If you’re a Northwest boater, you may have a boat large enough to include a Head (a ‘head’ is yacht speak for a bathroom) … and from time to time that Head needs to be cleaned out. La Conner Marina’s Guest Docks have handy pump-out stations at the end of the docks; they’re easily accessible for most boaters and even easier to use.
If you’re new to the Swinomish Channel, there are some navigation tips that will help you get docked safely and with a minimum of hassle. Here are some tips from our local boaters:
1. Never underestimate the power of the Swinomish Channel current. It may not look like it’s running hard on the surface, but trust us – in order for all that water to come in and go out of the channel 4 times a day, it takes a lot of pull. People who have accidentally fallen into the channel tell us the drag on their legs was much stronger than they had anticipated. (Please wear a life preserver when docking!)
2. In our channel, you should always dock against the current. The current will help ease you into place, and hold you against the dock while you get your lines set. Docking with the current running with you, unless you have a lot of power under you, pulls your boat away from the dock and can make docking a real challenge. As our locals say, “Use the channel currents to your advantage!”
3. The folks at the fuel dock, just north of the main guest docks, keep a current-direction sign outside and change it as the current changes. (Take a look at the photo to the right. The current arrow is just to the right of the window.) This is really handy, as sometimes it’s difficult to tell which way the current is running (depending on where you are in the channel it might be running north or it might be running south!) and you need to know that in order to have an easy docking. Locals will often get out their binoculars ahead of time and take a look at the sign, then prepare accordingly … that’s much easier than scurrying around at the last minute because you’ve got your fenders and lines set on the wrong side of your boat.
Once you’re secure at the dock, the pump out is easy to use and takes only minutes. It’s a basic green-on/red-off switch, with a valve to open and close the nozzle. Be a considerate boater and rinse the nozzle and the dock when you’re done and pick up any garbage that you have.
Many boaters going north to the San Juan’s or further into Canada, or south toward Seattle, find La Conner Marina the perfect location to refuel and pump their Head before heading out again – it’s quick, it’s easy, and it’s very accessible.