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Anchoring at Friday Harbor

     If you have been to Friday Harbor, you have probably noticed this medium sized bay immediately north of the boat basin (few hundred feet).  Chances are there was a dozen or so boats anchored.  This bay is reasonably deep from thirty feet in the front to six feet in the back and with good holding.  It is close enough that you can easily paddle, row or motor over to the dinghy dock under the main gangway.  If you happen to be in town for the fourth of July you will have a front row seat for the fireworks display launched from a barge directly in front of you.

     New comers will be glad to know they have a free anchoring option other than paying for a slip.
BTW,  when you arrive at Friday Harbor you may tie up at the breakwater for free for a short time while you run to the store or grab a shower. There is no need to request permission, simply squeeze in where you can. Try to get on the inside, the outside takes a real beating from wakes.  (so will your boat) If you spend the night at the breakwater the harbormaster staff will come and collect payment eventually. There is no discomfort discount so you may as well get  a slip (call on 66) for peace and quiet and water and electricity, none of which you will find out on the breakwater float.

Where to anchor in Friday Harbor, Wa.  Free anchoring very near marina
Where to anchor in Friday Harbor


Seven important actions your Marine Radio performs, but do you need really need one?

     Pleasure boats are not required to have a vhf radio, but if they do have a radio, it is supposed to be turned on and monitoring channel 16

If you have a radio you can:    

  1. Call the harbormaster from the breakwater and proceed straight to your slip.
  2. Call the Coast Guard when you're sinking.
  3. Call other boats and arrange drinks at sundown.
  4. Listen to others and be entertained for hours, days, even weeks on end.
  5. Get weather forecasts in several languages for areas you've never heard of.
  6.  Tell your mate not to worry, help will always be just a radio call away.   
  7. Call vessel assist and have them bring you some very expensive fuel.
Marine radio use in the San Juan's, rules to follow and proper use

          Seriously, in my humble opinion, I think a radio is a good idea. It is cheap insurance that help is on the way. It is your lifeline from a distant shore when you really need help.  If you  want to save boat dollars, buy a handheld model for about a hundred dollars. They will do just fine, plus have the added benefit of fitting in your pocket for off boat excursions. (I would pay a little extra and get one that scans) We have our children take the hand held radio so they can stay in touch when they are off exploring in the dinghy.

Radio etiquette:
     A license is not required but the FCC has some rules you should familiarize yourself with.
     Some people are sticklers and follow all the rules, others just get the job done. For the most part, make sure you are transmitting on low power (1 watt) for most situations;  if you use high power (25 watt) you will talk over, drown out and annoy boaters in the next county.  Start your call on channel 16 (everyone, including the Coast Guard monitors 16), unless you have a prearranged channel like 66 used for some marinas. First listen to make sure no one is talking, then depress the button and say the name you are  calling three times ie. “Bad Boy, Bad Boy, Bad Boy. This is Good Girl” now let go of the button and wait for Bad Boy to answer. They will answer by saying “this is Bad Boy” and you respond by saying lets go to channel 68 or 69, 71 or 72, the channels used for boating chit chat. That’s it, once you hook up, talk all you want, but remember you're supposed to be talking boating operation topics, and all the rest of us are listening.  So just remember, channel 16 is for hailing not for talking. Oh, and don’t yell into the microphone, it will come out distorted.  Some people will say “over” at appropriate times but usually you can tell when its your turn to talk. .  You should avoid swearing (FCC rule), and only chickens will make anonymous comments on 16 about others, unless of course someone's wake swamps your boat or spills your wine; then the proper yet ill advised way to announce to the world that a boater is being inconsiderate is to say their boat name three times nice and clear so everyone can hear, followed by your snarky message, over.

     BTW, I think it would be a really good idea, if you haven't named your boat yet, to consider what a prospective name will sound like broadcast across the water. Unless of course you want to entertain the rest of us.

     Just my opinion. 

What is the best time of year to visit the San Juans

   The answer is simple if you are coming by boat, it is July and August. If by car, RV or bicycle, the same, July and August.

     Okay, by the time August gets really warmed up, the spring flowers are gone so if flowers are your goal, then early July is better and Butchart Gardens should be on your short list. What about natures crop of young birds, orcas, seal pups and spotted fawns, early July again, even June.  

     Lopez Village, Eastsound and Friday Harbor all have farmers and craft markets open from about May through September.  farmers markets

     Coming for great sailing and empty parks, consider June first. July and August are known for little wind, full docks, and crowded ferries. The fourth of July will be standing room only and reservations required, however the Friday Harbor parade and fireworks are worth the effort. Fourth of July celebrations across the San Juan's

     Foggy drippy weather out in the straits and particularly the Strait of Juan De Fuca may be expected anytime but August and later into fall is more of a sure thing. Late summer may be your best bet for crowd free balmy soft breezes one day and crispy rail down double reefed reaches the next.

best weather in the San Juan's at Roche Harbor,  4th of July
4th of July at Roche Harbor


When a boat comes in to the float, should you offer your assistance?

Dinghy and small child learning how to handle rowing in the wind
This is a re-post I have moved to 2019

would you offer this guy a hand?

