This site has oodles of information about boating and the San Juans, it helps to use the search box BELOW to find what interests you.
Search - "things to do" or try "places to go"
search - Sucia Island
search - Friday Harbor
search - hiking or bicycling
try - kayak - try CAMPING - try Anchoring

++++ ============================= All Posts Below

Current Posts Below


What's there to do in Friday Harbor? - How about going to another island, or two, or three - For Free!

Bicycle waiting area Friday Harbor
Foot passenger holding area at Friday Harbor (strongly resembles a corral )

Inter island free ferry in the San Juans
Walking bikes on ferry seemed prudent

First island

     We arrived in Friday Harbor for the 4th of July celebration on the 2nd and so had a few days to kill.  With our floating motel safely tucked into a slip, we rested easy Saturday night. The 26 mile run from Squalicum Harbor in Bellingham was uneventful partly due to catching some decent currents and a sunny rest stop at Blakely's.  Sunday morning arrived with coffee, bagels and cream cheese, and then  we walked our bikes over to the ferry terminal and caught the 8:30 AM ferry to Shaw Island.

     After a stopover on Orcas, the four of us and one Labradoodle walked off at Shaw Landing.  The ride is free as is all inter island foot and bicycle traffic, so we simply checked east/west schedules to make sure we had a ride back to Friday that afternoon and headed out with full water bottles and a handful of granola bars.

Second island  

  The ferry ride was a welcome break from driving our own boat and the view from the high deck is great.  On Shaw, we took pity on our four legged member and limited our ride to the county park at Indian Cove, a distance of around four miles round trip.  Much further dog trotting I suspect.  The road is paved and hugs the water around most of Blind Bay before turning inland at the community center and shooting straight over the small hill to the east side and Indian Cove.  The wooded campground was full as expected, and kayaks were strewn about above high water amongst the driftwood.  We rested, beach combed, and then headed back to Shaw Landing after about an hour.

 (FYI, you can make camping reservations up to 90 days in advance at all three San Juan county parks at  or google San Juan County Parks) or try clicking here >>San Juan County Parks (3) 
     While waiting for our ferry ride back to Friday we sat around the cozy little picnic area eating ice cream purchased at the Shaw Landing General Store.  All in all it was a resoundingly relaxing laid back morning.

     Getting back to Friday Harbor before 2 PM left us with much of the day still ahead of us, and since they unload foot passengers before the cars, we were back on the promenade  minutes after the ramp went down.

read more  >> clickety click


LED lights and old boats - lumens - color - watts ?

Light Emitting diode - LED
led light
I found this image of a single led, but in my real life they are so small I can barely see them let alone identify the little parts.  I'm guessing that this is an early version.   Manufacturers of lights assemble many led's into one array.

     Led  light pitfalls!
I am straying into boating topics and away from Sailing the San Juan's type posts because so much of what we do is prepare for what we do.

       Last summer we were stranded at Jones Island with dead batteries.  see dead battery pain in the ### trip A number of reasons contributed to our predicament, but mostly I simply used up all my available juice.  Led's, everyone knows are the new answer to hungry power consuming home lights and are mandated by the rule makers to be incorporated into our lives.  It makes perfect sense to use them in our boats where power is limited to what's stored in your battery.

      Led lights for boats are mostly modifications of rv and automobile lights because our systems are 12 volts like cars.  New fixtures designed specifically to use led bulbs are coming out every day but who wants to switch out expensive fixtures for even more expensive fixtures.

     The answer for some of us is to simply switch bulbs, and that is when my problems began.

     I went online and a few days later my  expensive led bulbs showed up.

  1. my first problem - the new led bulb was an irritatingly bright bluish white that made my wife's skin look alien.
    • solution - order another bulb and pay attention to color, cool white, warm white, kelvin etc. Now I know that around 2700 color is pleasing and 6500 is not. (16 boat bucks wasted)
  2. next problem - brightness or lumens of 25-75 add to ambience under a counter or stair, but won't light up the table or cooking area
    • solution - buy bulbs with over 200 lumens (I think this would be about 2 watts) and make sure they are close to area to be lit up.
  3. final problem - replacement bulbs are primarily configured for tail light and turn signal applications and not area lighting.  Some led's are arranged on a cylinder, some on a card, and all the little buggers seem to be directional, some with a narrow beam.
    • solution - none in my case except buy new fixtures, with the correct bulb included.
  4. final, final issue - automobile fixtures use the  steel body for a ground, but boats being mostly fiberglass use fixtures with two wires, and sometimes bulbs with a ground terminal (not the brass base) so you must be sure to look at the bulb base terminals and match properly.
      My boat has four different types/styles of interior lighting fixtures, after a generous amount of research I have come to the conclusion that there is simply not a suitable led bulb replacement made for some of them.  Without changing fixtures, I will have to put up with what's out there.

