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Anchoring at Roche Harbor for the Fourth of July

     Our plan was to leave La Conner the morning of the fourth, then stop for kayaking at Deception Pass, next grab a quick walk around town and ice cream at Friday Harbor, and make it to Roche about five o'clock.

Arriving at Roche we were not shocked or surprised that the place was really crowded.  Being a believer that you can always find room for one more boat, we took a quick tour of the rafting lines and decided to find a place to squeeze in out in the bay. After anchoring and checking out our swing and the swing of those around us I upped anchor and chose another nearby spot, this time very close to shore, but also with a better view. I set two hooks side by side to keep us off the near by rocks should the wind come up. One anchor would have been fine but I slept better for the extra five minutes work.

The fireworks, as promised were very well done, the wind conveniently spun us around so that our cockpit faced the show and the smoke blew away from us.   All in all no complaints.
This pic although lacking something, does convey it was sunset.

Our dinghy is the odd one with the cool wood seat and centerboard trunk.

Roche sculpture along foot path by county dock

More sculpture

No rust, must be stainless steel.

Seeing a price tag with a sculpture brings out the art critic and connoisseur, feel free to purchase.

We finished the cruise with a stop over and hike at Stuart followed by a hot dog roast and  windy night anchored at Jones. The next day we ran over to hike and sail Sucia where we spent a  rather noisy evening at the dock on Fossil Bay. The fourth day, after a quick hike on Matia, and a drive by of the salmon pens at Deepwater Bay (Cypress), we were back at our slip in La Conner.

This was a pleasant, low key enjoyable little trip of about 110 miles.
(I really like my new laptop gps)  read about laptop gps here

BTW, the news Wed. night (three days after arriving back home) was that one of the 85 foot for sale yachts we were all ogling on the fourth burned and sunk at the dock at Roche.  It's really shocking (a little scary too) to see news pictures of a yacht you had just admired, and now sunk with just its charred stern above water next to the dock.


How Long is Your Painter? Does it reach all the way to shore?

You know, that short little rope tied to the front of your dinghy!
This may look like an unpleasant circumstance waiting for our return, but it is exactly what we planned.

Let me explain.  When we arrived many hours earlier at a much lower tide, we beached the dinghy and walked away just like so many other times. Knowing the rising tide would float our boat, and we were going for an all day hike I ran my line all the way up to the permanent driftwood pile, above the high water mark.  Its true the dinghy will eventually float free and may wash up on shore, but the weather is fine and wakes are frowned upon at Echo Bay.
If I was really worried I could have deployed a light anchor that does not dig in, then when we returned I would have simply hauled it all to shore dragging the anchor with it.

So what, you say?

The point is, when you outfit your shore boat you should anticipate needing a really long rope just in case you need it. My current dinghy has a fifty foot floating line, and if I can't reach something solid, I go find a dog-bone shaped rock and carry it to where I want to tie up. Some skippers carry a small dinghy anchor and rode, then simply carry it up the beach.

Having your dinghy float away doesn't always mean you will lose it forcing you and your crew to swim out to your boat.  In popular anchorages someone will probably come to your rescue.

Now this next point is very important.  Conditions at the shoreline may change from flat glassy water to two foot waves in just minutes. A far off storm can send waves your way, or a ship may pass by. The resulting pounding waves may flood your dinghy or seriously damage it.  With this in mind there will be times and places where you should carry your dinghy up the beach to safety. It is very reassuring knowing your shore boat will be there waiting for you when you return.


How to launch at the Port of (fill in name) and the importance of having alternate plans

Never pee into the wind, check.
Never tug on Superman's cape, check.
Never buy a lottery ticket for an investment, check.
Never say never, check,  err-unchecked, err.
Never depend on the marina, check, check, and double checked.