Heck yes!
That's just basic thoughtfulness, if a boat was sinking you would offer aid, (that's the law) give them a lift or pull them from the drink. Right! I certainly hope so.  This would be a good time and place to check out a post called "Paying it Forward" click to rush away and read it!>>
Welcome back, you can now read the rest after the jump >>


San Juan area campgrounds with boat ramps

      If camping is your primary activity and your boat is for day use such as exploring, fishing and crabbing, 
you will find these parks of interest.

On the mainland:

  • Washington Park in Anacortes - located one mile past the ferry landing.
Washington Park boat ramp in the San Juan's, the fastest and shortest way to Friday Harbor
Washington Park boat ramp in Anacortes
Excerpt from their website: In the campground there are 68 campsites, 46 have water and electrical hook-ups. These rent for $27 a night. There are 22 non-utility sites that rent for $21 per night. There are 25 sites available on a first-come, first-served basis. Please note that reservations must be made 14 days in advance. A sewer dump station is located near the park exit. Camping check-in and check-out time is 1 p.m. The campground is open year round. Please note: Maximum stay limit is 14 days. Visit the reservation website.  click here >> Washington Park The boat launch at Washington Park was developed and is maintained for the specific use of recreational boaters. Boat launch parking is $9/day and boaters may stay a maximum of 14 days. The two lane launch ramp is suitable for all trailer-able boats, power or sail.  You may not overnight at dock, but may anchor nearby. Ramp is a short walk to campground.

  • Deception Pass State Park - roughly ten miles south of Anacortes.  It is important to note some of the differences between Washington Park and Deception Pass Park.  While Deception Pass camp sites exceed three hundred in three different campgrounds, none are walking distance to the four lane boat ramp at Cornet Bay. However the modern well designed boat ramp claims to have two thousand feet of side tie moorage and overnight at the dock for up to three nights is allowed. Anchoring close by is simple and free. The ramp parking lot is massive and long term is allowed for a fee.
Deception Pass boat ramp at Cornet Bay
Four lane all tide - Cornet Bay ramp at Deception Pass Park is open 24/7

Lastly, Those putting in at Washington Park will be much closer to the inner island area after simply crossing Rosario Strait, but those putting in at Cornet Bay will have to deal with the pass and a longer run up Rosario or an even longer run through Swinomish Channel.  These are not insignificant differences and should be well considered according to your overall plan before making your decision.

On the Islands:
  • Odlin County Park on Lopez Island
Odlin park has thirty one campsites and reservations are a good idea.  The boat ramp is sub parr at best and is not suitable for anything but a small skiff and a four wheel drive. There is no ramp dock and best used at high tide only. The ramp is a short walk to the campground.
  • San Juan County Park on San Juan Island
San Juan park is very similar to Odlin park with twenty six sites, they also take reservations.
The boat ramp is also sub parr and should only be considered for skiffs being hauled with four wheel drives, again the ramp is in the park and there is no float.
  • Moran State Park on Orcas Island is a State Park as is Deception Pass. They boast over one hundred campsites, some suitable for RV's.  Moran park is not ocean front and does not have a salt water ramp, however it is only five miles to the county boat ramp at Obstruction Pass.
          A private park alternative on Orcas Island is West Beach Resort in Eastsound, they have         camping, docks and a boat ramp, suitable for skiffs and four wheel drives.

  • San Juan Island:  If you take your skiff to San Juan Island and stay at a private residence, rental or hotel you can put the boat in at Jackson Beach day use park. The ramp is well designed, has parking and a dock. Jackson Beach is about two miles from Friday Harbor.

Ferry's and trailers:
        Don't forget to check the ferry schedules and fares, hauling trailers on the ferry can get expensive and frustrating - very few do it!

My recommendation for mainland camping is that you get a reservation and camp at Washington Park, 
the run time to Friday Harbor is under an hour, the entire San Juan area will be at your door.


First Timers Guide to the San Juan's

Matia Island, San Juan Islands travel cruise itinerary
Matia Island

  From time to time I refresh my thinking and remember our first visit more than twenty years ago. Specifically what a pain it was not knowing the simplest answers to questions many of us take for granted today. This post is written to help new cruisers headed to the San Juan's needing the same simple answers we needed.

     I define the San Juan cruising area not by county or even country, but rather by places we want to visit and spend some time. But that also means, places we have the capability to get to without too much effort or time.  So that being stated, I think of Port Townsend and Deception Pass Park (Cornet Bay), and Swinomish Channel as our loosely defined southern boundary.  I think of Vancouver BC and Nanaimo as our northern most point, and everything in between Vancouver Island and the mainland completing the east west box. Keep in mind, with a day or two extra, you can run down to Olympia or up to Princess Louisa Inlet, but for this discussion, we are sticking to the core San Juan Island area and what you need to get there.


