Winter hidey-holes of the Salish Sea | Manzanita Bay

With fall firmly upon us and winter peeking around the corner, two things are bound to happen in the coming months in the Salish Sea: low pressure systems will sweep in off the Pacific Ocean bringing strong southerlies, and brisk northerlies will push down from the Fraser River Valley.

As boaters, we obviously need to keep a keen eye out for these potentially hazardous winds and to protect our boats appropriately. And if you’re out cruising this time of year — which we highly recommend — you’ll want to have some places in mind to duck in and wait out weather from any direction.

In our years spent cruising Puget Sound and the San Juan and Gulf islands throughout the short, cooler days, we always had a lot of anchorages or docks in mind to escape and hide in the event of a big blow. That being the case, I’ll share a few of those over the next few weeks and months for those out taking advantage of the amazing winter cruising in the Pacific Northwest. Our first was Blind Bay. Here’s the second:

Manzanita Bay, Bainbridge Island:

At some point during the past three winters we sailed from our typical cruising grounds of the San Juan and Gulf islands to the friendly confines of Central Puget Sound. On our way down and back we’ve stopped in places like Mystery Bay, Mat Mats Bay, Port Ludlow and Kingston, but once we hit the Seattle area, we’ve basically used Bainbridge Island and nearby Blake Island as a home base.

Eagle Harbor, Port Madison and Blakely Harbor are favorite anchorages that are great in nearly any weather. But Manzanita Bay has a special charm to it, and is quite good in a strong southerly. While this spot is certainly no secret (are there any?), each time we’ve been here Yahtzee has been the lone boat anchored out.

Located on the northwestern side of Bainbridge just south of Agate Pass, we like to use Manzanita if it’s blowing from the south and we need to wait for the tides through the pass, to head over to Poulsbo or to move south down the backside of the island. Though the bay itself is relatively narrow and lined with some beautiful properties, it’s a wonderful anchorage.

We’ve found this chart from the Salish Sea Pilot’s Puget Sound guide to be particularly helpful.

Chart courtesy of

Our preferred spot to drop the hook is down in the bottom of the bay in about 20 feet. Like many anchorages in this area, the bottom composition is a sticky mix of mud and sand that provides good holding. There is plenty of swing room here and even if the wind is up in the high 30’s, which it has been for us, the chop is minimal.

Beyond being a comfortable anchorage, we’ve been told that you can go ashore at a spot in the northern corner of the bay and that, at high tide, you can take your dinghy or kayak up the creek that feeds into the southern portion. If you’re out for a winter cruise around Bainbridge Island this or any season, give Manzanita Bay a try.

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