up. When I heard coordinates, a looked at our chart plotter: whatever was happening was just outside Elliott Bay, a few miles from our berth at Bell Harbor Marina. This would be interesting.
As we cast off lines and maneuvered our way out of the tight marina — all this is still new, and tight quarters are intimidating — I continued to be distracted by the constant Coast Guard chatter. What was going on? It was getting better: “Dispose of your weapons. Repeat: dispose of your weapons!” “He’s firing! He’s firing! Keep back! Keep back!!” “RPG launched! Keep back!” I’m beginning to think maybe we should stay in port?
Then it moved on to “Man Overboard! Person in the water!” That’s when Coast Guard Puget Sound came on the radio and interjected, “Please confirm: Person in the Water is drill only. Please confirm, this is drill only.” “Yes, confirm drill only. Person in the Water is drill only.”
I didn’t know whether to be relieved or disappointed. This was reality TV at it’s best and I (naively) thought there was some real excitement unfolding. Although it was a thrill while it lasted, and I am glad that it was only a drill.
As we motored out across Elliott Bay, we continued to listen, and now watch, the drills unfold. The coasties had several RIBs racing around (good guy-bad guy stuff) at high speed, with some other vessels watching from a distance. It was kind of fun to see them go through the drills, especially since we were still listening to the whole thing on the radio. Between the ferries criss-crossing everywhere (I should do a post dedicated to the marvelous ferry system in the PNW) and the coast guard screeching around at 35 knots, there was plenty to keep us entertained, until we turned south into Colvos Passage towards Gig Harbor.
Colvos was a pretty ride, but it gave us a taste of the strong current that runs through Puget Sound. Apparently the current always runs north through the passage, regardless of whether the it is ebbing or flooding. Curious. It slowed us a solid three knots for most of the ride. Fortunately it was not a long ride. Plus, with 480 hp, who cares?! One of the simple joys of the transition from sail to power…
Gig Harbor had been on our list of potential stops for quite a while, thanks to its reputation as a well-protected harbor and charming town. Plus, it was one of those places that always seems to get mentioned in discussions about the PNW, so we wanted to see it.
A look at the chart makes it obvious why it is so well protected. The entrance is crazy-narrow, with a curving bank that protects the inner harbor even at the highest tide. This satellite image shows the entrance at a fairly high tide so it looks wider than it actually is. We had the joy of arriving at DEAD LOW on a minus tide. We had ~ZERO~ room for error! I’m certain it is relatively easy with local knowledge, but we had none of that. Fortunately, no one was coming out as we headed in, so we could aim for dead-center. We nudged our way in at dead-slow, and watch the depth sounder flicker at 5 feet. We draw 3’6″ so we had about 18″ to spare. I drew a big sigh of relief when the bottom began to drop away beyond the bar.
We did a slow loop of the harbor just for fun. By the time we pulled up in front of the town facility the rain had begun to fall (imagine that!). There was only one other boat alongside so we had loads of room and backed her in easily. The joys of the off-season. We were amused to discover that paying for dockage was just like paying for parking. You walk up to the pay-station at the head of the dock, insert your credit card, type in the basic info, and bada-bing! you’re done. Very easy, very efficient.
On the way down from Seattle Bruce had contacted one of our “friends in our computers,” DHays from the TrawlerForum.com. Naturally we wanted to show off our new boat to everyone who would humor us, and David not only came down for a look-see, but treated us to dinner at the cozy little Italian restaurant nearby.
We had a fun visit. The town was pleasant, with a variety of shops and galleries to keep us entertained. A small grocery store, loads of marine facilities. And rain. (Did I mention it was raining?)
David (otherwise known as DHays) came aboard and he and Bruce yakked and yakked and yakked, then we all wandered off for dinner for more yakking. It really is fun talking boats with someone who wants to talk boats. We stayed out well past our normal bedtime but enjoyed every minute of it. Fond memories of our evening in Gig Harbor.