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What's new at Stuart Island Lighthouse

First I need to tell you that as of this posting date, Boundary Pass Traders is still in business selling T-shirts along the road to Stuart Island Lighthouse.  For those of you that don't know, Boundary Pass Traders is a local family business, they have two unmanned sales kiosks complete with fresh water.(after hiking up the hill you will appreciate a drink) They sell screen printed t-shirts on the honor system.  One booth, (more like an opening in the trees that resembles an upscale homeless camp) is next to the schoolhouse at the top of the long grueling hill coming up from Reid Harbor.  The other and newer location is at the intersection of the road coming from the county dock.  This means if you walk from the state park you will stroll by both, but if you walk from the county dock at Prevost Harbor, you will only see the one.  Moving along - You  make your choice from ten or more San Juan Island themed shirts, and then when you get home, mail them a check in the provided envelope. (or pay online) that's right, they trust you! We picked out an adult size replacement shirt for our youngest son, (think "Pirates of the San Juans")  to replace his stretched out, frayed, and faded child size he picked out many years ago.
Decked out outhouse at Stuart Island lighthouse
Volunteers at Stuart Island Lighthouse keep a pretty spiffy privy

more - click here


Are you throwing away FREE MONEY ?

Why not Give it to someone that wants it!
Boat Dollars

Here is the deal. Lots and lots of people that you know have web sites (like this one) and advertise products. When a click is registered or a product is ordered the web site gets paid. (same as boat dollars)

For instance someone clicked an Amazon advertisement on this site and bought a $25.00 item, since they started here (this site) and ultimately bought something, this site got about  a buck (boat buck)

So, if you are planning to buy something from  Amazon anyway (You know they sell everything in the world) why not give someone the free money.  Go to your favorite site first,(this site) then click an Amazon ad, then buy anything you want, it does not need to be what is advertised.

Now go tell everyone you know to come here first -- to order anything Amazon sells.
(free boat bucks stop here)



Puget Sound is not the San Juan Islands, but if you want to try cruising somewhere new, it's a logical choice.

      Puget Sound is different things to different folks.  If you read a few articles  or listen to more than one traveler you will likely come away with some overlapping opinions. Lots of people think the San Juans and Puget Sound are the same.  They are not.  On your noaa chart, there is a place labeled Puget Sound, it's offshore from Seattle all the way up to Whidbey Island.  Virtually every body of water is named something.  Names sometimes include a descriptive hint, such as bay, passage, inlet, cove, strait, and of course sound. Did I miss any besides canal, and channel? Oh yeah, bank, shoal, flats...

       Some of us consider, Puget Sound (as an area) to encompass everything salty, from the Strait of Juan De Fuca south.  So this means both sides of Whidbey Island are included, but not the northwest side that faces the San Juans and Vancouver Island, or Anacortes, or Bellingham. I like to think of Bellingham as on Bellingham Bay and Anacortes as up Guemes channel a bit from Rosario Strait. So where does that put Olympia?

     We started in Olympia, at Swantown Marina, and so should you.  There are numerous ramps scattered around the area, but nothing compares to the Port of Olympia facilities, they have the welcome mat out more than any (boating) city we have ever visited, bar none.  I haven't forgotten the praise I lavish on Squalicum Harbor in Bellingham, but the entire waterfront at Olympia is boater friendly, which bumps them to the head of my list.

       At Swantown, is a two lane all tide ramp, open 24/7 with a long term parking lot for only $3/day.  Transient moorage is abundant, both at the ramp and a short walk away, at the old town waterfront.  Don't make a mistake and think of Olympia as simply a place to splash the boat and take off from.  Plan your trip to include one or more nights or days at the dock, and bring your bikes, you will be glad you did.

      Rather than gush over Olympia, let's get going north. On this trip our turnaround point is Lake Washington.  This means we will wander a circuitous course to Seattle, visiting as many Marine State Parks as we can.  At Seattle we will go through the Ballard Locks, through Lake Union (Lake Union is the downtown area you see from the freeway) and into Lake Washington to spend the night anchored at Seward City Park.  All total we will visit eleven parks, bike and hike most of them, spend seven nights at docks, one at anchor, and motor about 175 miles.  Wow-- when I write the specifics it sounds rushed, but we relaxed the entire time.

