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Solo Circumnavigation Under Sail Without an Engine No Less

      It's true, I have joined the ranks of solo sailors, except before my head gets too swelled I must admit I simply sailed around Coon Island. But I did do it solo, and I didn't bring a motor.  
     When I cast off  that  melancholy mid morning, right after breakfast, heading southerly, I was immediately faced with a 1.5 mph adverse current that began to drag me  backwards. Thankfully my 30 year old, new to me,  9.5' sailing dinghy performed well in the  light airs easily overcoming the current.  Soon I was past the point of no return, rounding the tip of Coon Island, being careful to avoid the sunken breakwater barge. Once around the point my trusty vessel was caught in a spinning vortex that would terrify a less experienced sailor. The tiller became unresponsive as we spun through several 360 degree turns.  In desperation, and trying not get hit in the head, I used my free hand to tame the boom and back wind the mainsail. Finally free of the barges eddy's, we were off on three or four rail down tacks making quick work of the island's west side. 
         Only a few minutes after eating and with no food or water on board, I was approaching what would become the final turn and then a telling downwind romp back to the dock I had left 1,500+- seconds earlier. Letting out the main sheet, and slacking the out-haul there was nothing left to do but bask in well deserved glory as I approached the dock from the opposite direction I had departed from less than half an hour earlier that morning. 

        After handing the dock line to an admiring power boater, I was greeted warmly with, "I see your problem, you have a loose nut on the end of your tiller."

One of two Coon Island floats, on shore are composting toilets, shelter, fire rings, and a few campsites.
       Coon Island is in the Multnomah Channel, a side shoot off the Columbia River. The entire half mile long  23 acre island  is a county park,  (JJ Collins Marine Park)  and my favorite place to overnight near my home in Portland.

       Now that I have become infected with the circumnavigation bug I am setting my sights on bigger and more challenging goals. This summer in the San Juans I will attempt Jones Island on July 5th, but I'm not promising any biggies such as Sucia, and of course Orcas is just a dream for my 9.5 sailing dinghy. ( maybe for Orcas, I'll bring my 2.5 hp Suzuki kicker, and a sandwich)


What is "Current Set" - The San Juan's and Puget Sound are full of potential Catastrophes - Ignornace is Bliss

        Is it really a close call if you don't know about it?  If a catastrophe almost happens, is it worthy to note?

        When your boat is drifting towards a lee shore, but still has two hours before running onto the rocks is it a big deal?

      Ignorance really is bliss, that's for sure.

         I don't know how many times I have almost sunk, no one does, like Donald Rumsfeld once said, "We don't know what we don't know."

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

       Another time, just after leaving Sidney Spit to cross Haro Strait, when suddenly out of the dense fog loomed the green aid marking Mandarte Island.  Once again I had not paid enough attention to the current set and was almost swept onto the rocks.

       And again, once we ran out of gas in the "Narrows" and the current quickly whisked us towards an anchored construction barge under the new Tacoma Bridge. Quick action switching tanks averted an unpleasant incident with just minutes to spare.

     So, I have admitted to three times that I know of, where my inattention to currents has almost had disastrous results.  How many more are there that I don't know about, I don't know.

     My problem is, I tend to watch where the boat is pointed or where I want to go and not where we are really going.

     Ignorance is bliss, but is no way to skipper a boat.

You wouldn't cross in front of a ship making 6 knots,
so why pass barely upstream of rocks in a 6 knot current?


Roche Harbor 4th of July reservations at the Marina

I called the Roche Harbor Master today to see if a slip was open for the 4th of July

The answer was NO.

I was told they hold a lottery in February and I missed it, rats.  Looks like I'll be anchoring out this year.

Just thought I would pass this along.
btw this was 2013



Traveling to Butchart Gardens by Boat - Itinerary - Canada/USA Customs - Anchor in Tod Inlet

         For  us, one of the best parts about cruising the San Juan's is not having to make any reservations or depend on anyone else.  After a quick stop at the store for food, we just go, and then let the  relaxing begin the moment we cast off. Four days, five days, ten days, I quickly leave everything behind, (including the wine and Hershey bars by mistake) all my thoughts are of traveling and  carefree times.

          However, many times my plans are waylaid by life's little curves and family events. Life curves that I have little control over, and family that - well that just takes precedence over my cruise plans.

          Case in point, it took me four years and three tries to finally see in person the flag lowering ceremony held each balmy summer evening at Roche Harbor.  One time I missed the cruise altogether, and another time a boat dragged anchor into us just minutes before the cannon went off. When I did get to witness the entire show it was just by happenstance that we were there, for I had given up and mostly forgot about the cannon firing sundown ritual.  So when this baby replica of a middle age artillery piece blasted a hole in my thoughts, and its muzzle flash lit up the manicured lawn, I was taken by surprise to say the least. Oh I may have yelled or screamed just a little but no one heard me. The blast was not really deafening but very loud never the less, took me by surprise and captured everyone's attention.  Then the returning echoes bouncing off Henry Island from across Roche Harbor drowned out all evidence of my heavy breathing and rapid heart beat.  What did he just babble? (how to relax?)

click below to read about Butchart Gardens!


