Port Angeles – A Cruiser’s Haven

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Port Angles Washington, with the Olympic Mountains rising behind them. Photo by emmett anderson.

A reader of the blog sent me an awesome email. Not only is he a kindred soul, we have many experiences in common. His knowledge of Port Angeles and the western Puget Sound was so impressive, that I decided to share an edited version here (with his permission).

Hi Chris,
I’ve been following your blog. It’s very entertaining and also inspiring to see someone your age actually thinking about life and how to live it.

I had a similar dream to yours – i.e. living in the San Juans. I managed to do it for 10 years. I moved to Orcas first in the late 70s, then went to England to build some boats and came back with my x Cornwallian wife and lived on Orcas for the whole decade of the 80s.

It was a recession back then as well and took alot of effort to be there, but it was always worth it. We never had much money but lived like kings; had several exotic spots to live on the island and made many
friends that I still have today.

My favorite area was Deer Harbor. It probably was easier to live there on less then, as money was not such an issue since almost nobody had any. Yet we ate crabs, oysters, clams, deer, and had huge gardens. Our entertainment was the frequent pot lucks, parties, and local music.

That said, after my divorce, I needed a steadier income since I was a single parent, so I moved to Port Angeles and am now a nurse. While on Orcas I worked for West Sound Marine. I ran North Sound Marine (now out of business) and ran Carpenters Marina in Deer Harbor. I’ve also had experience building sailboats (SORC and maxi racers) and worked in the marine industry in Seattle outfitting Babas and CT’s and other production boats.

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View of Mt. Angeles from Port Angeles, 1917. Clallam County Historical Society

Even though I’m a nurse now, thinking and doing boats keeps me sane. I really like Cruise-a-Homes and have been keeping an eye out for them with the plan on getting one to go back to the Islands as it’s still my spiritual home. Like you, every time I go there I get a visceral feeling of joy and peace. I always feel like I’ve come home when the ferry lands at Orcas landing.

That said, the reason I’m writing is to turn you on to a little used cruising destination that might be entertaining for you and possibly a way to get more supplies for the Rock and Row.

As I said, I live in Port Angeles. It always amazes me how little utilized this harbor is by pleasure boats. Its a deep water harbor that large ships come to to refit and be checked for damage. The hook protects it from most weather except Noreasters. The thing most boaters don’t seem to realize is you can still anchor out for free right in front of the town. Good holding and not many boats.

There’s a nice beach (Hollywood Beach) to land your dingy on and the town is right there. Easy access to downtown stores and restaurants and several large grocery stores like Safeway all within easy walking distance. There’s a nice transient dock there as well with very cheap overnight rates. I believe last time I checked, it was a flat fee, something like $15. The town also has the city marina if you want to tie up with power and so forth. The moorage rates in Port Angeles are, I think, the cheapest in the state. The city has just redone much of the docks so everything is in good shape, and the docks are also behind a great breakwater so are really protected from bad weather.

As to outfitting your boat, one thing we have is an exceptional Goodwill. I think the goods there come from Seattle. At any rate, a great place to resupply things like clothes (I get great Eddy Bower, Cabela
and so on) clothes and coats. Good place to get cook ware. And if you’re around awhile, I’ve gotten really
good tools, boat equipment, crab traps, fishing gear, diving gear, and so on. Even things like a an Olympic propane heater and a Bosche instant water heater. I’m always amazed at the things that show up and the prices.


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Also, the town has a good bus system. You can get around the area easily to go to Sequim (Costco and so on) and even an easy ride to Port Townsend. Also of course we have the national park which is a joy
to hang out in. We also have a really exceptional college that is good for entertainment and so on. If you were here, I’ve seen a lot of boaters take easy classes to get access to the motor and welding shops to outfit their boats. Another good thing is the Black Ball ferry that leaves downtown for Victoria 2 times a day. You can also hook up with the international ferry to Friday Harbor easily.

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This is a view of Port Angeles from the water, taken around 1900. Photo from Clallam County Historical Society.

There is lots of good foraging in the area (you seem to like that kind of
thing). Good fishing and crabbing.

Port Angeles is a fairly poor town (economy wise) but the offshoot is things can be fairly affordable because of that.

At any rate, I thought I’d turn you on to the place and also let you know your doing a good thing. If you’re interested in seeing the place, shoot me an email and I’d give you my contact info and show you and your wife around. Always love a boater, especially a San Juan aficionado.

I’ve lived around the world and to me this is the second best place I’ve found, Orcas being the first. I’ve always thought this place is underutilized. The harbor is better protected than Port Townsend and the view is outstanding. Mount Baker all by itself to the East and the Snow clad Olympic Mountains to the south. Great views of both from the anchorage. As I said too, the bus system is pretty workable and its easy to get to Sequim for big box shopping, Port Townsend, Forks, and a few other places. They have a big haul out facility here. I actually helped my friend pull his Cruise-a-Home here to get it ready for his move to Friday Harbor.

Safe Journey and Keep up the good work!

Alan Kropp

Related posts:

Black Beans & Sausage over Rice
Yee Ha!
Adventures at the Friday Harbor Film Festival
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