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Showing posts sorted by date for query matia. Sort by relevance Show all posts

1/02/2024

Cruise the San Juan Islands – Sample Itinerary, Trip Plan, Info Guide

      Talk to ten San Juan Island cruisers and you will get ten different answers to the question, "What's the best place to go or thing to do in the San Juan's."   Each will be correct, mostly. To support their answers, they will offer first-hand exciting personal experiences.  That is why you must gather the best information, inject your wants and quirks, and then chart your own course to the San Juan's.  

Our experiences and local knowledge have been earned the old-fashioned way – one cruise at a time. Sailing, hiking, biking and gunkholing, all while immersed in nature has been our reward. 

     This website is a compilation of our travels in five sailboats and two trawlers spanning over two decades.

     Along the way we published a cruising guide, “San Juan Islands Cruise Guide,” followed later with a Land and Sea Guidebook, “San Juan Islands Travel Guide.”  My goal for this website and these books is to help boaters, travelers, sailors, and families enjoy the good times we have enjoyed for many years.

     What is the best five-day itinerary?  That's like asking what's the best color.  But there are certain things that our experience and local knowledge will help with.  Sometimes, one just needs a little push in the right direction to get on the right tack, so to speak.  It is impossible in an essay or article to cover everything important to everybody or all the possible places to go.  However, this website does cover every state park, every county park, every public dock, and much much more.  You will find many links to pictures and specific posts, all composed for San Juan Island boaters.  Be sure, while reading to click the links and follow your interests. Be sure to use the search box at the top of this page on the left side.

You're invited!

     To help you muddle through this dilemma and provide some interesting reading, please come along with us on our summer cruise in the San Juan Islands.  Of course, you will be taking your own boat since ours is full.  

     Today, we use our laptop as a chart plotter, I only use the GPS function. The program was free online Free chart plotter software but I had to buy a USB antenna for $19.95.  You can get by with a small handheld GPS or even your cell phone but I enjoy the big screen.   I don't want you to get lost if we get separated, or your battery is dead, so you should pick up a paper chart and a compass.   chart #18421 I carry a colorful roadmap with us as well.

    Let's get on the same page and assume this is your first boat trip to the San Juan's, and you are in a trailerable sailboat with a 5-6 mph speed.  There are five or six starting points we have used but only three are preferred.  They are Cornet Bay in Deception Pass, Cap Sante in Anacortes or Squalicum Harbor in Bellingham.  If you have a fast powerboat or are coming up from the Seattle direction you will want to make time and distance adjustments.  We will plan to sleep on board but use bathrooms on shore. Okay, let's go. ----- We have narrowed it down to about twenty parks to choose from for the first night, and that's not counting the marinas at Friday Harbor, Roche Harbor, or Rosario.   Not to worry, I have a plan >>>  all the parks and then some

      Sometimes when we plan a vacation trip to the San Juan's,  we try to make a great circle route because it saves time and resources. But this time we're going to decide where we go, as we go. We will see how that non-plan works out.  Certain people on the boat have expressed a desire for hot showers, I guess we will see how that works out too. Since we may travel all the way across the San Juan's and back, your boat will need a minimum 75-mile range. Fuel is readily available everywhere but smart skippers figure one-third of the miles out, one-third back, and a third as a cushion.  If your fuel tank is a little small you can tie a five-gallon can on deck.  Knowing you have reserve fuel will ease anxious thoughts and ensure you have a great visit.  Shall we also assume that you have a seaworthy vessel with all safety gear?  If not, correct it before we head out, or stay home.  Life jackets for all

Plan as we go itinerary:

Cornet Bay boat launch San Juan Island's
Cornet Bay Launch Ramps

        Let's begin at Cornet Bay in Deception Pass Park.  However, after reading this post, I suggest that you search this website and check out the other launch locations. Some may fit your plans better. launch points Also, search the other parks and marinas and things to do.  It is easy to overlook a great place or mini adventure that will make your cruise the best of all.  I chose to launch at Cornet Bay this time because I really enjoy the pass scenery.  The dock and the long-term parking are ideal.  Plus being able to take off or return from both directions 24/7 opens up even more possibilities when not having a firm plan. If I was heading for the Sucia area first off, I may have chosen Squalicum Harbor in Bellingham but where we end the cruise may dictate where to begin.

