Ports of Call: Hood Canal’s Great Bend
One has only to glance at a chart of Puget Sound to sense that the twisting tentacles of blue waterways translate to near-endless boating opportunities. Perhaps the most twisted, bluest tentacle of them all is Hood Canal, a glacially formed fjord that fishhooks between the mainland of the Olympic Peninsula to the west and the Kitsap Peninsula to the east. Steeped in Native American culture, rural Peninsula charm, and a world-class natural setting flush with fishing opportunities, the Hood Canal beyond the Great Bend is its own world. Fascinating is often an overused term, but the word applies aptly to the area.
Did you know that the U.S. Navy stations nuclear submarines within the depths of the many internal bays of the Canal? Or that the Hood Canal Bridge (officially the William A. Bugge Bridge) that straddles the fjord is one of the largest saltwater floating drawbridges in the world? Throw in famous oyster farms like the Hama Hama Oyster Company and the proximity to the singular Olympic National Park, and fascinating fits quite nicely.
Among the smatterings of state park beaches and sleepy small towns, most with public boat docks and bait shops, stands the Alderbrook Resort & Spa. Alderbrook has plenty of offerings for boaters, especially in the summer months. Live bands serenade the outdoor waterfront bar, couples hold hands on lounge chairs by fire pits, and cruisers tie up to the marina as the sun sets over the pine trees. The Alderbrook hub is a busy, lawn-partying, cocktail-slinging, golf club- swinging beacon in a sea of quiet, polite-but-keep-to-themselves communities and huge swaths of nature.
Hood Canal was made for boaters, a green-blue waterway created by nature, not man, with an average width of about 1.5 miles and a mean depth of around 180 feet. As a boater enters the canal from the north, he or she will pass Tala Point (to starboard) and Foulweather Bluff (to port) and cruise south for about 50 miles before the fjord bends to the Northeast (The Great Bend). The Hood Canal Bridge is the main complication for boaters navigating the fjord, but it is legally required to open for boats. Simply call ahead at 360-779-3233 to request a time and give them at least an hour of leeway (more info is available at wsdot.wa.gov).
Additionally, stay clear of any Navy maneuvers that you may encounter. Besides that, the protected conditions beyond the Great Bend of the Hood Canal are often glassy and windless, perfect for motorboats and less so for sailors with a need for speed. Like just about everywhere in Puget Sound, it’s best to be mindful of the tides, for they can rip through narrow passes. The water gets shallow toward the end of the canal, so exercise caution.