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12/23/2022

What happens when a big boat drags anchor and slams into you?

     What happens when a big boat drags anchor and slams into you? The quick answer is, "nothing good." This is a short synopsis of what happened to us one 4th of July at Roche Harbor.
Roche Harbor 4th of July boats at dock

     In about thirty minutes the Roche Harbor staff will be lowering the flags and firing the cannon. Several times in past years, circumstances or poor planning have caused me to miss the ceremony. The firing of the cannon is what I really want to see. The belching smoke, the jagged dagger of flame, the explosive echo’s ricocheting across Roche Harbor. I anticipate a fantastic kick off for my best fireworks ever. Finally, the stars have aligned for me, and on the fourth of July at that. This is already a great trip. The kids will stay on the boat while Linda and I paddle ashore.  The lowering of the flags and cannon firing will be at sundown.
      I am in the cockpit tending to the dinghy, anxiously waiting to leave. When I look over at the boat anchored near us, I sense that it looks different. It is about thirty-five or forty feet long and easily over fifteen feet tall at the upper bridge.  The wind has been steadily increasing for the past hour and I suspect this apartment size power boat is catching the wind and straining at the anchor lines which would make him appear to move a little closer to us. I ask Linda, “Do you think that boat is getting closer?” As I’m watching, I become sure it is half the distance it was when I first noticed. Now I know for sure, we have a problem, the boat is only ten feet away. There is nothing I can do. The other boats anchor has broken out and it is dragging into us. The last ten feet closes rapidly, suddenly he is against us. I hold him off long enough to grab a fender and place it between us saving us both from damage. I am yelling and banging on his hull with my fist trying to get their attention, but Linda tells me she saw all of them leave earlier. 

11/11/2022

Eight places in the San Juans where you can dent your pride and check your ego

        Someone famous once wrote, "I only worry near shore because that is where the shallow water is."  Okay, I don't remember exactly what I read but you get the idea.

        In the San Juan's we are pretty much always near shore (it's not that big an area) so should we worry all the time?  No! We should pay attention using our heads and our tools.

      All the rocks, reefs and shallows are marked on charts, the especially egregious places have buoys, signs, sticks and posts out in the water.   Of course with storms, high tides, poor maintenance, things go missing, so we are back to paying attention and using the old noggin.

       Once not too long ago we were motoring in flat mirror perfect water at about 7 knots in twenty feet of depth.  Up ahead I saw a disturbance (some itty bitty  ripples) I glanced at my chart plotter and saw nothing alarming, nevertheless as we neared the ripples I braked and prepared to go full astern.

         While watching the depth gauge,  suddenly -- there it was -- the depth dropped to six and then four -- and we came to a halt. (no we didn't hit) I stopped, turned and went around the shallow spot.

Worst places in the San Juans for rocks and running aground
on watch

Here is a list of potentially problem spots where you could easily relax your vigilance and get hurt.


read more - click here

11/06/2022

Top Things to do and Places to go in the San Juan Islands

Discover the top places to go and the best things to do by boat in the San Juan Islands. 

The difference between a truly wonderful vacation and a ho-hum boat ride is the memorable experiences and special places visited along the way.  These are some of our favorite haunts and things to do.  Maybe some will become your favorites as well.  

  • Matia Island one-mile loop trail:  This easy one-mile loop immerses you deeply into the shaded forest the minute you take your first steps. Towering trees, oversized ferns, and thick mosses line the trail.  Our first walk many years ago was so serene and calming that even our young kids were quiet and talked in whispers.  Matia Island pictorial
  • Pygmy deer on Jones Island:  The northwest is full of wildlife and deer are everywhere, or so it seems sometimes.  However, apparently, the many deer on Jones Island have developed to a much smaller size. Even the older bucks with big racks are only about waist-high.  Many of the deer are tame, and some are downright annoying.  One time a deer met me at the water's edge as I came ashore in the dinghy.   Several times deer have joined us around our campfires looking for handouts and letting the kids rub their heads and pet them.  I remember once a spike kept crowding too close to the fire, he was intent on getting at a bag of corn curls. It is against park rules to feed the animals so I don't know how they learned to expect treats from boaters.  Jones Island deer
  • While Deception Pass isn't located within San Juan County, any boating enthusiast would be remiss not to include it in their cruising itinerary. In fact, Cornet Bay, with its well-facilitated ramp, serves as a prime launch point for those embarking on their nautical adventures. But, here's a piece of advice – don't just launch and rush through; take the time to savor the breathtaking scenery.

    Consider planning part of your voyage around the four daily occurrences of slack tide. At slack tide, the turbulent waters temporarily calm, providing an excellent opportunity for exploration. A mere quarter-mile beyond the pass, still within the park's boundaries, you'll discover Sharpe Cove. Here, you can moor your vessel at the floating dock, and at the head of the ramp stands the remarkable Maiden of Deception Pass.