  • You need a boat, but you can rent a sail or powerboat in Anacortes or Bellingham if you prefer, and it doesn't take much experience to qualify.
  • Size matters, bigger is more comfy, costly and feels imminently safer in a storm. As size goes up, so do your skill requirements. Once past about thirty five feet you will find you don't fit at some docks and fuel burns at over twenty five gallons an hour. Smaller is  better at times. Eighteen foot ski and fishing boats or day sailors are very easy to get in and out at virtually all places but with all your food and gear, you will be crowded on board.  Above all - don't let your lack of a perfect boat cause you not to go. Take what you have, you can make it work.
  • Bring a dinghy, even a two person inflatable kayak is okay.  You need a way to get to shore where there are no docks. You don't have to carry the dinghy on board, you can tow it everywhere you go. Yes you can beach your runabout and let the tide leave you dry but bringing a dinghy is so much easier.
  • Sleep on board, at anchor, at the dock, or in the many park campgrounds. (there are about twenty marine campgrounds, you can camp at a different park every night) If preferred, you can spend every night at a marina or resort and sleep on shore.
  • The best weather will be in July and August, but the shoulder seasons have less people and okay weather too.
  • I suggest you plan a week, but you can make a weekend work.  If you have a comfortable all weather boat, spend the summer.
  • If you rent, don't forget you have to park your car(s) If you trailer, plan on a daily parking fee of around $12.  (Squalicum Harbor in Bellingham is free, even long term)
  • See this posting for launch ramps. ---launch ramps with long term parking  This is probably the only real planning decision you need to make before you go, but we have changed our planned take off point as we drove up the highway.  Do not start your San Juan cruise down south in Olympia, Seattle or Everett or Port Townsend or Port Angeles. If you do you will spend much of your time motoring long distances (both ways) My advice is to start in Bellingham or Anacortes using one of the ramps from the list above.
  • You need with you on the boat, a chart, or you will get lost, count on it. You should have a list of parks, marinas and resources preferably marked on your navigation chart. Get this chart. Noaa # 18421  -  We use noaa chart # 18421 you can see it by clicking here or anywhere charts are sold.  Navigation charts do not show what's on shore, (roads, city's, marinas, parks, etc) so we carry a highway map as well.
  • Don't run out and buy an expensive chart plotter. At minimum, you need a paper chart, a  portable GPS and a compass, your smart phone will probably do.  All boats need a depth sounder or you are risking an expensive grounding.

  • Sample itinerary:  #1. Begin at Squalicum Harbor in Bellingham (open 24/7).  2. Head for Friday Harbor and get a slip for your first night or every night (they take reservations).  3. Use Friday Harbor as your base, returning every night to your own slip with power, water, restrooms, on shore restaurants and entertainment. This plan will work for virtually all boaters regardless of  gear, experience or creature comfort requirements. None of the Marine State Parks have reserve-able docks or anchor buoys, everything is first come first gets it. This means you should plan on anchoring and using your dinghy,  it also means when someone pulls out you may grab the spot at the dock. Rafting is the term  used when several boats tie together at anchor or the dock.
  • Sample itinerary:  #2. Begin at Squalicum again but this time head for Matia or Sucia. Next, Jump over to Stuart and then Roche Harbor or Jones, then to Friday Harbor, then Fisherman Bay. This itinerary will make sure you have a shower and food store available (Roche and Friday) when you really need and want both.  
  • Fuel is readily available but you should try to have a minimum range of seventy five miles just to be sure should you encounter adverse conditions.
  • How many days you spend at each park is up to you, your car and trailer will be waiting in the free parking lot when you circle back to Bellingham.

  • Get my San Juan Islands Cruise Guide, it  has all the parks, marinas, fuel, resources, phone numbers, etc. and is written specifically for visitors coming by boat. My companion book, the San Juan Islands Travel Guide is written for visitors coming by car or boat.
              San Juan Islands Cruise Guide     -----   San Juan Islands Travel Guide
         Don't be cheap, the books cost less than a meal and will pay for themselves in saved frustration,  making your cruise a real success.
  • Lastly, I can't address everything you may want to know in a single post, so I suggest you search this site and read some more articles. There are several with detailed day by day itineraries. Next, after becoming more knowledgeable about what and where you want to go and do, set aside a week and go. It really is that easy. The central cruising area is small enough that you can completely change your plans on the fly. You don't need reservations, you don't need a plan, you don't even need to bring food, just grab your gear and boat and hit the road. OH - bring some cash for, fuel and park fees and that food I just said you don't need.
If you happen to see us on Kraken somewhere, please say hello. We hope to be anchored in Fisherman Bay for the Lopez Island 2019 4th of July show.

John and Linda
              feel free to use the e-mail contact form with your questions


Here's how to get to the Alpaca Ranch and gift shop on San Juan Island

    Traveling by boat around the San Juan's will get very boring if you don't go ashore once in a while.

     Here is an excellent suggestion for a half day outing.  This is what we did.  We swung into Garrison Bay, off Mosquito Pass (we were headed for Roche Harbor) and motored right to the little dinghy dock at English Camp.  We squeezed in just long enough to unload our bicycles and then moved over fifty feet and anchored, paddling back in the dinghy.  So far so good.

