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11/18/2012

Bowman Bay, Sharpe Cove, and Rosario Beach at Deception Pass State Park are not a - drive by- dock on the way to the San Juan Islands

       Lots of boaters know where Bowman Bay is located but just go right on by without stopping.  It's an easy place to skip because you're always on your way to somewhere, somewhere else. Most of the time for us we're heading through Deception Pass and then onto the San Juan's or going the other way with La Conner, or Puget Sound in mind.  With this knowledge we decided to make Bowman Bay our primary destination. We would spend a night or two, explore the anchorage areas, hike the trails,  have a campfire if possible and see what the place has to offer.
Dock at Sharpe cove in Bowman Bay
This tiny spit protects and marks the far end of Bowman Bay although on the chart it's listed as Sharpe cove.
          For starters it offers Deception Pass with fantastic scenery as your constant backdrop, how can you go wrong?  On this mini cruise we timed our arrival at the pass so that we would not encounter opposing  current and have a window all afternoon to make it through. Our partially disabled boat pushed by an outboard (get-er-home kicker) had a top speed of 5 mph, so once committed to shooting the gap so to speak, we knew we weren't coming back, at least not for awhile.

Bowman Bay trail in deception pass park
The trail runs along the shore for all of Bowman Bay, or you may hike up to the bridge and beyond to explore the rest of Deception Pass Park

Bowman Bay is part of Deception Pass State Park.  It's on the outside of the pass, on the north side of the bridge, so this means it is subject to the whims and tantrums of the Strait of Juan De Fuca. To clarify -- fog, waves and swells may be part of the cruise, but on our visit, flat waters and lots of balmy sunshine were the order of the day.

The bay really consists of two distinct areas, the further in more protected waters are opposite the campground and offer a half dozen or so anchor buoys just a dinghy ride from shore.

At the other end of the bay is a nice but smallish float hidden and protected by a little hook of a point. (Sharpe Cove) We chose the float so we could easily access the park bathrooms and walk to the beach for a campfire. To make room and keep our 5 1/2 foot keel out of the mud we tied up with half the boat hanging out past the end of the dock.

From our float location we walked all the way to the other end of the bay and out onto a grassy knoll called Lighthouse Point, (there is no lighthouse, but there is a flashing green, 4s nav aid)  for a fantastic view of Deception Pass and the bridge.  The hike took several hours and we were suitably tired afterwards but this was by no means a tough or experts only hike. The only comment I want to offer is be sure to give yourself enough time to enjoy, explore, and get back before dark. There are a few spots you don't want to try without a flashlight if it gets dark on you.

Bowman Bay in Deception Pass Park
The wharf is for walking only, no boats may tie up. Anchor buoys are beyond wharf, campground is to right.



Deception Pass bridge from Lighthouse Point
From Lighthouse Point you can see that the Deception Pass bridge is really two bridges with Pass Island in the middle. Because of its S curve shape, narrow Canoe Pass on the left is all but invisible, but still easily navigable during slack water.

Deception Island from Bowman Bay
This was taken from the campground at Bowman Bay looking out at the Strait of Juan De Fuca. That  far off woodsy bump in the middle is  Deception Island.  Sharpe Cove with its little float is around the small point on right side. Rocks out there are charted and  easily avoidable but must be respected.



Lottie Bay in Deception Pass park
It's hard to believe that the still and reflective waters of Lottie Bay are only a third mile from Deception Pass, and no you should not bring your boat in here, dinghy or kayak yes - but not your deep draft yacht.


Maiden of Deception Pass, Rosario Beach, Sharpe cove, Bowman Bay
The Maiden of  Deception Pass is as much a landmark as carved wood can be and is located at the top of the gangway leading from the float at Sharpe Cove.  Beyond is Rosario Beach famous for tide pooling and driftwood.

Strait of Georgia
On a clear day you would see Vancouver Island, but this wasn't bad.
In the morning after a leisurely coffee and stroll exploring the tide pools on the Rosario Beach side of the point, Linda contemplates, what I don't know. The tide was rising and the current at the pass  would be flowing inward for several hours.  We reluctantly cast off and steered into the current. In minutes we were under the bridge and on our way to our slip at Shelter Bay in La Conner, and then home.  Bowman Bay is no longer that place we just fly by on our way to somewhere else.


9/26/2023

Deception Pass - How to Navigate Strong Currents and Dangerous Waves

Deception Pass, located in Deception Pass State Park in Washington, is notorious for its strong tidal currents and swirling eddies. The pass can be treacherous for boaters and kayakers. Here are some tips for navigating safely through the Pass:

Deception Pass bridge, Canoe Pass on left
Looking inbound at what actually is two separate bridges.
You can see narrow slot of Canoe Pass on left side, Deception Pass on right side.

First, let's understand that in the San Juans, Puget Sound, Gulf Islands, pretty much everywhere, there are nasty places where you can get into trouble if you are prone to doing stupid things.  Driving into a storm or wild surf with breaking waves is a mistake for most of us regardless of our boat or skill level.

That being said, the rising/falling  tides cause currents.  Large tide ranges usually mean faster currents. Narrow passes or jutting headlands tend to intensify things. Add to that, strong winds and storms and you get places to avoid on your vacation cruise.  

Deception Pass is very narrow, but only narrow for a short section directly under the bridge.  Consequently, the high current speed and accompanying swirlies and waves are confined.  As you approach the bridge you notice your speed or lack of it rapidly changing making you acutely aware or your boats agility's.  Most sailboats don't have the top speed needed to overcome normal pass conditions on a calm summer day. The water may be mostly flat, whirlpools minimal, no waves and yet the boat stalls out under the bridge with the skipper wishing his 6.75 mph boat could make 7 for just another hundred feet.  Of course going the other way the same boat will whisk through at a breath taking 12 mph.

If the current and wind oppose each other and this is very common, the conditions will be pretty much the same except with increasing wind there will be standing waves directly under the bridge for a short distance.  These waves could range from not much to something that buries the bow and sheets across the deck into the cockpit, making an open boat a very big mistake and a wet thrill ride for sailboaters.  

