May 17 2020

Cruising South Sound

Published by at 4:23 pm under Cruisers Notes

South Sound is an underrated destination.  Most boaters head to the San Juans and points north, but south of the Narrows you will find a quiet, island dotted area that has terrific anchorages with incredible views of Mt Rainier and the Olympics.

It’s about a 5 hour run to Gig Harbor from Shilshole but break it up with a visit to Blake Is, Blakely Harbor or Quartermaster  (on Vashon).  It’s then a quick run over to Gig Harbor to wait for favorable current to go through the Narrows.

Time your southbound trip through the Narrows for a flooding current. Stay in the middle away from the bridge pylons to avoid the back eddies and to get the most push.  You’ll be surprised at your speed over ground as you zip though and how quickly you cover the distance.  You’ll pop out on the east end of Fox Island. Your cruising guides will list all possible anchorages to explore and their amenities.  Here is what we did last year…

  • From Gig Harbor, through the Narrows to Filucy Bay on the Key Peninsula; approx. 13 miles
    • Filucy Bay is beautiful quiet well protected bay with mud bottom for easy anchorage.  Getting there, you pass close by the old McNeil Island Federal Penitentiary buildings (closed in 1980).  Eagle Island in Balch Passage is a little State Park but usually not a good spot to stop due to strong currents, one buoy and no shore side amenities
  • From Filucy Bay to Jarrell Cove Sate Park, Hartstene Island; 16 miles
    • after rounding Devils Head,  you pass Joemma State Park on the starboard side and McMikken Island State Park off Hartstene Island on the port side
    • Jarrell Cove is well protected, with mud bottom and some anchorage but best to take a state park buoy.  showers, trails in state park, gas/diesel/pumpout at marine store in bay
  • From Jarrell Cove to Oro Bay: 18 miles
    • easy open passage towards the Nisqually Reach
    • Oro Bay has a small protected anchorage on the west side (follow the buoys and watch your depth).  The main bay is less protected but weather in the summer is usually very calm
  • From Oro Bay to Mayo Cove (Penrose Pt. State Park); 12 miles
    • easy run north past McNeil Island’s north side (the natural beauty of the island is preserved by the old Federal Govt signs saying STAY AWAY 100 YARDS)
    • Penrose has buoys on both sides of the point and anchorage in Mayo Cove.  Lakebay Marina has café, gas.  Next door is the state park dock (shallow at low tides)
  • Penrose to Shilshole; 37 miles
    • a somewhat long run (I had to get back) but plenty of potential stops along the way-Gig Harbor, Quartermaster Harbor, Des Moines (cheap fuel), Blake Island and Blakely Harbor
    • be sure to arrive at the Narrows at the beginning of the ebb and you will have a rocket ride all the way north to Blake Island!

South Sound is a quiet, beautiful, easy to transit and anchor area.  True, there are not a lot of cities, shops and onshore activities like the San Juans, but there are also not a lot of people!

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