Ports of Call: Port Townsend

Port Townsend // Photos by Norris ComerPort Townsend, known in the days of yore as the “City of Dreams” when it was believed the town would grow into the largest port on the West Coast, has in many ways lived up to the name in a more organic-artisan, authentically salty, wood-planks-n’-brickwork kind of way. It is hard as a boater or lover of the sea not to be uplifted when the opportunity arises to visit, for the soul of the town is a rare, dare we say bespoke, mix of things we love. Victorian houses and historic buildings house hyper-local establishments and restaurants, such as the iconic and independently owned Rose Theatre that originally opened in 1907 as a vaudeville house. Central to the brick-red beating heart of Port Townsend is all things marine, and the place is a magnet for some of the best nautical craftspeople in the world.

There, we said it, the world. There probably isn’t a town of this size anywhere else where you can build a Nor’easter Dory (with Chesapeake Light Craft), attend professional seamanship classes (with the U.S. Maritime Academy), build a Rowcruiser (with Northwest Maritime Center [NWMC]), enroll the kids in water-themed youth programs (NWMC, again), and build a wooden kayak (with Pygmy Boats) all within walking distance from each other in the middle of town. It’s the kind of place where the entire community takes to the streets to celebrate with live music and a craft beer in hand, such as during the iconic Wooden Boat Festival (which just enjoyed its 40th iteration).

For the incoming mariner, Port Townsend is obstacle-free. The town sits on the west side of Admiralty Inlet and one can gaze at Whidbey Island’s bluffs to the east from downtown. Boats often utilize the services of a marina, such as the large, modern, and centrally located Port Townsend Boat Haven Marina, vs. anchoring off the hook, which is perfectly legal with public, dinghy-friendly beaches. The southerlies can really howl, the tides are strong, and there is reportedly poor grounding on the south side of town. If approaching from the north, you’ll be fresh from the straits of Juan de Fuca (“I-wanna-puke-a”) and will pass the Point Wilson Lighthouse on your starboard before reaching downtown proper. Mind the tides and winds as always or risk a frustrating beat in foul conditions near shipping traffic. We live in a beautiful, but often unforgiving, place.

Read our full Port Townsend Guide on Issuu