Slack water: There is no way for me to predict what you will face, that is up to you but slack water happens four times every 24 hrs when the tide changes from incoming to outgoing and vice versa.  Normally during slack water it is flat, the whirlies go away and you can paddle a dinghy around Pass Island.  Keep in mind though that a far away storm can still send swells and waves your way, so no guarantees.  Slack water may last just five minutes before a change is noticeable, up to an hour before things reverse and really get going again.  You can figure that if you missed the window by three hours, then you really didn't care. Powerful, capable boats generally don't pay much attention except when stormy weather is afoot, then even the big boys watch out.

Pass Island: Deception Pass is actually two passes and two bridges separated by Pass Island.  Canoe Pass on the north is quite narrow, not wide enough for boats to safely pass each other. There is a S curve causing limited sight distance and probably should not be attempted by anyone reading this article.  From time to time excursion jet boats will run through Canoe Pass and competent boaters looking for a thrill will shoot through but it is not worth the risk of life or vessel.  On the other hand, I have taken my dinghy and circled Pass Island many times taking pictures but only during slack water.  I remember vividly once stalling out in Canoe Pass with my 2.5 hp outboard, unable to make headway.  I moved back and forth for a minute trying to gain a little ground.  When I gave up and prepared to turn around I was shocked to see how the waves had grown behind me.  A chill of fear hit me because to turn around I would be broadside for a bit and in a very bad place mere feet from cliffs and in an S turn no less.

Cornet Bay:  Less than a mile inside the pass is Cornet Bay. At Cornet Bay is a large boat ramp, transient docks, restrooms, showers, long term parking, fuel and a convenience store.  Cornet Bay is a great place to start and end your cruise or just hang out while waiting for pass conditions to improve.

Bowman Bay, Sharpe Cove: Is just a short half mile outside the pass.  There is a small dock and protected bay where you can wait for pass conditions to swing your way.

Swinomish Channel:  Fog and bad weather sometimes plague Deception Pass and the Strait of Juan De Fuca.  Sometimes, even in summer the weather gods wont line up with the best planned vacation.  If that happens, simply go another way.  Swinomish Channel is about four or five miles from Deception Pass, back towards Seattle.  Going through the eleven mile channel pops you out near Anacortes and very handily avoids, waves, currents and sometimes pea soup fog.  Along the way you can visit La Conner, walk the boardwalk, or even spend the night at one of three city docks or the county marina.

Sharpe Cove float at Deception Pass Park, Bowman Bay
Tiny Sharpe Cove dock, outside Deception Pass

Deception Pass outbound, view from Cornet Bay
Deception Pass on left, current beginning to speed up, directly under bridge about 5mph 
Cornet Bay docks and boat ramps
Cornet Bay transient floats, 3 day max.

In this article I have tried not to downplay risk nor make it seem that the pass doesn't deserve your utmost respect, it does.  Just make it part of your trip, time you passage for near slack water and have a great cruise.


more Deception Pass insights > Almost losing our battle with the pass






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.

8/23/2017

Ten lessor known places to visit in the San Juan's



     Everyone knows about Rosario - Friday Harbor - Roche Harbor and Sucia Island.  Of course they are famous and not to miss, but some of the best San Juan area destinations are much less traveled and even less talked about.  Out of the way places have secrets where local knowledge may turn a ho-hum cruise into a truly memorable event.  I am listing and describing some favorites, feel free to make them yours too.

   Not in any order or preference!

   #1  Saddlebag Island
       At the top of Guemes Channel northeast of Anacortes in Padilla Bay is diminutive Saddlebag Island State Park.

       Saddlebag has only 24 acres, its distinctive dog-bone shape creates two teeny bays. The north one suitable for  two anchored boats, or only one if the skipper hogs the middle on a long rode. We have always been able to anchor fifty feet from shore.  The dinghy ride is short and sweet, the gravel beach is friendly and steep.  The bay catches a little flotsam and wayward seaweed so an aroma may be mixed in with treasures you find.

      The narrow center isthmus holds a small campground and outhouse (newer).  Hiking the shoreline trail is easy and follows a handy figure eight shape affording views in all directions.  Being less than two miles from Anacortes makes Saddlebag an easy kayak destination.

      The waters on the east side of Saddlebag are shallow and rock strewn, circling the island is a white-knuckle event at lower tides. Your dinghy or kayak would be a better choice than the mother ship if you are determined to gunk-hole.

      We stop at Saddlebag for lunch and a hike, overnight if it is late, or just a quick anchor and hike.  We always see something new, and never go away unhappy.

       Saddlebag may only be rated as  five star, you will be glad you stopped by.

Saddlebag Island State Park


   

     #2 Lopez Village


     Stop, don't think that I think you don't know all about Lopez Village, of course you do.

But do you know how to land your dinghy right downtown?

     Many people, go to the Islander Resort or Islands Marine Center in Fisherman Bay and then walk or bicycle the 3/4 mile back to town. That's a long way to carry groceries or walk to breakfast, and you don't have to!

     There is a public beach access to the village just outside the entrance to Fisherman Bay and here is how to spot it and what to do.

      First you have some choices:
        #1 anchor outside the Fisherman Bay entrance, but you will be waked by other boats so this is a short term at best choice. #2 anchor just inside Fisherman Bay (no wake zone)  on the right side at the first corner, or anchor a little further in in front of Islands Marine Center or the Islander Resort.  #3 tie up at one of the two mentioned resort docks and pay the fees. I prefer option #2 because it is protected from the wind and gives easy access to the Spit Preserve.

      Once anchored or tied up to the dock, jump in the dinghy and race back outside the entrance.  Run as far as the  red navigation aid (dolphin) marking the safe entrance to Fisherman Bay and look towards shore, there you will easily spot a galvanized stairway way with switch back and viewing platform.

      Bring the dinghy ashore right in front of the stairway. The beach to the left and right are private with signs reminding us.  We drag the dinghy all the way up to the stairs and tie off on a steel support.

       Once you charge up the stairs and get your bearings you will find you are right smack in the middle of the village.  The fudge shop is fifty feet away and across the street is the free hot shower and bathroom supported by the Lopez Chamber of Commerce (donations accepted).  Another block up the road brings you to the grocery stores.  Sometimes we bring our bikes ashore here or rendezvous with others that came by ferry.