Rest stop on way to La Conner for launching, and then on to the San Juans
In preparation for this seasons cruises I called ahead to the Port of Skagit County in La Conner to arrange for a travel lift launch.  Good news I'm told by the very nice lady on the phone, "We have a forklift that lifts 11,000 pounds and we are open until 6:30 pm."  Ok great, I'm thinking, we can get there around 3 pm and we only weigh 8500, perfect, oh yeah, how much?  "Only $20 or $25 if they have extra work."  Fantastic, for only $25 I don't have to dunk my trailer brakes in salt water, this is too good. (and it was)

Reality, or what really happened:
First the ports forklift  can only lift 5,000 lbs, and they didn't want to even try.  Second they don't have a travel lift, but a  light duty overhead tram with a sling, and again they would not try.

My options are -- go away.

Next, at 3 pm we parked on the main drag outside the still open La Conner chamber of commerce where I asked about private boat yards and was supplied with the telephone numbers for two marinas with big travel lifts. A quick phone call determined both businesses were willing to sling my boat for about $125 if I came back tomorrow.  I begged for compassionate emergency service, explaining I just drove for six hours depending on the ports promises only to hear, "Do you want to reserve a slot tomorrow, we have customers today."  "No thanks," I said.

Plan B, we quickly drove over Rainbow Bridge to Shelter Bay Marina to check out the boat ramp, only to find it high and dry with a falling tide that still had two more hours to go.

Plan C, we quickly drove back over Rainbow Bridge to the La Conner city ramp located almost directly under the bridge.  I asked a fisherman fueling his boat out of a tank in the back of his pickup how far the ramp extended. "To the end of the dock," was his answer.  Keeping in mind the tide was falling, I went to the far end of the float and with a boat hook began probing six feet down while moving up the ramp. Once many years ago I backed off the end of a ramp dropping the trailer about two feet, then became hung up on the end of the concrete. So, better safe than sorry, now I always probe or somehow determine I will have plenty of ramp.

With about two hours of falling tide water still ahead, a thirty five foot trailer and boat, a thirty foot float with a six foot depth in the middle, fours hours of daylight left, I said lets launch, and began rigging fenders and dock lines while the fisherman finished filling his boat with fuel.  When his pickup cleared the single lane ramp I backed down and she floated free.  Five minutes later, my rig is locked up and parked in the city provided spaces, and we are on board motoring towards our waiting slip in Shelter Bay.

Total cost - launching and parking, $2.50 per day. Total frustration - not too much.

There is no moral here, my advice as always is, give yourself plenty of time for plans B, C, D....

BTW, I spent a full hour hosing and flushing my trailer with fresh water after retrieving it from the ramp parking lot later that day.

In the fall I will likely reverse the procedure, but try to do it near high tide.
I will probably mention something here unless it is really boring.


Where is Cypress Head Campground and why should you camp there?

I stopped for a quick look around at Cypress Head.
There are quite a few campsites and trail access to all of Cypress Islands trail system.
With a cove on both sides of the head you should be able to find some protection when anchored.

The camping sites at Cypress Head have the best view I have ever seen, but the exposure to wind goes with the view.
One side of the head has mooring balls, the other side nothing, but I would choose the side without a swell for an overnight visit.

For those of us without any idea where this place is - you will find Cypress Head on the east side of Cypress Island on Bellingham Channel.  It is a short kayak paddle from Guemes Channel or Washington Park in Anacortes


What can boaters do when faced with persistent San Juan Islands fog and Rosario Strait must be crossed

This is a view down Guemes Channel across four mile wide Rosario Strait at what would be Thatcher Pass if you could see it.

That wall of white is creeping up the tip of Cypress Island.

You can navigate through the soup and wonder about ferries or turn like that cruiser did, and run around behind Cypress island to cross Rosario over to Peavine or Obstruction Passes. The detour adds only a little bit of time and three miles extra travel, but misses todays fog bank. This is a common situation. Further south at Lopez or Cattle Pass, or Deception it will likely be the same.

Here is a link to a foggy article that may enlighten some > Dealing with fog in the San Juans


Some pictures to Share to make you smile

Kind of a miserable day but a bright future

left side
right side
That time of year again

More cruising pictures worthy of viewing - click here > Lots of great San Juan images


Does the law require non-swimmers to wear life jackets (pfd) in the San Juan's - No it does not, but some folks on some boats must wear pfd's.