       Day One: We are in the water and on our way at 5pm, this may seem late to get going, but we only have 8 miles, maybe 16, to our first nights stop.  We ran the 8 miles to Hope Island State Park, but all the buoys were taken so we continued to the dock at  Jerrel Cove State Park, another easy 8 miles, and with plenty of daylight, why not?  You sail-boaters should know that we encounterrd a low 31 foot fixed bridge providing vehicle access to Harstine Island. You can avoid the bridge by taking the long way around Harstine. Jerrel Cove has two docks, and across the way is a private marina with a store and transient space.  The park is well kept with onsite rangers, car campers, a mile or two of trails that are rideable, and of course you can head out onto the island roads and ride to your hearts content.  Perhaps I should remind you that, unlike most of the San Juan destinations, all of the places we spent the night are car accessible.  This means you can plan a Puget Sound rendezvous with friends or family to re-supply or switch out crew members.
Jerrel Cove Park float
Jerrel Cove at low tide, the ramp is as steep as we have ever seen.

Day two: click here


Fast Track to the San Juan's and Patos Island State Park

In keeping with this sites purpose to help newcomers get to the San Juan's, you will find listed below selected posts and links.

These posts are the bare essentials needed to get you off on that trip to the San Juan's, the rest is up to you. (click on the links)

  1. Where to launch your boat and park your rig!
    • Where to Launch your boat and park your rig
      • First choice = Bellingham - (Squalicum Harbor)
      • Close runner up = Deception Pass State Park (Cornet Bay)
      • La Conner city ramp (Swinomish Channel)
      • Washington Park - Anacortes
      • Cap Sante - Anacortes (sling only)
  2. Suggested Itinerary!
  3. All the Parks with complete descriptions and chart snips!
  4. Rent if you don't have a boat!
  5. 12 fuel docks- marinas - resorts - you should know about before you take off into the unknown!

Is this all you need?
Of course not, but if you are a competent boater, the above posts will answer many questions you want answered.

Anchor at Patos Island State Park
Patos Island Anchorage

Did you know you can ask silly questions? Use the e-mail box on the left side somewhere.


Waterfront San Juan County Parks for Camping

San Juan County parks are pretty much ignored by the boating crowd, could it be that the lack of overnight floats keeps them away?

Anchor and paddle to shore at  Small Pox Bay on Haro strait in the San Juan Islands
SJ County Park is an easy dinghy ride from anchor in Small Pox Bay.  This popular campground is great for  kayakers heading out to Haro Strait for Orca watching.
Shaw Island Campground
Shaw County Park Campground picnic shelter
     On Lopez Island is Odlin County Park, the only county park  with a dock.  You can load and unload but the sign says to limit your tie up to two hours.  Out in the bay are a handful of buoys and decent anchoring, but expect swells from passing traffic. This park would make an excellent rendezvous spot with friends arriving by ferry, or in twenty minutes you can ride your bike to Lopez Village for snacks or provisions.  Beachfront camping rounds out a really nice place.

     Shaw Island, boasts Shaw County Park in Indian Cove. (off Upright Channel across from Odlin county park) While offering a protected bay for anchoring, the beach is somewhat  flat making dinghy landing a chore and wet feet likely. The campground is cliff front in the trees requiring using a stairway to access from shore.  A wooden boat ramp gets your vehicle across the sand but leaves a lot to be desired at anything but high tide.

     San Juan Island County Park is located at Small Pox Bay on Haro Strait.  The road from Roche to Lime Kiln Park (Whale Watch Park) provides vehicle access.  The quite small rock free bay is easy to drive into from Haro Strait offering room to anchor one or two boats front and center in front of the ranger station. The beach is dinghy friendly and has a boat launch ramp provided your skiff is an easy launch and your car is four wheel drive.  This park is a favorite for orca watchers that crowd the point jutting from shore offering elevated unobstructed viewing equal to that at Lime Kiln Park.

 (FYI, you can make reservations up to 90 days in advance at all three San Juan county parks at  or google San Juan County Parks) All the parks offer bike and hiker sections.
Odlin park county dock on Lopez Island
Odlin Park on Lopez island has a two hour dock limit -
find Odlin across from Indian Cove and  Canoe Island on Upright channel.

Shaw Island County Park
The house on right side marks the edge of public beach at Shaw Island County Park. Up in the trees are campsites, grassy fields, restrooms and a picnic shelter. This park is very hard to spot, none of the facilities are visible from the water.


North to Patos Island

Patos is as far north as you can get and still have some land to land on before entering Canada.(Okay, I know Point Roberts has some land, but we have no need for customs today)

        Patos is just north of Sucia, hardly two miles depending on where you measure, so you can run up there in just an hour or much less.  What you will have when you get there is two islands, Patos and Little Patos, together they create a pretty cool little anchorage. Run your boat all the way to the north end and enter alongside the lighthouse, have your camera ready, its a picturesque  place for sure.  There are no docks so puttster up to the dinghy beach and drop anchor in front of the picnic area. Back in the woods 75 yards or so is a nice campground along the trail to the lighthouse.

