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How to Secure Your Yacht Like You Want To Keep It Forever

Set the brake, turn towards the curb, leave it in reverse and tie the reins with a quick release knot.  

These familiar sounding hints may work for some things, and horses, but not boats.  

Dock lines are important, seems like an obvious observation, but I’m astounded at how many times I see boaters tying up as if they didn’t care about what may be their 1st or 2nd  most valuable possession, spouses and children excluded of course (for some).  Some skippers treat their vessels as if it were a horse, just throw the line around the hitching rail and she be there, arrr, when I come back must be their logic. In their defense, some of these  boobs cowboys (boobs removed to be pc) have never been anywhere but on their trailer, so dock lines aren’t used. But still, If they can’t tie up their boat, how can the rest of us trust being around them.

Enough with the rants, every boat needs four or more lines going from the boat to the float.  I know, people make exceptions sooner or later, such as, “It was just a five minute stop over to get ice, or the water was so smooth,” that’s fine, you’re the skipper and it’s your call.

Four or more huh?  Let's see, one bow line, one stern line, one spring line to stop forward surges, one spring line to stop backward surges. More lines are needed for nasty conditions, such as big swells hitting you all night and day, passing boat wakes, high winds. The condition of your vessel or the docks puny cleats and deteriorating condition are all clear signs that you may need more lines.

Learn from others or suffer the expense of learning yourself is a good piece of advice.  I have on one occasion experienced a brand new line chafe through and part in only one night while tied to an exposed outside float. A new line that rubs on a smooth rounded fiberglass gel coat will lose the battle in one night if it is snapped taught constantly by your boats surging.  Plus the gelcoat will suffer in case anyone cares. The answer is loose lines, shock absorbing snubbers, chafe protection padding or hoses, more lines for when the first one breaks, or park somewhere else. Of course for short time periods you can order your crew to stand there and hold the boat off while you buy the beer and ice. 

Don't forget to have oversize fenders, but even that wont save your boat if you park somewhere you shouldn't.

how to tie your boat using spring lines



Deception Island

Deception Island is just outside deception Pass
Deception Island seems to float between haze and still water.

I assumed that the island under the two bridges at Deception Pass was named for the pass.
Not so, your chart lists it as Pass Island.
Deception Island is actually over a mile out into the strait. Now we know.


Two Perfect, Almost Secret Coves

     Throughout our cruising area are literally thousands of places one can poke a boat into, drop the hook and go ashore - WRONG. Most places are private property and you will be trespassing on shore.  We as boaters are limited to parks, preserves, resorts, etc.

     The problem is that our charts do not show all there is to know.  

     Lummi Island Campground:
This is a small five site  waterfront campground within the 650 plus acre Lummi Island Conservation Area. It is a very hard to find place, the picture posted and my description will be your best resource for finding your way.

   For those of you new to the area, Lummi Island is that big land mass blocking your way to just about everywhere when you put in at  Squalicum Harbor  in Bellingham. 

     The campground is near the south end of Lummi on the east side.  Your NOAA based chart will show Smugglers Cove, Inati Bay, Reil Harbor in that order, just south of the small Reil inlet is an even smaller cove. There is no name but your chart should have a little boat symbol which is the icon for a mooring area but don't get your hopes up, this is a dinky little cove that will require a stern tie or anchor to keep you from swinging onto the rocks. You can pull off a 2 to 1 rode lunch stop if your lucky. It is unlikely two boats can coexist unless they raft.

     By now you should have figured out this place is perfect for kayakers, but you can squeeze in.  The dinghy beach is gravel. Use the campfire rings and composter outhouse.  There is even a loop trail to hike.

Look for this sign as you coast along the shore, it is high up on the bluff on the right side of the cove facing somewhat southward.
Lummi Island Campground is kayaker favorite
The pic looks big but from the water the sign is small and easy to miss.
Kraken at Lummi Island Campground cove
For spending any time here you will want to tie to shore or drop a stern anchor


Excellent Eight Day Cruise Over Labor Day Weekend 2018

       In an earlier post I made a wish list for my summer travels, this is a follow up. But first a link to my earlier post so readers may see what I wanted to do and compare that with what we really did.   Ideas for this summers cruises posted in January 2018

      Because of a hectic summer with two weddings and a Boston trip we almost stayed home, but just before Labor Day I said lets go or forever wish we had. On the morning of our departure we were battening down and about to hit I-5 north when a neighbor came walking by.  He is also a San Juan traveler so we ended up talking for two hours.