Oh boy, let's argue.
                  Seriously, you should be conversant with and follow pfd rules, they make sense and save lives.  This article is a semi-non serious look at the actual usage on board cruiser vessels.

        First of all I'm not trying to make an argument but make a point of different thinking. (just for fun)
Here goes -
        If, and I mean if only one life jacket is worn on board, most would say it should be worn by a clumsy non swimmer because they will most likely need it. In this intellectually challenged exercise I suggest that the one and only life jacket should be worn by the most capable person because no one else on board is likely to be able to save him.
             The most capable person will have to save himself when no one else is able, hence he should wear the life jacket.  Because >> When the most capable person is gone the rest may perish, when the most capable person needs help, who will help him. So with this way of thinking we must preserve the most capable so that the less capable may then be helped.

       Was that clear? OK try this scenario  -- The skipper gets knocked overboard (crazy crew screws up) and is unconscious in the water without a pfd.  By the time the clueless crew can recover (if ever) him/her, its too late.    Now the remaining persons on board are at greater risk without the numero uno.

        Next scenario  --The clumsy helpless crewman trips and goes in the drink without a pfd. The immensely capable skipper springs into action, rescues the klutz in minutes and saves the day.

        My backwards conclusion is that in the first scenario the skipper may have survived had he been wearing the only pfd, but the klumsy klutz krew probably would have survived without a pfd due to the skill of the skipper.

        What! What is he suggesting, that the skipper gets the only pfd? Outrageous! Blasphemy! What about the Master's responsibility to ship, crew and passengers - Keel haul the laggardly sot.

      On a serious note:
        Look around the docks where all the boats are coming and going and you invariably see the women and children  (even pooches) bundled up in the latest good looking approved flotation apparel. Makes sense, right? - save the hapless and helpless from succumbing to a maritime accident lurking around the next slip or piling. Look closely and many times you see the person stepping (we never jump do we) from boat to dock or dock to boat, handling lines, pushing off, keeping track of passengers, other boats, etc, etc, is not wearing a pfd. All the passengers that are seated and doing nothing are properly belted in, but the one person really in harm's way, the one person all others depend on, the one person the others may not be able to save - is not wearing a pfd at all.

       I need to end this tirade by saying that simply having pfd's on board may keep the regulators happy but won't help the unfortunate skipper over the side, while his helpless family watches him struggle.

        There are certain times (docking-working on deck) when all crew and skipper should be wearing safety gear - and that is just good seamanship.

Sobering thought!


How many Anchors do you need for cruising in the San Juan Islands when Visiting the Marine Parks

One anchor!
      The quick and easy answer is, "you need the same amount anywhere you go"
No help so far, Okay lets talk a scenario that could be any of us.

You arrive at your first nights anchorage, a quiet little protected bay with a rocky bottom.
What a great vacation, hot dogs over a campfire onshore, some wine or beer, a really restful nights sleep, rich coffee in the morning, and then when you try to raise the anchor your hooked to the biggest rock in the world. after hours of pulling from all directions you finally give up and cut the line, ouch, 250 bucks worth of anchor and rode, gone.  Oh well, your not going to let a lost anchor spoil a perfect vacation and off you go to the next idyllic spot in the San Juan's.

Now it really hits home, the dock is full, no one offers to or wants to raft your boat.  So you think, that's okay, I'll just go ashore in  the dinghy find an anchor shaped rock, bring it back to the mother ship, and tie it to whats left of the cut rode. Except the rode is too short, and you need to stay on board to keep circling in the boat because no one in your crew (wife and children) is qualified to run the boat while your rock hunting.  So your current ex-spouse rows to shore, and .... see where this is going?

What should happen is you break out a spare anchor and rode that's stored and ready to deploy once you tie off the bitter end.  Your admiring first spouse and children think you're a hero.

OK, dinghy scenario.  Your youngest children that have just mastered rowing are off somewhere nearby while you snooze or read a book.  Little do you know but they just lost both oars and the wind is quickly
Click below to read more


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.