         Basically there are two trails to hike.  There is a one-miler or so that makes a circle in the woods and is sort of boring, so you have been warned. The other is a ten minute walk out to the lighthouse and most of it is akin to a road.  Be sure to visit the lighthouse, recently volunteers have been holding open house during peak summer months. Inside they have old photos, scrap books, artifacts and you can climb the light tower.  (it's hot up there if the sun is out)

         If you want to keep your walking to an absolute minimum on perfect concrete pathways, run your dinghy ashore next to an old concrete thing with a post sticking out of it.  It's left over from when the coast guard needed a landing spot. This concrete thing is well inside the protection of the anchorage bay, but its at least halfway or closer to the light house.  You will have to scramble up a rock or two, but right at the top begins a three foot wide concrete path that goes all the way to the light house. We choose this route if we are only headed for the lighthouse, its saves rowing and walking, and if we are anchored right in front, why not!

         A little warning about the tiny channel between Patos and Little Patos:
         Yes you can run your boat through there but, there may be a current and at low tide it gets a little thin. It's kinda creepy when you can see bottom on both sides of your boat. We take our boats through, but only dead slow into the current, never with the current.  If you are the least bit concerned, just go around, it's only one or three minutes and you get to take a picture of the lighthouse to boot.

          I recommend visiting Patos for lunch or spend the night, On our last trip to points further north we used Patos as a jumping off point and a return point, it was like coming home.

Light station at Patos Island

Museum and lighthouse at Patos Island

Anchoring at Patos Island
 This is the concrete thingy,  (you have to see it) the teensey dinghy beach and the trail is to the left between the rock and the post.  BTW, you could anchor here and stern tie to that post.  You can see the picnic area and main dinghy beach way, way beyond the anchored boats, so this saves some walking and rowing.
Patos Island Park

Concrete trail on Patos Island
 This trail was built to US Coast Guard standards, it's probably a foot thick.
Patos Island
There is a lot of old foundation concrete out in the grassy areas on both sides, with a little sleuthing you can figure out where the buildings were, and imagine much of the original installation. Pictures and drawings inside the building show where everything was.
Lighthouse at Patos Island
 Volunteers camp in the campground and maintain hours for visitors, you could spend several hours inside learning the history, its well on its way to being a museum.  Don't forget the Stuart Island lighthouse has a similar setup and they do call it a museum. 


Five Reasons for Taking the Boat Camping in the San Juan's

         I was all set to write a scathing article about the horrors of car camping and tropical cruises, thereby justifying why we go boat camping, but after giving it some time to rest, I admitted I like car camping and tropical cruises.  Some of you probably do too!  But why?  Change of pace and relaxation come to mind, in other words, getting away from it all, whatever "it" may be.

         So rather than list  potential horrible road trip issues lets concentrate on what a boat camping trip promises.

       For starters, the cynics of you (me too) have already thought "no promises."

         OK, enhanced expectations:  (satisfied?)

  • relaxation  (doing nothing at all, nothing!
  • change up in daily grind
  • play with boat, meet and hang with other boat people
  • be with friends and family
  • do a little hiking-fishing-sailing-reading-writing
       We can make this list go on and on, but you get the gist.
       Relaxation, or being stress free to me is key to a successful vacation, and worrying about where we will spend the night (on a road trip) is a major stress factor.  You can say get a reservation, but there are many times, reservations are not in the cards, or severely limit what you do.
      There is one major difference between car camping and boat camping that is lost to non-boaters, and that is the freedom to come and go, anywhere, anytime, and never having to worry about a "sorry no vacancy sign."   When boat camping, there are no check in check out times, there are no camp hosts, no registration clerks. Docks at parks have some common sense rules, but are not reserved and first come gets it.  You will never, and I stress this, "EVER" be sent away.  Oh sure it may be crowded somewhere from time to time, but there will always be room to anchor. (the dinghy rides just get a little longer) When boat camping, unlike a road trip,  you never need to stress-out over getting a place to stay, just go, you will have a spot when you arrive, and you can count on it.  However if you (not me) must ruin things, you can stress-out over arriving in the dark, or other dumb self-inflicted pain, but that's another discussion.

So the answer is
 We go boat camping to relax and get away from  it all!
Boat camping in the San Juan's


Orca Watching in the San Juan Islands

       One of the reasons we go to the San Juan's is to see the Killer Whales, except more often than not we are in the wrong spot and only get to see snooty seals.  Probably the same ones we see every year.

       Fear not! You can get in plenty of trouble interfering with any marine mammal you choose.  So even if you miss out on the orca sighting of a lifetime, you still have a chance at getting a big fine levied on you for messing with their smaller cousins.

     With just a little online research, I came up with these rules. Keep in mind that new regulations and changes to existing laws happen all the time, and my interpretation is likely flawed.

