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5/02/2022

San Juan Islands Cruise Starting at Cornet Bay in Deception Pass State Park

This post first appeared in the web site in  2011. Parking and launching fees at Cornet Bay have since gone up a little.
       Camping, traveling, vacation rentals, condo's, resorts, on a budget, is it even possible? Yes it is. Inexpensive (cheap) vacations are possible if you go by boat or yacht as some say. The trick is to already own the yacht and then camp on it at all the great places.  Think of it like going to RV parks only without the garish over the top  land schooners parked on the best reserved spots.

           Okay, no more promos for boat camping.  Assuming you are a newbie to the San Juan Island boating group, you may be wanting to know why you should start at Deception Pass State Park if you are headed for the islands.  Simple, the park has the best all weather, all tide launching ramps and long term parking lot. Plus,  Deception Pass is one of the places to see that you should not miss, and the Cornet Bay dock is a wonderful place to hangout overnight, or for a few days or longer. 

Snapshot showing Cornet Bay and Deception Pass

The Google photos above with labels will help you to orient yourself. Because slow boats must time their passage through the pass you may find yourself spending the night at the dock.  I always plan to spend the first night at the dock because  after driving six hours, rigging and launching my sailboat, it's late and I'm tired.  My crew can fish, hike and race around in the dinghy while I take a break.  The next day I'm ready to go, and cast off at slack tide which may be at noon or 9am.  The time doesn't matter, I'm on island time now.

The launch fee is around $6, parking is $10/day and staying at the dock is 50 cents a foot. The ramp has three or four lanes with floats. Trailer parking is abundant.  You can anchor out for free, anytime, anywhere. There is a fist of quarters shower that short times you in the bathroom.  Lots of locals and campers come down to fish off the floats, but boats tying up have priority. Try explaining that to a fisherman.

It is a very short run out the pass, under the bridge and into the Strait of Juan De Fuca, where high seas or fog may cause you to change your plans, if so, just head the other way to Swinomish Channel.  If you have never cruised the channel do it anyway, it only adds about 15 miles to your trip and is well worthwhile.  Or when you come back a week or so later, use the channel, but try to work it into your plans.  FYI, your boat will need to make 10 mph or better to overcome the worst of pass current, otherwise you will have to time it like the rest of us.  Of course with a favorable current you can rush on through, but the standing waves can be pretty big at times and an open bow boat will seem like a poor choice. The pass is narrowest under the bridge, so you will have a fast current for only a short distance.

Deception Pass boat launch at Cornet Bay

Dock and ramp at Deception Pass State Park (Cornet Bay)

        You should run through Deception Pass.  Next door, Canoe Pass, while navigable, should only be used at slack water, is very narrow  and sight distance restricted right under the bridge, it is a little creepy when the whirlpools turn on and begin spinning you towards the rock cliff face.  Sometimes we take our 9' dinghy with its 7.5 hp motor around Pass Island and wave to the gawkers on the bridge, but when the flood or ebb starts cascading, a dinghy has no business in either pass.

         When you come back a week or so later and are ready to head home you can wait  for slack water outside the pass at the dock in Sharpe Cove or Bowman Bay. 

           I always spend my last night at the dock, and get a good rest for the long drive home.
Here's a link to the marine parks locating map  marine parks maps etc. click here


Deception Pass at slack water

Tall ship ghosting through the pass at high slack water (photo taken from bridge)
 In 60 minutes standing waves 3-6 feet tall may form and the current will be 5-8 mph

I would be remiss to not point out that  most boats can transit the pass a good deal before or after slack water, slack water is simply zero current like in the picture.  Also don't forget Swinomish Channel is just around the corner and avoids the pass altogether.

3/19/2022

Friday Harbor Marina Map

       For first timers it is really handy to know where your assigned slip is in a maze of  fairways and other boaters.

        Even regular visitors can forget where G-dock is  or which side are the odd numbered slips!

Anyone see the dinghy dock?  (It's at the end of A-dock)

Tip #1  Ask for a slip close to land, that quarter mile walk gets old real fast!
Tip #2  If your visit includes loading and unloading passengers and gear,  save yourself a long walk and use the load dock below the marina office. (just motor past the fuel pier) The side facing land is for public use. The other side is for VIP's

Friday Harbor Marina Map www.sailingthesanjuans.com
Image Courtesy the Port of Friday Harbor
Click on image for bigger view

Roche Harbor Marina Map


Thanks to Roche  Harbor Resort for letting us use their area map, it also shows where the Mausoleum and Sculpture Garden/Park are located.
Our 2019  cruise guide shows this updated map and the new  Friday Harbor map as well. It's really nice when getting a slip assignment to be able to check the map and know exactly where to go.
Roche Harbor marina map
Roche Harbor

1/24/2022

Sobering thought worth thinking about

 

I was busy cleaning out my laptop and as usual became sidetracked reading something I wrote.  I immediately noticed punctuation and other errors but more than that, I vividly remembered the situation I had written about and how shaken I was.  I remember thinking that perhaps risking my family's lives was not my decision to make.  I remember considering turning around and quitting boating right then and there.

I hope I have caught the attention of others like me.  Below is the gist of what I wrote almost ten years ago.


Crossing Rosario Strait heading into Thatcher Pass, we were all staring out the front and not paying attention to our sideways set (side drift) when out of the corner of my eye I caught a movement that turned out to be rocks coming at us fast. (full flood must have been 3+ knots) The current was forcing us sideways straight onto the rocks of tiny Pointer Island. I swung hard over and pushed her to full throttle, our outboard barely pulled us away with one hundred feet and two or three seconds to spare. I shuddered thinking of my family on board and almost quit boating right then and there.


While we’re talking currents, I am sure you know that your boat will be dragged sideways whilst you drive forward when crossing a channel or fast water.  It is very easy to not pay enough attention to the currents “set and drift” and what’s on the side of your boat. Let’s put it simpler, if you’re driving forward and looking forward you will miss what you’re heading for sideways. It is easy when close to hazards to allow yourself to be dragged into them because your looking where you want to go, not where you are really going. Tip. Please re-read that last sentence and get it into your default system, it may save your boat or someone’s life.


Please leave your SCARY story in the comments below.  You will never know but you may save someone. John