       The good news is, I have lots of company, prices are coming down and new products are invented almost daily.

BTW, I just installed a new 120 lb 4d house battery rated at a whopping1645 amps and I am looking forward to hanging at Jones Island July 5-6 this year. I hope to see you there, I'll be the one doing nothing.


Wind Versus Current and Predicting Conditions in the San Juan's

      Fortunately we don't have much bad weather or rough water during the summer, but things kick up a little when the wind blows  against the current.

           The current changes direction every six hours, so with a steady wind, conditions on the water may change from smooth to stacked waves and back to smooth making crossing straits or rounding the tip of points very uncomfortable.  Some of the currents slam into each other making things worse at the lee side of islands.

           When the weatherman says a "north wind" he means the wind is coming from the north and blowing south.  Not confusing ! - but when when they say a "north current" they mean the current is flowing north - (opposites attract waves) Simple to understand?

Take a moment and click on this link to view current Rosario Strait conditions as forecast  by Noaa
click here to see Rosario Strait forecast  (this is the same handy dandy link on left side of page) The forecast predicts weather and waves and has a handy radar view, plus you can change the target area simply by clicking on the map.

           So! - a north wind and a north current are not good if they are at the same time and place, ditto for south wind and south current, east against east, west against west.  When making plans, check the current and wind direction, remembering at slack water there may be no waves, and then as the current speeds up, the waves stack up.  And then six hours or less later when the current reaches slack again, the waves go back down.

            In the San Juan's, currents flow around islands and land points, and winds blow willy nilly around land masses.  This means you may find localized rough conditions where waves are stacking due to north versus north , south versus south etc.  The good news is that many times these rough spots can be avoided simply by giving extra clearance when rounding points.  The straits and passes though may require you to time your passage to avoid opposing forces.  (north versus north, south versus south.)

          The southeast tip of Lopez Island at Point Colville and Davidson rock is a good example where conditions often are atrocious and to be avoided.

          Remember you can always turn around or wait an hour or two if you are overwhelmed.  Simply changing course a little may ease the ride.  Don't let your schedule or itinerary dictate your decisions.
Coast Guard boat battling big waves
If your boat doesn't look like this one you should probably be somewhere else.
This winter  picture was taken at Depoe Bay Oregon - not the San Juans.
We watched them practice maneuvers for an hour, sometimes rolling nearly  sixty degrees.


Is the Best Vacation Destination in the San Juan Islands Friday Harbor?

     OK, let's get serious, the best vacation destination will offer great value and astounding memories. True!
         So having a orca breach just a few feet from your dinghy fits the  description - right again!
So does a romantic sunset dinner in a deserted anchorage, discovering a tiny octopus in a tidepool, or having a lost seal pup crying at your transom.  But if history fascinates you and killer whales terrify you, perhaps a museum should be on your short list.

San Juan Island - Friday Harbor
Friday Harbor Marina

      If you are visiting the San Juans by car, by boat, or on foot and only have one place to choose for your stop, make it the city of Friday Harbor on San Juan Island.  If at all possible you should allow a full day for exploring and then spend the night on board your boat at the marina or at a local tourist lodge, B&B or motel. For campers, head for the county campground at Smallpox Bay on the west side. 

       Ride your bicycle, drive your car, or purchase an all day transit pass for $15. Friday Harbor and San Juan Island is your number one choice. 

     While on San Juan Island, stop by the  visitors center in Friday Harbor for maps and brochures. ( it's on Spring street across from Kings Market) Check out the Whale Museum,the San Juan Historical Museum, American Camp, English camp, Lime Kiln State Park (aka "Whale Watch Park")and a host of private enterprises and artsy craftsy studios, but don't miss Roche Harbor, and the Sculpture Garden at Westcott Bay Reserve.  Local shops and eateries will satisfy your appetite for cuisine and collectables.

read more >>> clickety click


Bicycling Shaw Island in the San Juans

       Even though I espouse, "Just Get Going" type San Juan trips, I still do a little research from time to time.

bicycle Shaw Island in the San Juan's

         A few years back I stopped at Shaw Landing. (Thats the little float and seasonal market next to the Shaw ferry landing at the entrance to Blind Bay)  We got some snacks and while there inquired about coming back in a day or two and leaving the boat at the dock while we explored the island on our bicycles. 