Public access stairs to Lopez Village
Public access beach and stairs for Lopez Village



     #3 Matia Island Trail

        We all have our favorite place, trail, or experience we remember fondly.  I conveniently forget the rainy foggy times, recalling just the good stuff. Matia has always been that place for me.  I once said to a fellow boater that if I was stuck somewhere due to bad weather or rough seas, Matia was where I wanted to be.

         Matia Island State Park is about one mile east of Sucia and a little more north of Orcas.

       My preferred access is Rolf Cove on the west end.  From the dock on Matia, with field glasses you can look right up Echo Bay and count the yachts at Sucia (sort of).  Rolfe cove is cute, smallish, stops most wind and rogue wakes and feels homey, private and comfortable at the dock or paddling the dinghy.  The rickety single pole gangplank and old wood float is quaint, but due to be replaced, and currently holds only four boats.  The bay has room for three or four more at buoys or anchored.

       The second less preferred but equally protected access is a large cove on the far east end, but there is no dock. (The trail is at the dinghy friendly beach at the head of the cove)

        What makes Matia special is the one mile trail circling the south half of the island. Part rain forest, part sea shore, part wildlife habitat, hiking the trail is an experience worth repeating.  It connects you with the island and with nature, it renews and grounds you..  Once you start down the, no dogs allowed path, you become immersed in the island and leave the world somewhere else.  

Matia Island one mile trail is special


Matia Island loop trail at Matia State Park


Matia Island trail near hermits cabin location
For an up close personal look at Matia, check out the
 Matia pictorial here Land and Sea around Matia

      #4 Bicycle Around Lummi Island

      Lopez Island is known as the bicycling Island because it is less hilly than Orcas or San Juan Island, but did you know that Lummi Island is flatter by far than Lopez?  It's true, the loop around the north end of Lummi is a delightful pedal along the shore the entire 7 1/2 miles.   Lummi's lack of commercial development means very few cars too, and the few you do encounter will be locals that generally drive like they live there.

        There are no public docks where you may tie up or come ashore, but there is a public park and beach where you can anchor and come ashore by dinghy.  It is a little bit of work but well worth the effort to lug your bikes ashore.  There is also a cafe and general store walking distance from the public beach.

Here is a link to a post that describes in detail  >>> How to go ashore on Lummi Island

Lummi Island  bicycle ride access point



      #5 Eastsound - the village (city)

       Eastsound is not visited much by boaters, few boats anchor or tie to the county dock even though it is the second largest town in San Juan county. Never the less, this artsy craftsy city is always worthy of a stopover. Eastsound has the largest store on Orcas Island, a dog park, a people park with live music festivals. Summer farmers markets, craft galleries, and loads of bistros.  

       Eastsound's location is great for rendezvous with friends and family arriving by car or bicycle. It is easy to spend the entire day being a tourist and then retire to the boat, a day well spent.

      When you visit, plan on anchoring and rowing over to the county dock with the dinghy since the county only allows short time tie ups and no over-nighters at the float.

      For those of you without a chart, map or gps, Eastsound is at the top of East Sound on Orcas Island.  Simply go past Rosario until you run out of water.  The dock and anchor area are in Fishing Bay on the west shore of Madrona Point.
Eastsound county dock and anchor area
The tiny Eastsound county dock is used mostly for dinghy landing, and is only one block to the village center and the largest food store on Orcas Island.

     #6  Vendovi Island Preserve

      Vendovi Island is a small island on your chart, north of Cypress and south of Lummi.  When heading out from Bellingham you probably steer around it on your way to the inner islands.

       The entire island was once a private home-site, hence has never been developed. The single modest home is where the caretakers live and is off limits, the rest of the property is forest with trails leading to view points and meadows around the island.

       Access is on the islands north end where a breakwater forms a bay protecting a nice float. Admission is free.  This is a good place to break up your cruise and spend a few hours walking on shore or just have lunch in the gazebo.  Comical Puffins live in the rocks of the breakwater and are sure to entertain you.

Vendovi Island free public dock to access Island hiking trails
Vendovi Island float




Vendozi Island




       #7 Fort Whitman on Goat Island

      Fort Whitman and Battery Harrison easily win the battle for least visited and are virtually unknown except to locals. There are no signs, no brochures, no promotion.  Even the state of Washington seems loath to admit its existence or encourage tourism.

     According to online sources, Goat Island is managed by Washington's department of fish and wildlife, visiting is not restricted, although they prefer to not talk about it. 

     For gunk-holers and true explorers, Fort Whitman is tops and it is unbelievably easy to get to and access. 

      Follow this link to a posting detailing every last detail you need to check this place out.  You will be glad you added it to your - must see/do list. Your inner child will love it.

Click here to go to >> Fort Whitman on Goat Island

Fort Whitman Goat Island Battery Harrison on Swinomish channel
Battery Harrison at Fort Whitman on Goat Island


Last on my list of lessor known places to visit are hikes - I mean real uphill hikes, the kind that work up a sweat and you are really glad when you finally arrive at your destination.


#7 Young Hill

     Start this hike at English Camp on Garrison Bay.  Begin by anchoring near the tiny dinghy dock, please don't hog the entire dock with your big yacht.  Wear your hiking shoes and bring plenty of water, your going to drink all of it.

        Check out the interpretive center, and grounds if this is your first visit and then get going. Walk up the trail to the parking lot and then rejoin the trail at the top of the parking lot.  From now on you can't get lost or miss the trail, just keep going up, up, and up some more.

      When you get to the top, it is a false top, take a break and then follow the trail up another five minutes, up to the real top.

        Noticeably absent on this two hour hike are resting benches, use a handy rock or stump.  Perhaps the smooth wide trail and welcome shade trees, make up for a lack, of rest stops, you decide.
view from Young Hill overlooking mosquito pass and Garrison bay
View of Garrison Bay from Young Hill, Mosquito Pass is barely visible,
beyond is Haro Strait, Sidney Island, and then Vancouver Island


        #8 Cypress Lake on Cypress Island

       This is the longest loop hike I know of except Turtleback Mountain and the hikes in Moran State Park which of course are not accessible by boat alone.

