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What Happens When You Wind Your Dinghy Painter Around Your Propeller? Twice!

        It may have happened more than twice, but that's all I remember so I will relate just the two.
  • We towed  this guy and his big dog in his dinghy from Orcas Landing across to Blind Bay.  In our haste we snagged the tow rope before we got started. We wound it up on the prop killing our outboard motor and then, since we had already cast off, we drifted dead behind the ferry that had just arrived.  For a few worried minutes I was glancing up at the ferry pilothouse, I was wondering if the captain saw us or
    wrapping rope around prop in the San Juan Islands, and drifting behind ferry
    was he looking down at us and laughing. I was close to making a radio call, but we got the line loose and moved on a few minutes before the ferry departed.
  • More recently in another boat, our dinghy line was tied to the stern rail and I unknowingly dragged it through the water all the way from Stuart to Jones Island. And then, wound it up around the prop when I used reverse while attempting to anchor. All hell broke loose with everyone yelling what to do or not to do as the line wound up tighter and tighter. By the time I put it in neutral our rail had begun bowing and creaking. We dropped the anchor and luckily were able to rotate the shaft freeing the line but someone almost had to go for a dip.
        So knowing this as an ongoing potential issue, I resolved to use only floating lines, and to shorten all lines so that they cannot reach the prop. Plus I resolved to use painter tow lines that are small enough that they will break before they damage or bend my boat and shaft should another mishap occur.

      The problem is I have procrastinated for years and done nothing, in fact the rope that I  snagged, I'm still using it minus about eight inches I cut off.

         My advice to myself is to follow my advice.

        (update, I think the last little snafu where we wound it up may have bent something because I might be detecting a little vibration at wot.  Its not too late to follow my own advice before I do it again and make the boat unusable costing some real boat $$$$)


Pictorial Hike to Eagle Bluff on Cypress Island

       repost from an earlier time

      Some readers of this blog will never get to hike to the top of Eagle Bluff on Cypress Island so I snapped a whole bunch of pics while I walked along.

I'll try to keep the text to a minimum

 We took the dinghy to shore at Pelican Beach, which is a Department of Natural Resources Site (DNR)  see Pelican Beach >> Read about Pelican Beach on Cypress right here

Pelican Beach anchorage on Cypress Island, camping, hiking

Pelican Beach anchorage on Cypress Island, camping, hiking

Pelican Beach anchorage on Cypress Island, camping, hiking
The boardwalk quickly gives way to forested trail

Cypress Island hiking, camping, pelican beach

Many, many pictures yet to see


Things to do in the San Juan's - Explore Fort Whitman and Battery Harrison on Goat Island

If you like to explore ruins and go on easy hikes, this is the place for you.

     Re-posted from 2012

You can find Goat Island at the south end of Swinomish channel just before the dredged channel terminates in Skagit Bay.  ( a few miles from Deception Pass)
Fort Whitman and Battery Harrison were built in the early 1900's to defend Deception Pass and Sartoga Passage, thus protecting Puget Sound.

The battery  had four six inch guns, so the concrete structure is quite long. Originally designed to be  invisible from the water and now totally overgrown you can land your dinghy and hike up the trail in about ten minutes.

Directions:  From the dredged  navigation channel on the north side of Goat Island (Swinomish Channel) look for the many pilings grouped together marking the old wharf, all you will see is a lot of rows of close together pilings with steel brackets still attached at the top. (look for the rusty old steel brackets, that's your only clue that makes these pilings look different from all the others.)Anchor to one side or tie to a piling. and then run your dinghy to shore directly behind the old wharf pilings and scramble up the  bank looking for trail heading westward.  At high tide the beach is pretty much submerged and may not look like a place to land.  Spotting the seldom used trail is really hard, you may do some bush whacking, just remember the battery is west of where you land and a couple hundred feet back from the top of the cliff.  
Have fun, its a fun and very short hike up to the old battery, oh and bring a flashlight.
Goat Island, Fort Whitman, Battery Harrison, Swinomish Channel
steel railings, doors, long gone

Goat Island, Fort Whitman, Battery Harrison, Swinomish Channel
trees have taken back the island

Goat Island, Fort Whitman, Battery Harrison, Swinomish Channel
the round pit is where one of four guns was anchored

Goat Island, Fort Whitman, Battery Harrison, Swinomish Channel
 rooms and hallways are  interconnected

If you want some  more off the beaten path places to explore, try this post.


