Sunday, March 27, 2011

Favorite Anchorages - McMicken Island, Case Inlet

Beautiful McMicken Island looking East
There's a small South Puget Sound gem called McMicken Island.  It's a great anchorage with a good holding bottom and some lee from the prevailing SW winds.  There's plenty to see and do, but mostly it's a great place to anchor, and do nothing.  Well, do nothing as in read a book, relax with a nap, tinker about on your boat, row to shore and take a short beach stroll, you know - nothing.

At low tides you can do some clamming either at the beach at McMicken Island or at the nearby DNR beach.  At very low tides you might even get lucky to dig up a geoduck.  Just make sure you know the regulations, have a license, and know if there's a red tide alert.  If clamming is not for you, you can take an extended dinghy ride to Jarrell's Cove, or Pleasant Harbor, or even Allyn.  We often take the long trip (about 8 nm) to Allyn and enjoy an old fashioned hamburger at "Bob's Big Burgers."  But mostly anchoring at McMicken Island isn't about doing things its about doing nothing.

The past few times we've anchored at McMicken Island we have seen plenty of wildlife.  There seems to be some resident bald eagles that have nested on the island.  You will see deer in the late evening or early morning coming out on to the spit that connects McMicken to Hartstene Island.  We've even seen some otters there.  Of course you have all the other wildlife in the area - seals, gulls, bay ducks, and various tweety birds.

Not to be used for navigation
Most people approach McMicken Island from the south.  Make sure NEVER to cut between McMicken Island and Hartstene Island as it is shoal.  My recommendation is to always approach the anchorage coming around the north end of McMicken Island - giving the island a wide berth.  Anchor just west of McMicken Island and north of the bight that extends from Hartstene Island.  The bottom affords good holding of thick mud in about 20-30' of water.  There are also three state park mooring buoys along the west shore of McMicken Island and a few on the east side of the island.  Although if your vessel has a deep draft you may want to avoid the inner two mooring buoys on the west side of the island on a big minus tide.  I've never stayed at the buoys on the east side of the island as it is open to wind and waves coming up Case Inlet.

The island is not all a state park, the southern most end of the island is private property.  There is no water and pit toilets.  No fires are allowed.  Also, there is some poison ivy in the area.  There's some great swimming to be had here just off the bight on an incoming tide.  The shallow water will warm up quickly over the mud.  The kids will enjoy beach-combing for sand dollars and other shell trinkets.  Needless to say the anchorage is quite popular in the summer, but there's always room for another boat.

Here's a great recipe for clam nectar you might enjoy using fresh McMicken Island clams.
  • 2.5 quarts fresh seawater (strained and boiled for 5 or more minutes) or fresh water with 2 Tbsp of sea salt mixed in.
  • 5 lbs. clams in the shell
  • 1 stick butter (1 cup)
  • 2 cups white wine
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
Check clams by knocking two together.  The sound should not sound hollow but have a "click" to it.  Throw away any "bad" clams.  Strain seawater to remove any seaweed or other things.  Boil seawater thoroughly for 5 minutes or more to sterilize it.  Seawater is important because it contains the right amount of salt.  When salt water is done boiling, remove pot from heat, add clams and remaining ingredients, cover and let sit for about 5-10 minutes until all clams are opened.  Throw away any clams not opened.

Serve by putting clams in a big bowl along with coffee cup mugs full of hot clam nectar on the side.  We also serve crusty, garlicky french bread to dip into the clam nectar.  Save any unused clams and clam nectar for clam chowder, clam dip, and clam linguine. Enjoy.

For more information on clamming at McMicken Island visit this website.

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