A Day of Sailing on the Puget Sound

Written by and Photography by Charla in Travel

There is something about sitting on a sailboat with no motor running, nothing but a mild breeze pushing us along at 3 miles per hour, and the only noise is the waves lapping against the side of the boat and an occasional distant freight train or another boat speeding by. You are forced to slow down and move at the pace of the wind and the water.

Alternating between the sails and the motor, Scott meandered the boat around this part of Puget Sound, past large and small islands, ferries, and birds. Other boats drifted or motored past and we looked at the inhabitants of those boats, all of us in on the joke that we were so relaxed at this slow pace while the rest of the world was rushing through their daily routines. Scott’s wife Tina helped sail the boat, kept watch on the kids on board, and chatted with us on the deck. Despite being nine months pregnant, she showed no signs of slowing down or tiring out. They have been sailing up and down Puget Sound for years, so this seems to give her energy rather than drain it away.
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 We dangled our feet a few inches above the water, and reflexively jerked back them whenever a jellyfish drifted past. Those jellies creeped me out but I couldn’t look away: fat blobby transparent heads dangling long strands of venomous tentacles quietly waiting for a stray fish or foot to brush past them.

While native to Puget Sound, jellyfish populations have skyrocketed in recent years while small fish populations have declined, whether due to human intervention, climate change, or the dumb luck that jellies have few predators.

The boat stopped at a spot a few hundred feet from the shoreline. No jellies here. Tina and Scott’s son Joey cut pieces of raw chicken and tied them into two metal cages which he dropped into the water. We drifted away and planned to come back in about an hour. It would take at least that long, Scott said, for crabs to take the bait and get caught in the trap. With some luck, we’ll have fresh crab for dinner.

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 Not all of sailing is peace and quiet. The whole point of sailing (full disclosure: everything I know about sailing I learned in a few hours here on Puget Sound) is that you need to harness the wind and use it to your advantage. Because the wind can change direction and speed, gust like crazy or drop off altogether, a sailboat’s inhabitants are constantly raising, lowering and adjusting the sails with a dizzying mix of ropes, pulleys, knots. It is a team sport where everyone has an assignment and must communicate with everyone else. Never mind the fact that one of the team members on our boat was a mom-to-be. Tina bounced her pregnant self all over the boat without effort while I stumbled behind her like the clumsy kid at a junior high dance.

My assignment, when it wasn’t pouring the wine, was to pull the blue striped line on the right side of the boat, tighten a crank and copy the same kind of knot that Scott tied on the other side. My dad will be pleased that I did a reasonably good sailor’s knot on the first try. At a minimum, the knot held and the sail didn’t swing around and knock me into jellyfish infested waters.

Sailing can be an addicting sport and I quietly spun in my head the possibility of taking a sailing class at home. Not that I have any time for a new thing on the calendar, but then that is the whole point.

Back where we dropped the crab traps, Joey pulled them up and showed a half-dozen crabs. Our elation faded as we measured them. Small crabs and female crabs were required to be tossed back into the water. Ultimately that left us with two, so we thought about other foods that would go well with our boiled dinner.

In the end, all of the crabs found themselves thrown back into the water. The last one was thrown in as we walked away from the the dock, back on dry land, and thought about dinner. With a promising sunset fast approaching, we settled on Boathouse 19, a popular local dockside restaurant. Seated outside in front of a fire pit with a view of the evening Puget Sound and the Tacoma Narrows Bridge, we said “Why not?” and ordered a crab boil on the menu. No, we were told, they were all out. Crab just was not going to be on the menu today.

Eat Here:

Boathouse 19
9001 S 19th St, Tacoma, WA 98466
(253) 565-1919