Use the Friday Harbor Marina Camera

     Over on the left side of this website is a link to the Friday Harbor Camera. The live camera usually pans back and forth covering most of the marina.  If you watch closely you can see at the bottom of the gangway, A-dock, Comm dock, Walkway C and the By-pass dock, all are side tie and available for transient use. (look at the Friday Harbor marina map to get your bearings, marina map ) This area is first come first served and is assigned or reserved via the harbor master on ch 66. Looking at the space available and the dinghy dock spaces directly below the gangway will give you a sneak preview of how crowded the marina is.   If you choose to stay at one of these side tie docks you will reduce your walk to shore by about a quarter mile. The Comm dock has electricity.

Excellent Anchoring Etiquette and Proper First Impressions at State Marine Parks

        Oh yeah!   Everyone remembers when you anchored, you were the one saying eff'g this and eff'g that while instructing your crew in dealing with your short comings. Yeah, we remember you calling your wife an idiot and moron.  Idiot for not pushing you over the side tied to the anchor is more accurate.

Loud, obnoxious, boisterous, yelling and foul language are no way to announce your arrival to the anchorage.  You should be on your good behavior, you will never get another chance to make that first impression.

It's entirely possible that there is no room where you want to anchor, and you have no choice but to move along to your second choice.  You can't squeeze in where you wont fit, and if you do force the issue, and there is an incident causing damage, you will be responsible financially.  I think most boaters are a forgiving and helpful bunch, but not if your an inconsiderate dweeb to begin with.  Hint: Ask the other boaters already anchored for help in anchoring before you anchor in their yard.  They may just move over a little to help you out.

The old adage first come first served is true when you anchor, meaning the guy there ahead of you has claim to his spot, and you need to respect his anchor location and swing of his boat. The guy that comes in after you will stay out of your way, and so forth.

Stern anchor plus bow anchor:
Many hot spots will have more boats than can hang and swing safely so skippers have taken to hooking out both directions, and stretching the boat in the middle to limit swing, thereby cramming more boats in safely.  This is perfectly acceptable provided the weather agrees.  If you arrive in one of these places and don't follow suit you're being somewhat within your limited boater rights, however taking an exorbitant amount of room to anchor your yacht spoils the fun so  you may not be invited to sun-downers.   When it gets really crowded, skippers will raft boats together, usually anchoring just the biggest boats.  Let the party begin.

Defensive boating, is just like in your car, you need to be prepared to move when a boat comes at you dragging its anchor.  Watch others upstream of you when they anchor, if they don't have much scope out, or didn't set their anchor, watch out.  Its better to move your boat in the daylight before they drag into you in the dark.

What about private anchor buoys?
Most of the harbors and resorts around the San Juan's have private buoys scattered around. You should leave them alone unless you have permission to use them. They may be not maintained and unsafe, the owner may show up after dark and tell you to leave.  Emergency's are different, but your emergency may not matter to the owner.

Anchor lights:
If you're in an established anchorage, (all parks are ) you don't need to have a light, but if you think someone may run into you in the dark, turn it on, that's the smart call.  We use a battery powered light run up a halyard, plus if we are on shore after dark, it makes finding the boat easier.  It is disconcerting paddling the dinghy into the darkness and not being able to see your boat.

See  article on first time anchoring,  How to anchor that yacht  Anchor that Yacht


Kayak and Bicycle Camping in the San Juan Islands

  • Don't just show up with your bicycle or kayak without knowing where to go or what to expect, if you do you may miss out on something and not even know it.
  • San Juan area kayak launching and campsites with gps coordinates plus vehicle parking places  are just a click away.
  • >>>     park your car and launch your kayak    <<< did you click?
  •   >>>  Bike camping  <<<  Biker/hiker/vehicle friendly parks
kayak campsite in the San Juan Islands on Jones Island

kayaker campground on James Island

marine trail campsite in the San Juan's

marine trail kayak campsite in the San Juan's

park your car and launch your kayak     did you click?

Ten Best Parks of the San Juan Islands

Ten best San Juan Island parks
      Picking the best of anything is asking for an argument but I thought folks planning a visit would benefit from the discussion.

