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Take What you Have and -- GO

      As the primary irritant and contributor to this website, I am drawn back to promoting boating and the San Juans.

        How many times have you heard  (or said yourself)  "I can't because...."   -- finish the statement with any handy excuse for not making that long talked about trip.  In many cases, the excuses I use are bogus or easily overcome.

For instance:

  • The no money excuse:
    • If you are dead broke, I suggest that you forge ahead and make plans anyway, things have a way of working out.
    • Reduce the budget some,  try dialing back what you really need to get going to the San Juans.  
      • New radar - NO, new motor - NO - how about used? New plotter - NO.  You may be  hopeless if you need all the newest toys to vacation or go on a boat ride.

  • The no boat excuse:
    • Take what you have, or consider renting or buying a used runabout or skiff.
      • One time we came across a couple (a well seasoned couple I might add) at Pelican Beach.  They arrived in an 8' plywood sailing pram (with oars and no motor) and they had towed another 8' pram with  camping gear.  They told us they had put in at Anacortes and were spending a week as they had done for many years.  I was  impressed and somewhat embarrassed for my boat full of goodies, and creature comforts.
                Let's expand on the idea of buying a used boat.  Once a few years back, I sold our primary boat just a few weeks before a planned trip to the San Juans.   Now boat-less, except for my beloved 9' dinghy, I was faced with canceling my family vacation. Instead, I decided to buy an inexpensive boat, and use it once for our  San Juan trip and then sell it upon our return.  I bought a small well known   readily available sailboat and trailer.  We boat camped for ten days, and then  I sold the temporary boat for 100% what I paid for it. 
          The overall cost for that trip was just the cost of fuel and provisioning.  I know, some people will criticize the wisdom of taking an unknown boat, breakdowns, blah blah blah. Thats OK, I agree what we did is not for everyone, but it worked well for us, and besides, I brought my dinghy and trusted 5hp Honda as back up.

  • The no time excuse:
    • Baloney - If you really want to go you will make the time, so go mark your calendar right now!

  • One last thought; life happens, when everything in life gangs up on you conspiring to stop your boating trip, don't give up.  Instead, postpone the boat part and go in your car. Camping or resorting around the San Juans is almost as good as boating around the San Juans.

Take what you have and -- GO!
San Juan Islansd Ferry with Mt Baker

     My new travel guide may be just what you need.  That's right, I am shamelessly promoting my 2017 "San Juan Islands Travel Guide" -- It is a Land and Sea Guidebook, so whether you are a boater, biker, or car camper, it has what you want.   CLICK HERE   or search Amazon Books - "San Juan Islands Travel Guide"
Thanks - John


How to Predict Current Direction in Swinomish Channel

        Sooner or later regulars to the San Juans learn to love or hate Swinomish Channel.  Many skippers form an opinion on their very first transit through this popular eleven mile alternative to Deception Pass. Sailors and under powered puttsters fighting the current, hate it, but turn them around and  suddenly their tune changes as the current whisks them along at four miles per hour.

         One day we pulled in to the city float at La Conner and I grumbled to a local boater about how we had been battling the current for hours on our way from James Island.  I remember his comment, he said, "The current flows one way for twenty three hours and then reverses, and no one knows when."  We all laughed and I figured I should get over it.

         I came across this rule of thumb posted on the Port of Skagit County website for estimating the current direction.  

        The rule of thumb for estimating Swinomish Channel current direction at La Conner goes like this:
The current flows north from 2.5 - 4 hours before high tide to 2.5 - 4 hours after high tide
The current flows south from 2.5 - 4 hours before low tide to 2.5 - 4 hours after low tide
Slack water occurs 2.5 - 4 hours after high or low tide, not at the tide change like in some areas.
          You will still need to consult with high and low tide predictions for La Conner to put these rule of thumbs to use.  Be forewarned, many people consider La Conner tide predictions as hocus pocus because they are often wrong.

      I cannot remember this rule so I am going out on a limb here and offering my own memory trick as follows.   We already know that in the San Juans a rule of thumb is that the current flows north on an incoming tide (flood) and south on the ebb, and we know in the Puget Sound and southern area it is basically the opposite.  So my memory hack is to consider Swinomish Channel as part of and subject to the San Juan rules of thumb.  This means, Swinomish Channel flows NORTH on the flood just like the San Juans, but it is late due to distance.

FYI - did you know that all of Swinomish Channel (at least where land is) is a "No Wake - Slow Zone"