        The trails on Cypress interconnect making long and varying hikes possible.  The most straight forward access to Cypress Lake is by anchoring or hooking one of 18+  buoys in Eagle Harbor, and then dinghy ashore landing at a small gravel beach on the south shore of the bay.  It is an easy to spot landing because it's about the only place without grass and muck, plus there is a DNR rules and regs. sign to greet you complete with a free trail map if you are lucky. (don't steal the posted one, that's not nice)

       Much of the trail to the lake is not really a trail, it is more like a rutted jeep road that steadily climbs to about 1,000 feet in a little less than two miles.  It is a grinding workout but not too bad, the lake is just so so,  but never the less a good destination. I don't know about fishing, let us all know in comments if you have fished it.

        On the way back down be sure to take the loop side trail that leads to the old airstrip and winds through the woods past a small unnamed lake that is warm and people swim in.  The once, panoramic view from the airstrip is all but gone as planted trees take hold, but the hike is a good one anyway.

        I strongly suggest that you go online and find a map to print and take with you, my description will get you to Cypress Lake just fine, but the other trails are just waiting.
Cypress Island trail map
Cypress lake hike on Cypress island
Cypress Lake


    #9 Eagle Bluff on Cypress Island

    This is possibly my favorite hike and I must warn you right off that hiking to the bluff is not allowed until after July 15 each year. Apparently people affect the baby birds. Sometimes we plan our schedule so we can make this hike.

Eagle bluff aka Eagle Cliff from Rosario Strait on Cypress Island
Imposing Eagle Bluff 

       Eagle bluff overlooks Rosario Strait giving you great views north and south down the waterway and of course of Orcas Island.  The trail is in good shape with handy steps and a short five foot ladder at a particularly steep section. As you hike you will see peek a boo peeks at clearings and drop offs, but nothing dangerous until you get to the very top, then watch your step and grab the children and pets.  If you are patient or fortunate you will see eagles and ospreys soaring in the updrafts, sometimes in mock aerial attacks with siblings.

       Access this extraordinary 1-2 hour hike from Pelican Beach, you won't need a map the trail is well marked.

     Pelican Beach is near the north end of Cypress Island facing Sinclair Island.  It is one mile north of Eagle Harbor, there are picnic tables on shore a DNR sign and a restroom in the woods. Off shore are four or six anchor buoys. You can't miss it.

Free camping at Pelican Beach on Cypress Island

Pelican Beach



       Follow the link below to a posting full of pictures.
Eagle Bluff pictorial hike

Oops, did I say ten?  Okay, try #10 - Sharpe Cove at Deception Pass
click here >> Sharpe Cove

Sharp Cove, Bowman Bay, Rosario beach, Maiden of deception Pass
Maiden of Deception Pass at Sharpe Cove.


That's it, if you go see these ten places and also hit the biggies like Roche and Friday Harbor, Jones, Sucia and Stuart, etc., you will have years of great cruises.


A critic once wrote:

 "All the author has done is write about his favorite places"  Yes, that's exactly what I have done.
John -

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

    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











    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. 
    Map of San Juan Islands showing rosario strait, Anacortes, Friday Harbor, James Island, Deceptiopn Pass

    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 and long term.  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 directly under the bridge, so you will have a fast current for only a very 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.

    7/18/2011

    Launching at Deception Pass and Racing to the San Juan Islands and Friday Harbor


               Fourth of July celebrations are over, the crowds are gone, and we have until sunset to drive 275 miles, step the mast, launch the boat, and claim a spot at the dock.  This year we are hauling our 25 foot  sailboat, our trusty 9 foot dinghy and an inflatable kayak (three boats, three people).  We are sneaking through Seattle just ahead of rush hour and hope to be in the Anacortes area late in the afternoon, but I'm already talking of changing our plans as we drive along at 60 mph. Instead of going to Washington Park as planned, I suggest Deception Pass State Park.  We had been there before by boat and knew there would be a good ramp, docks, hiking, and  protected Cornet Bay. The only problem would be the threat of fog and nasty currents in the pass. I knew in the morning the current was favorable and fog, well fog was another thing.  I had previously announced that even with our GPS,  we shouldn't be  taking risks in the fog and,  we change plans or wait it out. Another consideration is that at Washington Park we will have to take off or anchor, but at Deception Pass we can stay the night at the dock.  We went straight to Deception Pass this time.
    Deception Pass - Bowman Bay - Sharpe Cove




    On our way to Cornet Bay we crossed over the double bridges spanning Deception Pass, but first I pull over so we can  walk out onto Pass Island.  We get great views of Deception Pass and  Canoe Pass.  As luck would have it a pirate ship replica full of tourists is going through just as we arrive. The ships cannon fires and smoke fills the air as the boom echoes off the canyon walls.  The water is deceivingly calm at slack tide, in another half hour the water will be rushing out to sea at more than 6 mph and the pass will have whirlpools, and standing waves (sometimes, not always) over 5 feet high, and that's just a normal summer day. In the winter it can be dangerous for even large vessels.  I took a picture looking straight down down at narrow little Canoe Pass, tomorrow Linda and I will  fail to get the dinghy through Canoe Pass, not being able to overcome the incoming current.

    Deception Pass bridge on the way to the San Juan's





    Tall ship in Deception Pass firing canon










    Canoe Pass in Deception Pass State Park
    This is looking straight down from the bridge into Canoe Pass at slack water, tomorrow we fail to overcome the current with our 7.5 hp honda on a 9 foot dinghy
    Deception Pass Bridge from Cornet Bay
    Deception Pass bridge is really two bridges meeting on Pass Island, this view is looking westward towards the San Juans.

    This view is from the Deception Pass bridge, Cornet Bay is in the background and off to the right past the little island.  If you come here I recommend you figure out a way to get out on this bridge, It is well worth the hike or drive, unless its foggy then don't bother.

         Cornet Bay is just half a mile inside the pass so we arrive there a few minutes after crossing the bridge.  As soon as we pull into the parking lot it's obvious coming to Deception Pass is a good idea.  The docks have plenty of room for more boats, and the trailer parking lot is virtually empty.  While I start rigging "Sunshine" and prepare to step the mast, Jaiden and Linda walk down on the docks, within minutes Jaiden is back for his fishing gear.  In about two hours I'm ready to back down the launch ramp and float the boat. The trailers extension tongue and guides make launching and retrieving a simple affair.

