Late September ’09 trip to McMicken Island and Jerrell Cove

Much of Puget Sound shoreline is developed ‘city’ with once tree lined shores now filled with ‘water view’ homes. The waters South of Tacoma Narrows, ‘South Sound’, are not as developed and those shores with homes are not as densely packed. One can still get a feeling of ‘being with nature’ when cruising these waters. This isn’t to say that over-development isn’t present … I remember cruising the area 30 years ago and getting the feeling that you are ‘in the wild’. The area isn’t wild, but IS rural.

L092509 SWEET PEA at zittel'saunch location is Zittel’s at Johnson Point. The ramp is a rare in Puget Sound: steep enough to launch at most tide levels, and well maintained. While rigging the boat I have an audience asking questions about Sweet Pea. The gentleman states he build a boat in Sweden and sailed around the world over eight years. He repeatedly asks if where I’m going to keep the boat and which days I’m going to sail. The idea of me cruising and sleeping on such a small craft over a long weekend seems an alien idea.

Launching is uneventful and I find moderate wind from the East. These winds slowly moderate and die in about an hour. My only plan for the trip was staying one night a Jerrell Cove. No set day. Not wanting to motor, and hoping for wind on Saturday, I choose to stay at McMicken Island.

092509 03 mcminken is

From ‘wisps’ of wind as the late afternoon progresses Case Inlet becomes calm with a mirrored surface. I enjoy looking at the quiet shore and reading (Moby Dick is on-board for this trip). During the supper hour a large stinkpotter arrives and takes the buoy RIGHT NEXT to me in an empty anchorage. why do people do this?

Excluding the hour the stinkpotter runs his generator, the evening is quiet. I watch The Full Monty and then do some star gazing. The stars really come out when you get away from all the light ‘pollution’. The milky way is putting on a great show. Looking into space does make one think.

The next morning I find Case Inlet the same as when I went to sleep – tabletop flat. I take my time in having breakfast, having a few cups of coffee as it is not a long trip to Jerrell Cove. The hope the wind will come up and I can do some sailing before going into the next port.

N092609 04 case inleto luck, by 11AM still no wind. I choose to motor north. Hour later I arrive and make a quick stop at the park’s dock to use their head, see if the dump station is open. Nope … three+ years and it has not been ‘fixed’. I register for a buoy and motor across to find ‘my spot’.

There is no breeze, the sun is out, and after a late lunch I take a nap.

Jerrel Cove is noted as the most popular stop in South Sound cruising. Even this late in the season as afternoon becomes evening half the buoys are taken and the dock space is half full. Seems others, like myself, has picked a weekend for wonderful weather.

Jerrell Cove, in my opinion, is now over developed. I remember when the shoreline was forested, and the few homes were simple summer cabins. Most of these cabins are now replaced with LARGE homes with expansive docks. Overnight I notice that most of the ‘homes’ are not lighted. These seem to be summer/weekend ‘cabins’ of GIANT size. The building is not as bad as Gig Harbor, and it is my hope that the local government has made policy to stop such ‘mega building’.

The evening becomes overcast and there is an occasional land breeze to cool the boat. One of the stinkpotters at the park dock runs his main engine for over an hour … the sound of the engine bounces from one shore to shore.

My evening move is The Killing Fields. No stars tonight so I tuck in and read for a few hours.

Sunday morning there is a slight breeze. The air has a Fall feel, chilly, and the sky has cleared. The bright sun warms the boat and drys the heavy deposit of dew. I don’t know if the breeze in the cove is local, or wind is filling Case Inlet. I tune in NOAA and the forecast is a small craft advisory with winds to rise to 15-25 by early afternoon.

I092709 01 case inlet motor out and find a fresh breeze is blowing in Pickering Passage. Setting the 150 genoa and rising the main it is clear I have too much sail. Reefing the main balances the boat for a bit, but the wind is rising. Foredeck time to switch the 150 for the 100 jib. The combination of the single reefed main the jib again balances the boat. Wind is still rising and I debate putting in a second reef … nature makes the choice to moderate the wind, but it is still gusty. After a bit the hull speed fall and I shake out the main’s reef. The wind holds for another hour and I then think about putting up the 150 genoa. I’m hesitant as NOAA is reporting Northerly winds of 20-25kts at Point Robinson. South Sound has no reporting stations so you must make some educated guesses based on Point Robinson, Shelton and Olympia. By the time I arrive at Zittel’s the wind has gone down to nothing and then shifted to a light breeze coming from ESE.

At the launch ramp there is some ‘traffic’. I wait my turn and quickly return Sweet Pea to her trailer. As I lower the mast the ramp get VERY busy as the drunk zip-boats and fisherman begin their haul-outs. I’m glad I returned before this loud and squabbling group.

Enjoyable trip that was SUNNY 80% of the time. The lack of wind Friday and Saturday made the days almost hot. The cool evenings and chilly nights reminded me that the sailing season is coming to an end. I caught a great weather window for an enjoyable late-September sail in South Puget Sound.


  •  Distance Traveled – 22 nautical miles
  • Sailed – 4 hours, 40 minutes
  • Motored – 1 hour 45 minutes

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