     Finally heading out, we immediately stopped to fill the trucks 33 gallon tank, next stop besides the usual rest areas was Seattle where we picked up another 29 gallons.  It is always a shock to find out we only have a few gallons left when I am hauling 10,000 lbs.  Next stop was Winco in Tulalip where we purchased our entire food and beverage supply. No shopping list for us, we just walked the aisles and filled the cart with everything we liked, except we forgot to get a sack of ice for our drinks even though we talked about it in the check out line.

     We arrived in Bellingham about two hours before sundown, took the port of Bellingham exit and went straight to Fred Meyers for the forgotten ice.  I am thinking, I hope this 30-40 minute delay doesn't bite us, especially after losing 2 hours gabbing at home. (see, no stress for me!)

      Splashing the boat and parking in the free lot was a breeze as it always is, but hosing down my salty trailer got me all wet because the water hose is full of holes. ( zero kudos to Squalicum Harbor staff in charge of  wash down hoses.)

       Staying at the transient dock and paying the tourist per foot fee just didn't interest me this trip, I wanted to get underway.  I said to Linda, we have one solid hour of daylight and I can anchor in the dark at Inati Bay  if I have to, so off we went.  We arrived at Inati Bay on Lummi Island almost exactly at sunset. I set the anchor in fifteen feet, thirty feet from shore, opened the first box of wine and broke out the barbecue as darkness settled around us.  I remember looking at the ink black water and the nearby shore cliffs blending together and thinking how anchoring in the dark would have meant dropping the hook a lot further out.

       Day 2. Got the coffee dripping first thing. Last night was great, stars were out. Actually slept in a little.  We listened to the weather radio for conditions expected if we head for Victoria. Sounds like a go but I'm not sure. With deteriorating conditions expected that evening we might be headed into a gale if the front blows in early, but at this point I am set for going to Victoria.

       We up anchor and head south around Lummi so I can get a better picture of the Lummi Island Campground sign (takes two minutes), when we clear the south end and head northwest, I'm staring right at Clark Island, Clark is another on my bucket list of places I need new pictures for my planned updated Cruising Guide.  We grab a buoy at Clark and dinghy ashore.  I haven't changed my negative opinion of Clark but I did get the pics I wanted. Linda thinks I'm unfairly maligning Clark but I am more convinced than ever that putting a state park in the middle of Rosario Strait is a dumb, bordering on dangerous idea.

Clark Island campground
This is the view of the trail leading off the beach at Clark to the well hidden six site campground. To find this trail, anchor or use a buoy in the cove  on the east side of  Clark.  Now walk all the way to the very far south end (left end) until you are blocked by boulders and cliffs. There it is, you can't miss it. All the other dozen or so camp sites are waterfront along the beach.


Who owns the Shoreline above and below the high tide line in the San Juan Islands?

         Probably since before exploration, men have claimed ownership of just about everything above and below the surface of the ocean, and this includes the San Juan Islands.
Thatcher Pass from on top of James Island

         The good news is that the arguments of who owns what and where are pretty much settled.  The bad news is that, as a boater staring across the water at some desirable beach or mudflat (if there is such a thing) you don’t know what to do, or where to land.

       For the most part, you may anchor anywhere you want, except vessel navigation channels and marked farms. It doesn't take much common sense to figure out not to anchor in the middle of a boat congested narrow thoroughfare, (marked or not) but some daydreamers will do just that. 

        Just because it’s legal to anchor doesn't make it a good idea. You can walk most beaches, below the normal high water line, but many properties own the adjacent tidelands and may or may not be marked. Not all shorelines have beaches and so private land will extend to the water’s edge.  Most of the dry land (above high water) is private and you will be trespassing if you come ashore and hike into the woods.  Some landowners don’t care if you come ashore, and some do.  Many will have signs that alert you to their wishes and you should respect their wishes.  If it were me I would not anchor off shore from a sign that said no trespassing, why ruffle someone’s feathers by anchoring or walking in their backyard.

      There are places, marked and some not marked, where seagrass has been damaged, and signs ask you to anchor elsewhere. Who’s not for being an environmentalist? Just move along, there’s plenty of other places to drop a hook.

      At resorts and marinas, (Roche, Friday, Deer, Rosario, Fishermans, etc, etc etc., you will usually see boats anchored nearby, just follow their lead and anchor your boat too. Ask someone where the dinghy dock is and go spend some money.  You may be thinking, how long can I anchor and what’s the cost, so I remind you it’s public, it's free, and you can anchor as long as you want.

       There are some exceptions, but we don’t need to discuss them now, or ever, so go have a good cruising day. 


