An Insider’s Guide to Boating on Puget Sound

Puget Sound is a beautiful inlet in the Pacific Ocean located on the coast of Washington. Its fairytalesque natural wonders and diverse wildlife make it one of the most popular boating destinations for tourists every year. Not only will you see breathtaking views during your trip on the water, but you’ll also get the opportunity to explore quaint towns on the way to your final destination. 

If you’re ready to kick off your trip, refer to our list below for detailed advice on where to go and how to get started!

Starting from Seattle to Port Townsend

While here are many eye-catching harbors close to Seattle discover, Port Townsend is one of the top destinations. In fact, it’s only approximately 28.7 miles, or 33 nautical miles one way. This makes it a great trajectory for anyone looking for a fun, short-term boating trip. However, we highly suggest making small pit stops to nearby towns along the way for the most memorable time on Puget Sound. 

In fact, only 21 miles from Seattle is the historic city of Gig Harbor, a once a bustling commercial fishing port in the 19th century. As you follow the guiding illumination of the lighthouse before you, you can choose to dock straight in the middle of the harbor or in one of the nearby marinas. Make sure to take a peek at the stunning view of Mount Rainier in the distance and you pull in. 

Today, Gig Harbor has the atmosphere of complete peace and tranquility. While there are many waterfront restaurants, local shops, and even arcades, you’ll still be able to indulge in its small-town charm. We suggest taking a slow walk along Harborview Avenue for an amazing view of the landscape, or even renting kayak if you’re feeling adventurous. For those fascinated by nautical history, you can also check out the Harbor History Museum before you leave. While summer months tend to be the busiest, both July and August are a peak time to visit because of the Gig Harbor Summer Arts Festival and live music events.

If you are interested in a last stop before reaching Port Townsend, try Poulsbo, another unique docking town only 29 miles from Gig Harbor. Here, you can enrich yourself in the town’s Scandinavian heritage and influence. Actually, this city has even been dubbed “Little Norway” due to the ancestry of its primary settlers in the 19th century. Their influence still shows today in the architecture and artwork all throughout the area. 

Beside the picturesque views, you can also enjoy amenities like their downtown shopping area, the boardwalk alongside Liberty Bay, the Marina Market full of unique Scandinavian souvenirs, and even some of the best bakeries around! If you’re lucky enough to come in May, try to visit the Poulsbo Viking Fest, the official three-day celebration of the city’s northern heritage. 

Finally, once you reach Port Townsend, you can begin to discover the wonder of this well-known historical city.  Famous for their Victorian architecture, National Historic Landmark Districts, and high-end restaurants, you will always find something to do or see. Take a walk down the trails or waterfront, immerse yourself in the rich art and cultural experiences offered, and uncover the rich nautical legacy left by Port Townsend. 

Carry Safety Equipment

Safety should be the top priority for all boat trips, whether they are long or short. Unexpected weather or accidents can quickly dampen your holiday fun, or even turn into real threat. Stay prepared by bringing the safety essentials with you. 

To begin, all passengers should be wearing a life jacket. Each boat requires a different standard of life jacket depending on its size, so be sure to check the regulations before beginning your trip.

You will also need a sounding device like a horn or whistle designed for boaters. This can help notify others during cloudy or foggy weather with little to no visibility. Vessels greater than 39 feet need a bell that must be sound regularly during murky visibility. 

Navigation lights are also essential. You will need a specific type of light or lights depending on your boats size and use. There are a variety of day and night time flares available, each casting a bright light and smoke to make a clear alert in times of need. 

For even greater security, ensure you are aware are marine distress signals. There are a variety of distress signals such as, a ball over or under a square flag, or an orange cloth with a black square and black circle, which signals to flying vehicles for help. 

Aside from emergency preparations, it’s always a great idea to carry medical kits, VHF radios, flashlights, and cellphones for your maximum protection.

Review the Washington State Required Equipment Checklist 

Each state requires you to follow their own rules and regulations for the safest trip possible. By failing to comply with the required equipment checklist, you could be held legally liable, and you will also be risking your own safety and that of those on the boat. 

Some of the most important must-haves are a boating registration, personal flotation devices, and a copy of the State Parks-approved educational checklist. Check with the official list to make sure you have absolutely everything you need before departure. 

Keep Track of the Forecast

Staying informed about the weather is highly important for a safe and enjoyable trip. For the most accurate information, watch the marine weather forecast on the days leading up to your trip. 

Puget sound tends to have frigid water all year round, so don’t expect to take swimming breaks in the inlet between ports. However, if you’re looking for clear skies and smoother water for more enjoyable boating, wait until the summer months to take your trip. This is also when most of the nearby towns will be active with festivities.  

If you’re looking for stronger sailing winds, or want to avoid the summer crowds, you may prefer to head off in spring or fall. 

Use the Best Marine Grade Fabric

During your travel in Puget Sound, your boat will be exposed to elements like a moist climate and sometimes unpredictable weather. In order to protect your vessel, it is wise to invest in a boat cover. If you’ve purchased a used boat, or a cover wasn’t including in your purchase, you can make your own cover that perfectly fits the dimensions and needs of your unique boat. 

Begin by taking your boat’s measurements and then choosing the best boat cover material. Our fabric selection provides all the basics you need to get started. We suggest marine grade fabric, like our customer favorite Sunbrella, which is designed to stand up against harsh elements like heavy rainfall and rough water. It will also help prevent issues like mildew, stains, pests, debris, and fading. You can even use the cover for your patio furniture, cars, or sports vehicles during off seasons. 

Once you’ve chosen your fabric, ensure you have a sturdy sailmaker thread,  #18 needles, and a sewing machine that can sew through thick materials like marine grade fabric. When you have all the materials, you can cut and sew the fabric into the desired design. It’s really that simple!

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