     We were not told straight out yes or no, they said something about docks being for paid overnighter's and to check back later.       I decided not to come back and we went to Lopez.  There's more  >>>    


False Creek in Vancouver - it's a great cruise destination

        I know, I know, Vancouver is not the San Juan's, but it is definitely in the area.  We had such a fantastic experience I felt everyone should hear about it.

        Sooner or later we get tired of going to the same great places and Canada is the answer if you are in the San Juan's.

Boating to Vancouver and anchoring at False Creek

         At sixty miles from Squalicum Harbor, Vancouver is one day's drive away for powerboats and two days for pokey sailboats.  With an overnight stop at Sucia or Patos Island you can break the mileage down to a thirty six mile jaunt, and have time to explore after you get anchored in Vancouver.

         Your destination is False Creek in NW Vancouver. For those of you going for your charts to find False Creek, it is a dead end bay off the end of English Bay in Burrard Inlet.

          If you already know Vancouver -- False Creek surrounds Granville Island Peninsula and shopping district. One last little hint -- False Creek and English Bay form one side of Stanley Park. (That's right, the Lions Gate suspension bridge Stanley Park)

        Now that you are properly oriented let's cut to the details. Stanley Park trails and the False Creek shoreline promenade provide almost unlimited level bicycling.  Granville Island is like a giant Saturday Market, only with permanent buildings.  You could spend a week here and just get started.  The surrounding high rise condos are some of the most expensive property around, and you can drop your anchor and spend the night in front of them for free.

Dinghy dock at False Creek
Free  3 hr slips and dock space at Granville Island Mall make getting dinner and souvenirs easy.
Now if they can just get the tide to quit going up and down or put in elevators.

            The city welcomes transient boaters and even has a welcome committee boat (at the dock under the Granville Island bridge) stuffed with brochures and knowledgeable ambassadors.

Of course there is a fuel dock, and paying by the liter sounds cheap at first.

          When you arrive in False Creek simply get on your phone and call the 800 number to check in with customs and immigration, it's that easy.

          If you don't want to anchor, there are plenty of marinas and yachts clubs willing to take your money or extend reciprocal privileges.   


False creek dinghy sailing
False Creek is big enough to go dinghy sailing and the entire inlet is a no-wake zone.
Vancouver is on our short list for a return visit!
Did I mention everyone is friendly?

           If you need more cruising to round out your trip, consider running around the point Stanley Park occupies and scoot under Lions Gate bridge up Burrard inlet.  You might even run the eighteen or so miles up to Indian Arm Provincial Park.  Go to ActiveCaptain "live map" to check out the possibilities.

To help or not to help? - boaters assisting other boaters - basic docking tips are common sense

        In the San Juan's, you will either  #1, already be at the dock with your boat, or  #2, coming at the dock with your boat.  All the other skippers are in the same situation.

        The runabout or daysailer or forty footer all have windage and current issues, and when it is crunch time, things happen fast.

        The driver of the smallest vessel may have decades of experience, and the person with the largest yacht may be a newbie over his head in bells and whistles.   In all cases the considerate proper boater will get out there and be helpful when a fellow boater is coming in.

Here are some basic tips some of us use when docking:

  1. Explain to your crew ahead of time exactly what you are doing, and what you expect them to do.
  2. Prepare your fenders, dock lines, and boat hook ahead of time.
  3. Sometimes it is wise to drive up and make a full stop out a ways to judge the wind and current.
  4. Put on pfd's - at the dock is where most drownings occur.
  5. Having a plan, also includes an abort action should things go awry.
  6. If someone is on the dock offering to help --- hand them a rope.
  7. When the next boat arrives, get out there and be helpful.

boating assist at the dock

       helping other cruisers

Nice boat gramps, need a hand?

Where are the Public Boat Ramps in the San Juans - just the basics to get your boat in the water

      Buried in this website are itineraries, helpful hints and everything you need to get going to the San Juans.

         And that's the problem, it's buried.

Some of us don't need anything but to be pointed to the boat ramp.

This post points the way.
BOAT RAMPS TO THE SAN JUANS   << hot link, clickety click!

Should you take your boat trailer on the ferry and get off somewhere?  NO! - I don't recommend it unless you are going to a resort that has a ramp and you plan to rent a cabin -- plan on spending substantial time waiting in  ferry lines.  Be forewarned, some so-called local ramps are simply sandy beaches with no docks. Plus the ferry rates for trailers - ouch.

