A weekend at Blake Island

September 2, 2014


Blake Island is a stunning semi-secluded island 8 miles (12 km) from the heart of Seattle. Blake is a 475 acre Washington State Park and as such there are no residents and the only way to get to the island is by private boat. It is a great place to take the boat out to for the weekend to camp or a quick hike.

Friends Eric and Krista joined Alixandra and I for a weekend adventure, and adventure it was! We left Elliot Bay Marina about 4 hours later than originally planned and the last slip at the first-come first-serve marina had just filled. So we leisurely traveled around the island looking for a good anchorage where we could be close enough to row the dinghy back and forth with gear and a good campsite. As it turns out we went all the way around the entire island (to what is the other side of the marina) before we found a spot we liked. It was an enjoyable journey. Our anchorage was lovely (take note of how far the boat is from the waterline for later!). I anchored Zippey in close. Closer than the other sailboats (hindsight…). I thought there was 25 feet of water beneath the hull from eyeballing it since Zippey has no electronics. We were set! Rowed our stuff to shore and set up camp.


After a great evening with friends and dinner over a camp stove we turned in for the night. The next morning Eric and I rowed out to Zippey to pick up the breakfast supplies ( We had 3 coolers and 5 grocery bags of food! :S ) and the tide had gone out significantly. No worries, I had checked the tide chart before we arrived and planned for this to happen. Notice where the water line is compared to Zippey now?


There still seemed to be 8 feet under the hull but as a precaution, and since the tide was still going out, I pulled the anchor and moved Zippey into deeper water figuring I would check on her after breakfast and move into even deeper water if needed. Breakfast did not take long, could not have been an hour, and when I looked over at the boat this is what my eyes beheld…


See that red line and all the mussels on the bottom? Yeah, that is supposed to be underwater. Haha. I was not too worried as the bottom is all soft sand there and I figured I could pull the anchor line and move Zippey. Wishful thinking! Zippey was stuck hard. Dang tide went out and Zippey went straight down! Ironically the anchor was way further out in deep water. Guess I learned that lesson: Tide going out does not equal boat going out with it!

I am the kind of guy who tries to see a silver lining in every situation and I had two revelations simultaneously. First, with the tide out we could walk to the boat with water only up to our shins and reload the supplies instead of multiple dinghy trips, and second that with Zippey showing her underside it was a perfect time to scrape all the mussels and growth off her. Brilliant!


Lots of growth! The contractor who painted the boat switched out the nice marine paint I purchased for latex house paint (as backed up by many other boat workers inspecting it) and it just does not hold up in salt water, or any water for that matter. So there is/was a lot of growth in just the last few months.

Well, the tide continued to recede. In fact it still had over an hour to recede at this point.

And it just kept receding. Soon Zippey was the waterline!

The water went out far enough that I was able to get Zippey cleaned all the way down the keel though :). If you are wondering why the keel is so shallow it is because it is a swing keel. Half the keel folds up inside itself. It is great as it gives me the ability to get into some very shallow areas that most sailboats could not get to. It also folds back up into itself in the event of beaching. The rudder is supposed to pop up too but you may have noticed that it did not. A factor that will play into the story in a bit.


Because we were planning on taking advantage of the trails on the island to do some hiking I was not concerned about being beached and needing to get home. As we left for the hike the tide was beginning to come back in and Zippey was rocking softly in the waves. Softly for now…

I have never been beached before. My mother started running us aground when she was piloting once, but I managed to get us off that before we were stuck. My buddy Mike smacked into some rocks at a Seattle park another time, but again we were not stuck and stayed floating the entire time. So this was a first for me. Luckily I like to read a lot, and when I see boats I pay attention. There is a marina in Puerto Rico that drains with the tide each day. So with the bottom being sandy I was not too concerned about Zippey damaging herself. In fact I was surprisingly calm. Here I was on an island with no way off other than private boat and 3 people depending on me to ferry them around safely. Not to mention the safety of my own boat. Having Zippey sink would be a massive headache and huge financial hit with all the environmental fees, the special boats to haul it out, the space on a dry dock, repairs, etc. Nope, I was steady as a rock. Zippey even got some nice cleaning out of it.

So we went hiking.

Upon returning from our hike I told the others I would bring Zippey around to the marina to pick them up. Soon as I rounded the corner I saw Zippey happily bobbing on the water. I did get a little tense just before rounding the corner. I was confident on what I would see but it was still possible something bad happened.

While Zippey was beached several people came and asked me questions or just stared at the boat. Some other boaters even came over in their dinghy to check it out while I was up at the campsite.

As I paddled towards Zippey I noticed the rudder seemed at an odd angle. I could not tell for certain till I got up to it, but sure enough the rudder broke. The rudder hangs like a hinge so it can swivel back and forth. There are two attachment points, one on the top and one on the bottom. As Zippey started rocking back and forth with the incoming tide the metal fatigued on the bottom bracket and it snapped. Remember when I said the rudder pops up when grounded? Well it did not this time. When the rudder was re-hung after she was painted it was hung wrong and it no longer had the ability to pop up. This led to the rudder also being embedded in the sandy bottom with the keel.


I needed to remove the rudder in order to move through the water effectively but I had taken the toolbox off the boat. Whoops. Hoping that someone in the marina was smarter than me with their tools, I tied off the rudder to one side to prevent the motor from hitting it and slowly limped around the point and into the marina. When I say slowly I mean that the motor was working as hard as it could, however when the rudder was tied down it was sideways and therefore cause a lot of drag. Luckily as soon as I pulled into the temporary slip a couple other boaters came over with tools and offers to help. Eric unbolted the rudder and we used the outboard motor to drive and steer all the way back to the Elliot Bay Marina.

So here sits Zippey, only one sail, paint needing redone, rigging wanting of an update, rudder laying on the deck, but her underside is clean as a whistle! I have a sneaking suspicion she always wanted to be a motorboat anyways!