     Let's start by listing my choices in order of best first, first because they have overnight docks,  followed by some pros and cons and a few real world comments.  (hopefully I haven't omitted your favorite)  Keep in mind, we go to all the parks and don't dislike any but  there is no doubt some parks are five star and some are not depending on what we are doing or the weather during that particular cruise.
     For a more detailed review of the San Juan area marine parks including maps try this post.  marine parks
    • parks with docks
      • Jones Island   
      • Matia
      • Fossil Bay on Sucia 
      • James Island
      • Stuart Island  (Prevost & Reid Harbor)
      • Sharpe Cove and Cornet Bay at Deception Pass
    • parks without docks
      • Saddlebag Island
      • Pelican Beach
      • Turn Island
      • Eagle Harbor
      • Cypress Head
      • Patos
      • Sucia   (Echo and Shallow bays)
      • Spencer Spit
      • Odlin County Park  (has 2 hr dock)
      • Clark Island
      • Doe Island
      • Obstruction Pass
      • Sidney Spit Marine Park (Canada) (has overnight dock)
      • Washington Park  (launching ramp only dock)
      • San Juan County Park
      • Shaw Island Park
    1. Jones Island is my number one choice and here's why.
      • bigger but not biggest dock
      • protected bay 
      • great dinghy beach with a couple tidepools
      • anchor buoys and lots of room to anchor
      • running water and four nice nearby composters
      • hiking the many loop trails at Jones never gets boring
      • tiny deer, many tame, are unique to Jones
      • dock is very close to camp sites for evening fires
      • close to Deer Harbor for supplies
      • crowds sometimes
      • long ways back to the mainland
      • open to north wind
      • no bicycle trails
         2.   Matia Island never disappoints us.

      • very small intimate dock for four boats
      • usually room when we arrive
      • small protected bay holds about four more boats
      • great gravel beach
      • multiple coves for beachcombing
      • puffins, seals and eagles and great sunsets
      • unique rain forest one mile or less loop trail
      • somewhat close to Squalicum Harbor (2-3 hours)
      • restroom at top of gangplank
      • Matia is a peaceful quiet special place

    click here for the rest

    Beach Camping in the San Juan's

         Beach camping is alive and well in the San Juan island area but let's be clear,  it is not the same as camping in the dunes along the Oregon or Washington coast, it's much better. Except if you want to hear the surf lolling you to sleep or be mesmerized by endless rows of breaking waves or have your entire body sandblasted from nonstop winds.  Instead, in the islands you will find gentle winds or none at all, still and flat water unless the wind pipes up against the tide. Of course it is always warmer (not) with less clouds and no crowds in the San Juan's.

        There are no approved places that you may pull up your boat or park your car, or ride your bicycle to and then pitch a tent.  That leaves parks and resorts and there are plenty to choose from including those with waterfront or beach camping sites.

         County, City and State  Parks:
         These are the parks that are accessible by vehicle, bicycle or hiking, reservations are a good idea.

    • Washington Park in Anacortes
    • San Juan County Park on San Juan Island
    • Odlin County Park on Lopez Island
    • Shaw Island County Park on Shaw Island
    • Spencer Spit State Park on Lopez Island
    • Moran State Park on Orcas Island
    • Deception Pass State Park near Anacortes
    • Obstruction Pass State Park on Orcas island, (requires short hike)

    Moran State Park entrance arch, Orcas Island
    Moran Park entrance on Orcas Island

    Cornet Bay dock San Juan Islands Deception Pass
    Cornet Bay transient dock and launch ramp at Deception Pass park

           Washington State Marine Parks:
           These parks are only accessible by boat or kayak, most are entire island. All have campgrounds with beachfront sites. None may be reserved or provide garbage service.

    • James Island
    • Jones Island
    • Clark Island
    • Doe Island (possibly still closed)
    • Pelican Beach on Cypress Island
    • Cypress Head on Cypress Island
    • Eagle Harbor on Cypress Island (anchor buoy field only)
    • Matia
    • Patos
    • Sucia (campground reservations are availalbe)
    • Stuart Island  (Prevost & Reid Harbor)
    • Saddlebag Island
    • Sidney Spit Marine Park (Canada)

    Jones Island marine park dock and campground in the San Juan Islands
    Jones Island State Park
    For detailed descriptions, maps and charts and pictures for all the parks in the San Juan Island area, click here.  maps and charts and pictures


    San Juan Island's Map with Marine Parks - Marinas - Cities - Ferry Routes

    If you find some useful places on the orientation map below, you will want to click this link of Parks and Islands to zoom in on details of specific parks.