If you carry kayaks on the roof, riding a ferry makes good sense.  My #1 suggestion for kayakers that don't want to paddle across Rosario Strait -- go to Deer Harbor on Orcas Island, park your car and paddle two miles to Jones Island for a night or two camping.

Let's say you carry a kayak on the roof or trailer a day-sailer and plan on camping on shore, and you don't want to deal with ferries - do this.  Drive to Washington Park in Anacortes, (campground and ramp) set up your camp, splash your boat and sail or paddle to either Pelican Beach on Cypress or Saddlebag Island.  Spend the night or come back each evening.  Using the currents, you can avoid difficult paddling or  fluky sailing if that's what works for you.

Hint, use the search box and search Saddlebag or Cypress or Pelican Beach or Deer Harbor, or Jones.

Boat ramps for trailer tourists and visitors to the San Juan's
Public ramps with floats and parking open 24/7


What size boat is best in the San Juans? Bigger Boats - Smaller? Anything Goes

              Sometimes I see micro yachts being paddled or sailed across straits and marvel at them just as much if not more than the mega bruisers with the eight foot freeboard.

              The difference in expense, crew requirements, and comfort are obvious, and if you drill down into the pros and cons of mega versus micro, each skipper will have a laundry list rationalizing and justifying their choices.

                In the end, the boats we use in the San Juans are the ones we have, it's as simple as that.  It's not a matter of what is appropriate or proper, it's a matter of making proper choices for the conditions, and your boat's ability to handle those conditions.

               From a 14 foot open fishing boat, kayak or canoe, to the Queen Mary, all have a time and place in the San Juans.

                The boats in the pictures below are likely to be found just about everywhere.

So if it floats -- get going.

Taking a day sailor to the san Juan Islands
Everything but the kitchen sink

Echo Bay Tall ship cruises
And the kitchen sink

Mega Yachts in the San Juan Islands
Too big to fit in picture (please remove shoes!)

Camping in the San Juan Islands with ski boats
Runabouts - ski boats - open boats
Common at Jones Island

Mega yacht won't be using any of the park facilities.
These guys anchor out and dinghy into the coves and floats
See the tender on top?

Camping cruising  near Thatcher Pass and James island in the San Juans
Another camper on a runabout

runabouts and daysailers at James Island float
They may be using tents onshore at one of three campgrounds on James Island, or just a lunch stop.

Sail and human powered campground at James Island
Kayak  campers use campground at top of steps

old dock at Jones Island north cove
At Jones Island, its a full float of  day-trippers.

Olympia swantown ramp before facelift
This trailer sailer just rolled down the ramp

towing dinghy in Lopez Sound in the San Juans
becalmed in a car-topper in Lopez Sound

Cypress Island camping at DNR reserve
This boater paddles the final feet to Pelican Beach
Mega Yacht taking all of transient dock at Friday Harbor on 4th of July
Here's a shot that captures mega to mini.
The sailboat is a 70's Catalina 22 towing an inflatable. The mega is 164' Eileen , built in Italy with an 31' beam.  If you look closely you can see the 35 foot center console dinghy attached crosswise at Eileens stern.
This was at Friday Harbor on the 4th of July 2016.


Smart Boaters Follow Rules

boaters right of way

Many of the rules we follow are based upon sound reason.  Sometimes a rule is put in place after tragedy strikes in an effort to make sure it never happens again.

It is impossible to personally experience and learn from every accident scenario so we must rely on others to come up with guidelines for us to follow.

This is why we are required to carry a pfd for everyone on board. This is why we carry fire extinguishers. 

Rest assured though, even when all the rules are followed, there are still plenty of dumb things you can do to potentially maim or kill your friends and family, or complete strangers.

The url below is for the Washington boating rules on the State Parks web site.


I Broke My Favorite Anchor

             I use a folding grappling hook type anchor for my secondary anchor.  I usually heave it off the stern, or paddle it out with the dinghy, and set it by pulling the primary in, shortening scope.

Anyway, last week I was helping out at a Boy Scout Eagle project, and we were pulling some small shrubbery stumps, and I got the great idea to use my anchor to hook onto the stumps and snap, I broke the cast iron shank right at the base. (No, I wasn't pulling stumps with my boat, that would be weird)

So now I'm short my favorite anchor,  but more importantly, how much should an anchor hold and should it break?  I didn't think I was pulling that hard on the stump, it seemed to break with little effort.

I'm wondering, of all the times I have anchored using my folding anchor, how close was I to snapping the shank and coming unhooked.