     Next we peddled to the interpretation center for a two minute look around, but there was nothing new, so we pushed our bikes up the trail and through the parking lot and back onto the trail, until we got to West Valley road and the trail-head to Young Hill.  Don't quit on me now, you have only walked 1,900 feet so far.

    We padlocked our bikes to the gate and hiked to the top of Young Hill.  This is a killer hike and you can do it in under an hour, but bring lots of water. Search this site for Young Hill to see pictures and the hike.  You can skip the hike if you want or skip the bike part.

    When we got back down from Young Hill we unlocked the bikes and coasted down West Valley road all the way to Krystal Acres Alpaca Ranch and gift shop.  Thankfully we coasted the entire way because our legs needed a break.

     All total, the distance to Krystal Acres from the dinghy dock is about one mile, so this is not a difficult or long bike ride, in fact, you could make it an easy two mile round trip walk if you don't bicycle.

    I know some of you are thinking, but what about the ride back up all the road you just coasted down.  It wasn't that steep, we were able to peddle the entire way back. There are no bike lanes or even much of a shoulder but there also isn't much traffic.

    That's it, an easy relaxing way to spend the afternoon on shore and when you get back to the boat, you can stay anchored right where you are, or run the 3 1/2 miles over to Roche and get a slip for the night.

Alpacas San Juan Island Krystal Acres, things to do places to go  -  (360) 378-6125 - The folks there gave me this great picture to show. Visit the gift shop,  get some yarn.


San Juan & Gulf Islands Current Atlas - Strait of Georgia - Haro - Rosario - Juan De Fuca

   Re-posted  because currents in the San Juan's are part of every day.

If your serious about working the San Juan currents to your advantage you will want to purchase this current atlas, produced by the Canadian Hydrographic Service.  The Atlas is available at West Marine as well as many retailers for about $30

Straight of Georgia - Juan de Fuca Rosario Strait and the entire San Juan's area current atlas
To use the Atlas without doing any math, you will also want to purchase an annual page index such as Washburne's Tables for about $7 
Some genius's have posted their own index tables online that you may copy for free.
(try this one

 Below is a scan of part of one page from the current atlas.
  This is confusing so read the next section twice or more.
The Current Atlas consists of about 80 pages, each page is identical, except for the direction and size of the arrows.    Each page represents current direction and velocity forecast for one hour of that day. All days and all hours are forecast, some conditions repeat repeat repeat, that's why there are 80 pages and not 8,760, and why you need a page index to locate the correct page.  You will only need one Current Atlas (used or new) but you will need a page index for the date of your cruise.  An old index table such as the "2009" pictured above is of no use unless your yacht is a time machine.

The page below, was the forecast for July 13, 2011 at 6:00 pm.  If you wanted to see the forecast for 5pm, 7pm, or another day, you would look at a different page. (this is similar to tide tables, except with drawings)

San Juan Islands current chart
 The biggest arrows represent current velocity over 2.5 mph, the smallest, under .25 mph. 
The arrows point the direction of flow.
Notice the whirlpool (eddy) south of Victoria and off San Juan Island. Notice the current flowing south on east side of Orcas and north on west side of Whidbey.
When cruising, having this information handy can save you time and fuel and make the difference whether you get to your planned destination. For instance a boat heading north up Haro Strait near San Juan Island will get a big boost, however by checking the next several hours one would see that the free ride is going to end soon and the train will come roaring back.  As a rule of thumb the currents flow north on a flood tide and south on ebb tides but as you can see, rules have exceptions.  This forecast is just before the flood tide reverses and becomes ebb, an apt description would be "confused" The confusion will soon end, get your ticket to ride, its free.
San Juan Islands current chart
This is what the currents looked like on July 13th at 7:49 am, also July 14th at 8:39 am and July15th at  9:26 am.  As you can see, your vessel will get a free ride south just about everywhere, but each day at a slightly different time. When planning your passages and your cruise it would be very helpful to consult the Current Atlas first, a simple free ride one week will be the wrong direction the next week. You may want to choose a different departure date.

While were on subject of currents, picture in your mind these big arrows meeting opposing winds and you should then visualize big, steep (dangerous) waves slamming your boat.  Then after a few hours the current changes, and all is well in Camelot once again.

 this post should be read if big waves bother you  >>>wind-versus-current-and-predicting waves

Lately, I have made it part of my cruising to use as little fuel as possible, one cruise we covered about 120 miles over 8 days and used 6 gallons of gas, and most of the fuel was used battling an opposing current between Jones Island and James Island. Unfortunately my schedule dictated the time.


Lessons of a lee shore

    We all know that hapless sailors get blown onto lee shores and that driftwood collects on lee shores warning us of the danger.  So it goes without saying that we avoid or at least pay respect to lee shores.  Not true sometimes.

    Last weekend   (labor day) we were tied up at an unnamed location and watched skipper after skipper bang into a float they were rounding as the wind and current dragged them sideways into it.  There was lots of room and many embarrassed drivers.

