Dispatches: A Captivating Photo Essay Sailing the Puget Sound

Photo: Andy Cochrane/Johnie Gall

Relatively speaking, we were never far from civilization, but it didn’t feel that way. Living on a sailboat is like exploring another planet: awe-inspiring and isolated, cramped and freeing at the same time.

A three-day voyage in the Puget Sound marked our second excursion aboard TRUE, a bright red 44-foot Pearson Countess designed by world-renowned naval architect John Alden and captained by our friend, Ben Doerr of Sail Bainbridge. Departing from a small harbor on Bainbridge Island, Washington, we wove south through a maze of landmasses and channels under the prestigious, cloud-skirted silhouette of Mt. Rainier.

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As Ben taught us how to manage ropes and steer the 38,000-pound vessel, we spotted sea lions and jellyfish, eagles and porpoise, crab and fish. Each day we stopped at a secluded anchorage and rowed ashore in a small dinghy to stretch our legs on wooded trails. Ben is a singer and songwriter—he also helms the band St. Paul de Vence, an homage to his grandfather—so nights were filled with music, communal cooking, and card games.

Here, Andy Cochrane and Johnie Gall share dispatches from a sailboat in the Puget Sound, near Seattle, as the sailboat became a basecamp for their three-day adventure to the southern end of the waterway.

Sailing charters get a reputation as the domain of the rich and famous, but our three-day trip to the southern end of the Puget Sound and back was filled with enough night swimming, trail running, deck dancing and SUP wake surfing (it’s a thing, if you can pull it off) to make a convincing case that sailing is for everyone, especially those looking for a little tomfoolery.

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Sailing aboard TRUE is a time warp—life just moves more slowly. Leaving email and errands behind, you learn to fill your days with hammock naps, paddleboarding, and chart reading instead.

The southern end of the Puget is peppered with forested islands and hidden state parks. We explored one each day, running trails and visiting landmarks… and occasionally swimming back to the boat.

Boatlife is, above all else, simple. The happiest moments are found during quiet mornings, misty rows around a private anchorage, and time spent watching the shore slowly pass by.

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TRUE can be chartered for evening sails, full-day tours and longer adventures like ours. The ketch has three sleeping births with ample room for six guests, a small kitchen with a gas stove and oven, refrigerator, and a small fireplace to keep the cabin warm on cold nights. It even has a bathroom with a shower heated by the engine.

Captain Ben is a consummate professional, but he’s also a professional fun-haver with no shortage of stories about the history of his boat, the local wildlife, and the community near Bainbridge. A song from Ben is the best way to cap off a day on the water.

Washington gets a reputation for being cold and overcast, but when the state shows up, it really shows up. It’s a playground for water lovers, too—very, very cold water lovers. For those looking for a one-of-a-kind experience, we encourage you to try sailing. It’ll take you into another world, free of little distractions and stressors, no matter what region you decide to explore.

All photos by Johnie Gall and Andy Cochrane.

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