    Cornet Bay launching ramp at Deception Pass Park
    This ramp is first rate and good at all tide levels, after  launching you can tie up for the night or up to three days at the float. 


    Down on the dock we discover Margarette and her black lab mixture Mackee. A lady and her dog, and their vintage 1937 40 foot motor sedan. We had met them four years earlier when we were on a trip to Port Townsend.  Over the next two days we become friends again even though power boaters and sailors don't mix well.

    Cornet Bay dock at Deception Pass
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     Jaiden is having a such a great time fishing and meeting new people that we decide to stay another day at Cornet Bay. This gives Linda and Margarette time to hike some trails. I get to read.

    Cornet Bay fishing dock at Deception Pass Park

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            On an incoming tide Linda and I take the dinghy and perhaps foolishly attempt to circle Pass Island.  The currents and eddies aren't too bad in Canoe Pass, no standing waves have developed yet, but it is a challenge holding a straight course.  The swirlies are tossing us around so much Linda accuses me of doing it on purpose.  At the narrowest point directly under the bridge our 7.5 hp Honda can go no faster, we aren't making headway and are at a standstill unable to proceed. Briefly I consider riding a whirlpool counter current to gain another few feet, but instead just turn around.  The  run back to Cornet Bay takes only minutes with the current whisking us along. A week later when we return to go home Jaiden and I take another shot at Canoe Pass, only this time with a little lighter load the dinghy is planing along at better than 10 mph. We fly through Canoe Pass, circle Pass Island and return through Deception Pass. Small waves and whirlpools all around us, it's not really much of an achievement, but with Deception Pass's nasty reputation it will make a great story, and is a ride  that only few people get to experience in a little dinghy.  During our extra day at Cornet Bay we were able to study our current and tide charts bringing me to the realization that my plan to whale watch and ride the current northward in Haro Strait would be ill advised since we would most likely not get to a place to moor for the night until 8 o'clock or later. If any problems came up we would be in the dark. As it turned out, planning anything for mornings was a waste of time since every evening a blanket of fog descended on us.  

            On the morning of the third day we had to decide what to do and where to go, and if we were going through the pass we would need to go before 1pm or the tidal current would reverse trapping us for six more hours.  To make things worse some men in a pretty large sea worthy looking aluminum fisheries boat had just come back from the pass saying the fog was pea soup and waves were 6 feet forcing them to turn around. This was not good news, our only  option was to run through Swinomish channel taking us on a round about journey to avoid the pass.  Both previous days the fog had burned off in the early afternoon and the weather forecast was for more of the same, curiously the forecast said nothing about small craft warnings or waves any higher than 1- 2 feet. I decided we would go through Deception Pass then follow the shoreline northward, if the fog or seas were too much for us we would duck into Bowman Bay just outside the pass. 

            When I  announced we were leaving Margarette and some other boaters asked us to stay in touch by radio and give them updates on sea and fog conditions.  We left Cornet Bay and the outgoing current immediately pulled the boat swiftly  into Deception Pass, there was no turning back now, our little 10 hp outboard would not stand a chance of pushing against this current, (plus we are towing the dinghy and a 7.5 outboard) all we can do is maintain steering and go for the ride. The fog is thick, we can barely see the bridge where we stood three days earlier.  It's not  pea soup fog, in pea soup we can't see the bow of the boat and it feels hard to breathe but I know thats just me getting nervous.. Visibility is about a quarter mile so we are not worried about running into other boaters. Under the bridge are 4-6 foot standing waves and we bury our nose into the first one but the water rolls off before it gets near us in the cockpit, the next wave buries us also and the boat begins to hobby horse bringing the propeller out of the water for a few seconds at a time, I reduce throttle to slow us down and avoid over revving the motor. It never occurs to me that we could get some great pictures. The biggest waves only last for a few hundred feet at the narrowest point in the pass, and then the sea state returns to something you could paddle a canoe in. In short order it is quiet, and we are alone in the fog, the bridge is lost somewhere behind us,

            Deception Island is 1/2 a mile ahead and to one side somewhere, beyond is Juan De Fuca Strait,  Bowman Bay should be right beside us, if we could see anything I would turn in for a quick visit. We have to trust our hand held GPS to know where we are since all we see is white fog. Suddenly the radio crackles to life, it's Margarette wanting our report. I inform her that the sea is very calm and visibility is about a quarter mile or less, the standing waves are only under the bridge where expected. We gave Margarette two more reports on the fog as we made our way north along the coast.  I don't know what she finally did, but I think she went through Swinomish channel since she did not have a GPS to guide her through the fog.  We on the other hand continued north riding a very convenient counter current all the way to Skyline Marina in Burrows Bay where we promptly ran aground in the entrance channel right next to a sign reading "shallow water on right side"  Our retractable keel once again saves the day as we winch it up a foot and enter the moorage. Soft groundings are embarrassing but don't damage the boat. Skyline Marina is private and unless you are buying gas there is no place to stop or tie up. We are killing time waiting for the fog to lift, and circle around ogling all the million dollar boats before venturing  back into Burrows Bay.  Finally the fog starts to dissipate and we can  see all the way across Rosario Strait, plus a nice breeze has come up. I quickly kill the motor, hoist our main and working jib and point our little ship at James Island.