     Later that day we watched a thirty two foot Bayliner try to turn around close to a foot bridge between floats. His mistake was not respecting the current making the foot bridge a defacto lee shore.  He had plenty of room to begin with but as the lee shore got closer he ran out of time and then he compounded his problem.  He gunned the engine wide open hoping to complete his turn in time. The gleaming white hull hit the dock under full power, he drove a third of the way out of the water  and then he slammed it into reverse and drove backwards off the float into the float bridge. Interestingly his bow and hull that climbed the wood float showed no real damage but he cornered his transom crunching fiberglass over two feet doing thousands if not tens of thousands worth of damage.

    There is no moral or surprise ending here, it was a bad end of a great weekend. Some hours later with the tide change, the current reversed and the lee shore moved over to the other side.

Get your Camping, Resort, and Marina Reservations in the San Juans -NOW- before it's too late

       Okay,  here it is, the day before Valentines Day, and you are stuck on  finding the perfect Valentine.  How about a reservation at a B&B in the San Juans for some time in July or August. Or a cozy romantic restaurant dinner date in a  Friday Harbor eatery.

      Enough with Valentines, by the time you read this, you're either in the dog house, living on your boat, or should be making summer cruise plans. In any case its probably not too late to get that reservation at a campground or marina.

      When planning a San Juan cruise you don't need any reservations to have a great vacation, but some people feel better knowing there is an open slip or warm bed waiting their arrival.  As a suggestion you might consider making a reservation at a popular stopover for just one or two nights in the middle of your cruise, leaving the rest of your time free to go where the wind blows you, simply staying where you happen to dock or anchor. With a speedy power boat all the San Juan islands and parks are within an easy run no matter where you start or plan to end up. A more sedate  pokey sailing type vessel  may be somewhat limited how far it can run before the sun sets.

     Even if you don't reserve some fancy resort for a stopover visit you can still make a day time visit to Friday Harbor, Roche Harbor, Deer Harbor or many others, park that yacht for free, or anchor and dinghy to the dinghy dock,  then armed with a fistful of quarters enjoy a wonderful, blissful, rejuvenating, hot shower.  You will get back to the boat refreshed and ready to continue your vacation anew.

Free showers in the San Juans while boat camping

 Hot showers are still free at Lopez Village.
Check it out here >>>  Lopez Village Free Hot showers


How to Secure Your Yacht Like You Want To Keep It Forever

Set the brake, turn towards the curb, leave it in reverse and tie the reins with a quick release knot.  

These familiar sounding hints may work for some things, and horses, but not boats.  

Dock lines are important, seems like an obvious observation, but I’m astounded at how many times I see boaters tying up as if they didn’t care about what may be their 1st or 2nd  most valuable possession, spouses and children excluded of course (for some).  Some skippers treat their vessels as if it were a horse, just throw the line around the hitching rail and she be there, arrr, when I come back must be their logic. In their defense, some of these  boobs cowboys (boobs removed to be pc) have never been anywhere but on their trailer, so dock lines aren’t used. But still, If they can’t tie up their boat, how can the rest of us trust being around them.

Enough with the rants, every boat needs four or more lines going from the boat to the float.  I know, people make exceptions sooner or later, such as, “It was just a five minute stop over to get ice, or the water was so smooth,” that’s fine, you’re the skipper and it’s your call.

Four or more huh?  Let's see, one bow line, one stern line, one spring line to stop forward surges, one spring line to stop backward surges. More lines are needed for nasty conditions, such as big swells hitting you all night and day, passing boat wakes, high winds. The condition of your vessel or the docks puny cleats and deteriorating condition are all clear signs that you may need more lines.

Learn from others or suffer the expense of learning yourself is a good piece of advice.  I have on one occasion experienced a brand new line chafe through and part in only one night while tied to an exposed outside float. A new line that rubs on a smooth rounded fiberglass gel coat will lose the battle in one night if it is snapped taught constantly by your boats surging.  Plus the gelcoat will suffer in case anyone cares. The answer is loose lines, shock absorbing snubbers, chafe protection padding or hoses, more lines for when the first one breaks, or park somewhere else. Of course for short time periods you can order your crew to stand there and hold the boat off while you buy the beer and ice. 

Don't forget to have oversize fenders, but even that wont save your boat if you park somewhere you shouldn't.

how to tie your boat using spring lines



Deception Island

Deception Island is just outside deception Pass
Deception Island seems to float between haze and still water.

I assumed that the island under the two bridges at Deception Pass was named for the pass.
Not so, your chart lists it as Pass Island.
Deception Island is actually over a mile out into the strait. Now we know.


Two Perfect, Almost Secret Coves

     Throughout our cruising area are literally thousands of places one can poke a boat into, drop the hook and go ashore - WRONG. Most places are private property and you will be trespassing on shore.  We as boaters are limited to parks, preserves, resorts, etc.

     The problem is that our charts do not show all there is to know.  

     Lummi Island Campground:
This is a small five site  waterfront campground within the 650 plus acre Lummi Island Conservation Area. It is a very hard to find place, the picture posted and my description will be your best resource for finding your way.

   For those of you new to the area, Lummi Island is that big land mass blocking your way to just about everywhere when you put in at  Squalicum Harbor  in Bellingham. 

