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First Time Trip to the San Juans Suggested Itinerary for a Nine Day Trip

San Juan Islands for First Timers

Suggested Itineraries for  San Juan Island boating trips

(Updated (2014) alternate itinerary with Echo Bay at Sucia Island as 1st stop)
click here  Sucia Trip Intinerary

(For a  shorter itinerary on your first cruise and with different island stopovers (click here) 

      This article is designed to get you going on that first boating/sailing trip to the San Juan Islands in Washington State.

Below is a snapshot map of your dreamed about vacation land (or water) 

map of San Juan Island area

The map above identifies many  (not all) common names and places

Take a moment to familiarize yourself with some locations you may have read about.

You may want to follow this link and take a quick look at the detailed marine parks list and then come back to the suggested itinerary below, "MARINE PARK LIST AND MAPS" click here 

for your detailed itinerary click (read more) below  >>


Planning your San Juan Island's cruise is as easy as two things.


Many moons and several magnificent sunsets had passed when I finally embarked on the grand adventure of planning a summer trip to the enchanting San Juan Islands. However, fate had a different plan in store for me. Due to circumstances, we found ourselves without a vessel. We were at Yellowstone National Park, gazing at the late spring snows. Time was slipping away, and our planned departure date to the San Juan’s was fast approaching, yet we were still boatless. A thousand miles away from home in a campground full of bears, I resorted to browsing Craigslist on my laptop while clutching my cell phone in hand. It was then that I stumbled upon a boat for sale posting that caught my attention.

To my surprise, the boat in question was of the type I had previously owned. The price was right, and a surge of confidence swept over me. I made a daring decision to promise to buy it sight unseen upon our return in two weeks. However, there was a hitch. The seller had just embarked on their own vacation and would not be back for another three weeks. Oh, dear! That meant they would only be back a week before our planned departure for the San Juans. Time seemed to be playing a cruel game with our hopes.

Fast forward three weeks later, and I found myself standing at the seller's doorstep, armed with cash and eager to drive away with our trusted vessel for the San Juan Islands. Back at home with our new boat and trailer, time was short, and I could only manage a few essential tasks. I diligently checked and greased the bearings, stepped and un-stepped the mast, and on the eve of our departure, I hurriedly took her for a test run in the river to gauge the motor's performance. As fate would have it, the 7.5 Honda motor ran smoothly for ten minutes before suddenly quitting. I drifted back towards the ramp in semi-darkness. Moments before hauling her out, I tried the motor once more, and lo and behold, it roared back to life. Quite perplexing, indeed.

Undeterred by this glitch, we embarked on our journey to Anacortes the following day. Upon launching at Twin Bridges on the Swinomish Channel, the motor graced us with its smooth-running presence just long enough to steer us away from the dock and set a course for Padilla Bay before surrendering once more. Still undeterred, we continued our voyage under sail, finally anchoring at Pelican Beach on Cypress Island. There, we reveled in the joys of a magnificent beach fire before retiring for the night. Throughout the evening, my mind couldn't help but wonder if the motor would start the next morning and if the capricious currents and winds would carry us to our next destination at Matia or Sucia.

But enough of my ramblings. We spent a glorious week in the San Juan Islands, and to our relief, the motor never faltered again. It proved to be a reliable workhorse that faithfully served us on several more boating expeditions in the years to come. The initial mystery of its temporary failure remained unresolved. As soon as we returned home, with plenty of summer still ahead, I wasted no time in placing a Craigslist ad to sell the boat. I recouped my entire investment, and as a bonus, I held onto the now trusty Honda outboard for many years afterward.

Reflecting upon this adventure, it became evident to me that setting a firm departure date was the catalyst that made the trip possible. Of course, we took a gamble with an unknown boat, motor, and rigging. However, I had the foresight to equip ourselves with basic essential gear: PFD’s, a bucket, a portable GPS, a handheld radio, a cell phone, and a paper chart. I had done my homework and discovered that the boat ramp offered long-term parking for a modest fee of $8 per day. With all the pieces falling into place, we made our dream of a San Juan vacation cruise a reality.

So, my advice to all you dreamers longing for a San Juan vacation cruise is simple yet crucial: Mark your calendar this instant. Purchase a paper chart or just a map and proudly display it on a wall where it will catch your eye everyday. Trust me, with these two actions as your guiding stars, everything else will naturally fall into place. You'll see your dream materialize before your very eyes.

Easy Itinerary for spur of the moment cruise >Fast track to the San Juans


Friday Harbor Marina
Friday Harbor Marina