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Butchart Garden by Sea

     Not part of the San Juan's or even the Gulf Islands, Butchart Gardens should be on everyone's bucket list.
         I'll cover some of what I think are important elements for this adventure, but leave your trip planning to you.

  • We stayed at Jones Island the night before as our jump off point, but Roche or Stuart are closer. I wanted to be near to our Haro Strait crossing just in case some weather or other issues came up. Nothing did.
  • We planned our nine mile 1 1/2 hour crossing of Haro Strait to match up with low wind forecasts and slack tide waters.
  • Port of Sidney was our obvious Canada check in place.
  • We did have a Canadian chart in our plotter, a larger scale would have been nice but certainly not worth paying for.
  • You really should have a dinghy or kayak, but a dinghy motor is not needed to paddle a quarter mile or much less from where you anchor.
  • I planned to get to the garden early enough to anchor by 5pm, and then tour on the same day (before dark) and then again after dark.
  • Tod Inlet is big, you will have no problem finding a place to anchor.
  • Coming back, we carefully listened to the weather report for Haro Strait and took off at 6:30 am the next morning to beat out high winds. We never felt any wind or waves.
  • Checking back in at Roche Harbor less than 24 hours after we left was simple and quick.
  • It would have been very easy to extend this Canada visit to multiple days and destinations, but we had other plans back in the San Juans, for us this Butchart visit was simply a quick overnight-er. We will be back.
       The crossing was a cake walk, we followed our gps pointer straight to Sidney.  We had no discernible current set to counter, no swell to deal with.  The Port of Sidney customs dock is the first float when you clear the marina breakwater, no other boats were there so we glided in tied up and picked up the phone to check in.  Check in took a few minutes, they asked for our names, ages, boat name, and when we were leaving. Oh, and of course they ask about firearms.  They give you a long number which you write on a piece of paper and tape to your boat window.  That's it, your free to go.
We were in awe at the beauty and flowers at the Sidney Marina, not to mention all the very expensive big yachts.
Old customs phone for checking in at Sidney marina
For customs, just pick up the phone.
More pictures and story>>>


Did you know you can land your Dinghy at Lopez Village?

       Right along the bank in the center of the Village (by the fudge shop) is a short stretch of public beach. The property on each side of this beach is private, but the stairs are public  There are two little access places that I will locate in a minute. What this means is that you may anchor your boat and then come ashore by dinghy right in Lopez Village and you wont have to walk from one of the resorts almost a mile away in Fisherman Bay.
Lopez Village public access stairway
This is the public stairs you will look for from offshore

Lopez Village public access stairway
This is the sign that authorizes you to walk from the your dinghy on the beach to the grocery store only one block away. The beach beyond this stairway in the background is private.  Its odd that there are plenty of no trespassing signs telling you where not to go, but this is the only sign telling where you may go.

Screen shot of Fisherman Bay with Lopez Village access marked with red dot
This is a google images snapshot of popular Fisherman Bay on Lopez Island. The red dot locates where the public stairs and beach are located. The village is adjacent to the stairs so you can get ice cream and fudge with minimal effort. The grocery store is about a one block walk. Btw, only fifty yards from the stairs is the public restroom with a donations only hot and cold shower. Suggested donation is $2, and there is no timer, now how cool is that?
If you have a navigation chart, you will find the stairs is almost directly opposite the red dolphin nav. aid marking the  submerged spit at the bay entrance. (this means you will drive your boat within a couple hundred feet of the stairs, you cant miss em.)
I said there were two access points, the other is south of the red dot about 1-2 blocks, its a low bank off a gravel parking lot with no signs. The stretch between the two accesses is not public beach  ( see comments) but I would simply go right to the metal stairway pull my dinghy up and tie it to one of the galvanized legs.


This Years Baby Deer Crop in the San Juans is alive and well on Lopez Island

Baby fawn trapped on wrong side of fence
I came across this little guy while riding around Lopez Island, a minute later it joined up with its twin and trotted off.

If you would to see more of the fauna in the San Juan Islands click here >More animals pics

Jones Island Mooring Buoy Breaks Away

      Wow, it almost got us! Well not really but maybe it almost got someone.

We visited Jones one night right after the fourth of July, and we anchored between the park buoys and shore in only ten feet of water. We set our anchor well and tied to shore.  During the night it really kicked up, the wind came from the north blowing straight into the cove.  We were up at 3 am checking things, it wasn't until mid-morning that things calmed down.

Bid deal you say!

One week later we were back at Jones, and we anchored in exactly the same place, but the park buoy we anchored behind was gone, it was laying, along with a bunch of rusty chain up at the top of the gangplank.

Flashback to the night a week earlier and I remember a rather large yacht tied up in front of us, and we were worried about ourselves dragging onto the beach.  No one even considered that a park buoy would give way and set a vessel onto us.  BTW at Roche Harbor some years ago a big Bayliner dragged into us so we know first hand how difficult things can get when boats don't stay where you want.
Anchor buoy washed ashore at Jones Island with missing pin
Here's the buoy, The shackle pin is missing.  It's hard to see in the picture, but the chain inside the tube is ready to give way also.  SURPRISE!
I have suggested before that before leaving an expensive boat tied to one of these things, one should back down on them just like setting your anchor. Hopefully that's what the last visitor did to this one.
It's interesting that the parks dept. installed new pilings and floats at Jones Island but ignored the obvious deteriorated chains.

Much later, I happened to be talking with a ranger and mentioned buoy maintenance and he said they were handled by a different department. Oh well!  I'm backing down even harder.


Anchoring at Roche Harbor for the Fourth of July

     Our plan was to leave La Conner the morning of the fourth, then stop for kayaking at Deception Pass, next grab a quick walk around town and ice cream at Friday Harbor, and make it to Roche about five o'clock.

Arriving at Roche we were not shocked or surprised that the place was really crowded.  Being a believer that you can always find room for one more boat, we took a quick tour of the rafting lines and decided to find a place to squeeze in out in the bay. After anchoring and checking out our swing and the swing of those around us I upped anchor and chose another nearby spot, this time very close to shore, but also with a better view. I set two hooks side by side to keep us off the near by rocks should the wind come up. One anchor would have been fine but I slept better for the extra five minutes work.

The fireworks, as promised were very well done, the wind conveniently spun us around so that our cockpit faced the show and the smoke blew away from us.   All in all no complaints.
Sunset at roche harbor
This pic although lacking something, does convey it was sunset.

Roche Harbor dinghy dock is overrun
Our dinghy is the odd one with the cool wood seat and centerboard trunk.

One of many artworks and sculptures at Roche Harbor
Roche sculpture along foot path by county dock

Crowded 4th of July at Roche Harbor
More sculpture

No rust, must be stainless steel.

Seeing a price tag with a sculpture brings out the art critic and connoisseur, feel free to purchase.

We finished the cruise with a stop over and hike at Stuart followed by a hot dog roast and  windy night anchored at Jones. The next day we ran over to hike and sail Sucia where we spent a  rather noisy evening at the dock on Fossil Bay. The fourth day, after a quick hike on Matia, and a drive by of the salmon pens at Deepwater Bay (Cypress), we were back at our slip in La Conner.

This was a pleasant, low key enjoyable little trip of about 110 miles.
(I really like my new laptop gps)  read about laptop gps here

BTW, the news Wed. night (three days after arriving back home) was that one of the 85 foot for sale yachts we were all ogling on the fourth burned and sunk at the dock at Roche.  It's really shocking (a little scary too) to see news pictures of a yacht you had just admired, and now sunk with just its charred stern above water next to the dock.