    This extraordinary statue, carved from a towering cedar tree, stands at an impressive twenty-five feet. It portrays a Samish woman gracefully holding a salmon aloft. The story it tells is one of unwavering sacrifice, representing a Native Indian woman who risked her life to ensure her people would never go hungry. It's a powerful testament to the deep connection between the indigenous people and the land.

    Just a stone's throw from the Maiden lies Rosario Beach, a renowned tide pool area. It's a place where nature's wonders are on full display, offering an opportunity to observe a rich variety of marine life and coastal ecosystems up close. So, when charting your course through these waters, ensure you dedicate some time to exploring Deception Pass and its fascinating surroundings. The remarkable beauty and cultural significance of the area are sure to leave a lasting impression on any adventurer. Deception Pass

  • Did you notice?
    •  As a writer wannabe, I enjoy playing with words. Lately, I have been kicking around artificial intelligence.  The next passage and the preceding passage were passed through an AI program.  I supplied the basic information, the fluffy language, not so much, enjoy.
  • The Swinomish Channel, a hidden gem for seasoned boaters, provides a picturesque and relaxing alternative to the sometimes turbulent waters of Deception Pass. Many visitors who park long-term at the  Cornet Bay boat ramp in Deception Pass Park, myself included, choose to embark on this delightful detour. When heading out, instead of veering right into the unpredictable waters of the Strait of Juan de Fuca and Rosario Strait, consider retracing your route for a few miles and setting a course through the serene Swinomish Channel. This not only offers a respite from the challenges of the Pass but also shields you from the often encroaching fog in the Straits. As a delightful bonus, you can make a pit stop at the charming town of La Conner. Nestled along the banks of the channel, La Conner welcomes boaters with open arms. The town offers four docks, perfect for short-term or overnight stays. A leisurely stroll along the charming boardwalk presents a plethora of quaint shops, inviting bistros, and even a provision store for all your needs.So, when charting your course, why not opt for the scenic great circle route, meandering through the Swinomish Channel? Along the way, take in the breathtaking scenery, and don't forget to treat yourself to a delectable ice cream cone at La Conner, making your journey all the more memorable.  (not bad, but not me)
  • The San Juan's are full of hikes, walks, and places to explore and I'm not going to list all of them on Sucia, Stuart, Matia, James, Jones ...  But two hikes beckon me back again and again because they reward me, not just exhaust me.  Hiking to the top of *Eagle Bluff on Cypress and the top of  *Youngs Peak, aka Young Hill at English Camp. Both hikes are thigh burners and just plain hard work. Both are short and intense, we pace ourselves, rest, and keep coming back.  The summit views are worth it. Bring cameras and water.  Go to this link and then scroll down to #7 and #9
  • Use your dinghy, kayak, or paddleboard to explore Echo Bay:  Sounds simple enough and you probably already plan to,  but I suggest you go to Ewing Cove at the far northeast end of Echo Bay. You can sneak in with your big boat but using the dinghy allows you to paddle through some narrow slots and get up close to some cool cliffs and rocks.  You can even go ashore to use the privy, have a campfire, or drop off passengers who want to make the long hike back through the woods to Fossil Bay.  Ewing Cove has two buoys and is at the far north end or point of Echo Bay on Sucia Island.  Watch for rocks, follow your chart, watch the sounder, and go slow.
  • Sculpture Park at Roche Harbor: I don't believe the park is part of Roche Harbor but if you go by boat, you need to get a slip at the marina or anchor and go ashore at a dinghy dock.  Once on shore, walk uphill past the pool and cabins, and cross the road, you can't miss it. It's free, donations are welcome.  We enjoy strolling through the fields, meadows and woods. The unique large art pieces are spread out over twenty acres. Some spin and whirl, some are interactive, and some have deer grazing nearby.  There is something for all ages and dogs are welcome too.
  • Turn Point lighthouse museum hike:  Chances are that you already know about this very popular destination.  Most newcomers will be staying at either Prevost or Reid Harbors and then hike the 2.5 miles  (one way) from the State Park docks.  You can save two miles and an hour by taking the dinghy to the county dock at the far north end of Prevost Harbor.  We usually anchor near the county dock and then leave the dinghy tied to the small float while we walk out to Turn Point.
  •  Moran Museum:  You should stop by Rosario Resort in East Sound on Orcas Island.  You may anchor, tie to a buoy, ask for a complimentary slip, or spend the night.  While you are there make your way to the third floor of the mansion-turned-resort office and restaurant.  The top floor museum is dedicated to the early days of Robert Moran and the San Juans.
  • Friday Harbor music on the promenade:  The short promenade that runs between the marina office and main street is a small city park.  Most summer weekends the stage is filled with musicians entertaining cruisers and locals.  It is lots of fun and free,  Music will drift out on the dock to your boat but not if you are somewhere else.  When planning your travels, plan Saturday at Friday Harbor.  
Your interests will vary from ours, so this list may not be perfect for you. I suggest that you search this website, you may discover the perfect idea. (and don't worry about any AI content leading you astray I check it for accuracy)
Turn point lighthouse museum
Turn point museum at the lighthouse











10/14/2022

Leaving for La Conner this morning!