Read the rest?

8/10/2023

Fifteen best lessor known destinations and hikes not to miss when cruising the San Juan Islands



San Juan Islands Boaters Must-See List

These are special places to go and great things to do that our years of cruising have rewarded us with. Some of the very best places are walks or hikes that are off the beaten path and seldom visited. I have listed them in somewhat of a great circle to help you stay oriented, but you will not be able to visit all of them in one day. I suggest that you mark them on a paper map or chart for later reference.
Check out these places too.  Not really must see places but exploring and gunkholing places.  little coves and back doors

#1 Spend at Least Half a Day at Friday Harbor

While technically not off the beaten path, nor seldom visited, Friday Harbor must be listed. If you only have time for one choice, make it a visit to Friday Harbor, even if just for a few hours. Arrive around noon when marina slips are being vacated from the day before. Walk up the stairs and go to the whale museum. Circle Spring Street and the core area on foot, and visit the many boutiques, bistros, and souvenir shops. If you stop by on a Saturday, there is a Saturday Market at the Brickyard. Shop at Kings Market for all you need for a special meal on board or choose from one of the many restaurants all within a short walk. Walk to the end of Spring Street landing pier and look at the local sea creatures in the huge saltwater aquarium.

While out on the wharf, watch seaplanes land and take off. Stay long enough to watch a 460-foot, 5,000-ton ferry expertly pull into the terminal next to you. Check your watch; you don't want to miss the sunset bus tour to Lime Kiln Point State Park. San Juan Transit van/bus loads alongside the ferry terminal parking lanes and leaves promptly each evening one hour before sunset, delivering passengers to Lime Kiln Park parking lot in time to watch the sun set over Vancouver Island and Haro Strait. Be sure to bring your camera; you may be fortunate and catch an Orca breaching in the evening sun. San Juan Transit will have you back to Friday Harbor in time for your late dinner.

Spring street Friday Harbor
Spring Street (main st) Friday Harbor


Lime Kiln Lighthouse
Lime Kiln Park Lighthouse

The next morning, if you have an inkling to go for a free ferry ride, check the schedules and go as a foot passenger. Simply walk on, using the foot passenger lane, while cars are being loaded. Eat breakfast onboard, ride to Orcas Landing, do some shopping, and then ride the opposite direction ferry back to Friday Harbor.

If you are more adventurous, bring your bicycle and spend the day riding around Orcas, Lopez, or Shaw Island; your boat will be waiting in your slip when you return. Ferry rides for foot and bicycle riders are free in the inner islands. There is a fee only when departing from Anacortes.

7/14/2023

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  >>

7/13/2023

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

11/11/2022

Eight places in the San Juans where you can dent your pride and check your ego

        Someone famous once wrote, "I only worry near shore because that is where the shallow water is."  Okay, I don't remember exactly what I read but you get the idea.

        In the San Juan's we are pretty much always near shore (it's not that big an area) so should we worry all the time?  No! We should pay attention using our heads and our tools.

      All the rocks, reefs and shallows are marked on charts, the especially egregious places have buoys, signs, sticks and posts out in the water.   Of course with storms, high tides, poor maintenance, things go missing, so we are back to paying attention and using the old noggin.

       Once not too long ago we were motoring in flat mirror perfect water at about 7 knots in twenty feet of depth.  Up ahead I saw a disturbance (some itty bitty  ripples) I glanced at my chart plotter and saw nothing alarming, nevertheless as we neared the ripples I braked and prepared to go full astern.

         While watching the depth gauge,  suddenly -- there it was -- the depth dropped to six and then four -- and we came to a halt. (no we didn't hit) I stopped, turned and went around the shallow spot.

Worst places in the San Juans for rocks and running aground
on watch

Here is a list of potentially problem spots where you could easily relax your vigilance and get hurt.


read more - click here

11/06/2022

Top Things to do and Places to go in the San Juan Islands

Discover the top places to go and the best things to do by boat in the San Juan Islands. 

The difference between a truly wonderful vacation and a ho-hum boat ride is the memorable experiences and special places visited along the way.  These are some of our favorite haunts and things to do.  Maybe some will become your favorites as well.  