Where is this place? and what is it?

Hint, its in the San Juans (of course)

48* 47. 337' N   (how do you make that little degree circle thingy")
122* 58. 277' W
(anyone can figure this out, but can you do it in under 60 seconds? five minutes?)


What is the Cheapest Chart Plotter Available - My new laptop GPS is awesome and not expensive

       Not too long ago I posted that I needed a new gps, but couldn't remember why I needed a new one.  Sound familiar!
(update) I remember now, the curser quits moving while it redraws charts and sometimes it takes awhile to catch up, so its not really broken just too slow.

        Anyway I've been shopping gps units and have been shocked and irritated at the manufacturers high prices and total arrogance.

This is the way I see it! 

  • They sell us a product that does the same thing a highway unit does (mostly) for ten times the price. 
  • They then make us buy maps separately because the pre-loaded chart shows the shoreline as a straight line, and small islands are skipped completely. 
  • Then to top it off they quit supporting (selling chips) for older units forcing us to buy all new stuff, and start all over again.

  • And the stuff they make us buy are all in one units called mfd's (multifunctiondisplays) as if giving it a fancy name makes it a good idea.  Well most of us have tripped and broken a few eggs and when they are all in one basket, you know what happens.  If that was too to hard grasp, it means they all broke. It means when your mfd quits, you have lost your gps, your sounder, maybe your compass, certainly your chart. Why buy a paper chart when you have a  $5,000 chart plotter. oh yeah your knot meter too, but who cares how fast your going when your lost. Did I mention radar, yeah for another 5k+ you can get it in the same basket.

  • They're laughing all the way to the bank while we just gobble up their over priced products.

And this is what I did:

  • I bought a gps antenna (usb) and chart plotter program for my laptop, total cost $99.  Of course I already had a  $350 lap top  with a 15 inch screen BTW. (awesome detail)
  • it came with a dvd with every NOAA chart published
  • every chart is the most recent updated published
  • it works great and has all the detail the others choose to spoon feed us $350 at a time because NOAA is where the charts come from in the first place.
  • as a bonus I got chart number one (free online anyway) just a click away as well as tide prediction, coast pilot, all part of a full feature chart plotter navigation suite.
  • and even better I have a copy loaded  onto  my  home   computer  with  a    27 inch screen so I can cruise around when I'm not on the boat.
  • and if it quits, I can send it back to Dell (the lap top) or pick up a new one and load the program on as many computers as I want
Now here's the down side: (none) okay, it is not 3D.
  • I still need a separate sounder. (have two, that's a good thing)
  • and a stand alone compass. (got it) another good thing
  • I'm  afraid I will be keeping my charts handy in case my laptop screen goes blue or battery's go dead. 
  • redraw times are instantaneous, darn.
  • I still plan to keep my handheld, ( you know, eggs in a basket and all).
  • I'm worried someone will break into my boat thinking I have a fancy chart plotter hidden away.
  • I wont have any discontinued phone numbers for shore side businesses in my expensive discontinued chart plotter.
  • I'm sure there must be more negatives.
  • OK, here's one,  my lap top is not designed for salt water use. Hmmm? you know it cost $350, and that's not counting converting to boating units. (I think the boat unit conversion is multiply  7X, or is it 10X.)

Installation was a snap:
Just plug in the usb antenna and set on ledge by window, open laptop and power up.
In about five seconds the red menu box turns black meaning satellites are  detected and locked on.

One last point:
It works while in the car, but there are no detailed highway maps, only main highways on charts. I guess NOAA figures boats will stay in the water.

        I am really excited about this new toy (I mean tool)(nav aid)(gps)(chart plotter)
$99 chart plotter,  that's less boat bucks  than, than, than, well its less than anything I can think of except an led bulb I just bought for $ 8 plus shipping.

This is the pixlated logo for the Sea Clear program
I think you can download the sea clear program for free if you're techie prone. (I bought what someone had put on a disk)


Radio Use - call letters for fun and amusement

       Just for fun I've copied some of those letters and words the experts use. You know the ones we can hear really clear so they don't need to spell it out, but do it anyway!

BTW Sailing the San Juans is alive and well but it's January and 22 degrees outside right now.

For the pronunciation of letters and figures by radiotelephony or by voice over a loud hailer.
Letter Code Word Pronunciation
C Charlie CHAR LEE (or SHAR LEE)
N November NO VEM BER
V Victor VIK TAH
W Whiskey WISS KEY
Note: The Boldfaced syllables are emphasized.

Now for fun, spell out your boats name and say it loud and clear as if your  ( Alpha Alpha Sierra )  was on the line.

 Our current new old boat is  >>> Kilo-Romeo-Alfa-Kilo-Echo-November
What's yours?

If mastering radiotelephony talk was easy - try using flags!


What Does Stuart Island Have to Offer the Boating Traveler?

