Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Blake Island Overnight: Puget Sound Boaters' Paradise

With the highest pleasure boat ownership per capita of any metropolitan city, where do Seattleites cruise to on summer weekends? 

All over Puget Sound, of course! But Blake Island State Park is a favorite destination and unique local treasure. This forest-covered, 475-acre island marine park, which is just 8 nautical miles from downtown Seattle, is now undeveloped except for Tillicum Village on the northeastern side.  Blake is also thought to be the birthplace of Seattle's namesake, Chief Seattle (Sealth).

Recently I was fortunate to join my friends and gracious hosts Mark and Andy and their daughter Lena for an overnight sailing trip to Blake. With clear skies, temps in the low 80s (F), and a light breeze from the north, the weather was perfect for a leisurely sail across the Sound.

Heading west across Puget Sound, with downtown Seattle and Alki in the distance
 "Hey, look over there!" I exclaim, pointing just to the south off our port side a mile or so from Blake. Sleek black dorsal fins round up and back into the water in a circular motion, signaling a pair of Dall's porpoises. We take that as a good sign.

By the time we arrive on the western side of Blake early afternoon, all the mooring buoys are taken and tents line the campsites above the beach at the forest's edge. No matter, we drop anchor and get settled.

After a very tasty shipboard lunch, it's time for a trip to the island. Lena wants to play on the beach, us ladies want to use a flush toilet, and we all want to stroll through the forest trail to Tillicum Village across the island.  (Some Seattleites need their fresh coffee.)

While we don't indulge in the Tillicum Village salmon feed and Northwest Indian show in the neo-traditional longhouse, it's fun to wander a bit around the grounds where lots of folks are camped over here.

West side of Blake Island looking south, near Tillicum Village

Totem pole at Tillicum Village, looking north toward Bainbridge Island
Longhouse entrance detail

Evening and early morning on the boat are my favorite times. Industrious little Lena catches a couple sole for breakfast in the waning light. Kayakers camped on the island practice rescues, and everyone out here is enjoying a beautiful summer evening.

As the sun sets and skipper Mark battens things down for the night, we're treated to a beautiful sunset behind the Olympic Mountains (originally called the Sun-a-do by the local Duwamish people).

Tonight I achieve one of my summer bucket list items: sleeping under the stars. Before falling asleep on the deck, I count about 14 shooting stars dropping in the sky like scattered fireflies. 

And then there's the beautiful dawn. How's that for a view when you roll over and wake up in the morning?

We enjoy a generally relaxing morning, with another trip in the dinghy to the beach, crabbing, and then packing up and sailing back to the mainland. Too soon.

Can you name that landmark structure? :) Which, BTW, is back to its original color.

Summer weekends are never long enough, don't you agree?

How about you? What are you favorite boating destinations?

When You Go
Campsites are first-come, first-served on Blake Island. There is no fee for mooring at the buoys, but the campsites do require fees. There are a variety of sites, some reserved for kayakers and canoeists as part of the Cascadia Marine Trail. Here is a map of the island.

Most boaters stay on the west side of the island, but some people also ride the Argosy tours boats from Seattle to Tillicum Village and camp overnight on the grounds and beach at the "village," where's there is a small marina. You can explore over 5 miles of beaches on the island and wander several miles of trails through the forest. And hundreds of years before Blake became a state park, it was a traditional camping site for the local Duwamish and Suquamish people.


ML said...

A favorite childhood memory was my family and our very, probably too small, boat making a day trip to Blake island before it was developed. It still had the ruins of the burnt out house and the not so native landscaping. We were generally the only people we saw, not a destination by any means. Think that I prefer it remember it that way – kind of like a ghost ship, just floating, abandoned – may even have still been private property and we were trespassers. Quite possible but a wonderful memory.

deborah@confessions of a craigslist junkie said...

Beautiful photos Jill. Brings back memories for me too. I really miss the Northwest.

CarolAnn said...

good times! I especially liked that you saw so many shooting stars, that is a very wonderful way to fall asleep.

jill said...

Wow ML, fantastic memories!

Thanks Deborah, glad I can give you a quick "visit" to the Northwest now and then.

CarolAnn, yes, was the night of the Perseides meteorite shower. Always makes me as excited as a little girl whenever I see one.