  • Matia Island one-mile loop trail:  This easy one-mile loop immerses you deeply into the shaded forest the minute you take your first steps. Towering trees, oversized ferns, and thick mosses line the trail.  Our first walk many years ago was so serene and calming that even our young kids were quiet and talked in whispers.  Matia Island pictorial
  • Pygmy deer on Jones Island:  The northwest is full of wildlife and deer are everywhere, or so it seems sometimes.  However, apparently, the many deer on Jones Island have developed to a much smaller size. Even the older bucks with big racks are only about waist-high.  Many of the deer are tame, and some are downright annoying.  One time a deer met me at the water's edge as I came ashore in the dinghy.   Several times deer have joined us around our campfires looking for handouts and letting the kids rub their heads and pet them.  I remember once a spike kept crowding too close to the fire, he was intent on getting at a bag of corn curls. It is against park rules to feed the animals so I don't know how they learned to expect treats from boaters.  Jones Island deer
  • While Deception Pass isn't located within San Juan County, any boating enthusiast would be remiss not to include it in their cruising itinerary. In fact, Cornet Bay, with its well-facilitated ramp, serves as a prime launch point for those embarking on their nautical adventures. But, here's a piece of advice – don't just launch and rush through; take the time to savor the breathtaking scenery.

    Consider planning part of your voyage around the four daily occurrences of slack tide. At slack tide, the turbulent waters temporarily calm, providing an excellent opportunity for exploration. A mere quarter-mile beyond the pass, still within the park's boundaries, you'll discover Sharpe Cove. Here, you can moor your vessel at the floating dock, and at the head of the ramp stands the remarkable Maiden of Deception Pass.

    This extraordinary statue, carved from a towering cedar tree, stands at an impressive twenty-five feet. It portrays a Samish woman gracefully holding a salmon aloft. The story it tells is one of unwavering sacrifice, representing a Native Indian woman who risked her life to ensure her people would never go hungry. It's a powerful testament to the deep connection between the indigenous people and the land.

    Just a stone's throw from the Maiden lies Rosario Beach, a renowned tide pool area. It's a place where nature's wonders are on full display, offering an opportunity to observe a rich variety of marine life and coastal ecosystems up close. So, when charting your course through these waters, ensure you dedicate some time to exploring Deception Pass and its fascinating surroundings. The remarkable beauty and cultural significance of the area are sure to leave a lasting impression on any adventurer. Deception Pass

