Along the snowberry-lined Portage Trail, I stumbled upon a lagoon with a sort of waterbird convention: more than 100 flapping and "wheezily mewing" (so the bird guide described it) Northern pintails, named for their sharp-as-a-quill-pen tail feather, mixed with buffleheads, whose bulbous, white-patched heads made each appear as if it was wearing a Stay Puft-marshmallow bonnet.

From Lagoon Beach (a turnoff is marked), you might launch a kayak and explore the protected waters, or set off to poke into the paddler's haven of hidden, lakelike Mats Mats Bay, 4.5 miles to the south (carry a chart and watch for rocks outside the narrow, dogleg entrance).

Find more paddling opportunities on long, eel-shaped Kilisut Harbor, between Indian Island and neighboring Marrowstone Island.

At the head of Mystery Bay, a scenic apostrophe of water on Marrowstone's western shore, island life centers on almost-century-old Nordland General Store, with its postage-stamp of a post office, well-trodden wood floors, good wine selection, and kayaks for rent in warmer months ($10-$15 an hour). Classic sailboats rock on mooring balls just off the dock. Want excitement? Storekeeper Tom Rose will tell you to come back Memorial Day weekend for the tractor parade.

South of Port Hadlock, the Chimacum Valley is a growing haven of organic farms, some with their own stands, guarded by visiting posses of trumpeter swans. Or stop by Chimacum Corner Farmstand at the four-way stop on Highway 19, with local foods from around the region. Up Center Road, Finnriver Farm and Cidery is open for tastings from noon to 5 p.m. daily. To warm up the first days of spring, they'll party with habanero-infused cider and molé pizza March 30, co-owner Crystie Kisler said.

If that's not enough, Port Townsend is 20 minutes up the road, with more classic boats and saltwater views than you can shake a belaying pin at.

After all this, have you caught a bad case of boat envy? Better sign up for a workshop.

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IF YOU GO:

BOATING WORKSHOPS:

Here's a sampling of upcoming workshops open to the public at the Northwest School of Wooden Boatbuilding (Port Hadlock campus unless otherwise noted):

-CAMP Camp, building a 12-foot pocket-cruiser sailboat at Port Townsend's Northwest Maritime Center, Aug. 5-16, $1,895 plus materials.

-Painting and Varnishing, May 20-24 or Sept. 23-27, $300.

-Half Model Workshop, July 26-28, $400

-Intro to Welding for Teens & Adults, Aug. 12-16, $400.

More workshops and information: 360-385-4948 or nwboatschool.org

LODGING:

I found a great value on a well-equipped two-bedroom Oak Bay waterfront rental. About 50 feet from beach, a good base for paddlers as well. $135/ night in low season; 360-437-7791 or beachgetawayonoakbay.blogspot.com.

Or try the nearby Beach Cottages on Marrowstone Island, $90-$140 in low season, with $110 special through mid-March; 800-871-3077 or beachcottagegetaway.com.

Fort Flagler State Park on Marrowstone Island has rental quarters in historic military buildings. parks.wa.gov/vacationhouses/ftflagler/

There is seasonal camping at Fort Flagler, Fort Townsend and Fort Worden state parks (parks.wa.gov) and at Jefferson County's Oak Bay Park (countyrec.com/info/facilities).

RESTAURANTS:

Ajax Cafe is at 21 N. Water St., Port Hadlock. 360-385-3450 or ajaxcafe.com.

OTHER ATTRACTIONS:

Finnriver Farm and Cidery, Chimacum, 360-732-4337 or finnriver.com.

MORE INFORMATION:

Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce, 360-385-7869 or jeffcountychamber.org

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Brian Cantwell: bcantwell@seattletimes.com