    James Island Marine Park
    James Island park four boat float and campground
    Four boat float at James
           We are running on a fast beam reach, and cross the strait in record time, exactly the sailing I was looking for. As we sail along I can see the fog is still hanging south of us, I try to reach Margarette on channel 16 but she doesn't respond. We decide to head for Friday Harbor and shoot past James Island into Thatcher Pass.  Friday Harbor is a bustling little city, the county seat and largest city in the San Juan's. It also boasts a very large first class boat basin. Once through Thatcher Pass the wind falls off so we motor-sail in order to keep making good progress.  Around 5 o'clock I begin to worry that the harbor office may close before we get there so I use my cell phone to call the harbor master to reserve a slip. I'm informed they don't make reservations, so I ask if they have any slips available and he says he doesn't know, but when I arrive I can call security on channel 66a for a slip assignment. We ride some pretty good winds and benefit a lot from some  favorable currents  arriving at the outer breakwater about 6:45 where I radio the harbor master and receive our slip number for the night, I guess the phone was too easy. We drop sails and  motor, leaving no wake, into our slip.  Most of the boaters are enjoying dinner and cocktails, it is a fabulous evening.  Jaiden does a great job with the lines and keeping the dinghy from banging into the neighbors. After all the usual small talk and story telling with boat people (sailors) in the slip next to us we head into town for dinner, the weather is great and were starving. We pass by all the bars and grills, the grocery deli, Chinese food, Sea Food, and find ourselves at a pizza place we had discovered years earlier. Once dinner is devoured we window shop our way back to the docks. Jaiden is having fun running ahead and poking into side streets, a habit that is not setting well with Linda. We meet the resident seal again, he/she seems to hang out near the floating sea food store for some reason.



    Washington State ferry leaving Friday Harbor
    I didn't get a picture arriving so this shot is as we are leaving Friday Harbor, I have about 20 seconds to get out of the way before the Ferry  picks up speed

    Friday Harbor
            Linda fills out a registration card and places it with our moorage fee into an envelope so that Jaiden can shove it in the little slot in the closed harbor office door. That's it, we don't need to do anything except vacate our slip by 1pm tomorrow.  Tonight I sleep like a rock, It had been a long day.  I wake up early when the boat people next to us leave, then roll over and go back to sleep.  Every day starts the same way, we make coffee on the camp stove using our 12 cup drip coffee maker.  If its cold out we set it up inside, if its nice we set up in the cockpit. Later Linda and I walk down the dock to the seafood store to buy ice and watch the seal beg.  Jaiden hauls all our garbage to the dumpster and then we cast off, we will have a small current against us all day as we make our way to Jones Island, but we have a light following wind. As soon as we clear the last wharf, Jaiden and I set the 150 drifter on a pole and wing the main out to catch all the wind we can. I experiment with different headings to get to Jones Island the fastest under sail. Our big drifter is helping us out pace several other boats going the same general direction. I mention to Linda that maybe I should rig a preventer so the boom doesn't pull an unannounced jibe on us. Hindsight is 2020, later Jaiden got a really hard whack that scared us all.

    Sailing from Friday Harbor to Jones Island wing on wing
    Wing on wing all the way to Jones, this is what its all about.

         The bean bag chair is Jaiden's usual on deck comfort zone, unless a sail change is needed.
    We have sailed all the way to Jones, and we could have sailed right to the dock or anchor but using the motor is prudent when other boats are around.  As we motor into the bay at Jones there is no room at the dock so we decide to anchor on the right side where we have anchored before. This is Jaiden's first time handling the anchor. The cove is very quiet and all eyes are on us. the first attempt to set the hook fails, as I back down it easily comes loose. Jaiden pulls it back up as I motor back into position for another attempt, this time I have him pay out enough line for about a 7 to 1 scope before he cleats it hard, but it comes loose again. I ask him if he cleaned it completely of weeds and mud, his answer makes me suspect not. I go forward and assist sloshing the anchor up and down washing loose the snagged grass and muck, I can barely lift it, I think I know why it didn't hook the second time.  I run through the steps for anchoring and make sure he knows why and what we are doing. This time the anchor digs in. To prevent the boat having excessive swing we use the dinghy to set another anchor at about 180 degrees off the first, this will keep us off the rocks and away from the boats at the dock. Jaiden heads for shore in the dinghy, Linda and I settle in for some reading. Later we up anchor and move the boat to the dock when a power boat leaves.  Jones Island has camp sites on shore with fire pits,  for dinner we get a big fire going and roast kielbasa and marshmallows, several other boaters come around to share the fire and join in the conversation.  Later on when it is almost dark we notice the deer have gathered in the lawn area right next to us. After it is completely dark the children have fun walking amongst the deer and using their flashlights to spot the tame animals.

    Jones Island tame deer in the San Juan's
    The next day I get some good pics

    Jones Island tame deer in the San Juan's
    This lady was right next to me and I didn't notice, she never got up, its about two feet 


                                                       Full dock
          When we leave the campfire and head down the dock to the boat it is after 11 o'clock so we fall asleep immediately, but both Linda and I are up around 6 am and find each other on a hike across the island.  Our walks started separately but ended together.  We return to the boat, start the coffee and plan the day. Today we want to make it all the way to Lummi Island where my brother lives.  Our plan is to sail the entire way, anchor off shore near his house and spend the night visiting.  Coffee, bagels and cheese for breakfast, no sign of Jaiden makes us wonder if his head whacking yesterday was more serious than thought.  I've been paying attention to the wind and think we can sail away from the dock without using the motor.  There is a very slight breeze in the cove and much more once clear of the island. I set the 150 drifter and the breeze just barely holds the sails shape even though it is made of light weight 1.5 oz cloth. Any heavier sail cloth would have hung limp.  Since the boat is facing into the wind the sail is back winded at the dock, I cast off the bow line and keep the stern line with me on the dock, as the boat slowly pivots 180 degrees the sail fills correctly and begins to pull the boat away in the right direction. I step aboard and tidy up lines and fenders while Linda steers us deftly between anchored boats.  In no time at all we catch fair wind and leave Jones behind. It's a good feeling when your able sail away and not use the motor, especially with an audience, and much more satisfying than running aground.  