  • Did you notice?
    •  As a writer wannabe, I enjoy playing with words. Lately, I have been kicking around artificial intelligence.  The next passage and the preceding passage were passed through an AI program.  I supplied the basic information, the fluffy language, not so much, enjoy.
  • The Swinomish Channel, a hidden gem for seasoned boaters, provides a picturesque and relaxing alternative to the sometimes turbulent waters of Deception Pass. Many visitors who park long-term at the  Cornet Bay boat ramp in Deception Pass Park, myself included, choose to embark on this delightful detour. When heading out, instead of veering right into the unpredictable waters of the Strait of Juan de Fuca and Rosario Strait, consider retracing your route for a few miles and setting a course through the serene Swinomish Channel. This not only offers a respite from the challenges of the Pass but also shields you from the often encroaching fog in the Straits. As a delightful bonus, you can make a pit stop at the charming town of La Conner. Nestled along the banks of the channel, La Conner welcomes boaters with open arms. The town offers four docks, perfect for short-term or overnight stays. A leisurely stroll along the charming boardwalk presents a plethora of quaint shops, inviting bistros, and even a provision store for all your needs.So, when charting your course, why not opt for the scenic great circle route, meandering through the Swinomish Channel? Along the way, take in the breathtaking scenery, and don't forget to treat yourself to a delectable ice cream cone at La Conner, making your journey all the more memorable.  (not bad, but not me)
  • The San Juan's are full of hikes, walks, and places to explore and I'm not going to list all of them on Sucia, Stuart, Matia, James, Jones ...  But two hikes beckon me back again and again because they reward me, not just exhaust me.  Hiking to the top of *Eagle Bluff on Cypress and the top of  *Youngs Peak, aka Young Hill at English Camp. Both hikes are thigh burners and just plain hard work. Both are short and intense, we pace ourselves, rest, and keep coming back.  The summit views are worth it. Bring cameras and water.  Go to this link and then scroll down to #7 and #9
  • Use your dinghy, kayak, or paddleboard to explore Echo Bay:  Sounds simple enough and you probably already plan to,  but I suggest you go to Ewing Cove at the far northeast end of Echo Bay. You can sneak in with your big boat but using the dinghy allows you to paddle through some narrow slots and get up close to some cool cliffs and rocks.  You can even go ashore to use the privy, have a campfire, or drop off passengers who want to make the long hike back through the woods to Fossil Bay.  Ewing Cove has two buoys and is at the far north end or point of Echo Bay on Sucia Island.  Watch for rocks, follow your chart, watch the sounder, and go slow.
  • Sculpture Park at Roche Harbor: I don't believe the park is part of Roche Harbor but if you go by boat, you need to get a slip at the marina or anchor and go ashore at a dinghy dock.  Once on shore, walk uphill past the pool and cabins, and cross the road, you can't miss it. It's free, donations are welcome.  We enjoy strolling through the fields, meadows and woods. The unique large art pieces are spread out over twenty acres. Some spin and whirl, some are interactive, and some have deer grazing nearby.  There is something for all ages and dogs are welcome too.
  • Turn Point lighthouse museum hike:  Chances are that you already know about this very popular destination.  Most newcomers will be staying at either Prevost or Reid Harbors and then hike the 2.5 miles  (one way) from the State Park docks.  You can save two miles and an hour by taking the dinghy to the county dock at the far north end of Prevost Harbor.  We usually anchor near the county dock and then leave the dinghy tied to the small float while we walk out to Turn Point.
  •  Moran Museum:  You should stop by Rosario Resort in East Sound on Orcas Island.  You may anchor, tie to a buoy, ask for a complimentary slip, or spend the night.  While you are there make your way to the third floor of the mansion-turned-resort office and restaurant.  The top floor museum is dedicated to the early days of Robert Moran and the San Juans.
  • Friday Harbor music on the promenade:  The short promenade that runs between the marina office and main street is a small city park.  Most summer weekends the stage is filled with musicians entertaining cruisers and locals.  It is lots of fun and free,  Music will drift out on the dock to your boat but not if you are somewhere else.  When planning your travels, plan Saturday at Friday Harbor.  
Your interests will vary from ours, so this list may not be perfect for you. I suggest that you search this website, you may discover the perfect idea. (and don't worry about any AI content leading you astray I check it for accuracy)
Turn point lighthouse museum
Turn point museum at the lighthouse











12/17/2021

Troubling winter time thoughts

       Dinghy's, tenders, shore boats come in a dizzying array of shapes and sizes, and the on going "best dinghy" argument is far from complete in my limited mind.

But right now now I'm wondering if the pointy end of a dinghy is really needed.  I mean the part that is normally above water.

So here's the question, when comparing a 8' pointed dinghy to a 8' blunt nosed dinghy (some call them prams, others punts) do they both have the same load capacity? rowing, sailing ability?  I think if you take a 8' flat nosed dinghy and add back what it would take to make a decent pointed end you would in essence then have a 9.5' (give or take some inches)  pointed dinghy. Am I missing something here?

If I'm correct, it means a flat nosed dinghy of a given length may actually be a bigger boat (other issues and factors being equal) than a pointy dinghy of the same length overall. Right!
I think carried to extremes this line of thinking means a rectangle boat  is bigger, followed by a square boat as being the best shape for big loads. So a barge may be the shape it is for good reason.

So this brings me full circle  back to my earlier thought, is the pointy end of a dinghy really needed, or does it just make it a smaller boat?
Dinghy and Sunset at Matia Island in the San Juans, with Sucia and Echo bay in background


I'm am really looking forward to summer.


10/12/2020

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

5/16/2020

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.
                    Pros:
      • 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
                    Cons:
      • crowds sometimes
      • long ways back to the mainland
      • open to north wind
      • no bicycle trails
         2.   Matia Island never disappoints us.

                 Pros:
      • 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

    5/02/2020

    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





    4/28/2019

    First Timers Guide to the San Juan's

    Matia Island, San Juan Islands travel cruise itinerary
    Matia Island
     

      From time to time I refresh my thinking and remember our first visit more than twenty years ago. Specifically what a pain it was not knowing the simplest answers to questions many of us take for granted today. This post is written to help new cruisers headed to the San Juan's needing the same simple answers we needed.