If you can find the time to visit Roche Harbor then you can certainly pop over to Stuart.

  1. bicycle Stuart
  2. camp on shore
  3. camp, anchor or tie to dock at Reid Harbor
  4. camp, anchor or tie to dock at Prevost Harbor
  5. use the county dock
  6. hike to Turn Point Lighthouse and visit the museum
  7. visit two pioneer school houses
  8. buy Boundary Pass Traders T-shirts
  9. orca watch

Click on the link below then scroll  way, way - way, way, down to Stuart Island for details, chart and photos of Stuart Island

Take this link to the parks page


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.
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.

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.

The wharf is for walking only, no boats may tie up. Anchor buoys are beyond wharf, campground is to right.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.


Submarines have right of way! And the Coast Guard the Navy and anyone with big guns

They got lots of guns around them too. woohoo!

Cutting across the entrance to Hood Canal  on our way to Port Ludlow we were suddenly stopped by Coast Guard and Navy patrol boats.  They were all business insisting we stop and wait, the submarine soon came by at about 10 knots, all the the while they kept the patrol boat between us and the sub as if we may be a threat. (or they were camera shy)

The sub had 12 to 15 boats running interference for it as it headed out. All done very efficiently.

BTW afterwards from somewhere we got hit with a big big wake.

Crossing paths with a submarine was an unexpected treat. The next day we cruised up Hood Canal past the Navy base but failed to see anything worth reporting except maybe a huge sign saying lethal force authorized.  We kept our distance.


VHF Marine Radio Etiquette Rules to follow and how to entertain other boaters

We talked about radio use before, but lets do it again because some of us need to lighten up.

Some of us when calling (hailing) our good buddy's say the boat name they are calling (usually some descriptive name like "barfing good times for all" or "I think I heard enough already" or this true one "om pa pa - om pa pa" try listening to that three times ) three or four times in a row, and if that's not tedious enough they say it clearly, plainly, slowly, enounciatingly, pronounciatingly, excruciatingly perfect. Enough already again, just say it once, normally -- are you in love with saying the boats name or something? Besides you just talked to them five minutes ago, why should all of us have to listen to your ten minute hailing speech again. And then, all you have to say is something like, "Hey Joe, do you want french or thousand Island dressing?"

Now I know its proper to repeat three times when hailing -- but give it a break.

Here are some pet peeves and tongue in cheek ideas:
  • Is your radio set on low power when you call Joe, no one in the next state wants to hear you.
  • How about staying on 68 or 69, 71,72, if you'er going to keep calling every five minutes.
  • If they don't respond, wait awhile longer than thirty seconds before trying again, unless the world is ending it wont matter.
  • Try using your cell phone.
  • If your making us all listen to your party plans, how about an open invitation.
  • Sticky mikes happen a lot,  check yours if your not hearing anything. The easiest way is with another radio. (call for a radio check)
  • Just say the name once--pleeease, unless it really does sound  better to repeat repeat
Okay, I've cooled off some, ranting can be therapy, let's continue.
  • Transmit on low power unless, a mayday call (radios have a high/low switch).
  • Hail on channel 16 and then agree to switch to 68,69 or others for chit chat.
  • Keep your chit chat short, others are waiting and we only have a few channels for recreational use.
  • Btw, radio use (all channels) is supposed to be for operational purposes not chit chat and exchanging dinner recipes. This rule is widely ignored,
  • Btw, did you know your required to monitor 16 if you have a radio?
  • Be polite and concise, then get off. 
  • Hold the mike close but don't yell.
  • You can say over but you dont need to, most know when its over.
  • Over.
  • Roger.
  • Roger dodger.
  • Standing by on 16, 69, pins and needles.
I'm good, I'm done.

Another radio post here >>marine-radios-do-you-need-one?


Swinomish Channel thin water or "A Rising Tide Floats All Boats"

         "A rising tide lifts all boats."  Ever heard this old saying or something like it?  Most of us have seen a derelict boat on shore somewhere, half submerged, half part of the driftwood. Those boats are long past rising on a flood tide.

           Lets think about when that boat went aground.  Did the skipper intentionally run-aground?  Doubtful, maybe a storm, maybe mechanical failure, possibly.  In all likelihood someone made a decision or series of decisions that eventually led to grounding and eventual loss of the vessel. I suppose you are now thinking, that's so obvious, and your post is boring me, get to your point.  Okay,

         Okay, here is a real life boating decision I made that others may relate to.  When planning our departure time from Shelter Bay on Swinomish Channel I consulted my tide forecasts noting that low tide would be around noon.  I also noted that numerous skippers have reported shoaling and groundings within the buoyed channel near Goat Island where I was headed.  So my decision was to delay departure and time my transit so that I would arrive at the problem area, at or after low tide.

          Now some may think that was dumb thinking, intentionally looking for thin water, and waiting until the water was the thinnest, of course your going to get into trouble. But they're wrong, I was thinking if I do run aground, the rising tide would soon release us and away we go.  If on the other hand, we went ahead and left early and still ran aground on a falling tide, we could suffer damage as the water fell further, our stranded boat with its five and half foot deep keel could tip over and when the tide rose we could down-flood before the boat righted and essentially become another derelict.