          We  head north around Orcas Island, Jaiden sleeps until close to noon, and its about this time that we begin to loose our battle with the current.  We knew that the current would turn on us but hoped the wind would stick around to make up the difference, it did not. We are halfway between Orcas and Sucia and have about 15 miles to go, the current is dragging us backwards at about 1 mph.  We have eaten our snacks, our trail mix, made sandwiches, drank the water, set the Bimini top to create a little shade from the blaring sun, and stared at the same point of land for the last two hours, discussing whether it was getting closer or farther from us. We drop the sails and start the motor, I quickly check our speed with the GPS, measure our distance and determine we will be about 8 more hours, which is unacceptable, so it's time to change course around Matia Island to intercept a counter current that will swing us right into Hale passage on the other side of Lummi Island. A longer distance but with smart navigation we will get there faster, I hope.  After about 30 minutes I start to question my judgment knowing that the current charts have not always been correct. I then change course again heading for shallow water near shore on Orcas Island, I know that the current is less in shallow water, plus I expect the wind to come back once we clear the shadow of Orcas and enter Rosario Strait. We are running along in about 30 to 40 feet of water when suddenly the depth sounder swings right up to 12 feet, I instantly slow down and turn abruptly away from shore. After conferring with my chart I know right where we are because the chart clearly marks an under water ledge coming out from shore. No harm just a little scare and a lesson learned for free this time. After about an hour conditions improve, as we come around Orcas and feel the influence of Rosario Strait the wind is on our beam. The seas are 3 to 4 feet with an off angle swell sweeping across.  This is very uncomfortable for Linda so she goes below, Jaiden and I really having fun, get the sails up and sheet her in tight, this greatly stabilizes the action as we leap from wave to wave but does nothing for the underlying swell. We are still unable to pick out Lummi Island from the background scenery, we can see the tall summit of course but the tip of the island is blurred with the mainland.

         We are making very good headway but the current is also dragging us south. Each time I tell Jaiden to hold a course steering towards a prominent landmark or feature, I need to correct myself in a few minutes due to the sideways drift. (set)  It's imperative not to steer for the tip of the island, but to steer well above to correct for the drift, otherwise we will find ourselves way south and have to steer directly into the current to get around the island. We are sailing very fast and the boat is so responsive I feel like saying to heck with the destination, and just sail. It is obvious Jaiden is enjoying manning the tiller even though it is hard work.  We have sailed about 6 to 8 miles and cleared the tip of Lummi Island, we now have to turn south into the wind, but with the current.  I set us on a close reach crossing Hale passage, with the current boosting us we should be able make two long tacks and round up in the little bay where we plan to anchor.  I call my brother Bill on the phone to let him know we are getting near, he wants us to call him when we anchor so he can pick us up in the car.  I need to adjust our course so as to not antagonize the skipper of the Whatcom Chief, the small ferry that serves Lummi Island residents.  By the time we close the gap the ferry has crossed in front of us several more times. When we started the passage this morning I knew we had all day to get here, part way here I was sure we would be very late or not make it at all, now it appeared we had time to kill and still have an early dinner. Jaiden handles the anchor again, he remembers everything I told him and we set the anchor very well the first try, we set the grapple anchor off at 90 degrees, I'm not worried about our swing room but the changing current direction every 6 hours or so. If an anchor is set from one direction it may pull out and not reset itself when pulled from the opposite direction.  Bill doesn't wait for us to call, we see him up on the road waiting to see where we come ashore.  The three of us grab a few things and climb into the dinghy, the first place we come ashore the beach is not very steep so to avoid getting our feet wet I push off and come ashore 100 feet further up where we have a nice steep gravel beach.  The three of us muscle the dinghy up into the driftwood and tie it to a tree. Bill says not to worry that someone may steal our dinghy and outboard, after all we are already trespassing on private property.

    At Uncle Bills house we find more deer


    fawn's and mom deer on Lummi Island

    We enjoyed our visit with Bill, but it was the turn around point for our trip.  We did not have anything left to accomplish except find our way home.  The next morning we talked until late and then Bill gave us a ride back to the beach where we stashed the dinghy.  The boat anchors had done their job.  We weighed anchor within 30 minutes and slowly motored southward along Lummi Islands east shore.
    The wind was blowing right in our face about 15 to 20 mph and throwing up spray and chop, we motored as close to shore as was safe (sometimes within 100 feet) to avoid the worst of the waves and wind all the way to Inati Bay where we ducked in and anchored for lunch. Jaiden took the dinghy to shore and explored the area. The beach and shore is private property belonging to the Bellingham Yacht Club.  We felt like trespassers due largely to their keep out signs on the beach. While sheltered in the bay we discussed our next nights destination and what course to be heading. Cyprus Island was too close, we wanted to stay out of the southern end of Rosario due to fog, Linda had earlier stated she would like to go through Swinomish channel as did I, I also thought a short stop over at LaConner might yield some ice cream for Jaiden. While anchored several other boats pulled into the small cove, I'm sure everyone was seeking shelter from the seas and wind.  While anchored I hanked on our 70% heavy jib and reefed the main to our second reef point. I raised the sails before we cleared the coves protection. The wind was still right on our nose so I set a close reaching course that would take us across Bellingham Bay and then on the return tack we would clear Vendovi Island and at that time would decide where to spend the night. By the time we had reached the mainland and needed to tack, I already shook out the reef and switched to our working jib, and then the wind just went away. We have been gone from last nights anchorage about four hours and I could still see the ferry at Lummi Island, we really needed to give up sailing and motor somewhere or risk being out after dark.  We have no problem navigating in the dark, it is eminently easier than fog, but we like to arrive in the day light and take a walk or short hike. We settle on Saddle Bag Island and start the motor.  Saddle Bag is a small 20+ acre Island marine park with a small shallow bay, when we arrive one other sailboat is anchored at the entrance to the bay, by morning there are two more, we circle the cove slowly checking depths and anchor to one side in about 10 feet of water. To check our swing, Jaiden drops the grapple from the dinghy before he paddles to shore. We can see  the people from the other boat on shore by a fire and Jaiden has joined them.  In a few minutes he paddles back and reports they are nice people, we all jump back in and head for shore.  After securing the dinghy we determine again that they are nice people and then excuse ourselves for a walk around the island.

    Saddlebag Island near anacortes and Cap Sante

    Anchoring at Saddlebag Island state Park

    After circling Saddlebag Island we find the sun has set on all the boats but (Sunshine) ours. 

