First Multi-Day Trip on Sola

My first multi day trip on Sola was over Memorial Day weekend 2021. I wasn’t good at planning, with every boater in the area also trying to take advantage of the perfect weather, but things worked out well and it was a good learning experience.

I loaded all of what I thought I’d need on my boat, returned my car to my apartment, and walked the two miles back to the boat. That meant that I didn’t pull away from my slip until close to noon on Friday. I then went to the fuel dock in Shilshole and added 14 gallons of diesel to my tank. I learned that the price of ice at the fuel dock is almost exactly the same as the nearest QFC. It was a little past 1:30 by the time I was away from the fuel dock.

After clearing the breakwater, I as able to engage the autopilot and stow all my fenders and docking lines. The wind was nice enough for sailing, so I raised the main sail and unfurled the head sail and sailed downwind towards Blake Island.

I passed the western shore of Blake Island about 4pm, and all of the mooring balls were already in use, with several additional boats anchored. Because I was moving nicely under sail power and the sunset is close to 9pm, I continued down Colvos Passage towards Gig Harbor.

I was able to sail all the way to the entrance of Gig Harbor, arriving about 7pm. After motoring into Gig Harbor and passing through a fleet of anchored boats I picked a spot and dropped my anchor with about 30 feet of water below me.

After my 80 foot chain, plus some of the rode, was off the boat, I was hailed by a large motor yacht to the south of me, with them saying that I was probably over their anchor, and that they had about 200 feet of chain out. I sat there for about 5 minutes, then pulled my anchor back up and moved north to another open area and dropped the anchor a second time. That location I stayed the night.

I’d previously taken the boat to Gig Harbor and anchored when I was racing the South Sound Series #4 on Mata Hari on March 20th. That trip I motored down Friday night, anchored, was picked up from my boat to race Saturday morning, returned to the boat Saturday night, and raised the anchor and motored home Sunday. I had the assistance returning to the dock in Shilshole, which was hugely beneficial. This trip I was planning to be alone the entire time.

I planned my departure from Gig Harbor to ride the tidal currents through the Tacoma Narrows south past Fox Island. I had the anchor up by 6:30am, but that wasn’t too much of an issue since the sun is now up before 5:30am.

South of Fox Island, I attempted to sail for a while, but after a couple of hours I wasn’t making much progress. I was slightly worried about finding a place to stay the night since I’d never been in the south sound to stay before. I powered up and passed Eagle Island between Anderson Island and McNeil Island and saw at least one mooring ball I could have used, and will probably revisit in the future.

I continued on, turning north and finally arrived at McMicken Island. There were two mooring balls on the south side of the island as I approached, one occupied. I was tired from not having slept well the previous night, and took possession of the empty mooring ball, and once the boat was secure took a nap.

I made hot coffee in the morning, but ran out of propane as I was preparing eggs in the afternoon. No more hot food for me. I had plenty of food that didn’t require cooking and it was hot during the day so I didn’t feel the need to heated food.

I spent two nights in the same place, on the same mooring ball. It was very relaxing, and mostly quiet. The south sound reminds me much more of a lake than the waters near Shilshole. I remembered that I had my drone on board, but hadn’t freshly charged the batteries, so each of my three batteries was only at 60%. I was still able to get some nice views of the area.

I was able to take time looking around and comparing what I could see to what the charts were showing.

The most important thing I figured out was that I wanted my dinghy so I could explore the park. I was reminded of the US Navy recruiting phrase: “Join the Navy, See the world.” and the army joke that went with it: “We own the part you can walk on.”

After two nights on the south side of McMicken Island, I motored to the south side to see what was available there. There were more mooring balls, and plenty of protected anchorage, but there was also a lot more boats in that area. My solitude on the south side had been nice while there was very little wind or weather.

I’d decided I wanted to explore Jerrell Cove State Park and then stay at Tolmie State Park on Monday. I had some nice south wind and was able to sail for a while going north in Case Inlet and around the northern point of Harstine Island, then dump the sail into the sailbag and motor into Jarrell Cove and back, then raise the sail and sail southwards again. I only sailed about 7 miles total, but it was certainly nice to not have the diesel running for a few hours.

I ran out of wind as I got a little farther south than I’d started the day. While it was now Monday of the long weekend, I wasn’t certain about where I was staying the night, and preferred to arrive and use a mooring ball instead of dropping anchor. I needn’t have worried, as there were three empty mooring balls when I arrived, and one boat anchored nearby. The location was exactly what I was hoping for. Quiet and flat, and an easy location to start back home from. There was 40 feet showing on my depth finder when I connected to the mooring ball. The views of Mt Rainier were incredible, and the water was glasslike in the morning.

While waiting for the currents to turn to the north, I flew my drone.

I timed the currents northwards and after leaving Tolmie State Park a bit past ten in the morning, I was able to be back in my slip in Shilshole just past four pm. I had about a knot of push during most of the trip, with as much as four knots at times.

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