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11/05/2011

How Small of a Boat is Too Small, for the San Juan Islands?

Using common sense and smart practices, just about anything that floats has a time and place. Hobie 16's - 14's - inflatable kayaks, canoes and hundred foot palaces, all work for cruising and boat camping in the San Juan Islands.





If you look in the background of these three pictures, you see calm tranquil waters
While its true much of the summer you can expect these conditions, you should still be prepared for some nastiness.

Being prepared sometimes means simply changing your schedule so as to not get caught in the middle of Haro strait during a blow. Or worse, accepting your fate and being  forced to spend an extra night at Jones Island, or Rosario while the weather gods sort out the big plan.

If you travel light and are flexible, sensible and not too foolhardy just about any boat is suitable for travel in the San Juans.

We once passed a couple of young men paddling their becalmed  little 16' sloop part way between  San Juan Island and Stuart Island.  The current was helping them along at about 1 mph and they had six or more hours of daylight left. Later that afternoon we noticed they had tied to the dock a few boat lengths down from us, apparently none the worse. That night one slept on the dock and one in the boat.  The next morning they were comparing who had the most uncomfortable sleep. 

Sometimes we see groups in open long boats from local camps, they will come ashore to unload gear and then using an anchor and  long rope loop, pull their boat out to deep water for the night.

I have seen ski boats so overloaded with camping gear and people that they have no reserve buoyancy, essentially they are waiting for a rouge wave or wake to sink them. Small boat cruising is perfectly acceptable, but you still must follow basic boating seamanship and safety rules.

A sailing partner of mine in Portland wants to bring his Hobie 16 to the San Juans. My first thought was --your going to freeze to death-- but then I remembered he uses a wet suit.  He asked if I thought a 1 hp outboard could be rigged up for an auxiliary (about 25 lbs I think) I said why not, as long as you don't weigh yourself down with camping gear, all you need is 1 hp,  a gallon of extra fuel, wet suit, booties, gloves, hand held waterproof VHF radio, and a dry bag  (or two).
But if he flips the boat and needs help, he could be in trouble and all Hobie Cat sailors like to fly a hull.  I suggested he travel in company with other boats, so they could carry his camping gear and cruise nearby for emergency's, just in case.

We came across a family with a dog in a canoe halfway to Patos Island,  gutsy or foolish, maybe just ignorant, but they were a long way from land.

I have never seen a paddle-board being used to cruise, but I'm sure I will.







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