Backyard Sailing
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Bellingham Bay is the ultimate gateway

Toni Knight – Whatcom Independent

It may be fall, but as Whatcom County sailors know, sailing is a year-round sport here. For weekend sailors Bellingham Bay is the ultimate gateway to endless islands right outside our back door. No other port on the West Coast can offer the extensive island hopping options that we have. Neener…neener…neener.

Just an hour away on Lummi Island, is Inati Bay – a straight shot across Bellingham Bay. If you have great karma, a Northwest wind could get you there in one tack. For those non-sailors out there, that means you can put up your sails, point the bow at the island, plump up your cushions and relax without having to do any of that silly sail shifting stuff. Inati is located on the east side of the island, which provides a protected anchorage in the shadow of Lummi Mountain. There are several hot fishing spots just around the corner. The drawback is you can look but barely touch. The shore is private property except for a tiny patch of beach on the waterfall side of the bay.

A hop, skip and a swim across the channel is Eliza Island, a great place to circumnavigate, fish and crab, but don’t stick your tootsies on shore. It is a private island with a very diligent, three-wheeling, burly security guard on duty.

Now before you get all frustrated by the lack of shore leave close by, there is still good ol’ Chuckanut on the mainland just south of Bellingham Bay, where you can get that much needed walk on terra firma. If you tuck in behind the north arm of the Bay you can paddle to Little Chuckanut Island (Dot Island) for a very short walkabout, or to what the locals call Teddy Bear Cove on the mainland, for a little stabilized sun bathing. But be sure to bring your sunglasses because the glare off of some of those bare bottoms can blind you. That’s right. To this day, Teddy bear is still a place where some folks bare all. (Speaking of hidden crevasses…) If you like to explore hard-to-reach nooks and crannies in your dingy, paddle under the railroad trestle to the shallow bay on the other side of the tracks, then loiter under the trestle and wait for a train. Aaaaack! Okay maybe I’ve been out on the water too long.
If you have the time for an overnighter and a boat that’s safe to cruise bigger water, you can sail three to four hours northwest to Matia and Sucia Islands. Matia Marine State Park is open all year with overnight mooring and camping facilities. Rolfe Cove even has a mooring float in the summer for those who don’t trust the State Park mooring buoy. There really isn’t much room to anchor and with the current racing through and the rocky bottom, it is rather risky. Okay, it’s down right dumb. Once you are settled in, there is a short loop trail that is surrounded by a wildlife refuge. If you are looking for peace and quiet, Matia in the fall is where it’s at. But, if you crave adventure and activity…

Sucia Marine State Park has six bays and coves. Echo Bay is the largest. There are over forty mooring buoys and more than fifty camp sites around the island. Both sides of this giant horseshoe are riddled with trails and access roads. Sucia has it all; for a quiet night’s sleep…Echo Bay, for the best sunset…Shallow Bay, for a sandy beach…Fox Cove, for a dock party…Fossil Bay, for crabbing and fishing…Ewing Cove, for nasty prop mangling reefs…the west side of little Sucia and the east side of big Sucia. Unless you want a rock named after you, take a good gander at your large-scale chart before approaching this island.

Get out there and sail the islands. Think of the poor island-starved Seattle-ites. It’s your duty to explore what Mother Nature has bestowed right here in your own back yard.