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3/15/2020

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.
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
If you squint, looking under the main wharf at Deer Harbor, you can see the yellow painted county dock.




     Roche Harbor, is on the northeast end of San Juan Island and is a world class marina and resort. They allow short term free ties ups for shopping, loading and unloading. San Juan Transit regularly stops as well as Kenmore Airline in case your guests arrive in true jet set fashion. Anchoring in the huge protected bay is easy and they have multiple large dinghy dock facilities.

Roche Harbor map
Thanks to Roche Harbor Resort for this fine  facilities map. Not shown is the newer dinghy dock
 coming out from Shipwreck beach. The other dinghy docks are just past the fuel pier.



     Friday Harbor, is the largest city in the San Juans. Like Roche Harbor they offer short term free tie ups while in town shopping.  They are next door to the ferry terminal, as such, rendezvousing with visitors coming by ferry is not to be overlooked in making cruise plans. Upon arrival, simply tie up at breakwater "A" or request a slip if you need something less exposed. Tip: Free anchoring is readily available in a medium sized cove immediately west of the marina. It is then a short dinghy ride to the dinghy dock under the main gangway. There is also a four boat short term float directly in front of the marina office just past the fuel float.

Friday Harbor chart
There is no launching ramp at the marina but at the far east end of the harbor are private yards with ramps.
Friday Harbor marina map
Most boaters will tie up at breakwater  "A" unless directed by harbormaster.
Using the load dock in front of office will save a 1/3 mile walk (one way)
and you can drive your vehicle to top of gangplank if needed.

     Jackson Beach, is south of Friday Harbor or better described as, around the point past Turn Island. Jackson Beach is a Port of Friday Harbor managed  day use park and boat ramp with a float. This would be a good spot to meet friends, launch a car topper or runabout. Like all public docks, tie ups are short term and this one is part of a ramp facility so you are competing for space. Anchoring in the smallish inlet will protect you from the worst of Griffin Bay and the restrooms are just a dinghy ride away. Tip: Jackson Beach itself is loaded with storm tossed driftwood begging to be searched.

Jackson Beach on San Juan Island
A picture of another ramp and float seemed redundant but this gorgeous driftwood pile on the Griffin Bay side seemed worthwhile.  Stretching all the way to Cattle Pass, the bay is calm today but the driftwood and sand in the parking lot didn't get tossed up there on its own.

     Hunter Bay, is on Lopez island at the south end of Lopez Sound.  This dock like most county docks, is not used much by cruisers and is not very big but there is a designated dinghy area and a loading zone. Fifty feet away is a hard surface launching ramp.  Consider Hunter Bay as a place to meet others coming by car or bicycle. Anchoring close by is easy but may be rolly polly in a blow. There are no facilities or restrooms near by. Southend Market is about two miles by foot, up and over a significant hill. The Hunter Bay dock is hard to spot from offshore, it is located on the southeast side of the bay on the point of land separating Mud Bay and Hunter Bay.

Hunter Bay county dock on Lopez Island


     Prevost Harbor on Stuart Island has a don't miss dock.  The county dock is at the top of the harbor very close to where you enter. This is not the same as the two state park docks. Since Stuart Island is not served by ferries, rendezvousing with car travelers probably won't happen but if you want to walk out to the old Turn Point Lighthouse museum (yes you do) you will find that starting at the county dock will save you about half of the two and a half mile walk of those beginning at the park docks..  Tip: If you plan from the get go to anchor fifty feet away and then dinghy over to the dock you will not be disappointed when there is no room at the dock for your yacht.


Stuart Island county dock


Stuart Island county dock
The dinghy float is down the plank



     Washington Park, is a Anacortes city park and campground.  The dock is primarily for boat launching and retrieval but extends far enough that one boat may tie up at the far end without interfering very much with ramp activities. Being on the mainland, plus having  campground and long term parking  make Washington Park very useful when thinking and making outside the box plans. Washington Park is the closest point to the San Juan's for picking up and dropping off passengers. Tip: Have your visitors on bicycles come over on the ferry but park their cars at Washington Park to save money and make their return by boat convenient.
Anacortes and Washington Park and ferry terminal map
It's an easy bike ride less than a mile to or from  the ferry.


Washington Park boat ramp[
Washington Park boat ramp on Guemes Channel


     La Conner: This artsy craftsy city on Swinomish Channel  boasts three public docks on their seawall right downtown. The recently completed  boardwalk running the length of the waterfront is worthy of a visit by itself. Unlike county docks, La Conner welcomes over-nighters and makes modest payment easy with kiosks at each location. Tip: La Conner is worthy of making it your primary destination but don't pass through Swinomish Channel without stopping for at least a short walk around town. The fully stocked grocery, is about two to three blocks at most.