         I define the San Juan cruising area not by county or even country, but rather by places we want to visit and spend some time. But that also means, places we have the capability to get to without too much effort or time.  So that being stated, I think of Port Townsend and Deception Pass Park (Cornet Bay), and Swinomish Channel as our loosely defined southern boundary.  I think of Vancouver BC and Nanaimo as our northern most point, and everything in between Vancouver Island and the mainland completing the east west box. Keep in mind, with a day or two extra, you can run down to Olympia or up to Princess Louisa Inlet, but for this discussion, we are sticking to the core San Juan Island area and what you need to get there.


    Basics

    • You need a boat, but you can rent a sail or powerboat in Anacortes or Bellingham if you prefer, and it doesn't take much experience to qualify.
    • Size matters, bigger is more comfy, costly and feels imminently safer in a storm. As size goes up, so do your skill requirements. Once past about thirty five feet you will find you don't fit at some docks and fuel burns at over twenty five gallons an hour. Smaller is  better at times. Eighteen foot ski and fishing boats or day sailors are very easy to get in and out at virtually all places but with all your food and gear, you will be crowded on board.  Above all - don't let your lack of a perfect boat cause you not to go. Take what you have, you can make it work.
    • Bring a dinghy, even a two person inflatable kayak is okay.  You need a way to get to shore where there are no docks. You don't have to carry the dinghy on board, you can tow it everywhere you go. Yes you can beach your runabout and let the tide leave you dry but bringing a dinghy is so much easier.
    • Sleep on board, at anchor, at the dock, or in the many park campgrounds. (there are about twenty marine campgrounds, you can camp at a different park every night) If preferred, you can spend every night at a marina or resort and sleep on shore.
    • The best weather will be in July and August, but the shoulder seasons have less people and okay weather too.
    • I suggest you plan a week, but you can make a weekend work.  If you have a comfortable all weather boat, spend the summer.
    • If you rent, don't forget you have to park your car(s) If you trailer, plan on a daily parking fee of around $12.  (Squalicum Harbor in Bellingham is free, even long term)
    • See this posting for launch ramps. ---launch ramps with long term parking  This is probably the only real planning decision you need to make before you go, but we have changed our planned take off point as we drove up the highway.  Do not start your San Juan cruise down south in Olympia, Seattle or Everett or Port Townsend or Port Angeles. If you do you will spend much of your time motoring long distances (both ways) My advice is to start in Bellingham or Anacortes using one of the ramps from the list above.
    • You need with you on the boat, a chart, or you will get lost, count on it. You should have a list of parks, marinas and resources preferably marked on your navigation chart. Get this chart. Noaa # 18421  -  We use noaa chart # 18421 you can see it by clicking here or anywhere charts are sold.  Navigation charts do not show what's on shore, (roads, city's, marinas, parks, etc) so we carry a highway map as well.
    • Don't run out and buy an expensive chart plotter. At minimum, you need a paper chart, a  portable GPS and a compass, your smart phone will probably do.  All boats need a depth sounder or you are risking an expensive grounding.

    • Sample itinerary:  #1. Begin at Squalicum Harbor in Bellingham (open 24/7).  2. Head for Friday Harbor and get a slip for your first night or every night (they take reservations).  3. Use Friday Harbor as your base, returning every night to your own slip with power, water, restrooms, on shore restaurants and entertainment. This plan will work for virtually all boaters regardless of  gear, experience or creature comfort requirements. None of the Marine State Parks have reserve-able docks or anchor buoys, everything is first come first gets it. This means you should plan on anchoring and using your dinghy,  it also means when someone pulls out you may grab the spot at the dock. Rafting is the term  used when several boats tie together at anchor or the dock.
    • Sample itinerary:  #2. Begin at Squalicum again but this time head for Matia or Sucia. Next, Jump over to Stuart and then Roche Harbor or Jones, then to Friday Harbor, then Fisherman Bay. This itinerary will make sure you have a shower and food store available (Roche and Friday) when you really need and want both.  
    • Fuel is readily available but you should try to have a minimum range of seventy five miles just to be sure should you encounter adverse conditions.
    • How many days you spend at each park is up to you, your car and trailer will be waiting in the free parking lot when you circle back to Bellingham.