    We talk for awhile around the fire then head back to the boat for dinner.  Back on the boat we discover the water pump switch had been left on, and all our water is gone down the drain, plus the pump has burned up from running dry.  We have a half gallon or so in the cooler plus a couple smaller bottles laying about. We are all really hungry and very cold. We light the camp stove and start cooking two boxes of noodle helper (servings for eight I think) we also light the propane radiant heater, our one big candle, and our gimble mounted kerosene lantern.  Pretty soon we are warm enough to remove our coats. Dinner is consumed rapidly and we are all looking for more servings. It is about now that I discover the kerosene lantern flame is getting smaller and I cannot adjust it, I trim the wick to no avail. Something is wrong, I suspect we are burning up all the oxygen but no one is light headed or feeling stranger the usual. Linda says we need a Canary. To test my theory we set the lantern outside in the cockpit and the flame immediately burns brighter, brought back inside it drops back to half again. We test it several more times and then close the canvas door to keep the heat inside..  I'm more than a little concerned over what we have discovered,  regardless we blow out all the flames and shut off the propane, its time for bed. I sleep like a log again, I wonder why. In the morning Linda and I get the propane heater going first thing, it's a small radiant heater that attaches to the small bottles. The heater is perfect for a small boat, but we worry about knocking it over and are considering some sort of mounting system. We make our coffee using some of our remaining jug water and raise anchor to quietly motor away. The water is flat calm with hardly a ripple, I leave the anchor suspended in the water hoping the boats motion would clean the mud and weeds off. Breakfast under way is coffee and some really hard bagels with cream cheese.  We seem to be benefiting from the incoming tide and I predict that as we get closer to Swinomish channel we will pick up more speed, but I'm wrong, the closer we get to the channel the  slower  we are moving.  I've never seen any publication with  channel predictions or even current flow directions, it seems to not make sense how the water can move out while the tide is coming in. Just as I think about increasing our engine speed I remember the anchor is still hanging from the bow, so I go forward to stow it properly.  Sure enough it is clean and weed free.  The tide is coming in but it is still very low water in Padilla Bay. The channel is well marked and a little narrow, we are meeting a lot of outbound boats, some are leaving  large wakes to bounce us around. Jaiden has appeared in the cockpit and wants to know where we are.  Linda is steering and we are moving only 2 mph, Jaiden and I both tell Linda that it looks like we are pointed toward shore, but she continues on course saying it looks right to her.  I gently suggest that from her position it may look correct, but from where Jaiden and I are sitting, it looks like were headed for land. Linda then says, something to the effect of "you can drive" and goes into the cabin.  Within seconds the boat runs into the soft mud bottom and comes to a halt with the motor still pushing. This is not the first or last time the boat has run aground. But it is the first time we have run aground right in front of a open railway bridge. By steering hard over I am able to use the motors thrust to slowly turn our stuck keel 180 degrees and then slide back out into the channel and resume our journey. Once past the railroad and twin highway bridges we are officially in Swinomish Channel, this is a man made channel connecting Padilla Bay with Skagit Bay.  If your unfamiliar with the area the names  mean little, but you should know that by connecting these two bays in 1937 the corp of army engineers created a nifty 11 mile detour allowing boaters to go around Deception Pass, missing the nasty currents, big waves and persistent fog. Using the channel also allows boaters to avoid all together the Strait of Juan De Fuca which can have its own behavior issues.  To overcome the opposing current we must run the motor at close to full throttle and only make a 2.5 mph over ground, so we of course run out of gas in short order.  I had earlier raised the main sail to help us along and now without the motor, the wind was holding our position so at least we weren't going backwards while I transferred gas.  This is the second time this trip I have filled the motors little 3 gallon tank  from my six gallon container on deck, this is pretty much all we have plus whats in the dinghy tank. Several more wakes rock us as I try not to spill any gas in the cockpit or any where else. As we approach LaConner we go right by the gas dock and I wonder if that's a mistake. The city maintains guest docks for short time and overnight visitors so we slide over and take about 40 feet for ourselves and the dinghy. (we have been towing the dinghy everywhere). Jaiden bounds off the boat looking for the restroom and I mistakenly tell him the wrong way to go (oops, sorry)  A local boat owner working on his vessel says hello, so I mention the current and how we have been all day coming from Saddle Bag.  He says the current flows north for 23 1/2 hours and flows south for a 1/2 hour, and no one knows when the 1/2 hour is. I said thanks, that clears it up. Linda says, that explains why all the boat traffic is going the other way.  Main street with all the quaint shops and eatery's is only a hundred feet from the dock so we join the crowds on the sidewalk to stroll up one side and down the other hoping to be enticed by some irresistible aroma or ambiance.  We settle for ice cream for Jaiden and a block of ice for the boat, and then make sandwiches on board. When we cast off later I think it looks like the current has slowed some, sure enough the GPS confirms we are making about 4 mph, still not good for fuel economy, but better. I could  turn around and buy gas but push on hoping for favorable winds. Some where in the channel the navigation aids reverse colors, because red is on the right and green on the left at both ends. This is not confusing to me at all because we just steer between the red and greens regardless. When we enter Skagit bay we are faced with a straight well marked channel leading us safely across a mile of mud flats, and I remember a skipper a while back complaining how he had run aground here, and he was in the marked area.  Linda is steering while I manage the sails and I can see the channel markers are not in a straight line like the official chart shows them.  Of course all charts have a disclaimer warning not to use them as your sole source of information. (thanks) Linda is keeping a sharp eye on on the depth which is only 12 feet. We are now less than five miles to Cornet Bay and Deception Pass, we have a light wind and the motor is only needed sparingly. As we make our way north four navy patrol boats go by us at high speed, twenty minutes later they return in the same formation only three this time. Judging their speed they must have gone through the pass into the strait of Juan De Fuca a short distance turned and came right back minus their leader. An hour later we approach the dock we had been tied to a week earlier and tie up in the same spot. Margarette and Mackee are gone of course, most of the big anchored boats are still there. Jaiden grabs his pole and mixes in with the fisherman on the dock.  Linda and I go about organizing the boat, we will eat and sleep on the boat tonight, and then in the morning, load her onto the trailer, unstep the mast and head for home. As I motor the dinghy towards the ramp for loading on the roof of the car I can't resist turning away and racing at full throttle, the dinghy planes very well with only one person, skipping lightly over the water. In a minute I find myself without my life jacket heading for Deception Pass determined to circle Pass Island. I think for a second if this is a wise move, then slowly  turn back to pick up Jaiden and both our jackets for one last ride through the pass.  John  July 2010
    Deception Pass bridge from the hwy

    Deception Pass bridge from Cornet Bay