The sleepy community of Dockton was once a busy shipyard, with the first dry dock in Puget Sound large enough for sailing schooners. As land travel became easier, and especially after the Navy built its own yard in Bremerton, the industry here began to fail.
A smaller ship-building operation continued through World War I. Today nothing remains of these industries on the west shore except a few floats and piers used mostly by fishing vessels, and several rows of pilings. On top of the steep bluff, the wood-framed supervisors’ homes — known locally as Piano Row — still oversee the long-gone shipyard.
The attraction for boaters and island residents is on the east side of this wide, V-shaped cove, at Dockton County Park. This 23-acre park has picnic tables, a large cook shelter, a bonfire pit, play equipment and paths up the bluff. A swimming area and launching ramp are on the south side of the park’s moorage floats.
Moorings and Anchorage
The long, outside park floats form a squared-off “J” that opens to the north. These concrete floats are braced with stout double pilings; inside are a fair number of concrete finger floats. Depth at the outside float is about five feet deeper than at the ramp.
A fee box is located at the restroom on the pier. Moorage is limited to three nights per week.
Dockton County Park has no garbage facilities for boats.
Anchorage is good in three to five fathoms, mud bottom. Protection is excellent from the south, but a strong northerly coming over the low isthmus at Portage can raise a good chop.
All mooring buoys are private.
Getting Ashore, For the Crew
Use the park floats. Stay clear of the swimming area south of the pier. Showers are in the restrooms on shore. There’s a pay phone and a bus stop at the road. The bus makes frequent runs north to the town of Vashon and on to the ferry terminal at the north end of the island.
There’s also public shore access at Burton Acres County Park, north across the harbor on the Burton Peninsula. Land at the launching ramp north of the peninsula’s east point. Up from the beach are restrooms, and across the street is a forest laced with ungroomed trails. Your eyes will instantly relax in the filtered green light. The park is encircled by a road, and bordered at its south end by a private camp.
It’s about a mile walk to the town of Burton, where there’s a general store with hardware and groceries. The Quartermaster Inn & Restaurant across the street serves dinners to the public Friday through Sunday; call ahead (206.463.5355). For an interactive map showing historical and other attractions in Burton, see vashonmap.com.
Tidelands outside Dockton and Burton Acres county parks are private.
Sailor, writer and teacher Migael Scherer, who divides her time between Seattle and Lopez Island, is the author of “A Cruising Guide to Puget Sound and the San Juan Islands,” published by International Marine/McGraw-Hill. The guide can be purchased online through Armchair Sailor Books & Charts, Captain’s Nautical Supplies, Amazon and other retailers.