           So my decision to wait a few hours may easily have resulted in another enjoyable outing, versus who knows!

         Very very sad proof of what happens when you run aground on a falling tide  Nightmare on Swinomish Channel

          Lets see, how does the saying go?  "all skippers have run aground, or will run aground, and the rest are liars" or something like that.

        While were on the subject of decisions and choices. I would be remiss if I didn't expand a little beyond driving my boat into the dirt, but I will avoid lecturing. You can just add your own thoughts while glancing over the list below.

Decisions and Choices we make
  • PFD's "life jackets," everyone has them, but do you insist wearing them at certain times?
  • fire extinguishers?
  • anchors
  • routine maintenance
  • alcohol/drugs
  • second skipper (huh) can others besides you run the boat when you fall overboard
  • checklist(s)
  • float plan
  • non swimmers
  • handling fuel on board
  • first aid and medicines
  • emergency plan, supply's
  • go or no go into poor conditions
  • wake or no wake (huh)
Try adding to this list, I'll bet you can.

It's October and I'm going out this weekend, how about you?


This sites Purpose is ?

The Purpose is to help others by sharing what we know.
We learned the hard way, you don't have to.

     Our first trip started by putting in at Olympia, I thought that was how to visit Victoria and cruise the San Juans.  We foolishly attempted to cross the Strait of Juan De Fuca in the fog with a  truly dangerous and scary massive flood tide sporting fifteen foot waves.  We almost lost everything under the Narrows Bridge at Tacoma when we ran out of fuel. While switching tanks the 10 mph current threatened to drag us under a anchored  barge. (ouch) We paid for reservations at Roche and Friday Harbor and then abandoned our prepaid fees when our plans changed.  We averaged around 10 mph at under 3 mpg  paying dearly for fuel.

     In the end we persevered, had fun and kept coming back.

     It wasn't long before I became acutely aware that there was very little information for first timers and out of area boat travelers with simple questions needing simple answers. We put in at Olympia that first trip because we didn't know any better, we thought it was close by to the San Juans and knew of nowhere else to go. After all isn't, Puget Sound, The San Juans, Juan De Fuca, Hood Canal, all one big place? The simple answer is a resounding hell no! We thought Deception Pass was a dangerous place with massive waves to be avoided at all costs.  We had never heard of Swinomish Channel or Squalicum Harbor, had no idea that wonderful little Jones island even existed.  Things have changed for us in almost twenty years of cruising the area. The simple questions are all answered. Our children arrive in their own boats.  We no longer put in at Olympia unless we are heading for Gig Harbor.

     So, for my enjoyment and to help others I write little tidbits about the area and our good times.  I keep in mind those very simple questions that stump newbies.  

FYI - I have learned enough to confidently write and publish two books - "San Juan Islands Cruise Guide" and "San Juan Islands Travel guide,"  both available at Amazon books.

I have tried to share information that others will find useful, especially  budget conscious trailer boaters dragging along family's.

       Some of my readers will not actually be able to visit the places I write about, so I try to keep articles entertaining,  and include pictures where I can.



Must a sailor use sails to be called a sailor?



A person whose job it is to work as a member of the crew of a commercial or naval ship or boat, esp. one who is below the rank of officer.
A person who goes sailing as a sport or recreation.

Sailor - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
A sailor, mariner, or seaman is a person who navigates water-borne vessels or assists in their operation, maintenance, or service. The term can apply to professional mariners, military personnel, and recreational sailors as well as a plethora of other uses.

1.  seafarer. Sailor, mariner, salt, seaman, tar  are terms for a person who leads a seafaring life. A sailor  or seaman  is  occupation is on board a ship at sea, especially a member of a ship's crew below the rank of petty officer: a sailor before the mast; an able-bodied seaman. Mariner  is a term now found only in certain technical expressions: master mariner  (captain in merchant service); mariner's compass  (ordinary compass as used on ships); formerly used much as “sailor” or “seafaring man,” now the word seems elevated or quaint: Rime of the Ancient Mariner.Salt  and tar  are informal terms for old and experienced sailors:an old salt; a jolly tar.
1.  landlubber.


Sailer - Definition and More from the Free Merriam-Webster Dictionary noun \ˈsā-lər\. Definition of SAILER. : a ship or boat especially having specified sailing qualities. First Known Use of SAILER. 15th century

So, does a power boater even want to be called a sailor?
(how about skipper, and the rest are crew)


Here is my proof "paying it forward" pays off

A while back I wrote about helping others when boating,  (click here to read that post) and someday you might need a little help out yourself, well last month I got help in a very big way, reinforcing my conviction about paying it forward.