Inconsiderate Boating

      Stop, don't read further if you don't want to hear my rants.  My current boat leaves a huge wake at times.  I know because I can see it and I admit have had a few radio calls chastising me.  I also know how to minimize or eliminate my wake entirely and so do all the other skippers out there.

       So here's the rub, why are there so many witless morons creating monster wakes where they cause damage? I don't believe for a second that they aren't aware of their wake.  I believe they are jerks and inconsiderate asses that don't deserve the privilege of  driving a boat.

      I'm not saying to drive slow or at no wake speed all the time, I'm saying to pay attention to the damage your wake is doing.  Not only are you being an ass but you are liable for damage or injury caused by your negligent driving.  

     If your wake swamps or rolls a small boat, you are liable.  If your wake smashes a moored boat into a float causing damage, you are liable.  If your wake capsizes a kayak causing a drowning, you will be held liable and probably go to jail.

       If you think this is only true in marked no-wake zones, think again, you are wrong.  You are responsible for your wake damage anywhere and everywhere, marked or not.   That 200 foot rule many signs and publications tout is not your free pass to be irresponsible, your are still liable for damage your wake causes.

There, I'm done.


Is a Bag of Beans the best way to insure Boating Pleasures?

Bag full of Beans travels to the San Juan Islands!

     Many years ago I happened to have over to my house, for reasons I don’t remember, a person that mentioned he had circumnavigated. He asked would I like to see some of his pictures. Of course I said yes, so for the next several hours I was enthralled by this sailor’s story and pictures from around the world.  I have incorporated some of what he said into my own thinking and actions, after all what we learn from others may be hard earned by them, but free to us. 

        This brings me to bean bag chairs and boats. This unnamed world cruiser said that his favorite chair for his boat was a bean bag.  A bean bag, you’re kidding, do they still make them?  Well, yes they make them and $20 later I had a brand new bean bag chair for my 28 foot sloop.  I store it in the v-berth along with bags of sails. My kids quickly learned that it conformed to uneven decks, it could be crammed against shrouds, masts and stanchions, and made uncomfortable cockpit combings a thing of the past.  The bean bag chair has become a must have  piece of cruising/camping equipment on my boats, and while it’s true, storage is limited, tough decisions have to be made -- the bag-o-beans wins out even if it means leaving the 150 Genoa home.
Bean bag chair is a boats most comfortable seating
Bean Bag is carbineered to mast, crew is not
Canoe Pass bridge in the San Juan Islands
Coveted bean bag chair providing extreme comfort in Deception Pass
Sailing the San Juans and bean bag chair
     underway, under sail, unaware     


The Fastest Way to the San Juans On Your Own Boat Begins in Anacortes at Washington Park or Cap Sante

Traveling to the San Juan's requires a starting point,
 a jump off point where you can leave your rig.

"Washington Park" and "Cap Sante Boat Haven" in Anacortes fill the bill.

map of Washington Park and Cap Sante in Anacortes Washington

Washington park has a campground and a boat ramp with a float.  You can reserve your camp site in advance, launch and retrieve your boat every day to make day trips, or take an extended cruise into the islands knowing your campground is waiting for you when you return.  You may also choose to not stay at the campground, just launch your boat, and leave your car and trailer in the long term parking lot while you're in the San Juans.

Cap Sante does not have a ramp but has a sling and a travel lift to launch your boat, they can also assist stepping sailboat masts. Guest space is usually available at the dock and long term parking for your car and trailer are just steps away.  You should make arrangements ahead of time for the travel lift and guest docks

There are several other places I recommend over these two depending on where I'm going and other plans.
Take a look at this post >>  Trailer boat ramps


Is Squalicum Harbor in Bellingham the best way to get to the San Juan Islands? - YES!

     Places to go, and places to travel are easy to find in the San Juans.  For me cheap travel is part of the deal.  What can be less expensive than going on a cruise with your own boat, it's like having your own condo rental or vacation house with you all the time. Okay maybe boat camping is a little squeezed, but the big problem is, where do you launch, and where do you leave your car for a week or more?   Squalicum Harbor in Bellingham is a resounding first choice and parking is free, no others come close for time, distance, convenience, facilities, none in my opinion.!
Squalicum Harbor launching ramp in Bellingham, Wa

Squalicum Harbor launching ramp chart map

     Marked on the chart above with red dots is a four lane two float all tide modern 24/7 ramp, parking, and the overnight visitor docks. The parking lot is huge and they have an overflow lot too. Fresh water wash down hoses are free for you to use.  Ramp fee is $5 and there is no parking fee, that's right it's free, even long term is free. How cheap can you travel, ( I mean less expensive) Next to the parking area is a restaurant, 24 hour bathrooms, and showers. Across the street is a marine store.  Out on the floats, they have transient boater dock space.  Payment is self serve at the automated kiosks.