I would prefer that things bend and not break when overloaded, is that too much to expect?
I don't know the answer, but I'm going to take a good look at all my gear, especially things made of cast parts.
Broken Grappling hook anchor
The shank broke under the locking bell



I have always known the devastating effects of UV radiation.
  How can you miss hearing about it with today's instant internet news.

If you are like me, you have pretty much ignored it though - that is until about ten years back when I had two of my travel trailer tires pop one at a time while on a trip.

On close inspection all four had simply rotted with age.  They had very little miles and virtually all the tread was perfect.

UV radiation is more than just sunshine - it's all daylight all the time.

My trailer boater days run from spring to Christmas, then I change the oil and put the boat away for about 4-5 months.  Now I also cover my tires so I wont be buying new ones.

You can probably get some tire sacks from your local tire store, but I don't like the bright colors and I already had some extra 6 mil plastic.

All I did was cut the plastic into a long enough strip to circle my wheel and then use my desk stapler to close the top leaving an open gap in the back for the axle.

BTW, my covers frustrate cats and dogs too.
uv cover protects rubber from damage
Save your tires - black construction plastic stapled into a bag shape
another cheap  option --  use big black garbage bags


Nine Little Coves and Backdoors in the San Juan's

      It's easy to go to the marine parks and jostle with the other boaters at the dock or scramble amongst a minefield of anchors and buoys.  Sometimes seclusion and communing with nature is simply a matter of going around the point.

East cove Matia Island  facing Lummi in the San Juan Islands
Low tide and still lots of water for anchoring, but open to swell from Rosario Strait.

       As with all gunkholing and exploring, you must be vigilant, watch for rocks, know your tide range and proceed dead slow  or pay the price.
Speaking of paying >>>   paying the price

  Suggested backdoors, (none preferred over another) and places to get away from other boaters.
  • Matia Island:  Matia Cove is a fairly long indent (see pic) at the east end of the island and holds several boats. An unnamed cove is just around the corner from Rolfe Cove where Matias dock is located.  Both these coves offer anchorage away from the usual hustle and bustle.
  • Sucia Island: Snoring Bay is between Echo Bay and Fossil Bay on Sucia and Ewing Cove is accessed via Echo bay on the northeast side.  Both coves offer access to the Sucia trail system, and may have anchor buoys still intact.
  • Saddlebag Island:  This state park is so little visited, you may consider the entire island a backdoor, but there is a second minor cove on the south side with a great view of Cap Sante should the northside be full up.
  • Inati Bay on Lummi Island is located on the southeast side of Lummi Island.  This medium size cove holds a handful of boats and is a perfect storm refuge when you are caught on your way to or from Squalicum Harbor.
  • Cypress Head: The normally used cove with anchoring and buoys is on the north side of the isthmus and open to passing wakes, but the long cove on the south side of the isthmus is easily navigated and may be calm. Watch your depth here.
  • Doe Island State Park: The last we looked (2015) the float was still gone but you can anchor here in relative peace and protection.
  • East Sound:  If you're at Eastsound (the city) and it gets dark, you can anchor in Judd Bay on the far north end (left side) of East Sound.  You will be a dinghy ride from the Eastsound dock which does not allow overnighting.  Anchoring near the county dock is liable to be rolly.
  • Roche Harbor:  If  crowds drive you bonkers and you want to run away, just run two miles to Westcott or Garrison Bay.  Anchor anywhere but watch your depth and don't block access.  You wont be totally  secluded or alone, but you will be away from the mob at Roche.
  • Smallpox Bay:  This small bay is on the Haro Strait side of San Juan Island just a few miles south of Roche Harbor  (scoot through Mosquito Pass) it's a dinghy ride to shore  at this San Juan County Park where campers watch for orca's.
  • There are lots more hidden places, too many to list but you can use the search box the for them. Search - coves, bays, anchoring, camping, parks, things to do, places to go, etc.
      You can anchor off to one side virtually anywhere but you may suffer wakes.  I left out well known places like Blind Bay, Fisherman Bay, Parks Bay. which will all be crowded.  I wanted to suggest mostly secluded easily overlooked locations that will be appreciated by the discerning recluse. 


Where do you go on a Typical Cruise to the San Juan Islands -- What does a week long Itinerary include?

         Ok,Ok - this is a trick question.
There are no typical cruises.

      Some of you aspiring San Juan cruisers might be a little nervous and holding back making that long talked about trip.  If you are not quite sure you have it figured out and need a little push to take off for the San Juans, let me assure you that you can do it. Everything doesn't have to be figured out. So to help you take the plunge and entertain vicarious armchair captains, I have put together a simple run down of our last outing in the San Juans. (2015)

      Our cruises start out with a general idea, and a few hard dates, but no carved in stone  plans.  It just happens.