      You know of course that you are not allowed to bring your boat closer than 200 yards (that's about the length of two football fields end to end)  of a southern resident whale. Which begs the question, how does one know if it's a resident, let alone from the south? What I knew once, but forgot, was that you are required to put your transmission in neutral if you find your self inside the 200 yd limit.

     You are not allowed to position your boat, (and this includes kayaks, rafts, dinghy's, etc.) so that you intersect with a whale coming towards you.  The rule is 400 yards  ( that's about a quarter mile )

      So if I understand  correctly, when whale watching, you can hang around as long as you're two football fields away, but if they come at you because you cleverly set it up by getting in their way,  you may get a $1,025 fine.  Plus you may unwittingly get yourself in trouble for not putting the motor in neutral when  they approach closer than 200 yards. So all you kayakers, lift your paddles I guess.

      This means you are not supposed to turn tail and run away when you get too close, but stay put in neutral until the Orca has swam outside the 200 yard radius.  This sounds silly at first, but I think the logic is that others may be nearby that you can't see, and your spinning prop is a danger to them.

Now for seals or any cute marine mammals:  
It's not legal to feed, harass, handle, jeer, taunt, or make fun of them, and this includes lost or abandoned pups.  Fines may reach $11,000, jail time, and losing the boat. Ouch.

My last words of warning:   Enforcement or compliance is a subjective thing, this means you might disagree with the grounds for your citation.

    To be safe, keep back a fair distance, and don't feed the non-human animals that hang around your boat.

  Happy whale watching! 
and for gosh sakes, have some fun!

BTW.  We have seen large groups of Orcas in Rosario Strait  off of James Island, and in Haro Strait off of Lime Kiln, which tells me they circle the San Juan's.  

Killer whale off the port bow


Is your boat legal in the San Juan's?

            The answer is yes - probably

The laws in Washington State are pretty much the same as where you are coming from.

If  your yacht is legal at home it's legal in the San Juan's, but only for 60 days.  After 60 days you will be expected to leave the state or become compliant.
boat laws

So you get a free pass for two months, but if your monster has expired tags, (vessel or rig) or you do not have a valid boaters card, you may be subject to re-training and fines.

And that's the way it is!

Lets go boating.


Good News & Bad News - boat camping fees in Washington's San Juan Islands

     Who can resist a headline stating "Good News" or is it the bad part that draws us in?
No matter. The good news is that anchoring is still free, the other news is that Washington State Park fees for boaters have gone up.

      The reported new fee for using park buoys is $15 per night.  Staying at the float has been increased to 70 cents per foot.  So your 30' mega yacht is now $21 per night.

      On this subject, you may remember an old post where I pondered float etiquette -  Case #1 - a 30' boat hogs the middle of a 50' float leaving no room for other boats, should he pay for 50' or 30'?  Case #2 - the same 30' boat scoots way down and hangs over the end leaving room for more boats, should he be rewarded and only pay for the 20' he uses?  Case #3 - and we all no the answer to this one - do you include the bowsprit, swim step and dinghy davits or go with the much smaller boat length stated by the boat builder, come on be honest, no one is watching.

      Other thoughts on fees:  Park fees are a very small part of our overall boating experience, and yet provide us tremendous benefit. The Washington marine parks are top notch, why wouldn't you want to support them?
Washington camping fees for boats