      You may think by looking at maps that Bellingham is far from the Islands, but it is actually the closest jump off point for travel to Sucia, Matia, Patos and Stuart.  For those camping and traveling on a budget it's your only to really great map with parks marked, click here


Victoria Cruise Itinerary and Customs at Roche Harbor

Note: this  is a very old post I am re-posting so some prices will be off.

Suggested Cruise to Victoria BC with Whale Watching
 and San Juan Islands Stop Overs
This article is for first timers to the San Juan Island area and has the answers you may be looking for.  Timeless advice to make your first trip a fun success.
  • places to launch and stay on your boat
  • distances between stops
  • customs and immigration
  • alternate planning
  • what to expect
  • basic boating information 
Study this map and familiarize yourself with names and places. 
 (Find Victoria, Roche Harbor, Swinomish Channel, Deception Pass)
Map showing Victoria Canada, San Juan Islands, Roche Harbor, Friday Harbor, Squalicum Harbor, Anacortes

Lets start this Cruise at Cornet Bay in Deception Pass State Park
(Your going to Canada and back, did you remember to bring your passports and Children ID's? the rules are changing)

Cornet Bay boat ramp in Deception Pass park

Boat launch at Cornet Bay (Deception Pass)

Day one, you arrive at Deception Pass and its probably late in the day and your tired, so lets plan on spending the night right here  on the boat securely tied to the dock at Cornet Bay.  You will pay a launch fee and $10/day parking, plus 50 cents a foot for spending night at dock. Pay at the self serve kiosk. If your not sure of when your coming back simply estimate, leave a note explaining, the ranger will understand.  The ramp is very good, all tide. The parking is huge, you will not have a problem.
      There is a park store, but you should have done your provisioning in Anacortes.

Deception Pass bridge

Heading westward facing an incoming current, (another ten minutes and we wouldn't have the speed to overcome the 7+ mph current)

Day two, leg #1, our destination is Friday Harbor, but first you must time the pass.  You should already be familiar with the tide levels and  times at Deception Pass (download a page from any of of dozens of sites including NOAA) so cast off at high or low tide. You can be  half an hour early or late, this gives you a one hour window. (it takes just ten minutes to reach the pass from the dock)  If you are catching a falling tide (current is going out to sea) you can be very late but standing waves may scare you and the crew as you take a fast sled ride and shoot out into the Strait of Juan De Fuca.  If you are late and  head out on a rising tide, your boat may not have enough speed to overcome the in rushing torrent, and your stuck until the next slack water. The pass is not a problem, it is narrow with fast water for only about 250 feet, but slow sailboats can  meet their match every four to six hours.

read more


Wiring shackles with seizing wire

      I have always read just like everyone else that shackle pins need to be wired so they won't work loose.
      Well when I anchored my day sailor for the summer, I threw together a folding anchor, six feet of chain, some twenty feet of old trucker floating line, an old fender for a float and set the whole thing in about eight feet of water.  But first I hooked the chain and rode together with a galvanized shackle.  I tightened the shackle pin with a wrench.
       My only worry was too much rode and she might swing onto shore at low tide.   My little cove is subject to about two feet of tide, no rogue wakes, no current and very little wind.

       After about two weeks of coming and going by dinghy, and sailing on and off my poor mans mooring, I was pretty used to and confident my set up was there to stay.  Then one afternoon when I showed up I noticed my anchor line was changed.  Suspicious, I leaned over the side of the dinghy and yanked to the surface my anchor except it wasn't my folding anchor, it was some cast iron thing I have never seen.  I put it back, left my dinghy at the fender float and went sailing, all the time pondering what was going on.

      At dusk I came in and switched back to the dinghy, on my way out of the cove I swung by a young chap working on his boat and inquired if he knew anything about my missing anchor and rode.

     He said yes, he had noticed my boat was floating free one day and using a spare anchor he put it back where it belonged.  I thanked him profusely and brought him a bottle of rum the next day.

    The lesson I learned that day was to use seizing wire even for temporary things if  failure is unacceptable.  I also learned how smart my choice of the quiet cove was for my anchor buoy and that I still had some paying forward credits after all.

     FYI - A few days later from the dinghy, I probed the muddy bottom for two hours with my 12 foot boat hook and snagged my gear getting it all back including the shackle and loose pin. I replaced the borrowed anchor and this time I wired the pin, and that's my story.