Here in a nutshell is what happened. We found ourselves a 100 miles or so and a week into our cruise when the diesel engine quit.  To continue on our way we had our 7.5 hp kicker and 3 gallons of gas which was not enough gas to make it to the nearest gas dock let alone on to the San Juans. After some cell phone calls to my son at home, (he was at a computer online) I decided to run about five miles to a nearby shutdown marina, anchor the boat and take the dinghy to shore and a road where I would call a taxi from a neighboring town 15 miles away (or hitch hike) to take me to somewhere to buy four five gallon fuel containers and bring them back to the dinghy full of gas. Sounds like a miserable way to finish a cruise but a workable plan never the less.
But it turned out great, while paddling my dinghy to shore I started talking with two fisherman in their dinghy, that were just finishing up crabbing for the day.  They offered me a ride, they took me into town, waited while I bought four new gas jugs, took me to a gas station and brought me back to the dinghy.  All this in less than an hour, heck we spend more time watching eagles than this little emergency excursion took. When I fished out a twenty and offered to pay for their time or at least the fuel cost they politely refused.  My response to their generosity was to promise to help someone in need and keep it going.

So "paying it forward" is very much alive and well, and apparently I still have credits in my account.


Things to do - Get off the boat -There are places to go - Bring Bicycles on your next Cruise to the San Juan Islands

       Bicycling the San Juans, may not describe our cruise last month, but we did bring three bicycles, and we did knock off about forty miles on San Juan Island.

At Friday Harbor with three bicycles, and yes the jib sheets caught on the handlebars on every tack.

      Last January I posted a short blog laying out a possible bike/hike/cruise scenario/itinerary that you could use as a planning building block for your own cruise. Bikes in the San Juans  Below is a quick summation of what we actually ended up doing.

      Our San Juan Island trip started at Shelter Bay LaConner on the Swinomish Channel.  We had just returned from a week long cruise into Hood Canal and after one night in our slip we cast off again at 5:30 am trying to beat the falling tide which would leave us trapped at the dock. With just inches or less to spare we sneaked across our shallow entrance shoal and slid into Swinomish Channel, and rode the remaining outgoing current all the way into Padilla Bay.  After a day of on and off winds and then really great afternoon sailing winds we arrived at 5pm and hailed the Friday Harbor Harbor Master staking claim to a slip for the next two nights.  A casual stroll around town, and live local music drifting down from the city's seawall  gathering esplanade contributed to a very relaxing evening on board. Not having tides or currents dictating our bicycling schedule allowed us to sleep in the next morning. Finally with hot coffee in hand, (okay, in the cup) I wandered up to Kings Market and purchased hash browns, eggs and some yummy impulse items to bring back to the boat for a late breakfast.

      Definitely before noon, (but not much) we walked our bikes off the floats and headed uphill, of course it's always going to be uphill when you start at sea level. We used a folded and wadded up, photocopied not to scale scrap of map for guidance and headed for Cattle Point. The roads were without bike lanes, but drivers were respectful and we had an easy ride to American Camp and then on to Cattle Point Lighthouse.  Fortunately the weather was clear and with no fog we had  views all the way to Vancouver Island and across the strait of Juan De Fuca. The Olympic mountains hung in the distance completing our postcard views.  Viewing Cattle Pass from up high was a thrill and brought into perspective what was previously a cockpit level chart image.  It was easy to see why the Americans chose this location to set up their cannons. From our vantage point we could scan the water route all the way back to Turn Island where our boat lay just around the corner.

      We brought cookies and water for lunch, and learned next time to bring lots more water and less cookies.

      There is no road right along the coast so we rode part way back to Friday Harbor before turning towards Lime Kiln Park. We encountered a few long steep grades which required walking for some of us. The cliff side views are stunning and it is somewhat difficult to ride safely while scanning the waters for Killer Whales.  I learned right away to stop if I wanted to really take in the sights. We followed a circle route taking us by the Lavender Gardens and back to town on a different road.

      I forgot and left my camera on  the boat so no pictures, sorry.  The next day we were fortunate to not have any soreness brought on by being out of shape and suddenly biking like we were still children. On the way back to La Conner we stopped by Spencer Spit for an afternoon hike, and then anchored at James Island. We hung around in the morning waiting for the rising  tide which we rode almost all the way to Shelter Bay.

      This cruise, in spite of motor problems (our diesel quit and forced us to use our 7.5 kicker for the entire trip) turned out to be one of our best, longest and most enjoyable.  I highly recommend planning a bicycle/cruise to any of the San Juan Islands.


How many hp does it take to battle the current getting to the San Juans?

We are tied up in slip F23 at Friday Harbor for our second night and since we have free wifi I thought I would let you know what is going on right now.

Rosey in her slip at Friday Harbor marina
Guest slip at Friday Harbor

I can proclaim Rosey has made it to the San Juans, but the story is far from told.
As you know we started in La Conner and made a 160 mile detour into Hood canal.
At our farthest turn around point Roseys old engine chose to quit and we were forced to return to LaConner using our 7.5 hp Honda dinghy motor. After some discussion and a good nights sleep in our rented slip we decided to push on to San Juan Island at a maximum 4 mph and hope the wind would help out. The trip to Friday Harbor took about eleven hours overall.  We had some following wind boost  in Lopez sound, but when we turned the corner into Upright Channel things came to life and we had fantastic sailing right to the marina breakwater, at times our gps showed us 7.1 mph. Every tack required un-hooking jib sheets from handle bars, next time I load bikes I will try to improve the system.

