About a month ago, we bought a mid-sized sailboat, an Aloha 32 named Carmana and sailed her down from Friday Harbor to Seattle for our first shake-down cruise. We’ve been moored here for the last couple of weeks, hanging out in Ballard (Seattle’s version of Brooklyn), and getting to know the local marine suppliers as we address mechanical, safety, and comfort issues before we head out again: a new chart plotter, battery charger, a new pump for the head, some stuff to keep the holding tank from smelling (Go Noflex Digester! That stuff works.) new fenders, stern anchor… You get the idea.

Despite all of the little projects, we’re really happy with the boat. She’s roomy for a 32-footer, sails well, and gets admiring looks up and down the dock. And she makes a good home for Natalie and I.

That’s the quick low down on the boat. We’ll be up here exploring all summer and give you the low down on the places we visit. Also, if you’d like to read and see pictures of our trip in more detail, Natalie’s blogging about it over at her site, The West County Bramble. Check it out!

OK, here’s the low down. For in-depth low down, we’ve been using the Waggoner Cruising Guide. Not only does it cover everything about every harbor we’ll ever visit, it’s a primer on Northwest cruising. I wished I’d bought it before I even bought the boat as it would have informed some of my choices.

Here’s our take on things though. Every town has been cuter, cooler, and more scenic than the last.

Friday Harbor, WA:

It’s one of the main points of entry for boats coming from Canada, as we did. The marina is huge and you can take care of business easily. For example, we officially imported the boat at the U. S. Customs office, right at the edge of the marina. You can buy groceries, get cash, feed a harbor seal, have drinks, and dinner. It’s the main ferry hub for passage to the mainland or to Canada, but for us, the town itself didn’t have a lot to keep us there, nice though it was. It’s a jumping off point. And jump off we did… to Anacortes.

Looking out over Friday Harbor

Natalie feeds Popeye the harbor seal

Anacortes, WA:

When I chartered a boat here with friends six or seven years ago, Anacortes was a sleepy, suburban / industrial city that didn’t have a lot to offer besides the boat we were renting and a ferry to the San Juans. Oh how it’s changed. They have a brand new marina, and Commercial Avenue is lined with great shops and restaurants.

Our pick:

A’Town: We had wild boar burgers and scotch eggs (eggs wrapped in sausage meat, breaded, and deep fried). Yum.

La Conner, WA

A cute, little town set along the narrow Swinomish Chanel. We took this sheltered route down the coast to avoid a big crossing of the Strait of San Juan de Fuca on our first trip out. Along the waterfront, 1st street is nice but can verge on the ticky-tacky. Try heading down Morris St., away from the water for a more authentic vibe.

Our picks (We went after hours so a lot of these places were closed but we don’t think you’ll go wrong with any of them.)

La Crema Coffee: built in an old greenhouse. Great looking place.

Ugly Plug: vintage fishing tackle

La Conner Thai Garden: Another great looking place. We wished we hadn’t already eaten somewhere else.

The Quilt Museum: This place we did go to. Many amazingly crafted, well-designed quilts from the 1800s and some less well designed (to my eye anyway) contemporary quilts.

The Army Corps of Engineers barge heading past La Conner, dragging a hook in the water, ready to intercept stray logs.

The Quilt Museum

Coupleville, WA

Coupeville sits on the northern half of Whidbey Island. The basic layout of the town and buildings doesn’t look like it’s changed much from the 1800s. And all of the towns here are oriented to the waterfront, which we don’t see so much in California. In Coupeville a nice row of old wooden buildings stands along each side of Front Street, which runs along the water.

Our picks:

Christopher’s: Delicious, well-prepared food, in a nice atmosphere, and a good value to boot.

Knead & Feed: Breakfast, huge cinnamon rolls baked in-house, lines out the door. Great place.

Natalie at the wheel as we head down the Swinomish Channel en route to Coupeville

The shore near Coupeville

A view of the Coupeville wharf

The sunset at Coupleville

Langley, WA

It’s as if all the towns here are trying to outdo each other. When we arrived at Langley we found amazing coffee, a farmer’s market in full swing, amazing gelato, and great views of the Saratoga Passage, which we’d just sailed through.

Our picks:

Useless Bay Coffee Company: Great food. Great Coffee. Cool building, right near the farmer’s market.

The Herbal Workshop: Handmade soaps. Available at the farmer’s market.

Sweet Mona’s: Chocolates and amazing gelatos.

Carmana squeezed into Langley’s tiny harbor.

Inside Useless Bay Coffee

I look a little bedraggled from the wind and the weather. Natalie looks cute.

Natalie finds a handmade soap at the Farmers Market.

She’s excited about it.

A heron hangs out in Langley.

The Langley shoreline

Kingston, WA

Not much to report here as we were anchored in the harbor. A subsequent trip through to catch the ferry revealed that we hadn’t missed that much.

A sailboat in Appletree Cove off Kingston

Our anchorage was open to traffic in Puget Sound. Big ship wakes had us rolling into the night.

Kingston sunset.

Seattle, WA

The next day we headed into Shilshole Marina in Seattle. We’d made the ~120-mile trip in about a week and were ready to work on the boat.

The Shilshole welcoming committee.


View Larger Map