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Where do you go on a Typical Cruise to the San Juan Islands -- What does a week long Itinerary include?

         Ok,Ok - this is a trick question.
There are no typical cruises.

      Some of you aspiring San Juan cruisers might be a little nervous and holding back making that long talked about trip.  If you are not quite sure you have it figured out and need a little push to take off for the San Juans, let me assure you that you can do it. Everything doesn't have to be figured out. So to help you take the plunge and entertain vicarious armchair captains, I have put together a simple run down of our last outing in the San Juans. (2015)

      Our cruises start out with a general idea, and a few hard dates, but no carved in stone  plans.  It just happens.

       In the months (years) leading up to actually departing, we talk and think about what we want to do.  Kinda daydreaming if you will.

This time:
  • I wanted to Orca watch off San Juan Island in Haro Strait
  • I wanted to visit Victoria without rushing
  • I hoped to see English Camp again
  • I wanted to hang out, and have a campfire on Jones and go dinghy sailing in the bay, and maybe circle the island if conditions are favorable.
  • I already had promised Linda a romantic dinner in Friday Harbor
  • We had a firm date to pick up our kids in Eastsound - with bikes and gear.
  • We had a firm date to drop the kids at Odlin Park on Lopez (these kids are 30 something's)
  • I promised I would drop the kids somewhere they could catch the ferry back to Anacortes.
  • I semi promised I would take them to some neat places they could only get to by boat.
  • I wanted to ride my bicycle some since I bring it everywhere.
  • We knew we would start at Squalicum Harbor in Bellingham for the great ramp and free parking.
So that pretty much sums up my plans.

Let's see what we really did:
  1. 1st night, I slept like a baby on board at Squalicum Harbor after pigging out at a  Chinese buffet in Bellingham.
  2. 1st morning, had a great but costly breakfast in downtown, (always hungry after Chinese) and then cast off about noon and head for Inati Bay for a look-see at the logging operation. We have lots of time, so I detoured through Pea Pod Rocks over to Doe Island to verify the dock is still missing, it is, and then we stopped by Shaw Landing for a cold coke and quick look around to check out bicycling possibilities. Next we moseyed past Deer Harbor and on to setting the hook at Jones Island before dark.  Fire danger has canceled campfires anywhere in the state, so I cross off number four on my list of things I want to do.  But it's ok, who wants smokey clothes anyway. We cooked hot dogs on the stove and cracked open the 1st boxed wine. 
  3. Drip coffee on the boat is how every day begins.  We headed out mid morning on the north side of Spieden Island into Haro Strait for whale watching and a lazy run to Victoria.  A couple hours later -  all heck broke loose on us and over the decks. The little ship was tossed, we were tossed, provisions were tossed. It's not long before I lost interest in whale watching and Victoria and said to heck with this bs and turned toward Roche Harbor. Scratch one and two from my list. We pounded  into Roche Harbor and peacefully putted right by the resort and on to English Camp where we got a spot at the dinghy dock and enjoyed walking around the park. Some volunteer hosts entertained us in the interpretive building. When leaving I continued out Mosquito Pass and  took another stab at Haro Strait but turned around quickly to putt putt right by the Roche marina again without stopping.  We anchored back at Jones in my favorite corner in time for a nice hike.
  4. Spent the next two days hiking (two days we could've been at Victoria) and reading at Jones, (and washing dried salt crystal from windows) finally at 5pm on our 4th night we tried to start the motor to discover the starting battery had shorted (could've been at Victoria) and the house battery was too discharged to help. Two hours later (another story) we got her going and head for Eastsound and tie up at the county dock just before sunset.
  5. 8 am we have a really great breakfast in town and hitch a ride to NAPA, by noon our new battery is online and our daughter and husband show up on bicycles after riding the 7:30 ferry from Anacortes. They drop some gear, and pedal off to tour the local brewery.  Eventually we take off for Jones where we anchor back in the very same spot, waving to the folks we met earlier. Still can't have campfires, but there is plenty of time to beachcomb and hike around. The kids camp on shore not the boat, that was the deal we made.
  6. This morning we head for the county dock on Stuart Island.  We spend a busy day riding out to the lighthouse museum and the shut down schoolhouse museum.  I bought a tee shirt at the honor system tee shirt stand. We then motored all the way across the San Juans to the county dock at Odlin Park on Lopez where we drop the kids and their bikes on the dock and then anchor in front of their reserved campsite and dinghy their gear ashore.  It's close to 5 pm, we say adios and run over to Friday Harbor where we take a slip for two nights.  Alone again, I think we walked and hung around the promenade enjoying the music. This was a busy day, but it worked out great. We are really tired.
  7. We start out this next day by sleeping in, eating on the boat, and then walking around town, we end up riding the Transit Bus out to Lime Kiln (Whale Watch Park) for another shot at spotting Orcas, but no luck.  Back in town we eat at a water front crab place overlooking the harbor, its not romantic, and not very good.  I think number five on the list needs a do-over, but we spent lots of money so someone is happy.  Btw, the kids are bicycling Lopez, but forgot and left their helmets on board with us.
  8. I think we slept in this morning too, after topping off with fuel, we eventually got going back to Lopez to pick up the kids. We did the reverse of when we dropped them off, all the gear came off the beach by dinghy, and the bikes off the county dock.  We left Odlin Park and went straight to Blakey's for double ice creams, we hung around sitting on the lawn and watched deer try to out-lazy us. Boaters came and went getting fuel and zoomed off through Peavine Pass, it was peaceful to be sure.  At about mid afternoon we left Blakely's for Cypress where we snagged a buoy off Pelican beach.  We dinghied ashore and hiked to the top of Eagle Bluff.  An hour later we let go of the buoy and ran down to Cypress Head where we wanted to anchor and the kids could camp but couldn't find a suitable place because of the wind. By now, it was getting late so I took my own advice and headed for dependable Saddlebag Island, anchoring in the cove just a stones throw from the beach.  The kids set up in an empty campsite,  (still no fires)
  9. This morning there is no rush, there seldom is, we have breakfast burritos, and then we all hike the figure eight shore trail from different directions.  From Saddlebag Island State Park, it's only five miles to Washington Park where they left their car when they biked over to ride the ferry four days earlier. They wanted to get back to the car around 1 pm so we pulled the anchor at noon.  We dropped them at the Washington Park dock with their gear and bikes, and then, alone once again, we headed north for Squalicum Harbor where we tied to the transient float for our last dinner and night on the boat.
      From my lame descriptions, you should be able to follow our course on the maps or charts.  The distances are small enough that just about any boat could duplicate our wanderings, but that's not the idea.  The idea is to just cut loose and go, charting your own great cruise.

       That's it, that's what a typical cruise is for us today.
 Many years ago a cruise might have included all day sailing in the straits and keeping little kids entertained around tidepools.   
You might want  to stay at Friday Harbor seven nights in a row, venturing out to distant points each day and then returning to a waiting slip and four star restaurants.  You could even sleep on shore at a B&B or hotel.  For me, I prefer to hang at Jones Island.

Here is the promised itinerary if you still want a day by day list of where to go  --  click here  >>Cruise Itinerary around the San Juan Islands

Mt Baker with Ferry Boat