Imagine the salt-air breeze whilst waves lap at the wooden slats. In the distance the ice capped Olympics rise from a sparkling sea. The only sound is the creaking wood as it rubs the leather guides of the traditional rigging. Fluttering sails snapping lines taut. The schooner glides through the water as the sun slowly sinks behind the jagged peaks of the Olympics, casting a vibrant orange glow over the Canal. This is what the Olympia Schooner Company has to offer.
Welcome aboard Captain Hoyle's Pleiades. The “Pleiades,” is an 59’ working replica of an 1830s Eastport Pinky Schooner built at Sauvi Island Boat works by Roger Stallcup. First launched in 1990, Pleiades has traveled throughout the Pacific Northwest – today the schooner heads to Union each Spring to make her home port at the docks of Alderbrook Resort. Here she offers cruises around the fjord.
Forty year veteran sailor and Pleiades skipper, Captain Jon Prins summed up his feelings on sailing in Hood Canal, “When I take the boat out in the evening, rounding the Great Bend, and open up to that vista that greets us – that is the most beautiful spot in Puget Sound as far as I’m concerned.”
“Combine that with the setting sun,” he continues, “and you have an experience that most people are just awed by.” Prins has been sailing with the Pleiades for seven years and his pride for each authentic strip of wood and shackle is evident in his calm handling of the vessel.
The crew is made up of licensed captains and professional sailors, led by owner, Captain Hoyle Hodges, an experienced wooden boat owner and restorer. Hodges originally operated the boat as an social experiment in cooperation with Evergreen College to run supplies from Olympia to nearby Boston Harbor. Fortunately for visitors and residents in Union and guests the Alderbrook Resort, a more lucrative plan was to move the vessel to Hood Canal for charter use from May through September.
An experienced sailor himself, Hoyle’s mission to share his love of sailing a traditional vessel with his passengers becomes forefront as soon as the lines are cast.
It doesn’t take long, as a passenger, to be swept into the romance of riding a historical schooner as you are enveloped with total silence when the engine is cut away from the dock. Surrounded by sea and quiet, the sails are raised, the wind catches, and the force of nature is harnessed with ropes and cloth.
The nominal cost of the cruise is well worth the joy of the experience – and the amazing photos! The Pleiades offers hourly scheduled cruises through to September ($60) that do a loop around the bay; and an evening cruise at dusk taking passengers on a longer journey to view the sun setting over the Olympics and then turning back near the mouth of the Skokomish river ($75). Reservations are recommended and can be made through the Alderbrook Resort front desk at (360) 898-2200. Guests are welcome to bring food aboard or call ahead and a catered lunch or dinner can be arranged. The Pleiades can sail up to six guests at a time.
Half, full and overnight itineraries can be arranged throughout the Summer, and year round, by calling Captain Hodges directly at (360) 701-3512.
Next time you have guests from out of town and you wish to offer them a Hood Canal experience, or you and your family would like to journey on an authentic sailing vessel – arrange a trip aboard the Pleiades. See olympiaschoonercompany.com for more information.