AI/TI Use in the Puget Sound Area of Washington State—A User’s Perspective
On another thread, (Broken rudder solutions
), Puget (aka Brian Heath)) discussed the problems of using an AI/TI in the beautiful Puget Sound area. I felt his thoughtful comments backed up by experience, might be useful to persons thinking of sailing and camping in the area. Highlights and bold print in Puget’s quotes are mine.
Interestingly, YakAttaque in a couple posts above has said that he will be doing a camping trip on his TI off the north end of Vancouver Island--even greater tide changes than those in Puget Sound. Presumably, he is planning to sleep on his boat. I'm looking forward to his trip report.
Brian--how do you launch and land with such large tide changes? Do you camp with those tide changes?
First, a confession. I've never camped with my TI. Just day trips. Thus, big tide changes are not a serious problem. I also launch from a trailer and a boat launch. The only problem there is the end of the ramp at low tide. Last week the water was 10 feet away from the end of my local ramp when my wife and I got there. I backed the trailer over the broken concrete right at the end and out onto the mud. A big shove slid the TI off enough to put the back into the water floating. Another shove and I could lower the bow by hand. And, no competition from boaters with 4,000 lb boats.
Other times and other launches I've waited a few hours. One time while several of us were waiting, a man drove up in a pickup with an open boat filled with crab pots. Water was 30 or 40 feet from the end of the ramp. He backed down, then put on boots and walked around in the mud for 10 minutes feeling out the soft and hard places. Satisfied, he got back in the truck, backed out onto the mud - not in a straight line. Launched and drove back to the parking lot. Piece of cake. Not for me.Current is the big tidal problem for me.
Bigger the tidal change the bigger the current. Mostly that means careful planning to be going the right directions at the right times, and not go near the narrows with its 4 kn currents on a flood tide.
Pulling up on a beach on a day trip is not so much a tide problem as a wave problem with barnacle covered rocks grinding away at the bottom of the boat.
So, here are my thoughts about camping. I'd be curious to know how other Hobie Island people actually do it -- as well as sailing skiffs etc.
After kayaking and TI-ing for a decade around South Puget Sound, here is my description of a typical shoreline. The landscape is mostly low coastal mountains that are flooded so that the valley floors are under water. Some old beaches are superimposed on this, but mostly steep forested hills come right down to the water. At high tide the waves splash around tree roots, fallen trees, tilted trees undercut by waves, upturned stumps, and logs that broke loose from timber company log rafts being towed by tug boats to a mill. Trees around here are often 3 to 6 feet in diameter -- sometimes much bigger -- but those days are mostly gone.
That's all a way of saying that walking along a beach at high tide is difficult to impossible. Walking inland would probably require rope climbing gear to go up the steep hills. If you came straight into the beach with a TI the person in the front would step out in 1 to 3 feet of water. The person in the back would step out in 2 to 4 feet of water. Perhaps you could pull into a tangle of trees and stretch a hammock between branches over the boat. But wave action would grind away at the boat hull.Low tide will give you 30 to 100 feet of exposed rocks on a fairly steep slope.
There are a number of sandy beach areas -- but I'd never count on just finding one in the next 5 miles. Put another way, pulling the boat up on the beach will not give you any advantage for camping in most places. Anchoring out would mean swimming in. Another problem: Most land is privately owned, including the beach.
Simply standing there is illegal. However, most water front houses are way up on a steep forested hill with no way to get down or to see the beach. I think most boaters ignore the law for brief day use -- unless the houses are right down next to the beach. Those of course are the areas where there is more level ground, including level beaches and sand. That is, the good camping spaces were taken 100 years earlier.
Sheltered bays. There are a number of these around Puget Sound. Gig Harbor and nearby Wollochet Bay are examples. Gig Harbor was named because the entrance is too narrow for Captain George Vancouver's big ship to enter. So he anchored outside the harbor and rowed in on his gig. Or so the myth goes. It is a mile plus long and 100 yards to about 600 yards wide. Very sheltered. One side is the village of Gig Harbor and wall to wall marinas with 2 public docks with public restrooms. The other side is big houses. You can anchor anywhere, and all kinds of boats often do. Yesterday was a holiday and there were 15 or 20 boats anchored out. They varied from 12 feet to 60 or 70 feet. Some were rafted up. The public dock -- free tie ups for a week or so I think -- was pretty much full with some rafting up. Many - including kayaks and small wooden sailing boats - were there for a weekly concert at the end of the dock.
If you can sleep on your Hobie, camping is possible. With either a dock or anchor the tide change is unimportant. But, of course, nothing remotely resembling a natural wilderness experience.
I've often wondered about making a marina to marina trip around Puget Sound. I presume that one could pay a marina for a slip and walk or get a ride to a motel. Probably even easier in Florida than here to do urban vacationing from a Hobie. There are wonderful waterfront communities here in Olympia, Tacoma, Seattle, Edmonds, Kingston, Bainbridge Island, Vashon Island, and many other places. I'm curious if anyone has ever thought of waterfront hostels for small craft owners. Probably not enough money from our kind.
Sheltered bays, like sandy beaches, are great places to build houses and business, and towns and public parks. Thus, the good camping spots were taken 100 years ago. Wollochet Bay has a pretty solid residential shoreline.
Public Lands. While most of the Puget Sound shore is private, there are significant public lands. There are also timber company owned lands, and privately owned lands with no development. Thus, much of the shoreline does look -- well I can't think of the right word. It is not "wilderness." It is not even "remote", though a lot of it looks like that to the untrained eye. Thick forests over 100 feet high can hide a lot of development. Perhaps "natural appearing" would be a good phrase. Unfortunately, that is as good as it gets for much of the world's shoreline.
It is in many ways natural. Some of the forests along Puget Sound shores have 100 to 500 year old Doug fir, hemlock, and red cedar. Black bear are common. Saw a pile of bear poop on the sidewalk near McDonald's the other day. Saw a black bear near my house a few months ago. Cougars are around.
Anyway, much of that natural land is pretty much up a very steep hill above the water. There are a few exceptions in county and state parks -- Harstine Island, Penrose SP, Kopachuck SP, Deception Pass, for example. Camping is only permitted in campgrounds, and they are not at the waterfront. There is a "Water Trail Association" - I think that is the right name - that maintains campgrounds for kayakers around the Sound. I've seen 2 of the campsites and neither would work for me with a TI. One requires carrying your yak from an unsheltered shore up a steep winding forest trail about 50 yards. Great kayak racks once you get there. Great campsite for 30 year old muscle men with 40 lb kayaks.
The other requires crossing 100 yds or so of mud and rock at low tide and then climbing over a 5 foot bank and then crossing a lawn and going a few yards down a forest trail. Putting the camp in the forest keeps what could be a sheltered anchorage out of sight.
All AI/TI wilderness camping has its dangers. In Florida, it might be alligators/crocodiles/snakes/sharks/heat/lack of fresh water/storms. In the Northwest, like off Washington State/Vancouver Island, it is bears/tides/currents/storms/hypothermia. It would seem any AI/TI camping trip in coastal Northwest would need to be carefully thought out.