    • Get my San Juan Islands Cruise Guide, it  has all the parks, marinas, fuel, resources, phone numbers, etc. and is written specifically for visitors coming by boat. My companion book, the San Juan Islands Travel Guide is written for visitors coming by car or boat.
                  San Juan Islands Cruise Guide     -----   San Juan Islands Travel Guide
             Don't be cheap, the books cost less than a meal and will pay for themselves in saved frustration,  making your cruise a real success.
    • Lastly, I can't address everything you may want to know in a single post, so I suggest you search this site and read some more articles. There are several with detailed day by day itineraries. Next, after becoming more knowledgeable about what and where you want to go and do, set aside a week and go. It really is that easy. The central cruising area is small enough that you can completely change your plans on the fly. You don't need reservations, you don't need a plan, you don't even need to bring food, just grab your gear and boat and hit the road. OH - bring some cash for, fuel and park fees and that food I just said you don't need.
    If you happen to see us on Kraken somewhere, please say hello. We hope to be anchored in Fisherman Bay for the Lopez Island 2019 4th of July show.

    John and Linda
                  feel free to use the e-mail contact form with your questions





    4/23/2018

    Is Squalicum Harbor in Bellingham the best way to get to the San Juan Islands? - YES!


         Places to go, and places to travel are easy to find in the San Juans.  For me cheap travel is part of the deal.  What can be less expensive than going on a cruise with your own boat, it's like having your own condo rental or vacation house with you all the time. Okay maybe boat camping is a little squeezed, but the big problem is, where do you launch, and where do you leave your car for a week or more?   Squalicum Harbor in Bellingham is a resounding first choice and parking is free, no others come close for time, distance, convenience, facilities, none in my opinion.!
    Squalicum Harbor launching ramp in Bellingham, Wa

    Squalicum Harbor launching ramp chart map



         Marked on the chart above with red dots is a four lane two float all tide modern 24/7 ramp, parking, and the overnight visitor docks. The parking lot is huge and they have an overflow lot too. Fresh water wash down hoses are free for you to use.  Ramp fee is $5 and there is no parking fee, that's right it's free, even long term is free. How cheap can you travel, ( I mean less expensive) Next to the parking area is a restaurant, 24 hour bathrooms, and showers. Across the street is a marine store.  Out on the floats, they have transient boater dock space.  Payment is self serve at the automated kiosks.

          You may think by looking at maps that Bellingham is far from the Islands, but it is actually the closest jump off point for travel to Sucia, Matia, Patos and Stuart.  For those camping and traveling on a budget it's your only choice.link to really great map with parks marked, click here

    3/10/2018

    Victoria Cruise Itinerary and Customs at Roche Harbor

    Note: this  is a very old post I am re-posting so some prices will be off.

    Suggested Cruise to Victoria BC with Whale Watching
     and San Juan Islands Stop Overs
    This article is for first timers to the San Juan Island area and has the answers you may be looking for.  Timeless advice to make your first trip a fun success.
    • places to launch and stay on your boat
    • distances between stops
    • customs and immigration
    • alternate planning
    • what to expect
    • basic boating information 
    Study this map and familiarize yourself with names and places. 
     (Find Victoria, Roche Harbor, Swinomish Channel, Deception Pass)
    Map showing Victoria Canada, San Juan Islands, Roche Harbor, Friday Harbor, Squalicum Harbor, Anacortes





    Lets start this Cruise at Cornet Bay in Deception Pass State Park
    (Your going to Canada and back, did you remember to bring your passports and Children ID's? the rules are changing)


    Cornet Bay boat ramp in Deception Pass park

    Boat launch at Cornet Bay (Deception Pass)

    Day one, you arrive at Deception Pass and its probably late in the day and your tired, so lets plan on spending the night right here  on the boat securely tied to the dock at Cornet Bay.  You will pay a launch fee and $10/day parking, plus 50 cents a foot for spending night at dock. Pay at the self serve kiosk. If your not sure of when your coming back simply estimate, leave a note explaining, the ranger will understand.  The ramp is very good, all tide. The parking is huge, you will not have a problem.
          There is a park store, but you should have done your provisioning in Anacortes.