Winter Maintenance

       Now is a good time to take care of all those little things you noticed needed taking care of last summer.
I'll bet you see a list coming!
boat camping
Add caption
This list is for me, but I've added a few lines that may apply to you.
  • whip or fuse unraveling lines
    • I tie my dirty lines in a bundle, in a pillow case, and toss-em in the washer when Linda isn't looking, spin dry with no heat! (easy on the bleach)
  • make better dock lines
    • you need at least four dock lines and in my opinion two should be 1 1/2 times the length of the boat. I carry many more and some are very long.
    • While you are at it, teach your self to make spliced loops, it's fun
      • Note on loops: Loops on lines are not always desirable--sometimes they snag and get caught causing problems.  Loops on cleats can jump off.  I properly cleat my loops regardless.
      • learn to tie a bowline (loop) behind your back or your eyes shut, it impresses little kids, (then try it one handed)
    • patch, scrub and pump up fenders
  • renew Rain-X coating on windows
  • improve the bilge pumps
    • get a hand pump and/or a bucket with a stout handle
  • check for crevice corrosion telltale rust streaks, then actually test for weakness
    • testing means to push, pull, sit, twist, and pound  while trying to break it
  • change oils and antifreeze and filters at end of season
    • use fuel stabilizer type products if needed
      • run the kicker out of gas
  • grease trailer bearings, get a spare tire and bottle jack, make sure lug nuts aren't rusted in place
  • make the trailer lights and brakes work, and for once do it before you need them
  • get new flares, if the date is expired the coasties will yell at you
    • have you got the other required stuff? (whistle?)
  • check pfd's, and inflation cartridges, clean off mildew
  • check your anchor tackle, and re-mark the rode at 100 foot and other lengths
    • I never anchor for long in less than 15-20 feet so my first mark is at 100 feet, then 150, 200
    • get a second anchor set up if you don't already have three or four like me
  • switch lines/halyards/rodes end for end if your able to
  • tighten screws and bolts, there are hundreds
    • this is when you re-bed cleats, rails, stanchions,windows, etc.
      • I use white or black polyurethane (rtv or silicones are not welcome on my boats)
        • some people will let a thick bed set a day or two before final torquing. Note: this is not appropriate for all situations. Some things should not wiggle-period! (my opinion)
  • clean the bilge use perfumed detergent and make it smell good
    • don't let laundry detergent get in the water, it's illegal!
  • check electrical connections for corrosion and remedy any issues
  • get a new battery if its past it's prime or you have any worries at all
    • make sure you have a trickle or smart charger maintaining battery
  • check your zincs
    • be very, very suspicious of zincs not being eaten up
    • A West Marine employee told me he didn't think his boat had any because it was fresh water cooled. You decide if he's right! (not)
  • operate all your valves, make sure they still work
    • I make a point of yanking on them every time I'm near
  • hoses have a life span and will need to be replaced once in a while
    • re-torque all your hose clamps, this will tell you which ones are garbage
      • the screw is the culprit, many are rusted and break off when used
        • simply being SS is not enough, they must be in good shape
          • ignoring this may sink your ship!
  • Touch up the varnish
    • fix those little nicks and spots before they get worse and you will have less work in the long run (maybe!)
    • I use this stuff (outside) and really like it  - Deks Olie D1 and D2 - made by Olwatrol, its a little hard to find, but Defender has it.
  • re-sew stitched things, and patch vinyl stuff
  • update ships log
    • create inventory and location list for all my misplaced, lost gear
  • totally empty all damp under-deck compartments and store stuff indoors
    • skipped this last year and regretted it

  • More to come, check back later!

This is important: You must test your boat and equipment on a trial outing before you take off for the big trip.  If your like me and do all this stuff over several months, you are bound to overlook something, and you don't want to find out what it is ten miles from shore, or two hundred miles from home.


Places to go and things to do in the San Juan's - I'm making a go to list!

My best places list is my - Go to List

If you have been following my rants, you know I realized long ago that our best times in the San Juans have been when I allowed things to just unfold from a very loose agenda.  That means, I set aside some time, go prepared for anything, and let it happen. But I do think about what I want to accomplish.  My partial list below, except for biking Shaw, is mostly made up of places and things we have done before.  If I remember, I will post a follow-up of what we really end up doing.  I already know one of my daughters may get involved, and likes biking so we'll see what really happens!

