Go small, go South Sound

Small boat sailors choose “pocket cruising” for a variety of reasons — lower initial costs, no moorage fees, ease of maintenance, simplicity of operation and the ability to trailer to distant locations are but a few. While most small boats are used for day sailing, sometimes that doesn’t scratch the itch and a little extra cruising time it needed. The challenge of making a smaller boat self-sufficient for an overnight trip can really stretch their fun-factor. Boats similar to my West Wight Potter 15 SV Ozone, have proven their seaworthiness during ocean crossings from the Isle of Wight to Sweden by designer Stanley Smith in 1965, and from Panama to Hawaii by John Van Ruth in 1972. Recently, Chris Barteau, a local Potter sailor, documented an inspirational trip to northern British Columbia coastal inlets in a three-part video series that can be viewed here.

While I’m not about to set out across oceans on Ozone, I’ve found it to be a great cruiser for our local waters in the Pacific Northwest. And this was especially true during a recent trip in the South Sound. When planning nights on board I use a checklist that is similar to a larger boat — albeit with limited space, which necessitates essentials over creature comforts. Also, planning to use the tide and wind to my advantage is key to a successful outing.

South Sound Bound

Jarrell Cove on Harstine Island in the South Sound is well-known to local boaters as a small, scenic inlet with visitor-friendly facilities. Home to a private marina/store/fuel dock, floats and a State Park with two docks for public use, it makes an ideal destination for a sailing getaway. To get there I launched at the Allyn waterfront park. This facility on Case Inlet includes a well-maintained launch ramp with temporary docking. Once the boat is rigged and launched, ample parking is available for vehicle and trailer at a nominal cost. After a final check of local marine forecast and tide charts, I was off.

The weather for my two days away was forecast to be cloudy with a slight chance of rain and light winds, which seemed encouraging enough. In a small boat, I’ll trade light winds for strong winds every time. As Ozone moved south even light winds were hard to find, so most of the distance to Jarrell Cove involved more motoring than sailing.

The outgoing tide that helped move the boat south in Case Inlet then became an obstacle once I arrived at Pickering Passage on the north side of Harstine Island. The 2-hp outboard ran at full throttle to keep us barely moving towards Jarrell Cove, but arrive we did. The cove, which is a popular destination in season, was essentially deserted on a Tuesday in early May. The marina store doesn’t open until Memorial Day and aside from a couple talking at the fuel dock, myself and another power boat were the only souls visible in the entire inlet. Mooring balls and the two State Park docks were empty.

I could have tied up at either State Park dock, but to save the $15 overnight fee I came prepared to anchor in the shallow innermost inlet. Ozone needs a depth of 3 feet with the keel down or 6 inches with the keel up. The fish-finder I use as a depth gauge showed 7 feet below us, so with a 10-pound anchor, chain and 30 feet of rode dropped to a mud bottom, my little boat was going nowhere.

The forecasted slight chance of rain became rain after dinner. A boom tarp provided a little extra covered space that was nice to have.

Being anchored out in a small boat alone does limit activities. On this night I listened to a Mariners broadcast (they lost), drank a beer and waited for darkness to tell me it was time to settle into the sleeping bag and fall asleep listening to rain falling on the boat. It was glorious.

By morning the rain had passed, so the boom tarp was stowed and a light breakfast of coffee, yogurt, nuts and berries was consumed reclined in the cockpit as blue herons flew overhead and fish jumped close by. It was a rare treat to have such a beautiful place all to myself. Like the day before, I knew I’d need to fight the incoming tide in Pickering Passage to have it help me up Case Inlet to Allyn, so after stowing gear and weighing anchor it was time to head home.

The return trip was uneventful, but as seems the case so often, the wind picked up just as I was docking at Allyn. That said, two-days on the water in early spring enjoying one of the nicest boating destinations in the South Sound was great fun. Boat and skipper returned home safe and for the causal sailor like myself, any time on the water that ends without needing insurance information is a good outing.

Lastly, while certainly not everyone’s cup of tea, for those who appreciate the simplicity of small things and don’t mind limited space, small sailboats offer real opportunities for affordable adventure.

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5 Responses to Go small, go South Sound

  1. Chris Barteau July 26, 2017 at 10:12 pm #

    Hi Allen, excellent blog! One of the benefits you mentioned is the “ability to trailer to distant locations”. A couple of weeks ago I completed a cruise of the lower half of Lake Powell (Utah/Arizona). I had another sailor companion for the first half, then solo. For those interested here is Part I (on youtube)…

  2. Craig Smith
    Craig Smith May 11, 2017 at 7:16 pm #

    You wrote exactly the purpose I bought a 15 footer. (Montgomery) I am able to get in small places, stay out for days, trailer to various locations…. All so good. Sailing Lake Powell soon and will be on the Lake at least 10 days. What a hoot!

    • Allen gibbard May 11, 2017 at 7:59 pm #

      Craig – Sailboats like so many other things in life are a trade off. I love the spaciousness and creature comforts of a large boat, but I also enjoy the ease of ownership and operation of a small one. In the end I guess it’s a “to each his (or her) own” situation. I’ve found boaters to be a pretty good group of folks to spent time with regardless of what type of boat they skipper. And I’m always comforted by the old adage – regardless of how big your boat is, someone has a bigger one 🙂

  3. Allen May 11, 2017 at 2:50 pm #

    Steve – big boat or small we live in a beautiful place to be on the water. Thanks for your kind words.

  4. Steve Mitchell May 11, 2017 at 10:36 am #

    Great article Allen! I absolutely love Jerrell Cove – we went there last year and even during July we had very few neighbors (https://sailbits.com/trips/jarrell-cove/).

    It’s one of my favorite places, if not the #1 favorite, in South Puget Sound. It always seems like you’re deep in Alaska or some other faraway place when in the cove with the rain drops and quietness that surrounds you.

    I also used to have a small trailerable boat many years ago, and it opens up a whole new side of overnight cruising that us big boat folks don’t have access to – moving around via land!

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