       In the months (years) leading up to actually departing, we talk and think about what we want to do.  Kinda daydreaming if you will.

This time:
  • I wanted to Orca watch off San Juan Island in Haro Strait
  • I wanted to visit Victoria without rushing
  • I hoped to see English Camp again
  • I wanted to hang out, and have a campfire on Jones and go dinghy sailing in the bay, and maybe circle the island if conditions are favorable.
  • I already had promised Linda a romantic dinner in Friday Harbor
  • We had a firm date to pick up our kids in Eastsound - with bikes and gear.
  • We had a firm date to drop the kids at Odlin Park on Lopez (these kids are 30 something's)
  • I promised I would drop the kids somewhere they could catch the ferry back to Anacortes.
  • I semi promised I would take them to some neat places they could only get to by boat.
  • I wanted to ride my bicycle some since I bring it everywhere.
  • We knew we would start at Squalicum Harbor in Bellingham for the great ramp and free parking.
So that pretty much sums up my plans.

Let's see what we really did:
  1. 1st night, I slept like a baby on board at Squalicum Harbor after pigging out at a  Chinese buffet in Bellingham.
  2. 1st morning, had a great but costly breakfast in downtown, (always hungry after Chinese) and then cast off about noon and head for Inati Bay for a look-see at the logging operation. We have lots of time, so I detoured through Pea Pod Rocks over to Doe Island to verify the dock is still missing, it is, and then we stopped by Shaw Landing for a cold coke and quick look around to check out bicycling possibilities. Next we moseyed past Deer Harbor and on to setting the hook at Jones Island before dark.  Fire danger has canceled campfires anywhere in the state, so I cross off number four on my list of things I want to do.  But it's ok, who wants smokey clothes anyway. We cooked hot dogs on the stove and cracked open the 1st boxed wine. 
  3. Drip coffee on the boat is how every day begins.  We headed out mid morning on the north side of Spieden Island into Haro Strait for whale watching and a lazy run to Victoria.  A couple hours later -  all heck broke loose on us and over the decks. The little ship was tossed, we were tossed, provisions were tossed. It's not long before I lost interest in whale watching and Victoria and said to heck with this bs and turned toward Roche Harbor. Scratch one and two from my list. We pounded  into Roche Harbor and peacefully putted right by the resort and on to English Camp where we got a spot at the dinghy dock and enjoyed walking around the park. Some volunteer hosts entertained us in the interpretive building. When leaving I continued out Mosquito Pass and  took another stab at Haro Strait but turned around quickly to putt putt right by the Roche marina again without stopping.  We anchored back at Jones in my favorite corner in time for a nice hike.
  4. Spent the next two days hiking (two days we could've been at Victoria) and reading at Jones, (and washing dried salt crystal from windows) finally at 5pm on our 4th night we tried to start the motor to discover the starting battery had shorted (could've been at Victoria) and the house battery was too discharged to help. Two hours later (another story) we got her going and head for Eastsound and tie up at the county dock just before sunset.
  5. 8 am we have a really great breakfast in town and hitch a ride to NAPA, by noon our new battery is online and our daughter and husband show up on bicycles after riding the 7:30 ferry from Anacortes. They drop some gear, and pedal off to tour the local brewery.  Eventually we take off for Jones where we anchor back in the very same spot, waving to the folks we met earlier. Still can't have campfires, but there is plenty of time to beachcomb and hike around. The kids camp on shore not the boat, that was the deal we made.
  6. This morning we head for the county dock on Stuart Island.  We spend a busy day riding out to the lighthouse museum and the shut down schoolhouse museum.  I bought a tee shirt at the honor system tee shirt stand. We then motored all the way across the San Juans to the county dock at Odlin Park on Lopez where we drop the kids and their bikes on the dock and then anchor in front of their reserved campsite and dinghy their gear ashore.  It's close to 5 pm, we say adios and run over to Friday Harbor where we take a slip for two nights.  Alone again, I think we walked and hung around the promenade enjoying the music. This was a busy day, but it worked out great. We are really tired.
  7. We start out this next day by sleeping in, eating on the boat, and then walking around town, we end up riding the Transit Bus out to Lime Kiln (Whale Watch Park) for another shot at spotting Orcas, but no luck.  Back in town we eat at a water front crab place overlooking the harbor, its not romantic, and not very good.  I think number five on the list needs a do-over, but we spent lots of money so someone is happy.  Btw, the kids are bicycling Lopez, but forgot and left their helmets on board with us.
  8. I think we slept in this morning too, after topping off with fuel, we eventually got going back to Lopez to pick up the kids. We did the reverse of when we dropped them off, all the gear came off the beach by dinghy, and the bikes off the county dock.  We left Odlin Park and went straight to Blakey's for double ice creams, we hung around sitting on the lawn and watched deer try to out-lazy us. Boaters came and went getting fuel and zoomed off through Peavine Pass, it was peaceful to be sure.  At about mid afternoon we left Blakely's for Cypress where we snagged a buoy off Pelican beach.  We dinghied ashore and hiked to the top of Eagle Bluff.  An hour later we let go of the buoy and ran down to Cypress Head where we wanted to anchor and the kids could camp but couldn't find a suitable place because of the wind. By now, it was getting late so I took my own advice and headed for dependable Saddlebag Island, anchoring in the cove just a stones throw from the beach.  The kids set up in an empty campsite,  (still no fires)
  9. This morning there is no rush, there seldom is, we have breakfast burritos, and then we all hike the figure eight shore trail from different directions.  From Saddlebag Island State Park, it's only five miles to Washington Park where they left their car when they biked over to ride the ferry four days earlier. They wanted to get back to the car around 1 pm so we pulled the anchor at noon.  We dropped them at the Washington Park dock with their gear and bikes, and then, alone once again, we headed north for Squalicum Harbor where we tied to the transient float for our last dinner and night on the boat.
      From my lame descriptions, you should be able to follow our course on the maps or charts.  The distances are small enough that just about any boat could duplicate our wanderings, but that's not the idea.  The idea is to just cut loose and go, charting your own great cruise.