My To-Go List for 2015
and some notes
(not in order of importance)
Bike Shaw Island
  1. try to avoid usual rolly anchoring overnight at Odlin Park if possible
    1. Indian Cove for anchoring or ask to stay at store float by ferry dock
    2. Indian Cove may be great place for dinghy sailing and hauling bikes ashore but there's no dock.
Get over to Victoria (not all that important, but always a good time)
  1. visit museum 3-4 hrs
    1. Almost forgot, they used to have free Wednesday mornings
  2. hang out for one or two days watching street performers
  3. dinghy sail around the inner harbor dodging taxis and planes 
  4. order a tray full of those little glasses of beer somewhere
  5. find Gracepoint filming location while biking shoreline roads
  6. snoop around the Empress gardens
  7. don't go to Butchart Garden (went two years ago)
  8. explore the estuary
Go Orca watching off Lime kiln (this has been on many past lists, but gets bumped or heavy weather)
  1. drift with current in Haro Strait  alongside San Juan Island 
  2. maybe do this on way to Victoria
  3. visit Smallpox Bay
  4. have breakfast at the Lime Kiln Cafe at Roche Harbor 
  5. visit English Camp after breakfast                                          
  Hike Eagle Bluff on Cypress  (high on list, probably do this list first, only 2hrs from Squalicum))
    1. only after July 15th closure, if time, anchor at Cypress Head and hike to airstrip, if more time, run down to Deepwater Bay and watch salmon jump.
    2. swing by Doe Island to see if the dock is fixed yet.
    3. swing by Blakely's for my usual
    4. while in Cypress area, try to find park at S. end of Lummi Isl.
    5. Spending night at Cypress Head or Pelican Beach is OK
    Plan two nights at Jones (whats another word for plan?)
    1. shoot hike pictorial for posting on this site
      1. include reopened west loop trail, and hike center trail to end.
    2. pet some deer and have campfires
    3. high on list, because I really missed kicking back here last year.
      1. avoid backing over dinghy painter again
    Strongly consider a romantic dinner at Friday Harbor
    1. anchor out and use money saved for splurging
    2. not the pizza place up the hill either!
    3. dinghy over to Turn Island for a picnic hike, but don't spend night.
    4. go to whale museum before Orca watching makes good sense
      1. some years ago they told us where the Orcas were recently sighted.
    Plan to put in at Squalicum Harbor for free parking
    1. eat dinner at that great buffet uptown
    2. visit with Bill for breakfast before casting off
    3. Try to arrive on a Monday to miss crowds
    more notes:
    Don't forget free hot showers at Lopez Village
    1. Maybe stop by Lopez Village after a week for a shower, and fudge recharge, or bike over from Odlin Park
      1. Anchoring off Lopez is very rolly, and shallow, but the walk and dinghy ride is short.
          1. Saturday Market is a good reason to stop by on Saturday 
    2. I think my daughter is planning for Aug 1st. arrival, but I don't know where.
      1. She did mention getting bike camping reservations at Odlin Park
      2. I might suggest we consider a bike ride to top of Mt Constitution from Olga or county dock. (this could be a fantastic or horrible idea, and Linda wont go)
        1. Update on daughter: she has suggested  meeting  on Orcas somewhere, she wants to ride her bike (with camping gear) from Anacortes.
    Even with going to Victoria, this is only about a week, we may have to slow down some, I would like to spend about 10 days (I think) I will come back to this post and make updates/changes as my July cast off date approaches. I am really looking forward to this cruise, I have a cast off date of late July, so the hard work is already done.  That's right, setting the date is the hard work!

    There you have it, 
    my barely thought out list of places to go, 
    and things to do in the San Juan's this summer.
    I truly hope some of you benefit. 

    San Juan County dock at Eastsound
    We ended up here?
    This is the Eastsound dock where we came to get a new battery and pick up Ryan and Kiraney after they rode bikes over from Anacortes.
    We never made it to Shaw for bicycling, but it is on my next "to go list"
    We also never saw any whales, but didn't try very hard either.



    My registration just expired!

    Boating the San Juans


    I heard a pop and saw the fuel in the sight glass fall!

        The focus of this site is boating the San Juan's, but how can we cruise around without experiencing everyday boating issues, and here is another one that caught me by surprise.  Maybe someone will learn from my mistakes.

    fuel leak into bilge

         About two years ago my Dickinson Bristol Stove diesel pump quit without warning leaving us cold.  I decided a five gallon day tank was in order so that we would not be at the mercy of electric pumps or need any electricity for a stove that may run nonstop for days.  

        So far so good, my new $150 aluminum tank is about four or five feet above the stove and works perfect. (gravity is pretty dependable)  I also replaced the  demand fuel pump so that I could effortlessly re-fill the day tank from our main fuel tank.  Fyi, I ordered the day tank with a filler cap so that I could hand pour fuel from a jug if needed, but so far have never needed to.

          So, I am watching the vinyl sight tube as my re-purposed VW fuel pump is filling the roof top day tank for the umpteenth time (it turns out it only lasts about 3-4 days per filling, because I don't fill it full nor let it run dry) when I hear a little pop from inside the cabin, and at the same time the fuel level in the sight tube drops out of sight.

        I knew instantly, that a hose had come apart, so I flicked the tank ball valve a quarter turn shut, and dashed for the pump switch at the helm, hoping the 7 psi pump and 3/8 inch hose weren't shooting fuel everywhere. (hope is for dreamers, I guess)

        Under the stove is a medium size cabinet with all our pots and pans, and strapped to the roof of this cabinet is the brass tee I used to splice the day tank into our stoves supply line.

        As you already have surmised, a hose popped off the barbed tee fitting, and in the five seconds or less that it took me to kill the system, diesel sprayed everywhere inside the cabinet, and ran down the hull.

       Rather than bore everyone with little details lets get to the lesson(s) I  learned.