Yesterday we rode our bicycles to Cattle Pass Point Lighthouse and then over to Lime Kiln Park, a distance of about 35 miles.  We had to walk up some of the hills and several jerks honked at us. None us of were really in shape, but today we feel good with no soreness so it worked out fine

Today we plan to head back with a stop at Spencer Spit and then spend the night at James Island while we wait for flood tide tommorrow morning, hopefully the current will  whisk us all the way to LaConner because our 4 mph speed is stopped dead by an opposing wind and current.

Spencer Spit on Lopez Island in the San Juan's
Spencer Spit
Rosey anchored at James island in the San Juan's
Anchored at James Island

So the answer to the "how many horsepower" question is 7.5 hp, but were not back to La Conner yet.
(for anyone that is curious - I switched to a 15 hp Honda and gained one mph in top speed and one mph in cruising speed - imho 15 hp is the correct outboard auxiliary power for a boat like Windrose (seven ton +-)

one week later from home:

OK, update time, first off, the four boat dock at James Island was full so we had to anchor out and dinghy to shore at the kayak campground for our campfire to cook hot dog and s'mores. Anchoring was a real chore, we tried setting the hook three times in two locations before I felt good enough to sleep through a tide change. We ended up with a Bahamian set using our grapple anchor for number two. Plus at Linda's urging I set Roseys antique sounder alarm at two fathoms, I slept like a rock until daylight. We waited for the current change and upped anchor around noon, as soon as we came around the end of James the kicker quit. For a moment I considered raising sail but decided trying to claw off a lee shore was a bad move. We had about a thousand feet before we would be in trouble, and knowing we could quickly drop three hooks I concentrated on fixing the kicker problem asap. Turned out the primer bulb was sucking air because the hose barb was broken halfway through, with a little realigning of the hose it started up and never quit again, but the problem obviously needs attention before we depend on it again. Once clear of James with the wind still on our beam we loosened both sails and made quick work of Rosario Strait. The wind held steady and the helping current up Guemes channel boosted us along at over 5mph right into Swinomish channel where the wind quit, but the current and kicker carried us up to LaConner in short order. With only one half mile left to reach Shelter Bay the current did an about face. Under Rainbow bridge I let the motor idle in neutral so I could measure the current with the gps, astonishingly we were already being swept back at 2 mph and losing fast. We quickly spun around and ran at wot to regain our lost ground and make it into the protected channel leading to our moorage. Luckily we gave our selves just enough time to make it, an hour or so later would have been a nightmare current possibly forcing us to anchor in the channel somewhere waiting for the current change.

Sunrise in saratoga passage sailing the san juan's
Sunrise from shore from Langley on Whidbey Island in Saratoga Passage

All systems running before engine gave up
see the old spinning flashing light depth sounder? (very nostalgic)

navy blockade off Hood canal for submarine
Stopped by Navy for submarine while crossing to Port Ludlow

Lonely Rosey is only guest at Pleasant Harbor on Hood Canal, btw hot showers, wifi come with slip fee

Camp Parson Boy Scout Camp at Jackson Cove on Dabob Bay (Hood Canal)
 We anchored at Camp Parsons and went ashore for the Campfire on Jaidens last night of summer camp. Our primary reason for making trip up Hood Canal was to pick up Jaiden  and then head north to our planned bicycle trip around San Juan Island. In the morning after all the scouts had departed in their many cars we discovered Rosey's engine had given up for good. With only our 7.5 kicker and three gallons of gas our options were limited.  With the help of Quintin in Portland via cell phone, google maps, and an upcoming beer festival for incentive. We were directed five miles to Seabeck where I anchored and took the dinghy to shore.  I then hitched a ride with some local fisherman to Home Depot, purchased four five gallon gas cans and returned with enough fuel to complete our journey.

Our first trip with Rosey is behind us now, we spent twelve days, covered over two hundred sea miles, 35+ bicycle miles, got held up by a nuclear sub, what a great time.

   Here is a follow up about Roseys not starting that morning.  It turned out the shut down lever was still pulled out due to a weak spring or whatever, and after an aggravating but sorta adventurous ordeal I discovered the  issue, pushed the lever, and she started up and has ran fine ever since. So operator error or something like that hits again.   


GPS woes - what this skipper thinks he wants and reality

inexpensive chart plotter and gps lap top
I mean inexpensive

     I need some help, (opportunity knocks) I know our last cruise had some gps problems but I don't remember the specifics.  All I really remember was that I decided I should get a new gps because my old Magellan could not be trusted or was failing somehow. Being a frugal boater and not having unlimited resources makes it difficult to shell out $400+ for a hand held battery eating device I only use in the fog or to measure distance to my next anchorage. I stopped by a web site or fifty and came away more confused after reading reviews from techies, hunters, hikers, and arm chair skippers.  I wish I could just rely on someone to tell me what to buy after hearing my list of wants.