     The campground is near the south end of Lummi on the east side.  Your NOAA based chart will show Smugglers Cove, Inati Bay, Reil Harbor in that order, just south of the small Reil inlet is an even smaller cove. There is no name but your chart should have a little boat symbol which is the icon for a mooring area but don't get your hopes up, this is a dinky little cove that will require a stern tie or anchor to keep you from swinging onto the rocks. You can pull off a 2 to 1 rode lunch stop if your lucky. It is unlikely two boats can coexist unless they raft.

     By now you should have figured out this place is perfect for kayakers, but you can squeeze in.  The dinghy beach is gravel. Use the campfire rings and composter outhouse.  There is even a loop trail to hike.

Look for this sign as you coast along the shore, it is high up on the bluff on the right side of the cove facing somewhat southward.
Lummi Island Campground is kayaker favorite
The pic looks big but from the water the sign is small and easy to miss.
Kraken at Lummi Island Campground cove
For spending any time here you will want to tie to shore or drop a stern anchor


Excellent Eight Day Cruise Over Labor Day Weekend 2018

       In an earlier post I made a wish list for my summer travels, this is a follow up. But first a link to my earlier post so readers may see what I wanted to do and compare that with what we really did.   Ideas for this summers cruises posted in January 2018

      Because of a hectic summer with two weddings and a Boston trip we almost stayed home, but just before Labor Day I said lets go or forever wish we had. On the morning of our departure we were battening down and about to hit I-5 north when a neighbor came walking by.  He is also a San Juan traveler so we ended up talking for two hours.

     Finally heading out, we immediately stopped to fill the trucks 33 gallon tank, next stop besides the usual rest areas was Seattle where we picked up another 29 gallons.  It is always a shock to find out we only have a few gallons left when I am hauling 10,000 lbs.  Next stop was Winco in Tulalip where we purchased our entire food and beverage supply. No shopping list for us, we just walked the aisles and filled the cart with everything we liked, except we forgot to get a sack of ice for our drinks even though we talked about it in the check out line.

     We arrived in Bellingham about two hours before sundown, took the port of Bellingham exit and went straight to Fred Meyers for the forgotten ice.  I am thinking, I hope this 30-40 minute delay doesn't bite us, especially after losing 2 hours gabbing at home. (see, no stress for me!)

      Splashing the boat and parking in the free lot was a breeze as it always is, but hosing down my salty trailer got me all wet because the water hose is full of holes. ( zero kudos to Squalicum Harbor staff in charge of  wash down hoses.)

       Staying at the transient dock and paying the tourist per foot fee just didn't interest me this trip, I wanted to get underway.  I said to Linda, we have one solid hour of daylight and I can anchor in the dark at Inati Bay  if I have to, so off we went.  We arrived at Inati Bay on Lummi Island almost exactly at sunset. I set the anchor in fifteen feet, thirty feet from shore, opened the first box of wine and broke out the barbecue as darkness settled around us.  I remember looking at the ink black water and the nearby shore cliffs blending together and thinking how anchoring in the dark would have meant dropping the hook a lot further out.

       Day 2. Got the coffee dripping first thing. Last night was great, stars were out. Actually slept in a little.  We listened to the weather radio for conditions expected if we head for Victoria. Sounds like a go but I'm not sure. With deteriorating conditions expected that evening we might be headed into a gale if the front blows in early, but at this point I am set for going to Victoria.

       We up anchor and head south around Lummi so I can get a better picture of the Lummi Island Campground sign (takes two minutes), when we clear the south end and head northwest, I'm staring right at Clark Island, Clark is another on my bucket list of places I need new pictures for my planned updated Cruising Guide.  We grab a buoy at Clark and dinghy ashore.  I haven't changed my negative opinion of Clark but I did get the pics I wanted. Linda thinks I'm unfairly maligning Clark but I am more convinced than ever that putting a state park in the middle of Rosario Strait is a dumb, bordering on dangerous idea.

Clark Island campground
This is the view of the trail leading off the beach at Clark to the well hidden six site campground. To find this trail, anchor or use a buoy in the cove  on the east side of  Clark.  Now walk all the way to the very far south end (left end) until you are blocked by boulders and cliffs. There it is, you can't miss it. All the other dozen or so camp sites are waterfront along the beach.


Who owns the Shoreline above and below the high tide line in the San Juan Islands?

         Probably since before exploration, men have claimed ownership of just about everything above and below the surface of the ocean, and this includes the San Juan Islands.
Thatcher Pass from on top of James Island

         The good news is that the arguments of who owns what and where are pretty much settled.  The bad news is that, as a boater staring across the water at some desirable beach or mudflat (if there is such a thing) you don’t know what to do, or where to land.

       For the most part, you may anchor anywhere you want, except vessel navigation channels and marked farms. It doesn't take much common sense to figure out not to anchor in the middle of a boat congested narrow thoroughfare, (marked or not) but some daydreamers will do just that. 