    • I thought I was infallible and could tighten a hose clamp on a barbed fitting, it turns out I had not slid the clamp up over the barbs, and the hose was simply pushed on with nothing holding it.  It took two years to finally come apart, but I thought the system was brilliantly designed and impeccably installed.  I don't know what the answer is, except be careful and pay attention. Apparently I did neither.
    • Always install shut off valve at tanks and fixtures, I am so glad I did.
    • Don't expect your dishes to catch much fuel oil, several quarts made it to the bilge necessitating taking apart lots of cabinets, flooring, etc.
    • Unfinished plywood inside cabinets soak up diesel.  If they had been painted, the fuel oil would have simply wiped off. Now they stink.
    • Plastic dishes are ruined, or at least impart a curious taste to drinks now.
          On another similar thought, I wrote a post a while back about our sailboat "Sunshine." I left the water pump power supply switched on while we were ashore.  During our absence the switch failed, and turned on, pumping all our water down the drain, and then burning out the pump.  On that painful mistake, I learned the importance of throwing the main switch when leaving the boat, even for just an hour or two. (and having a hidden jug of water for making morning coffee)

          Just imagine if "Kraken" my current boat had still been plumbed with the stoves demand pump always on and no day tank, and a hose were to fail. The pump would empty the entire 70 gallon main tank.  Not only would it create a massive mess in the boat, but our automatic bilge pump would have emptied the bilge over the side creating an ecological disaster. (and fine $$)
    And as a little bad bonus we would be out of fuel too.

    Have a nice day!


    Pictures by Land and Sea Around Matia Island in the San Juan's

          A few years back, I  hiked the trail from Pelican Beach to the top of Eagle Bluff on Cypress Island, taking pictures every few minutes along the way.  The resulting pictorial is a pretty good synopsis for those that can't make the journey themselves. See the Eagle Bluff Pictorial hike here.  I decided to do the same thing on Matia, but with a little change up. First I hiked the trail snapping away with wild abandon, then I jumped in the dinghy and hugged the shore continuing taking pictures while I circled the island. Then I deleted most of what I had. The results are  below, you decide if it was worthwhile.
    Matia Island picture
    The blue marker on the far left marks Rolfe cove, and where we  begin our visit to Matia

    First off, exit the dock!
    The little four boat float, may be full, but there are two buoys and room for a few boats to anchor.  In a pinch you can anchor in the much larger cove at the other end of the island and do this hike/dinghy tour in reverse.

    Hiking boating Matia Island
    Boater park fees are  a great deal for what we get in return.

    Matia Island in the San Juans
    The trail starts at the top of ramp beyond the small picnic campground area.  Matia is unique in that fires are not allowed anywhere, and pets are restricted from trail system.
    click where it says read more for the rest of the picture tour!


    Swinomish Channel Nightmare in the Daytime

          We came across this boat during our 4th of July hike to Fort Whitman on Goat Island. They were barely stuck when we first saw them, but within a few minutes it was clear they weren't  getting off until the tide came back up.  I can't imagine the port prop and shaft survived,

    boat aground in Swimnomish channel
    If this is you, our hearts go out to you, it must have been a rotten day. (make a comment, tell us what happened below, if you want to)

    Swinomish channel Fort Whitman
    One of four gun emplacements at  Fort Whitman on Goat Island.

    Here is the link to the  Fort Whitman posting  > Fort Whitman - Goat Island


    Some pictures are missing

    Some pictures I posted are missing.  It turns out a web site that I used to host some early pictures is gone, along with my pics.  On this site you will see a place holder icon.

    It would help me a lot if visitors would make comments from the posting telling where missing pics aren't.  I get an e-mail when comments are left and this way I will know where to look and may re-post the pics since I have the originals.

    I have a few disconnected links since I began renaming posts so if you come across links that go to non-existent pages tell me what post so I can fix-em

    Thanks for your help.


    At Last Pictures of Bimini in a Bag are posted

         Not all of us can just go out and order a $5000 bimini and have it magically appear installed on our boat. So the mother of invention leads us once again down the path of necessity and creates a "Bimini in a Bag"

    Do it your self bimini top #1
    "Bimini in two bags"
    fits under the v-berth

    Do it your self bimini top #2
    Organized chaos
    is the secret behind many good things.

    Do it your self bimini top #3
    Rainy day at Roche Harbor and the new bimini was priceless

    Read the full description and many more pictures in the long posting titled  "Doing it yourself page" over on the right side menu bar or just click here  >>   doing it yourself ideas


    Boating Time and SEAL Pup Time Everywhere in the San Juan Islands

            You have probably noticed that new pups are out with their moms on all the rocks and reefs.

    If you get too close they slip into the water so there is no doubt they prefer we keep our distance.

             Of note though, we have on two occasions this summer come across lost or abandoned pups.  At Inati Bay a pup spent much of the evening and next morning crying.  It swam to each arriving boat and then attempted to suckle the hull circling the boat all the while crying and trying to nurse.  Apparently from under water bottom paints may be confused for moms.

              At Matia, we noticed a pup doing the same thing.  As each new boat came to the dock or anchored out, the pup swam to it.  We dinghied around the island and saw hundreds of moms with pups in the water and hauled up on rocks.  When we returned  to Rolfe Cove the pup came to our dinghy and suckled the fiberglass hull, it was really sad looking up at us with big watery eyes while making sucking sounds on the boat and then on the wood oar.

