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Cruising The Great Pacific Northwest

Written by Cathy Siegismund

As natives, we are openly biased about cruising the Northwest. With that stated, the cruising is fantastic and must be one of the best training grounds for those looking to go offshore. A testament to this is the number of boats we see cruising from Washington and British Columbia.

Those of us who cruise the Northwest are subjected to large tidal ranges, strong currents, strong winds, no wind, large shipping traffic, fog and frigid water. However, we are rewarded with spectacular vistas of soaring mountains, miles of wilderness, fjords with 5,000' waterfalls, thousands of anchorage, bustling small port towns, and abundant wildlife.

As Seattleites, from birth we are in Gortex and Polartec, but this does allow us to tolerate the rain and dampness to enjoy our beautiful region all year. Seattle is at approximately 47 degrees Latitude; however, despite how far north we are, our weather is relatively mild, wet, but mild. The lakes and Sound never freeze, and we can go for years without having any snow expect in the mountain passes. Unlike boat owners in the Northeast or Great Lakes, we can leave our boats in the water and enjoy them all year as long as you've got a good set of foul weather gear.

In Seattle, July, August, and September are considered the cruising season, as that's when the days are wonderfully long and we're as likely as anytime in the year to have good weather. However, this also usually means there is very light or no wind.

We bought Felicity in November of 98 and come Christmas we couldn't wait to go out and sail our boat. We took our Christmas vacation on Felicity and went out for a weeks cruise around Puget Sound.

Cath Winter Sailing

Ken Winter Sailing

Despite the many layers, our first cruise on Felicity was everything we'd hoped, and the following spring and summer every chance we had we'd go sailing.

Ken Sailing in Puget Sound

Cath is always on the lookout for wild life

Whale! spotted off Bainbridge Island on a day sail out of Seattle

Downtown Seattle and Elliott Bay

Summer Cruise with Peggy and Ann, 1999

Summer of 1999, we took Ken's Mom and a friend for a 4 day sail out of Seattle. They wanted to see wildlife. We explained to them that we often do, but we can't promise it. In four days we were treated to bald eagles, sea otters, sea lions and harbor seals, a pod of white sided dolphin playing with the boat and a pod of Orcas. We felt like we were at Sea World!

Ken and Mom


Peggy at the Helm                                                          Ann in the Cockpit

Ferry at Port Townsend

Sunset at Port Townsend

Crossing the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the Olympic Mountains

Cath at the helm

Desolation Sound, 1999

In the summer of 99, we also took 3 weeks and sailed to Desolation Sound. Desolation Sound is about half way up the inside passage between Vancouver Island and the British Columbia mainland. We went in June, which was early and we had quite a bit of rain but we did have good sailing weather. We did miss all the crowds and often shared bays with only a few other boats or occasionally were the only boat in the harbor.

As it is a long way up to Desolation sound from Seattle. We worked the boat up the two weekends prior to the start of our vacation. The first weekend making it to Friday Harbor, in the San Juan Islands, and the second weekend making it to Nanaimo on Vancouver Island. We then started our cruise in Nanaimo. We sailed up through Desolation Sound, and returned via the Canadian Gulf Islands, the San Juan islands, Deception Pass to Seattle.

Felicity anchored off a bay on Vancouver Island

Not enough wind to sail, but beautiful nonetheless

One of many calm and protected anchorages

Lund, typical small town in Desolation Sound

Cath enjoying Felicity's warm interior on one of our rainy days

Felicity is the only boat in this secluded bay

One of our favorite houses overlooking one of the straits in the San Juans

Orca off our bow near San Juan Island

Main pier at the Friday Harbor Marina

Return trip through the Whidbey Island's tricky Deception Pass

Like many of the passes in the Northwest this isn't one to be trifled with. You need to hit this pass at slack water or the current turns the narrow opening between the mainland and the island into rapids

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