Skip to main content

Port of Call: Penn Cove, Washington

While Pacific Northwesteners are a laid-back lot, some things are sacrosanct. Take seafood. Sure, we might roll into the marina in an aging Subaru wearing worn-out Birkenstocks, battle-scarred jeans and an old regatta T-shirt, but you can bet your last roll of duct tape we don’t tolerate inferior seafood. Why should we?

While Pacific Northwesteners are a laid-back lot, some things are sacrosanct. Take seafood. Sure, we might roll into the marina in an aging Subaru wearing worn-out Birkenstocks, battle-scarred jeans and an old regatta T-shirt, but you can bet your last roll of duct tape we don’t tolerate inferior seafood. Why should we? With the open Pacific and the bounty of Alaska and the Straits of Juan de Fuca so close by, there’s no reason to eat anything but the best. And when the conversation turns to oysters and mussels, our proximity to Whidbey Island’s world-renowned Penn Cove—home to some of the planet’s tastiest bivalves just 30 miles north of Seattle—makes us, rightfully, very proud.

Some history: the United States Exploring Expedition of 1838-1842, led by Lt. Charles Wilkes, was the U.S. Government’s first serious attempt at charting and exploring the Pacific Northwest. When Wilkes and his men arrived in Penn Cove in 1841, they found a huge Native American settlement, believed to be the largest on Puget Sound. Evidence of the community’s reliance on the cove’s rich resources can be found in the piles of discarded shells that dot the landscape to this day.

Whidbey Island itself is some 35 miles long and between 1.5 and 12 miles wide, with numerous harbors and towns in addition to Penn Cove, which is situated near the town of Coupeville, on the island’s eastern shore.

Entering Penn Cove, sailors enjoy a fine panorama of protected waters, muddy banks and sparsely populated hillsides. Protected shellfish farms are marked with buoys, and there’s plenty of dockage available at the Coupeville Wharf.

Penn Cove’s muddy bottom also provides excellent holding for cruisers looking to drop the hook (check your charts/books for Penn Cove’s anchor-friendly areas). The island’s annual Penn Cove Mussel Festival is held every March, but visitors can expect decadent seafood meals year-round.

For sailors headed for the San Juan Islands, Penn Cove is a perfect stopover, especially if you don’t mind navigating Deception Pass. Sure, it’s a detour from the Straits of Juan de Fuca, but you can safely wager that last roll of duct tape that you’ll hear zero complaints from your crew.

Related

maintenance-02

Cruising: Old Sailors Never Die

“Old sailors never die, they just get a little dinghy.” It may be a hoary old joke, but one of my problems at age 79 is I can no longer get easily in and out of a little dinghy, and neither can my (several years younger than me) wife. For this, and various other reasons I will ...read more

01-LEAD-DSC_0953

The Mighty Compass

Here’s to the humble magnetic compass, without a doubt the sailor’s most reliable instrument onboard. It’s always there for you and with the rarest of exceptions, always operational. Yes, I love my chartplotter, autopilot, radar and AIS. They help me be a safer and more ...read more

02-En-route-Jost-Van-D

Chartering: Swan Song in the BVI

Joseph Conrad once wrote, “The sea never changes.” And while this may or not be true, something most definitely not open for debate is the fact we sailors, “wrapped in mystery,” as Conrad put it, are continually changing—whether we like it or not. I found myself thinking these ...read more

220307FP51_1JML0332

Boat Review: Fountaine-Pajot Aura 51

If you can sell more than 150 catamarans off-plan before the resin has even hit the fiberglass, you must be doing something right. Despite costing around $1.1 million once fitted out and on the water, Fountaine-Pajot’s new 51 has done just that. The French yard has been at it ...read more

00LEAD-IMG-9035

Ready to Fly a New Sail

It’s a typical humid, southern Chesapeake Bay summer day when I show up on the doorstep of Latell & Ailsworth Sailmakers in the one-stoplight, one-lane-roadway, rural tidewater town of Deltaville, Virginia. I’m late getting here to work on a new jib for my 29-foot, Bill ...read more

m5702_RACE-AREA-6

Dates for the 2024 America’s Cup Announced

Ever since making the controversial decision to hold the next America’s Cup in Barcelona, Spain, instead of in home waters, Defender Emirates Team New Zealand has been hard at work organizing logistics for the event.  The Racing Area for the Challenger Selection Series and the ...read more

00LEAD

A Force for Change: Captain Liz Gillooly

I first heard about Capt. Liz Gillooly in 2016 from my cousin while working three jobs in our shared hometown on the North Fork of Long Island and living with my parents to save money for a boat. But despite being the same age and growing up only 13 miles apart, Liz and I never ...read more

291726157_3222349914654950_8713674249134934221_n-2-1024x684

Sailing in the Growth Zone

The Goal This year, I’ve had a specific goal to be a better sailor. Some people have laughed and said, “Why do you need to be a better sailor? This was my 22nd year racing on the same boat, with the same crew. I like to win and want to make sure we stay at the top of the fleet. ...read more