Blake Island - friends, animals, and hiking
Blake Island is one of my favorite places to visit via boat. An easy 1-2 hour sail from my home marina, I have visited many times after work during the summer months. It is home to a wonderful assortment of deer, birds and other animals, and has plenty of camping and day spaces available, as well as mooring balls around the island. There’s a small marina that you can sometimes get into, which was our plan.
With a decent weather forecast for Friday, I decided to get out of Seattle and over to Blake for at least one overnight stay. My friend Jake would be along for the ride – it would be his first time seeing Blake.
No matter how much planning I do, it seems that I always end up with far more provisions than we need. The above is only part of what I bought for 2 people and 2 nights!
Beneteau 311 center wine storage
One of my favorite features on Grace is the center-table wine storage section. We generally use it for vodka, which works just as well. In this arena, you can never over provision!
The weather was spectacular on Friday – almost 60 degrees with a nice 10kt wind from the North. We enjoyed a nice view of Seattle as we headed out of Elliott Bay.
WSF Kaleetan near Seattle Colman Dock
I am still in love with my Sony DSC-RX10 III bridge camera. The above shot was taken at 220mm while standing on a bouncy boat in the waves.
WSF Walla Walla near Orchard Point & Olympics in background
Here’s another of the Walla Walla coming out from Bremerton near Orchard Point. The stability and range of this camera, from a wide 24mm to a 600mm zoom plus it’s water resistance, allows me to take it anywhere. Gone are the days of lugging around a big camera bag of 3+ lenses and having to switch them in the field to get the right shot.
We were being a bit lazy, and only had the jib up for the trip down to Blake Island. Most of the time we were reaching, and moving along at a nice, sedate 4 knots. I did notice my speed indicator through the water was not working, and remained that way for the rest of the trip. Time to pull it out and see what’s going on soon.
Grace at the dock at Blake Island
We pulled into the Blake Island marina, part of the state park itself, and were lucky enough to get a spot. It was far busier than I expected on a Friday, but apparently there was a mini-get together of Pacific Seacraft owners taking up a bit of the space. The marina is pretty tiny, and usually fills up quickly in the summer months.
Blake Island map courtesy Washington State Parks
Blake Island has a lot of activities that you can enjoy. Around the island there are a lot of mooring balls you can pick up, and dinghy into shore for more activities. On the island are a ton of trails to explore, camp sites, and the Tillicum Excursion, a Native American longhouse experience run by Argosy Cruises. It just so happened that they had their first big salmon dinner of the season while we were visiting, although we didn’t participate.
Selfie on the beach
The weather was so nice, we immediately set out on a mini-hike around the east point nearest the marina.
The first animals we encountered were the geese. They were very passive, far more than normal geese I’ve run into elsewhere, but we did hear they were protecting eggs and waiting for them to hatch, so we gave them a wide berth.
Besides the camp sites, there are also a ton of picnic tables and BBQ huts you can use with larger groups. I’m always amazed at how much water is on this island – streams running through the flat areas, big ponds up in the trees – water everywhere.
The views were absolutely stunning from all vantage points – the nice 60 degree day, lack of rain and grey skies, and light wind made for some great photos.
Coast Guard cutter headed South
Still amazed with the Sony at this point – a hand held photo of a Coast Guard cutter at almost 600mm. A bit of noise but still a pretty rock solid shot for being hand held.
The beaches of Blake are quite varying – we were on the east side where the typical fist-sized rocks, with sand as you move further up the beach. The far west side has a nice sandy beach that is great to visit from a mooring.
I stayed on this mooring ball (or it’s replacement) back in 2009 on Jammy during a December snowstorm with north winds reaching 35 knots overnight. I would not recommend this rather exposed location for that sort of storm, but I had little options at the time.
Mt. Rainier and Vashon Ferry Terminal
The views just continued to impress, and I couldn’t put the camera down.
One of my favorite things about Blake, and that I wanted Jake to experience, is the deer. They are used to humans, and usually allow you to be pretty close to them while they are laying about or eating.
Jake posing with his deer friends
Jake was blown away at how tame they were, how close you could get, and how many there were just milling about. We counted 9 near us going about their business.
After a leisurely stroll around the rest of the nearby camping spaces, we headed back to the boat for a nice steak dinner and cockpit time.
The high tide even coordinated along with a nice (blurry) Seattle skyline right before heading off to bed for the night.
The next morning we awoke to the expected rain, and spent a lot of time surfing the ‘net and watching the raindrops.
Around this time I got a message from Sam Landsman of Slowboat.com that he was heading over to Blake. I had heard from him the day before that he might be coming over. As luck would have it, there was a nice spot right next to us, and he arrived about an hour later. He and his guests struck out in the rain you see above to explore, while Jake and I waited it out a bit longer.
We were rewarded with spots of sun and no rain, but a soggy set of trails. One of my favorite things about Blake is the trails around the island. It almost feels surreal, sort of like a fairy land.
The trails are very well maintained, and all of the routes are easy for hikers of just about any skill level.
There were some challenges getting across large puddles and even a bit of a stream at one point, but I suspect that is only present after lots of rain.
We did find a lot of fungus on the various trees and stumps.
You can find evidence of logging from many years ago on old growth stumps. There are also a ton of nurse logs – where trees have grown on top of fallen logs or stumps.
The weather cooperated for almost 2 hours, and we had a wonderful 3 mile hike around various trails.
Blake Island marina entrance from shore
Grace at the dock
Safe Harbour at Blake Island during sunset
Saturday evening brought a fantastic sunset from the dock, and another great meal before we headed off to bed.
I was surprised that the showers at Blake Island now use tokens – maybe they always have and I have forgotten? It has been a long time since I used them anyhow. The bathrooms and showers are in good condition, and I had no complaints. What I really loved was the tokens themselves. I kept a couple, as I enjoy coins in general, and these were well designed. I also got one for Penrose Point State Park, so I suspect they are in use there as well.
I had some trouble getting my camera to do a decent macro shot – I am definitely going to spend some time working with the settings to see if I can improve things.
Grace and Safe Harbour on a rainy Sunday morning
Sunday morning found rain back in the forecast, and it didn’t let up all day. Safe Harbour was still across the dock, but I think we were all up a bit late (2am?) and as a result, no one really made an appearance on either boat until around 11am.
The eagles at Blake are fun to watch. We got a front row show of one being harassed / harassing crows in the top of a tree. Yet again, I was impressed at hand held shots from the Sony. Still some learning to do with fast action shots, but it was fun to watch these guys argue with each other for about 30 minutes.
Around 1pm we decided to make a break for home, after circling Blake so Jake could see it from the water. About 20 minutes into that circle, we aborted the run and turned towards Seattle. The rain was coming in sideways into the cockpit, and we had 20 knot winds. After two days of near-perfect weather, we were spoiled, and turned tail.
Again we only needed the jib – with the winds coming from the south, we had plenty of wind to push us home at a good 4-5 knots. Everything was dripping wet, though. It poured harder than I had seen in a long time on the way home.
Blake Island astern
Blake has a special place in my heart as “my local” island. I’ve been there more than anywhere else in Puget Sound because of how close it is to my home marina, and will continue going back as often as possible. It was magical the first time, and remains the same today!