        Just because it’s legal to anchor doesn't make it a good idea. You can walk most beaches, below the normal high water line, but many properties own the adjacent tidelands and may or may not be marked. Not all shorelines have beaches and so private land will extend to the water’s edge.  Most of the dry land (above high water) is private and you will be trespassing if you come ashore and hike into the woods.  Some landowners don’t care if you come ashore, and some do.  Many will have signs that alert you to their wishes and you should respect their wishes.  If it were me I would not anchor off shore from a sign that said no trespassing, why ruffle someone’s feathers by anchoring or walking in their backyard.

      There are places, marked and some not marked, where seagrass has been damaged, and signs ask you to anchor elsewhere. Who’s not for being an environmentalist? Just move along, there’s plenty of other places to drop a hook.

      At resorts and marinas, (Roche, Friday, Deer, Rosario, Fishermans, etc, etc etc., you will usually see boats anchored nearby, just follow their lead and anchor your boat too. Ask someone where the dinghy dock is and go spend some money.  You may be thinking, how long can I anchor and what’s the cost, so I remind you it’s public, it's free, and you can anchor as long as you want.

       There are some exceptions, but we don’t need to discuss them now, or ever, so go have a good cruising day. 


Inconsiderate Boating

      Stop, don't read further if you don't want to hear my rants.  My current boat leaves a huge wake at times.  I know because I can see it and I admit have had a few radio calls chastising me.  I also know how to minimize or eliminate my wake entirely and so do all the other skippers out there.

       So here's the rub, why are there so many witless morons creating monster wakes where they cause damage? I don't believe for a second that they aren't aware of their wake.  I believe they are jerks and inconsiderate asses that don't deserve the privilege of  driving a boat.

      I'm not saying to drive slow or at no wake speed all the time, I'm saying to pay attention to the damage your wake is doing.  Not only are you being an ass but you are liable for damage or injury caused by your negligent driving.  

     If your wake swamps or rolls a small boat, you are liable.  If your wake smashes a moored boat into a float causing damage, you are liable.  If your wake capsizes a kayak causing a drowning, you will be held liable and probably go to jail.

       If you think this is only true in marked no-wake zones, think again, you are wrong.  You are responsible for your wake damage anywhere and everywhere, marked or not.   That 200 foot rule many signs and publications tout is not your free pass to be irresponsible, your are still liable for damage your wake causes.

There, I'm done.


Is a Bag of Beans the best way to insure Boating Pleasures?

Bag full of Beans travels to the San Juan Islands!

     Many years ago I happened to have over to my house, for reasons I don’t remember, a person that mentioned he had circumnavigated. He asked would I like to see some of his pictures. Of course I said yes, so for the next several hours I was enthralled by this sailor’s story and pictures from around the world.  I have incorporated some of what he said into my own thinking and actions, after all what we learn from others may be hard earned by them, but free to us. 

        This brings me to bean bag chairs and boats. This unnamed world cruiser said that his favorite chair for his boat was a bean bag.  A bean bag, you’re kidding, do they still make them?  Well, yes they make them and $20 later I had a brand new bean bag chair for my 28 foot sloop.  I store it in the v-berth along with bags of sails. My kids quickly learned that it conformed to uneven decks, it could be crammed against shrouds, masts and stanchions, and made uncomfortable cockpit combings a thing of the past.  The bean bag chair has become a must have  piece of cruising/camping equipment on my boats, and while it’s true, storage is limited, tough decisions have to be made -- the bag-o-beans wins out even if it means leaving the 150 Genoa home.
Bean bag chair is a boats most comfortable seating
Bean Bag is carbineered to mast, crew is not
Canoe Pass bridge in the San Juan Islands
Coveted bean bag chair providing extreme comfort in Deception Pass
Sailing the San Juans and bean bag chair
     underway, under sail, unaware     


The Fastest Way to the San Juans On Your Own Boat Begins in Anacortes at Washington Park or Cap Sante

Traveling to the San Juan's requires a starting point,
 a jump off point where you can leave your rig.

"Washington Park" and "Cap Sante Boat Haven" in Anacortes fill the bill.

map of Washington Park and Cap Sante in Anacortes Washington

Washington park has a campground and a boat ramp with a float.  You can reserve your camp site in advance, launch and retrieve your boat every day to make day trips, or take an extended cruise into the islands knowing your campground is waiting for you when you return.  You may also choose to not stay at the campground, just launch your boat, and leave your car and trailer in the long term parking lot while you're in the San Juans.

Cap Sante does not have a ramp but has a sling and a travel lift to launch your boat, they can also assist stepping sailboat masts. Guest space is usually available at the dock and long term parking for your car and trailer are just steps away.  You should make arrangements ahead of time for the travel lift and guest docks

There are several other places I recommend over these two depending on where I'm going and other plans.
Take a look at this post >>  Trailer boat ramps


Is Squalicum Harbor in Bellingham the best way to get to the San Juan Islands? - YES!