       Up close look at all the Parks in the San Juan's

    (this map post stays on top -  all new posts are below it)

    San Juan Islands map showing parks, citys, Canada, Gulf Islands

                                                  CLICK ON PIC - IT GETS BIGGER FOR SOME OF US     Map data © 2015 Google
               Lets see, I missed Fort Whitman on Goat Island,
    Eastsound (city) is misspelled, Lime Kiln is missing, any more?


    16 public floats and docks you should know about in the San Juan's

              Obstruction Pass           Blakely's                   Deer Harbor          Roche Harbor                 
              Friday Harbor               Jackson Beach           Hunter Bay           Prevost Harbor
              Washington Park           La Conner                 Eastsound             Odlin Park
              West Sound                   English Camp           Orcas Landing      Olga

         When visiting the San Juan's many of us  head for the great marine state parks and for good reason, that's where the floats, campgrounds and amenities are located that vacationers desire.
        However,  if you want to get off the boat and see something other than campers and boat people you have two choices. #1 dinghy ashore somewhere or #2 find a public dock and head out.  This list and description of San Juan area docks excludes the state parks because most marine state parks are landlocked or waterlocked leaving visitors with no opportunity to explore beyond the park.

    Sixteen  public docks organized and listed in no particular order.

         Obstruction Pass, this county float and boat ramp is located just inside Obstruction Pass on the southern tip of Orcas Island.  Nearby pass traffic wakes make this a punishing place to tie up even for just the two hours allowed, however rendezvousing with friends on shore or heading out on bicycles for a strenuous ride to the top of mount Constitution may be just what's needed to round out a perfect cruise. Tip: For longer visits, anchor nearby after dropping off passengers and bikes, then drag dinghy up onto float or shore. Your boat will thank you when you return.

    Obstruction Pass county dock Blakelys fuel dock
    Obstruction Pass county dock in red circle at top
    Blakely's at bottom

         Blakely's is a conveniently located fuel dock about halfway between everywhere we go in the San Juan's. They are just inside Peavine Pass on Blake Island. On shore is a small store and deli bar famous for ice cream cones to savor on the lush waterfront lawns. Grazing deer share the lawn so watch your step. The dock is rather long with plenty of room on both sides to tie up big and little yachts and still not interfere with those getting fuel. They offer overnight marina slips in a very protected tiny cove. The island and roads are private so boaters may not leave the resort property.
    Blakely island fuel dock and taxi
    Fuel and store dock at Blakelys is long and you may tie up on either side to avoid wind or current issues.

         Deer Harbor,  on the west end of Orcas Island at the end of the road is diminutive Deer Harbor community and  marina.  You may purchase fuel and snacks, get ice and rent a slip. The county dock is actually the same dock as the fuel float. Simply tie up out of the way just past the fuel dispenser.  The county section is painted yellow and accommodates several runabouts or one large yacht. This is an excellent jump off point for kayakers heading for Jones Island or dropping off people catching the San Juan Transit mini bus. The bay out front is calm and rogue wakes are few, anchoring room is abundant, restrooms, showers and laundry are on wharf.

    Deer Harbor on Orcas Island, fuel dock, showers, laundry, public county dock
    If you squint, looking under the main wharf at Deer Harbor, you can see the yellow painted county dock.


    When is a bumper a fender?

           Sometimes I run out of useful boating and San Juan stuff to write, this is one of those times.
    I have always thought when I heard someone say bumpers when they meant fenders, that they simply aren't as nautical as they could be.

           I came across a statement that I have no idea if it is valid, but sounds good, so I'm going to repeat it here. Here goes. "A fender is loose and may be moved around where as a bumper is permanently attached."

           So, those horizontal fenders I see lashed, nailed or knotted permanently on the sides of some slips, floats and even a few swim platforms and dinghies too, are actually bumpers.

    And those funny looking hanging steps are neither.

    Just something to ponder.