La Conner  and Swinomish channel
Swinomish Channel via La Conner is a handy alternative to Deception Pass. 
When you see Rainbow bridge, you know you are there.
La Conner waterfront boardwalk
La Conner boardwalk wraps around and connects local businesses


     Eastsound, back in the islands. Eastsound the city is on Orcas Island at the top of East Sound the waterway. From the county dock it is a short one block walk into the center of town. The float holds two or three smaller boats but can easily be overwhelmed by one large yacht. Dinghies crowd the inside and need to be jostled around when more than six or so are tied up.  Anchoring nearby is simple but heed the sign that says to stay out of the eel grass. Tip: Be forewarned that if you plan on overnight anchoring, wind waves can get messy due to the large fetch starting all the way down in Lopez Sound. Nearby Judd Bay is a good alternative for anchoring. In all of the San Juan cruising area, Eastsound is the shortest walking distance to a major grocery store.  I don't count the very short distance to the convenient dock located Roche harbor store because it is not all that big and has slightly higher prices.

Eastsound county dock
Judd Bay is in the far far background and is mostly protected from nighttime wind waves


     Odlin County park,  is on the northwest end of Lopez Island facing Upright Channel. The parks location on a large bay or rather indent in the shoreline suggests protection from  passing ferry and boat wakes but don't be fooled.  Anchoring or hooking onto any of the four park buoys may result in a miserable rolly stay including possible anchor dragging.  On the bright side the county maintains an excellent dock for two hour tie ups and dinghy landing.  The popular waterfront campground is first rate and it is only a twenty minute bike ride into Lopez Village. Tip: Use Odlin Park as a very convenient pick up drop off and rendezvous location when planning trips with car and bicycle campers around the islands.


San Juan County docks
If you spend anytime anchored or tied to the dock at Odlin be prepared for wakes. 


     West Sound county dock is located at the top of  West Sound on Orcas Island. The little used dock is on the road to Deer Harbor where it intersects with the road to Eastsound. There are no stores or restaurants left so few cruisers come up this way except those going to the nearby West Sound Marina fuel dock. If you are inclined to hike up Turtleback Mountain, this will be your best access.  The dock is only 1.2 miles from the trailhead on Wild Rose Ln.





West Sound county dock on Orcas Island




      English Camp dinghy dock in Garrison Bay on the northwest end of San Juan Island is neither a county or state park dock. It is a national historic site. The public float is included on this list because it provides easy access for boats anchored in tranquil Garrison Bay to get to West Valley road and for hiking up Mount Young, aka. Young's Peak, aka. Young Hill.

English Camp on Garrison Bay
The English Camp dinghy dock is really small, hence the name dinghy dock but you can  pull in to unload and then anchor near by.

     Orcas Landing is, you guessed it, right next to the ferry terminal on Orcas Island.  The Orcas Island ferry terminal is on the south side of the island facing Harney Channel and Blind Bay. This medium length float takes the full brunt of wakes from passing trawler yachts so tying on the inside is an absolute must if your hull isn't up to the task. Onshore are gift shops, coffee spots and a restaurant or two depending on the season. Across the street are public restrooms. Acres of parking lots and ferry waiting lanes cover the hillside. Other than Friday Harbor this is the only place a boater and ferry traveler can meet up, or a cruiser can drop off a passenger catching a ferry for home or another island.  Tip: Don't drive behind a parked ferry.


Orcas Landing dock


     Olga is on Orcas Island just around the corner from Obstruction Pass on the southeast end at the beginning of East Sound. The local community built and maintains the 4-6 boat float for public use. There is no water, beach access or restrooms.  Onshore a three block walk up hill is a cafĂ©/gallery. Three nights are allowed and the bay is quite a ways from the active East Sound traffic making this an excellent spot to wile away the day, relax or meet friends coming by vehicle.

Olga public dock
At the end of the long skinny wharf is the small four boat Olga float, don't expect it to be empty like today.


     Other docks? Yes of course, scattered around the islands are some private resorts with docks.  Rosario Resort would be one, Fisherman Bay has two.  The docks on this list are primarily public or have the welcome mat out for short term visitors.  Most of those listed provide access to the roads and highways allowing shoreside excursions.

Tip: Locate and mark these docks on your charts or write them in your ships log.  It's nice to know where you are welcome.

8 comments:

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  2. There is a restaurant at West Sound County Dock. Kingfish at West Sound has new owners and is currently open 5pm-9pm Weds-Sat.

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    1. This is good to know, there are so few walking distance from floats. The late hours may be difficult to work into a daylight float plan.

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