       That's it, that's what a typical cruise is for us today.
 Many years ago a cruise might have included all day sailing in the straits and keeping little kids entertained around tidepools.   
You might want  to stay at Friday Harbor seven nights in a row, venturing out to distant points each day and then returning to a waiting slip and four star restaurants.  You could even sleep on shore at a B&B or hotel.  For me, I prefer to hang at Jones Island.

Here is the promised itinerary if you still want a day by day list of where to go  --  click here  >>Cruise Itinerary around the San Juan Islands

Mt Baker with Ferry Boat


Touring San Juan Island, Orcas, and Lopez Using Public Transportation and Bicycles and Ferries

        Don't go to Friday Harbor and just stay there. If you do you are missing out.  About once an hour the San Juan Transit van/bus picks up and drops off passengers.  From the marina, simply walk over to the ferry lanes where cars are waiting to board and look for the small four foot wide island between the waiting lanes and the road.  There's a little sign saying Transit Stop - that's where you wait, the posted schedule will tell you when the next bus leaves.  For five bucks you can ride anywhere, and for five more you can ride back. For fifteen bucks you can ride all day back and forth everywhere.  Kids are cheaper.

       The talkative drivers will give you a mini tour guide talk while taking you over  to Roche or to whale watch at Lime Kiln.

        So, get on the bus, get off somewhere and hang around, get on the next bus, and repeat. When you've had enough, go back to the marina and talk to your neighbor boat people that went nowhere.

        Lopez and Orcas transit bus/vans are the same, except with different stops (you think?)

Click here to go to the page with all the schedules and links and much more
>>   getting around on public transit and ferries
public transportation in the San Juan Islands


Where are the BIG grocery stores on Lopez, Orcas, San Juan Island?

       When you cruise somewhere with no local knowledge, you must bring it with you or make do as best you can. That's how you avoid buying $5 wine for $20, and getting outdated perishables.

        Just about all little landings have snack bars and minimally stocked shelves, and I admit I buy lots of stuff from these guys and so should you.  If we don't support them with our purchases they will not stay in business. When they are gone, everyone loses.  

        But,  what about the other products that the little guys simply don't have?

  • Lopez Village
  • Friday Harbor
  • Eastsound
  • Cap Sante
  • La Conner
  • Roche Harbor
These places have major stores with everything we want.

Lopez Village:  This is a hard one to get to from a dock, but you can dinghy ashore, here's a link to get you provisions.  Anchoring and Getting ashore at Lopez Village
The store is about a one block easy walk.  You can walk from the Islander in Fisherman Bay, but its further than I want to carry groceries.  You can bicycle from Odlin Park in twenty minutes.

Friday Harbor:   The marina will let you park in a slip or at the breakwater while you walk up to Kings Market. It's about two blocks right on the main street, you cant miss it. This is a big and busy place and so close you can run up from the boat when your cooking breakfast and need eggs.