    Bicycle Camping in the San Juan Island's Area

          Yes yes yes, you can bicycle camp in the islands.  However campsites are limited.  Basically there are two choices. #1 spend some real money and go to a resort that has set up a campground which will likely be a lawn area behind some rental cabins or #2 go to a county or state  park that has set aside walk in sites. Most walk in are group sites where you will share with others but you can reserve private sites at all the parks.

           Here are the parks that are bicycle friendly.  Many of the posts on this site refer to combining bike camping with boat camping.  Marine parks for boat camping are a click away. marine parks

          Hiker/biker/vehicle parks:
    1. Washington Park in Anacortes. This city park is a five minute ride to the ferry terminal.  Tip. Consider reserving a campsite and leaving  your land cruiser here in a campsite while biking the islands.
    2. Odlin County Park on Lopez Island
    3. Spencer Spit State Park on Lopez Island
    4. San Juan County Park on San Juan Island
    5. Moran State Park on Orcas Island
    6. Shaw Island County Park
    7. Obstruction Pass State Park on Orcas Island
    8. Deception Pass State Park on the mainland
         Our family has enjoyed many multi generational, multi interest outings where we combine boating, biking, kayaking, hiking and car camping all in a week or two in the San Juan's. Think outside the box.  Often, we meet up with our children coming by bike or car and transport them and their gear to the marine parks. Days later we drop them off at a ferry landing or back to Washington Park. Remember,  inter-island ferry service is free for foot passengers and bikers. Kayaks on transport wheels may be charged a minimal fee if at all.

    Waterfront boat accessible bicycle camping, Washington Park, Odlin county park, Spencer Spit State park, San Juan county Park, Shaw Island Park, Obstruction Pass, Deception Pass Park

    So, don't hesitate to embark on a bicycle camping adventure in the San Juan Islands. With the right planning and a spirit of adventure, you can have a fantastic experience exploring the islands by bike.


    Farmers Markets on San Juan Island - Saturday Markets on Lopez Island, Orcas Island Saturday Market

    Saturday Markets in the San Juans

    If your running out of things to do and places to go when cruising the San Juans, try Saturday Markets, Farmers Markets and Craft Fairs.  Lopez, Orcas and San Juan Island, all have regular scheduled markets in the summer months.

     At Friday Harbor on San Juan Island you will find every Saturday morning, April through September the "San Juan Island Farmers Market" at the Brickworks Plaza. Bring your appetite for breakfast or lunch and feast on the island cuisine, then bring home locally made arts and crafts.
    Friday Harbor San Juan Island, farmers market

    Tie up in a slip, or anchor out and use the dinghy dock, its a very short walk.

    In Lopez Village on Lopez Island look for the "Lopez Farmers Market" next door to the community center. Open 10am to 2pm mid May into September every Saturday. Plan on having lunch and picking up some local produce and seafood. Local crafts people and artists will be  displaying their work.

    Lopez Village Lopez Island in the San Juan's, farmers markets

    Berth at a slip in Fisherman Bay and walk about a half mile to Lopez Village.
    OR go by dinghy and land right in town -  here's how >>> Lopez Village by dinghy

    Don't miss the "Orcas Island Farmers Market" in Eastsound on the Village Green, Open every Saturday from 10am to 3pm  May through October.  Crafts, arts, food, gardeners, museum and history booths, you will find just what you need. 
    Eastsound county dock on Orcas Island, farmers markets
    Eastsound county dock

    Village Green in Eastsound on Orcas Island, music festivals, farmers markets,
    Music festivals on the green

    Use the county dock at Madrona Point or anchor out, and dinghy to the dock, its just a block or two to Eastsound.

    Anacortes, Bellingham, and LaConner should be on your short list of things to do & places to go!

    At Anacortes the Farmers market is at 611 R Ave in Anacortes, just a few steps from Cap Sante Boat Haven, and runs 9am until closing every Saturday beginning in May.
    Don't miss the "Waterfront Festival," normally held in June

    Bellingham boasts a Farmers Market that is just a one mile walk from Squalicum Harbor at Depot Market Square, Railroad and Chestnut streets, open 10am to 3pm April thru Christmas.

    Lastly, LaConner on Swinomish Channel has several public docks downtown where moorage is on a first come basis. As of this writing there is no established close by Saturday Market, but they have an extensive menu of shops jus steps away on main street. Visit the chamber website calendar of events right here.