     Places to go, and places to travel are easy to find in the San Juans.  For me cheap travel is part of the deal.  What can be less expensive than going on a cruise with your own boat, it's like having your own condo rental or vacation house with you all the time. Okay maybe boat camping is a little squeezed, but the big problem is, where do you launch, and where do you leave your car for a week or more?   Squalicum Harbor in Bellingham is a resounding first choice and parking is free, no others come close for time, distance, convenience, facilities, none in my opinion.!
Squalicum Harbor launching ramp in Bellingham, Wa

Squalicum Harbor launching ramp chart map

     Marked on the chart above with red dots is a four lane two float all tide modern 24/7 ramp, parking, and the overnight visitor docks. The parking lot is huge and they have an overflow lot too. Fresh water wash down hoses are free for you to use.  Ramp fee is $5 and there is no parking fee, that's right it's free, even long term is free. How cheap can you travel, ( I mean less expensive) Next to the parking area is a restaurant, 24 hour bathrooms, and showers. Across the street is a marine store.  Out on the floats, they have transient boater dock space.  Payment is self serve at the automated kiosks.

      You may think by looking at maps that Bellingham is far from the Islands, but it is actually the closest jump off point for travel to Sucia, Matia, Patos and Stuart.  For those camping and traveling on a budget it's your only to really great map with parks marked, click here


Victoria Cruise Itinerary and Customs at Roche Harbor

Note: this  is a very old post I am re-posting so some prices will be off.

Suggested Cruise to Victoria BC with Whale Watching
 and San Juan Islands Stop Overs
This article is for first timers to the San Juan Island area and has the answers you may be looking for.  Timeless advice to make your first trip a fun success.
  • places to launch and stay on your boat
  • distances between stops
  • customs and immigration
  • alternate planning
  • what to expect
  • basic boating information 
Study this map and familiarize yourself with names and places. 
 (Find Victoria, Roche Harbor, Swinomish Channel, Deception Pass)
Map showing Victoria Canada, San Juan Islands, Roche Harbor, Friday Harbor, Squalicum Harbor, Anacortes

Lets start this Cruise at Cornet Bay in Deception Pass State Park
(Your going to Canada and back, did you remember to bring your passports and Children ID's? the rules are changing)

Cornet Bay boat ramp in Deception Pass park

Boat launch at Cornet Bay (Deception Pass)

Day one, you arrive at Deception Pass and its probably late in the day and your tired, so lets plan on spending the night right here  on the boat securely tied to the dock at Cornet Bay.  You will pay a launch fee and $10/day parking, plus 50 cents a foot for spending night at dock. Pay at the self serve kiosk. If your not sure of when your coming back simply estimate, leave a note explaining, the ranger will understand.  The ramp is very good, all tide. The parking is huge, you will not have a problem.
      There is a park store, but you should have done your provisioning in Anacortes.

Deception Pass bridge

Heading westward facing an incoming current, (another ten minutes and we wouldn't have the speed to overcome the 7+ mph current)

Day two, leg #1, our destination is Friday Harbor, but first you must time the pass.  You should already be familiar with the tide levels and  times at Deception Pass (download a page from any of of dozens of sites including NOAA) so cast off at high or low tide. You can be  half an hour early or late, this gives you a one hour window. (it takes just ten minutes to reach the pass from the dock)  If you are catching a falling tide (current is going out to sea) you can be very late but standing waves may scare you and the crew as you take a fast sled ride and shoot out into the Strait of Juan De Fuca.  If you are late and  head out on a rising tide, your boat may not have enough speed to overcome the in rushing torrent, and your stuck until the next slack water. The pass is not a problem, it is narrow with fast water for only about 250 feet, but slow sailboats can  meet their match every four to six hours.

read more


Wiring shackles with seizing wire

      I have always read just like everyone else that shackle pins need to be wired so they won't work loose.
      Well when I anchored my day sailor for the summer, I threw together a folding anchor, six feet of chain, some twenty feet of old trucker floating line, an old fender for a float and set the whole thing in about eight feet of water.  But first I hooked the chain and rode together with a galvanized shackle.  I tightened the shackle pin with a wrench.
       My only worry was too much rode and she might swing onto shore at low tide.   My little cove is subject to about two feet of tide, no rogue wakes, no current and very little wind.

       After about two weeks of coming and going by dinghy, and sailing on and off my poor mans mooring, I was pretty used to and confident my set up was there to stay.  Then one afternoon when I showed up I noticed my anchor line was changed.  Suspicious, I leaned over the side of the dinghy and yanked to the surface my anchor except it wasn't my folding anchor, it was some cast iron thing I have never seen.  I put it back, left my dinghy at the fender float and went sailing, all the time pondering what was going on.

      At dusk I came in and switched back to the dinghy, on my way out of the cove I swung by a young chap working on his boat and inquired if he knew anything about my missing anchor and rode.

     He said yes, he had noticed my boat was floating free one day and using a spare anchor he put it back where it belonged.  I thanked him profusely and brought him a bottle of rum the next day.

    The lesson I learned that day was to use seizing wire even for temporary things if  failure is unacceptable.  I also learned how smart my choice of the quiet cove was for my anchor buoy and that I still had some paying forward credits after all.

     FYI - A few days later from the dinghy, I probed the muddy bottom for two hours with my 12 foot boat hook and snagged my gear getting it all back including the shackle and loose pin. I replaced the borrowed anchor and this time I wired the pin, and that's my story.