  1. it needs to be battery powered, aaa or aa with a 12V helm plug in
  2. rugged enough to be dropped once in awhile (water resistant too)
  3. day light visible display about 2.5" or bigger (ok a lot bigger)
  4. on board chart for my area (duh) and not an extra $200 fee, and they must include Canada's Vancouver and Gulf islands.
  5. it needs to display nav aids at a minimum, just like my chart
  6. I want a speedometer and bearing readout
  7. I want it to work inside the cabin, or at least by the windows
  8. it needs to boot up in less than 5 minutes
  9. I like my nav aids in color, especially the red ones, but not if it's too many $$$
  10. I want to have local level streets shown for hikes
  11. it should fit in my pocket
  12. it should be dependable, and last, and last, and last
I'm sure I have other wants, I'll add later,
here is what does not matter to me (much) (maybe)

  1. upgrade ability
  2. connectivity to a laptop, or chart plotter
  3. altimeter
  4. emergency radio or locator beacon (if it costs boat dollars)
  5. e-mail, forecasts or anything confusing that is more dollars
  6. more memory for charts of other areas
  7. phone numbers of business, etc if it's extra  $$
  8. mfd, multifunction display or depth or radar, (just go away, your too wealthy for this blog)
  9. floating is nice, so is waterproof but I can pass if more $$
  10. Are we getting an idea that costs are paramount to me?
About gps and the San Juan trailer sailor.
In my opinion you can get by without a gps just like boaters have done for centuries, but it is a really handy piece of equipment, and fun to share info with others on board, and truly a marvelous aid in foggy conditions.  What you can not do without, is a chart, a compass, a depth sounder, pfd's and all the other Coast Guard required safety gear.

I am adding to this post to tell you readers what I finally came up with.
Read about it by following this link >>  My new gps is awesome and very inexpensive


Best Dinghy Beaches (and worst) in the San Juan Islands

     What makes a good dinghy beach? Scroll to the bottom for my number one and number two choices when sailing the San Juan Islands

        At first I was just going to list some features good dinghy beaches share, then I realized San Juan newcomers  may need or want a warning to help in trip planning. So lets be clear, just because a beach is considered a good dinghy beach does not mean it is worthy of a visit and conversely, if someone says the beach is no good for dinghy's does not mean you should not plan a stop over. Forewarned is forearmed or something like that.

       In my opinion a good dinghy beach allows you to get to shore and back to the boat with a minimum of fuss and bother.
In no particular order, lets make a list of likes and dislikes.

  • not getting feet wet getting into and out of dinghy is really nice.
  • ditto for all tide levels, so the angle (slope) of the beach is crucial
  • gravel versus mud is a no brain-er 
  • sand is better than mud, but both track into dinghy and back to the boat (gravel doesn't track)
  • something nearby to tie the painter to, like a massive old log
  • a cool view of my boat when I turn around
  • a nearby restroom is handy
  • not smelling like dead seaweed is a plus
  • fires permitted and driftwood is always nice for evenings
  • nearby tide pools for exploring
  • security is something some spots lack (theft of dinghy or contents)
  • free roaming dogs! or other wildlife
  • how about a lack of bugs and bird droppings
  • what about western view of the setting sun
  • protection from weather driven waves
click on -read more- to find my two best dinghy beach choices


Mooring Buoys in Parks are for you to use but watch out!

Not much needed here, except a few comments.

Of course  buoys  are first come first served and you are not allowed to tie your dinghy to one as a way to reserve or save it. But what are you going to do if you find one with a dinghy tied to it? Set it free! No of course not.

Which brings up road rage or should we coin a new term? how about -water rage- or -cruiser rage- boat rage- island rage-   For the most part, boaters seem to leave their rage on shore, but if you pay much attention to the vhf you may think otherwise.

Back to buoys, mooring buoys are supposed to have a blue stripe, and most of the parks are close enough, putting a stripe on an old tire is a little tough.

Around the populated areas you may find lots of buoys, most are likely to be private, none are OK to use without permission.

A word to the wise, don't trust buoys any further than you can tow them.
Some are not maintained and break loose when you are asleep or ashore.
Some may be in shallow water, or even be on the ground at low tide (check your depth) or have lots of rope, and flotsam dangling from them.  (yes, park buoys)

I think when you hook onto a buoy where you plan to leave valuable property tied up,  you should back down as if you were setting your anchor, but that's just me.  >> read this post  Anchor Buoy breaks free at Jones Island
Some other time we can talk about cleats and rotten old floats.

Navigation Aids (buoys and markers) red/green lights

    In keeping with this sites mission, I thought just a few (all I know) bits of information are in order.
If you're an old salt, skip right past this post, but first timers or part-time first mates may find something useful.

