Monday, October 24, 2011

Destination: Olympia

If you arrived here by searching for a chart or charts, please see this page.

The city and port of Olympia lies at the far southern end of Budd Inlet, and is the furthest south you can travel on water in Puget Sound.  Olympia is the capitol of the State of Washington, and as it is an historic place, it would be appropriate to add a little historical perspective here.

In 1792 George Vancouver sailed into the Strait of Juan de Fuca to begin to chart the area, and to seek the western entrance of the fabled Northwest Passage.  Tho it is difficult, one must keep in mind the gap in settlement between the East Coast and Puget Sound at this time.  In the east, the Revolutionary war had been fought and won, the Constitution which defines our government had been crafted, and things were bustling.  Out West, Vancouver and his Lieutenant Peter Puget had just started exploring the waterways that would be called "Puget's Sound".  (While on his journey of discovery, Vancouver encountered the Spanish ships of Dionisio Alcalá Galiano, who was on a similar mission. This is the explanation for the strange mix of Spanish names {Sucia, Galiano, Patos, Matia, Texada} and English names in the area.)

Several days sailing from the open sea, but close to the terminus of the Oregon Trail, the settlement of Puget's Sound began from its southern end and proceeded northward.  The city of Olympia was founded early-on in 1859, eight years after the U.S. Congress established the Customs District of Puget Sound for Washington Territory there.

Approach to Olympia
Excerpt from chart 18456
Depths in feet
Modern-day visitors to Olympia coming by water will proceed down the five-mile length of Budd Inlet, the capitol dome in view the entire time.  It will pay to tend to the West, toward the starboard shore, as the entrance to the dredged channel is not in the center of the Inlet but close-on to the western shore.  This course will also keep you away from Olympia Shoal.  The entrance to the dredged channel is well marked.

Proceed down the channel in a generally southwesterly direction; there are range boards (and lights) to keep you on course.  But note that there are no range boards for the outbound trip, so keep your trip log on your GPS and pay attention to your depth sounder.

Port of Olympia
Excerpt from chart 18456
Depths in feet
The channel forks at its southwesterly end, with one branch going into East Bay, and one branch going to West Bay, where the capitol dome is located.    (When we made the trip in 2011, we chose to go into West Bay, so the rest of this post will deal with West Bay.)  The buoyage at the fork can be a little confusing for the first-time visitor, so proceed with caution until things "click" for you visually. 

Proceed down past the huge commercial wharf, out of the turning basin.  There is plenty of good anchorage on a mud bottom below the buoys marking its boundary.  The commercial wharf is in active use - when we were there it was packed with a huge mountain of raw logs being readied for shipment, presumably overseas to be milled into metric lumber.  When I say "active use", I mean 24 hours/day.  So anchoring closer to the head of the bay would provide a quieter nite's rest.

Percival Landing is a community dock just below the turning basin, on the east side of the bay.  This is available for day moorage (free for less than 4 hr) or overnight for fee (there is no electrical or water hookup).  It provides easy access to all the amenities on the east shore, including the Anthony's restaurant where we enjoyed dinner, looking out at our boat at anchor.

A quick dinghy trip across the bay to Tugboat Annie's is a pilgrimage for many, and our neighbors highly recommend the farmers' market.

And of course, wherever you are in West Bay, the capitol dome dominates the view.

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