Jones Island is the Absolute Best Marine Park in the San Juans - Period

This is a reposted post I think is very worthwhile.

Jones Island offers a wonderful experience for boat camping and exploring the San Juan Islands. Its proximity to major marinas and harbors, such as Deer Harbor, Roche Harbor, and Friday Harbor, makes it a convenient and attractive destination.

Starting your kayaking adventure from Deer Harbor, with its calm waters, can be a great option for exploring the surrounding areas. Roche Harbor, known for its resort and as a departure point for trips to Canada, is another nearby destination that adds to the appeal of Jones Island. Additionally, Friday Harbor, the largest city and port in the San Juan Islands, is relatively close, making it easily accessible for supplies or further exploration.

With its strategic location and the variety of neighboring destinations, Jones Island offers a great balance between tranquility and accessibility. It can be an ideal choice for families looking to enjoy boat camping and explore the beauty of the San Juan Islands.
This post is all about Jones Island Marine Park in the San Juan's

         All of Jones is a state park, the north cove is preferred by power boaters and sailors alike, inside you will find a protected bay with docks and anchor buoys, plus room to anchor if the five buoys are in use.

Map locating Jones Island - post describes camping facilities

        The south cove is favored by kayaker's, there are several campgrounds and the island has running water, fire pits and picnic tables. On a sunny summer weekend it would not be unusual to find several large groups camping with many first time kayakers in guided tour groups.  Offshore are a few anchor buoys.  The south cove is not protected from San Juan Channel traffic or winter storms so the beaches are piled with sun silvered driftwood.

Jones Island State Park in the San Juans

        The North Cove is absolutely wonderful, There is a brand new dock, anchor buoys, a steep gravel beach (good for dinghy's), and room to anchor. The cove is protected from all but the worst north winds (very infrequent) On shore are lots of tent sites, each with picnic table and fire rings.  There is a nice mowed lawn area for games and grazing deer.  Bathrooms and running water are clean, cool, clear and convenient. 

Jones Island in the San Juans - blog post describes campground

            The island has several hiking trails, rated, easy and moderate. From the trails are magnificent views of the surrounding islands, and waters.  Bring your camera to Jones, you will want to preserve the memories to show your friends that aren't as fortunate as you.

Boat camping at Jones Island Marine Park in the San Juan Islands



IDEAS for this summers cruises in the San Juans


      Readers remind me that some places I suggest and visit myself are technically not part of the San Juan's.  When I look at my list I see only three or four
 that are truly San Juan Island's destinations. That's why the web site title includes "Surrounding Area"

Note:  these are not ideas I am suggesting for you, they are places I am thinking about for me.
If you are a newbie, you should go to tried and true hot spots like Roche - Friday - Jones - Sucia - La Conner - Deception Pass. Use the search box - it's all there and then some.

If you have been around the San Juan's awhile you may be looking for new ideas, that's what my list is about.

       My short list for 2018

  • I would like to spend a few days anchored at False Creek in Vancouver (we really enjoyed Granville Island and Stanley Park) (60 miles, one way) - ouch
  • Explore West Sound,  we haven't entered West Sound for fifteen years. I guess it has been a drive by sound for us. I want to check out the marina and possibly see about making a bike/hike ride to one of  the Turtleback Mt trailheads.
  • Hike Vendovi Preserve. This little jaunt will happen for sure.
  • Visit Lummi Island (we biked it in 2017, it's really flat and easy, I want to do it again)
  • Visit Victoria -  Last time we had three little kids with us and lots of pea soup fog,  just the two of us should be easier if we can avoid any fog.
  • Hike Eagle Bluff  (closed every year until after July 15)
  • Take a shot again at bike hiking up  Mt Constitution, probably start at Olga this time
  • I am thinking of skipping 4th of July, but Lopez is on my radar if we go anywhere
  • maybe go see Nanaimo or some Gulf Island Parks (means a lot of motoring) I doubt this will happen. (we went to  Newcastle Park many years ago and had fun, but like Vancouver, it's a lot of motoring) maybe we can ride the current both ways.  
  • Might want to anchor at Smallpox Bay for a night and do some orca watching.
Okay, that's about it. It's not much to choose from. Because of the miles involved, I don't see us visiting Victoria, Vancouver and Nanaimo on the same trip.  I'll let this simmer for awhile and see what floats to the top.  Lately we have fallen into the trap of repeating what we are comfortable with. I don't know if that is good or bad, but now I'm thinking of adding Jones Island to the list.  So should I not go to Jones because I really enjoy it and feel comfortable there?  Seems counterproductive to avoid visiting somewhere you really like.

To see what we ended up doing, click here