             That evening as the sun went down we saw the pup work its way up onto the beach beneath the gangplank.  It was there in the morning, still by itself..  We called the marine mammal stranding hotline to report it, but who knows what happened.

            We talked to the volunteer on the phone and they said sometimes people getting too close will cause pups and moms to separate and then become lost.

    lost seal pup begging
    We didn't attempt to touch this little guy, but it sure seemed like he wanted to be cuddled

    Seal pup looking for its mother
    The sucking sounds were unmistakable as he worked his way around the boats again and again.

    Seal pup left on beach without mother
    Settling in for the night as the sun set.


    Seven People - Seven Bicycles - One little boat for our 4th of July at Roche Harbor

    Seven People - Seven Bicycles - Two Kayaks - One  Dinghy,
    and it was raining lightly.
    True our 26 foot trawler is bigger than a 16 foot ski boat but 7 bikes and riders filled us to the top.

    kraken at Orcas Landing with a full load of bicycles and people

           We just returned from a week long Canada cruise where we tied two bikes on the roof.  With only two of us on board, the bikes never got in the way.  Next we added two more bikes, two kayaks, and two more people for a Lopez and San Juan ride. We still managed to all find seats, but the bikes ended up on the front deck, and we looked through  handlebars and seats to steer. 
    (the above pic is a coffee pit stop at Orcas Landing with everyone and everything and its raining)

    dinghy dock at roche Harbor

             At Roche we add three more.  We have seven bikes now (four out front and three in the cockpit) For seating, we break out two folding chairs and fill the dinette.  Kraken seemed to list a little to starboard (the dinette side) but what the heck.  
    This pic is at the end of the long dinghy dock at Roche Harbor.

    Bicycling the San Juans by boat is alive and well.
    • two crossed from  Spencer Spit to Lopez Village
    • two pedaled from Roche Harbor to Lime Kiln and back
    • three pedaled from Odlin Park, around Lopez and took a ferry ride back to Friday Harbor
    • three pedaled from Smallpox Bay around San Juan Island
    • thankfully, other than the skipper and mate, all slept on shore in campgrounds
    Does anyone know an easy way to get off black tire marks?


    Princess Louisa Inlet Cruise and Chatterbox Falls

              Our Princess Louisa Inlet Cruise was a great success.  Success to me means no breakdowns or major deviations from the plan.

              We cast off for this approximately 150 mile (one way) joy ride from our slip in La Conner at a little before noon on a sunny Saturday.  Our first stop was just a mile up Swinomish Channel where we visited the fuel dock to top off our 70 gallon diesel tank.  Heading off with the tanks full, the fridge and cabinets crammed with ten to twelve days of very good eating, we headed north towards ominous looking storm clouds and the forecast of gale force winds.  Yes, we are very apprehensive.  Many thoughts occupied our thinking, the first was, were we making a mistake heading into bad weather.  The second was, would we get stuck somewhere and not be able to get back in time for our breakfast date with Linda's mother a week from Tuesday.
    Kraken at Princess Louisa Inlet and Chatterbox Falls
    Chatterbox Falls from park float

               Our first overnight stop is Patos Island.  Patos is as far north, not counting Point Roberts as a boater can go before entering Canada.  We anchored with plenty of daylight left to walk out to the lighthouse and hike around.  The next morning we got going  early before 7 am. With 40 miles to cover at 5-8 mph, False Creek in Vancouver may be an 8 hour run.  With no good options to duck and cover along the way, I was a still a little apprehensive to say the least.  The wind never really was a factor that day but about halfway to Vancouver we were about 5 miles off shore from the  Tsawwassen ferry terminal when a following swell began to overtake us and toss Kraken around like the little 26 Nordic Tug she is. Steering the wallowing boat became full time work and I found myself driving a zigzag course. I was zigging to make our selves more comfy and then zagging back onto a course that would eventually get us to False Creek where we would check into Canada and spend the night.  Linda got out the Dramamine, and I took one also, something I almost never do. About every fourth zigzag an extra big quartering swell would turn us sideways causing severe rolling and much crashing sounds coming from all of Krakens many stores and equipment.  At this point we are seriously discussing changing course for Bedwell Harbor on South Pender Island. Bedwell was about the same distance, the waves would be more on our nose, and we could continue northward on the inside of the Gulf Islands affording ourselves much better protection, but then we would be on the wrong side of the Strait of Georgia, and north of Nanaimo was where the real gale winds were churning up the strait.  This is not how my Princess Louisa Trip was supposed to go.

    Click below to read the rest of posting and see a few pictures along the way