    Deception Pass bridge

    Heading westward facing an incoming current, (another ten minutes and we wouldn't have the speed to overcome the 7+ mph current)

    Day two, leg #1, our destination is Friday Harbor, but first you must time the pass.  You should already be familiar with the tide levels and  times at Deception Pass (download a page from any of of dozens of sites including NOAA) so cast off at high or low tide. You can be  half an hour early or late, this gives you a one hour window. (it takes just ten minutes to reach the pass from the dock)  If you are catching a falling tide (current is going out to sea) you can be very late but standing waves may scare you and the crew as you take a fast sled ride and shoot out into the Strait of Juan De Fuca.  If you are late and  head out on a rising tide, your boat may not have enough speed to overcome the in rushing torrent, and your stuck until the next slack water. The pass is not a problem, it is narrow with fast water for only about 250 feet, but slow sailboats can  meet their match every four to six hours.


    read more

    12/26/2017

    Five Things Everyone Should Know Before Cruising the San Juan Islands

    Fun Observations and Frivolous Knowledge  for 

    All Boaters new to the San Juan's (repost)

    #1 Hugely fluctuating water levels   (tides)

    The San Juans have high and low tides every day, some very high, some very low. This means you will need to be prepared to deal with going ashore at locations lacking floats.  The easiest solution is to bring a dinghy; if you don't have a dinghy I suggest you buy a cheap inflatable boat or 2 person kayak for around $75.  Once in the San Juans most people simply tow the dinghy everywhere they go, or deflate and stow it away. Those of you going in a ski boat or skiff may be thinking you can beach your boat, which will work, but only for a few minutes. On a falling tide in ten minutes your boat may be high and dry, unless you can carry it, your stuck until the tide comes back up. On a rising tide your boat will float away while you're on shore.  Since your going to anchor in six feet of water at low tide you will need one hundred feet or more of anchor rode to accommodate a ten foot plus increase at high tide. Smart boaters bring two anchors and rode and a dinghy they can carry up above high tide.
    San Juan Islands - very low tide at Matia


    #2 Strong Swirling Currents (in places)
    San Juan currents are notorious, and the root of many stories. For fast planing boats you can pretty much ignore adverse current; however slower boats live and die by planning passages to get an assist from the current. A typical sailboat may putt along at 4.5 mph, against a 2.5 mph current their real speed over ground is 2 mph.  Going with the same current their sog is 7 mph.  So a ten mile passage takes 5 hours the dumb way or 1 hour 25 minutes the smart way. There are many prediction and forecast books and charts available and online.  While you don't need a publication, I recommend that you buy something and keep it with you. I would also go online and print out a tide schedule for the time and area you expect to cruise.  CLICK BELOW for Rosario Strait at Guemes Channel
    NOAA tide forecasts
    In a nut shell, here's a simple rule of thumb to follow.  On a incoming or rising tide, the water in most straits and passes flows "north" while during a falling tide the water reverses and flows "south."  When the current hits an island straight on, the water will split and flow around the island usually at a slightly higher speed creating eddies at headlands and the tips of the island.
    San Juan and Gulf Islands Current Atlas

    San Juan Islands current charts


    #3 Weather could be fog  (pea soup is the term)
    You can get lost in the dark, in the fog, or just plain lost on a sunny day.  You need to bring with you a chart, and you would be smart to protect it from getting wet or torn up. I sandwich mine between two clear acrylic sheets held together with velcro.
    Some will say the chart needs to be new and of the highest resolution, which may be true for ship captains and other navigators.  What were talking about here is not getting lost, even a google print out may do the trick.  If you are going to boat in the fog you must have a compass, and  GPS, a portable handheld GPS will do fine and some new phones may do the trick too. (in thick fog you will go in circles and be totally disoriented without a compass) A gps will not replace a compass in rough water and fog, a gps is much too slow  reacting when you are getting spun from broadsides or quartering waves (broaching) you need both.   Many times in the San Juans visibility may be down to 3 or 4 miles and you think you can sneak across some open water to the next island, and you probably can, but if the fog thickens to pea soup you will be glad you have your compass and GPS.  BTW, fast boats can't always go fast when waves and swells stack up. And only very dumb skippers go fast when they can't see.
    San Juan Islands fog hiding a ferry
    See the ferry approaching the anchored sailboat?