      Aids to navigation are the road signs of  our waterways, and just like driving a car down the highway you wouldn't think of not knowing or understanding some basic safety rules. Consider a three year old driving toward you on the road, OK he can't reach the brakes, he can't read the stop sign, he doesn't know which side of the road to drive on.  Now picture yourself driving your shiny new boat in a busy waterway or dangerous channel.  No brakes, check!, confusing striped buoys, check!, parallel park a boat, oops, check!.  You owe it to other boaters to understand a few rules,or at the very least have lots of liability insurance. Speaking of insurance, does your insurance cover damage to your boat and passengers and the mega monster and passengers that you hit?

     The three R's (3 aaarrr's) rrr. is a  nautical mnemonic you should memorize  "Red, Right, Returning" That's it, everyone knows it, everyone uses it, so should you.
Another cool nautical mnemonic for you is, "a good red wine is port" which will remind you that all boats running lights will have a red on the port side bow, which leaves green for the starboard side bow

    3R's "red, right, returning" means to me, keep the red buoys on my right when returning from sea. So this means keep the green ones on your left. Returning from sea would also be heading up river.  As a practical usage, one would approach and enter a strange marina keeping the red markers on his right. See, already you're keeping off the rocks.  Of course there are a few places where local conditions dictate other rules.  For example, Swinomish Channel has red buoys on the right at both ends of the passage.

    What good is knowing which side of a boat (or big ship) the red and green lights are on?  I'll tell you why but first you need to turn off the sun and go boating at night, next when you see a red light coming at you adjust your course so you don't collide. OK, now what if its a green light is coming towards you? OK, now what if the green light changes to red and then back to green? What if the light is both green and red? I'm just a little confused and so are others. Out on the water these are the signals that boaters use to tell others what their intentions are, and there is no confusion if you remember a few rules.
Remember this  "a good red wine is port"   It means the red light is on the left side (port) of the boat.  Following normal rules of the road you would meet other boats keeping to the right, just like on the highway, so you pass each other red to red (port to port).  OK when you see a red, then green, then red changing again, and again, it means they are turning back and forth. A steady red/green at the same time means the other vessel is more or less pointed at you. OK, now when you wander back and forth steering your boat like a drunken... you can imagine what message your lights are sending out over the dark waters. 

      Some wisdom learned the hard way:
 When navigating in darkness and the lights you are watching go out (as in you can't see them suddenly) it may mean something is in the water between you and the lights, let's see what could be blocking the view. A headland, another boat, a reef or rock, a piling, your crews head. What it means is you better stop or slow down and figure out immediately why the lights are blinking.

Just for fun I looked up some other sayings:

When all three lights I see ahead,
I turn to Starboard and show my Red:
Green to Green, Red to Red,
Perfect Safety -- Go Ahead.

Red over Red The Captain Is Dead 
Vessel not under command

Danger Signal:
Blast quick five
To stay alive
This is the danger signal, to be given if you think there is confusion or imminent danger of a collision.
It's also the signal the ferry boat will blast at you if you're being stupid.

 "I wonder if there's any red port wine left,"  OK, I got it now, red on left and port means left.

Below are  a few buoys that need to be understood

The top band marks the preferred channel

Safe water, the above buoys  may be passed on either side

Stay away, these buoy mark rocks and bad things.
(check your chart)

The below buoys are your sign posts,
 odd numbers on green ,even on red, 
the same numbers are on your chart.
Red Right Returning  3rrr's
The above striped marker demands your attention, slow down or stop
 until you figure out where you are.

Many times individuals will make a buoy/marker out of a jug or old fender.
Do yourself a favor and use caution, there is a reason for the marker, and watch out for a trailing line if its floating free, you don't need something wrapped around your propeller.

If you had a chart, you would be able to spot nav. aids on chart
 and figure out where you are and what to do.
I use NOAA chart number 18421, it has an 80,000 scale. I prefer this chart because it shows most of the area I like to cruise on one chart. You may wish to have a larger scale and more charts
here is the url for noaa chart 18421
here is the noaa index for other charts in the Pacific Coast area

By the way, if you're using your chart for trip planning purposes you may like non navigation charts/maps better.  We find a fish-n-map chart inexpensive and very useful.
Our favorite for planning is a full color waterproof laminated tourist map with topo lines, but does not show depth or rocks.

A warning some boaters don't heed,

Please don't take off anywhere with just your chart plotter or portable gps, iphone, or whatever gadget is popular today. You really need to have a hard copy chart or map. (and a compass too)  If it just sits rolled up in the corner that's fine. You probably don't use your whistle, flares, pfd's, or any number of emergency items either, but you still carry them.


"HELP" I need some comments (empathetic criticizer)

Sometimes you can loose track of the little picture when you see only what you want.

This web site may run into a whirlpool and begin spinning in circles if I am left to my own devices, so I'm asking readers to make comments, and tell me whats working.

  • should I begin including info that's not from or relating to the San Juan area
  • How about non boating stuff
  • more or less pictures
  • more or less text
  • does anyone care about personal projects or ?
At the bottom of every page or post is a comment box, that's where you say your two cents.
 BTW you can e-mail me if you connect some links