Eastsound:  It's kind of a long run up East Sound to Eastsound but the store is big and only one block to walk from the county dock.  Note: the dock is small, you may not get to park the mother ship and may have to anchor and dinghy over. One time we dragged the dinghy up on to the dock because there was no room in the water, you can also beach the dinghy and climb up a trail.   Don't worry, you will get to the store one way or another.  BTW - Eastsound has a good assortment of places to eat, yum.

La Conner:  There are three public docks scattered along the city waterfront,  all right on main street.  (these docks are not the marina, which is a little longer walk)  Once on shore, walk to the  left on the main drag to the stop sign and then follow the only main street to the right.  Follow this street about one block to the towns grocery store, it's pretty big, keeps long hours and is only two blocks from boat at worst.   
Chart of Laconner public docks and boat ramp
The above map shows the five tie up floats at La Conner and the red dot is the grocery store, (no, not the dot marking the boat ramp under the bridge)

Cap Sante (Anacortes):  The store is a full size Safeway and is directly across the street from the marina.  Call the harbor master to arrange for a short term shopping slip.  If you are transiting Swinomish Channel, its just a small detour into Cap Sante to provision.

Roche Harbor:   Lastly, don't forget Roche Harbor for groceries.  The store is right at the top of the marina gangway.  You can get a free slip assignment for shopping or anchor out and dinghy over to one of several dinghy docks.  You could even walk upstairs while getting fuel.  The Roche Harbor store is the smallest of the bunch but is complete and stuffed to the gills.

More Stores: Yes, but those are the biggies with complete inventories.  The smaller stores include Blakely's, Rosario, Deer Harbor, West Beach, Shaw Landing, Orcas Landing, Cornet Bay at Deception Pass, and that's pretty much all of them. 


What's in your Galley? - improvements, hacks and tricks for our San Juan Cruising and Boat Camping

         First some background thinking - most of us simply use the boat we have the way the PO (previous owner) set it up, plus some of our own tinkering.  Once in awhile though we get to make a major decision. For example; about twenty  years back we acquired a boat with a pump up alcohol cook top, and of course it was a useless rusty piece of stainless (s)crap so over the side it went.  (dumpster) My cheap rush rush solution was to nail a piece of plywood over the gap where the alcohol stove used to take up, and set my propane camp stove on top. And then we took off for the San Juans or somewhere.

        Later I replaced the nails with screws and painted plywood for formica on plywood and created a pretty nice looking counter top.  Of course while underway the propane camp  stove is stowed away.  Boring - Ok, what I learned was how well the set up worked. Over the years several of our boats have had factory propane ovens, some with gimbals, and I admit they were nice, but they also took up precious space 100% of the time. Don't forget the propane bottle fills a locker too.

           So let's fast forward to Kraken to see what we do today.  Thanks to the PO, Kraken has a Dickinson diesel stove which gets zero use in the summer because its primary function is to blast us out of the boat in freezing weather, which it does very well. Our cast iron soot belching mini monster  takes forever to heat up and cool off, but for now, I put up with it in spite of the baggage, weight, space,  and occasional tantrums.
Bristol diesel stove
Our  Dickinson Bristol with door open - yes,  the oven on your boat is bigger.

      I could have set kitchen dishes etc. on the cold cook top, but I opted for a cleaner counter and varnished up a scrap of plywood with little spacer legs.
Counter top over diesel stove

But wait there's more.  I made sure my camp stove would sit comfortably on top.
boat camping with portable cook stove
I also whacked up a set of shims for leveling, which we use once in awhile when making pancakes.

Here's more in our galley bag of  tricks.
cook top oven by coleman
This cool Coleman oven fits just fine, and is just a smidge bigger than the Dickinson, (see the same tray)
It also heats and cools as fast as the flame can be turned on or off.  This set up makes fantastic biscuits, pizza and cookies, I highly recommend it

Wait, it gets better.
cook top oven and drip coffee maker
Our camp drip drip coffee maker fits too!
Hot cinnamon rolls and coffee anyone!
(guilt free boating at its best)

Everything gets easily stowed, and we get our counter space back.
folding oven
The oven folds up into that little box and fits under the Dickinson next to the camp stove

And that's the way our galley stove works.

Galley improvements on Nordic Tug
BTW - when the diesel stove is hot we place the camp stove on the counter to the left of the sink and  carry on.
The rest of the story, follow this link and then scroll way down to our last straw with soot and the diesel stove replacement.  new propane stove install