    #4 Wind or lack of wind  (sorry sailors)
    OK, here's some bad news for sailors.  The San Juans are not known for great sailing winds in July and August. Out in the straits (Haro, Rosario, Georgia, Juan De Fuca)
    you may get some decent sailing, but inside the islands, don't bet on it.
    Sailing with reefed main in cold weather
    Sailing in April rain with reefed main



    #5 Crowd control   (no worries)
    Most likely you won't have any problems with crowds except on the 4th of July and Labor Day.  The good side is that you will always find a place to anchor, even on holidays, the dinghy ride may just be a little longer for some.  Most marinas take reservations and you may as well take them up on it, but you don't need to.   I suggest you slow down a little and enjoy the freedom of not planning ahead, take one day at a time and see where you go.  Lastly, because this area is so close to Bellingham and Anacortes many boaters are day boaters.  At the end of the day they head for home, leaving some resorts and parks half empty, especially on weekend Sunday nights. Monday or Tuesday are good days to begin your outing if you want to be alone.
    Roche harbor dock on holiday
    Fourth of July celebration in the San Juan Islands at Roche Harbor Resort
    Roche Harbor summer celebration with children

    Roche Harbor balloon chasing contest



    Roche Harbor 4th of July balloon contest for kids in dinghys
    yes, there was room for more, lots more


    Expenses
    DNR buoys are free (Cypress Island) State Park buoys are $10, many park floats are 50 cents a foot,  Marinas charge between 75 cents and $2 a foot. Gasoline is a little more expensive than on land, but not much more.  Food, groceries, ice are just a little more than the mainland but very fair priced overall.

    How many days to plan
    Plan a minimum of four days, but up to two weeks depending on what you like to do. (I like to sit on the dock at Jones Island and read my book between naps and walks, then I make a campfire in a empty tent site and cook Kielbasa followed by a glass of wine. Then retire to my boat for a good nights sleep.  The next day, do it again)

    Salt Water
    Salt water drys sticky and does not suds up well with soap, you will get it all over you and your boat, count on it.  After a week you will look forward to a shower.  Your boat will be covered with salt crystals.  Most marinas have little water and don't want you washing your boat.
    Squalicum Harbor in Bellingham has boat and trailer fresh water wash down hoses in the parking lot.  You should use them each time you dunk your trailer.

    Provisions
    For the most part you will want to provision before you leave on the boat.  Anacortes and Bellingham have all the big stores and each has a West Marine store.  All the resorts and towns have grocery stores, if you drive a fast boat, supply's may be only minutes away, putt putt's should work a store visit into your circuit.  I say circuit because most cruisers will follow a circle of some sort trying to hit many stops.  We find that ice needs renewing after four days, so a stop over at Friday Harbor, Deer Harbor, Roche Harbor, Blakelys, or Orcas landing fills the bill.  All these places  except Orcas, have gas and showers.  Showers will cost a handful of quarters so be quick or be poor. Cold showers are free. Lopez Village has free showers but no dock so you will need a dinghy.how to dinghy to Lopez village

    Garbage
    All the parks are pack it in and pack it out, the marinas have dumpsters.  If you are new to boat camping you will find garbage to be a pain because you are not used to storing everything in your boat.  Little things like empty water bottles suddenly take space you don't have.  You must give careful thought to what you are bringing, and the garbage it will generate.  We don't use disposable bottles, minimize pop consumption, and try to have campfires to burn burnable trash.  It is against the law to toss anything, (even a apple core) in the water.

    Animals
    Your dogs must be on a leash, period, everywhere.  Raccoon's are on all islands and will climb right into your boat or kayak in the day time if you let them.  Deer are all over too, but they shy away, except on Jones Island where you can hand feed them.
    Otters live under most floats and docks, they will crawl all over your boat, get into things and make a mess.  Otters also will mark their territory by pooing on your stuff, dock lines are a favorite.

    Bathrooms
    All the parks have nice composting toilets, (each island mentioned for overnight is a park) the rangers service all parks on a regular basis.  You will be pleasantly surprised at how clean the facilities are.

    Where to go:
    Your destination is simply that, its the journey getting there and the experiences on the way that make a trip a wonderful vacation. Try the links below for some Island Park descriptions.

    Emergency's 
    Bring your cell phone and charger, bring at least a portable handheld marine radio, bring basic first aid kit, call the Coast Guard, they can be there pretty fast, or arrange for vessel assist on your credit card, bring a friend with a similar boat, then you can help each other.