(Updated (2014) alternate itinerary with Echo Bay at Sucia Island as 1st stop)
click here Sucia Trip Intinerary
This article is designed to get you going on that first boating/sailing trip to the San Juan Islands in Washington State.
|Our Livingston dinghy is nine feet long and a tad bit overloaded|
|This inflatable was $69 and holds two people|
|This inflatable stows on deck, or deflated stows below and carries three people.|
Having just returned from a 200 mile sweep around the San Juan's, I am fresh with observations and thoughts of how to improve the experience.
Everyone knows that dock space is first come first served and not to expect room for one more when you arrive. However, there is room for more if you try using some common sense. Somewhere in the mountain of state park dock rules and regs is the suggestion to locate boats close together. Spacing boats fifteen feet apart is not helpful and yet it is common. Tying ones dinghy to the float instead of rafting it is another obvious inconsiderate ploy that effectively exclude others. By the way, did they pay for the extra dinghy footage?
Speaking of dinghy's, many parks have designated dinghy docks but I see people with fifteen foot inflatables, complete with 50hp outboards, consoles, windshields and bimini's, side tied at the dinghy dock forcing real dinghy's to make do as best they can. What is really annoying is when you realize the offending dinghy belongs to the fifty five footer tied to the same float.
Speaking of bigger or smaller boats, a considerate skipper will let his longish bow area stick out beyond the end of the float so his fifty five feet only uses forty feet of dock. Stop! I know this trick is a bad idea in some locations and for some boats. Obviously, I'm not suggesting being foolish, I'm suggesting being thoughtful and considerate.
While we are talking considerate activities, how long is long enough or too long to run a generator? During my latest visit we were treated to a generator running for eight hour stretches. It was during the daytime and it was fairly quiet but come on, at least get off the dock and anchor out a ways. I was anchored out myself, it must have been no fun at all for the people close by.
I spend some of my non San Juan boating time around jet skis, water skiers, tubers, newbies, loud music and alcohol fueled people enjoying the water. As such, I expect close encounters, big wakes and general on water mayhem. But not in the San Juan's, the San Juan's attract an older more refined, mature crowd. We have miles of room to navigate, there is really no reason for close encounters. Jet skis are outlawed and proper boating is the norm. On this visit a thirty five footer at high speed overtook us and passed by so close they would have hit us if I had turned unexpectedly. I had no time to react, their wake rolled us so violently that one crew was thrown out of their seat and some of our belongings came crashing off shelves and out of cabinets breaking on the cabin sole. I regret I did not get a picture or name of the offending boat. I am not embarrassed that acting on reflex, I cussed them over the radio. Then after realizing in my haste I may not have keyed the mike, I did it again clearly to make sure they heard. I hope they heard me but my antenna was down with the inflatable on the roof so my range was greatly reduced. I apologize for may last paragraph, I'm still reeling when I think about the incident.
On an upnote, at Jones Island, as we were anchoring, a skipper at the float yelled over to us that he was leaving in a few minutes. We aborted lowering the hook and moved over, thank you very much.
Also at Jones, we thought we lost a cell phone, trail mix and passports in a drybag at our camp site, only to find it two days later where a racoon had stashed it in the bushes, unharmed but chewed on.
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
|What are you waiting for - Winter?|
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.
(this map post stays on top - all new posts are below it)
| 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?
Tie up in a slip, or anchor out and use the dinghy dock, its a very short walk.
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
|Eastsound county dock|
|Music festivals on the green|
|See the ferry approaching the anchored sailboat?|
|Sailing in April rain with reefed main|
|Fourth of July celebration in the San Juan Islands at Roche Harbor Resort|
|Cypress Island trail map|
|Free 3 hr slips and dock space at Granville Island Mall make getting dinner and souvenirs easy.|
Now if they can just get the tide to quit going up and down or put in elevators.
|Of course there is a fuel dock, and paying by the liter sounds cheap at first.|
|False Creek is big enough to go dinghy sailing and the entire inlet is a no-wake zone.|
|Volunteers at Stuart Island Lighthouse keep a pretty spiffy privy|
|Patos Island Anchorage|
|SJ County Park is an easy dinghy ride from anchor in Small Pox Bay. This popular campground is great for kayakers heading out to Haro Strait for Orca watching.|
|Shaw County Park Campground picnic shelter|
|Odlin Park on Lopez island has a two hour dock limit -|
find Odlin across from Indian Cove and Canoe Island on Upright channel.
|The house on right side marks the edge of public beach at Shaw Island County Park. Up in the trees are campsites, grassy fields, restrooms and a picnic shelter. This park is very hard to spot, none of the facilities are visible from the water.|
Patos is as far north as you can get and still have some land to land on before entering Canada.(Okay, I know Point Roberts has some land, but we have no need for customs today)
Volunteers camp in the campground and maintain hours for visitors, you could spend several hours inside learning the history, its well on its way to being a museum. Don't forget the Stuart Island lighthouse has a similar setup and they do call it a museum.