New Bombay motor sailor anchored at Cypress Island in the San Juan Islands
Windrose, aka "Rosey" has made it to the San Juans
In good company anchored at Jones Island

I wrote this post ten years ago.  It is about a tsunami damaged boat we rescued following the Fukushima Japan earthquake of 2011.  Windrose was pummeled but not quite sunk as her slip was destyroyed around her in Cresent City, CA.

As I write this post Rosey's journey back is finally almost complete.  Today will be another white knuckle trip up the interstate for six hours, and then Monday we will be slinging her into Swinomish Channel.  After a day or so rigging we will be heading the wrong way to Hood Canal to visit Camp Parsons Boy Scout Camp to pick up our son. Next week we expect to head to San Juan Island with three bicycles on board so we can do a little bike riding. Right now I am preparing to download some tide forecasts and somehow appease the fog gods to lay off the Strait of Juan De Fuca. I'm still short a trusted gps, the radar is not tested, and my brand new Humminbird was shipped off for repairs and wont be back in time. So we will be dependent on our eyes, good looks, and the antique spinning sounder that makes a whirring sound. I think we will be just fine, but don't count on us to make any appointments on time, which is what I would say if we were on a modern newer boat with all systems functioning.
7/22/12


Read about Rosey here  > Rosey's first trip after arriving at her new home in the San Juans

Read about Rosey's tsunami nightmare and repair here  >  Bombay Pilothouse Project

9/17/2022

Visit Olga on Orcas Island and ride your bikes up Mt Constitution or Moran Park

      Olga offered us an empty dock, so we gladly accepted. On other visits we turned away vowing to return when there was room.  The private mooring field is peppered with so many buoys it demanded full attention slipping through.
Kraken at Olga dock in the San Juan Islands
Olga public dock has room for about three boats on each side, all buoys are private.

Kraken at Olga dock on Orcas Island
The dinghy's at Olga belong to locals, there is no access to beach except, a nasty slippery, very steep, and thorny trail in brush under ramp.

Olga dock on Orcas Island
The sign says it all

       On shore at the top of ramp is a flagpole, and a memorial bench. There are a couple blocks, if that, of roads to walk, some say private drive, keep out.  There is no bathroom.  The old store across the street was closed up many years ago, and the property is for sale, but the little post office is in business.  Up a moderately steep hill about 1/4-1/3 mile is a restaurant on the main road. Some other boaters made the hike and reported good food.  Other than private homes, most which look like second homes, there is no other business.  That's it for Olga.  I'm glad we finally stopped by Olga, but except for a nice dock to tie up to, and a pleasant little bay to paddle and dinghy sail, what can I say.

       On a much more positive note, I rode my bicycle around a little, and after checking my maps I realized that Olga is the shortest and most convenient starting point for a grueling ride to the top of Mt Constitution.  7 miles versus 7.5 starting at Rosario.  I did not make the ride due to being late in the day, but I plan to come back and give it a try.

         Next time we are in the area and need a place to spend the night, I'm sure we will stop again.
Oh, and we saw a little baby deer on the beach, way to go Olga!


8/08/2022

Creating maximum space at the dock and general good manners.

Orca killer whales in  Haro strait Off shore from LIme Kiln park



   Having just returned from a 200 mile sweep around the San Juan's, I am fresh with observations and thoughts of how to improve the experience.

      Everyone knows that dock space is first come first served and not to expect room for one more when you arrive.  However, there is room for more if you try using some common sense.  Somewhere in the mountain of state park dock rules and regs is the suggestion to locate boats close together.  Spacing boats fifteen feet apart is not helpful and yet it is common. Tying ones dinghy to the float instead of rafting it is another obvious inconsiderate ploy that effectively exclude others.  By the way, did they pay for the extra dinghy footage?

       Speaking of dinghy's, many parks have designated dinghy docks but I see people with fifteen foot inflatables, complete with 50hp outboards, consoles, windshields and bimini's, side tied at the dinghy dock forcing real dinghy's to make do as best they can.  What is really annoying is when you realize the offending dinghy belongs to the fifty five footer tied to the same float.

      Speaking of  bigger or smaller boats,  a considerate skipper will let his longish bow area stick out beyond the end of the float so his fifty five feet only uses forty feet of  dock.  Stop! I know this trick is a bad idea in some locations and for some boats. Obviously, I'm not suggesting being foolish, I'm suggesting being thoughtful and considerate.

       While we are talking considerate  activities,  how long is long enough or too long to run a generator?  During my latest visit we were treated to a generator running for eight hour stretches.  It was during the daytime and it was fairly quiet but come on, at least get off the dock and anchor out a ways. I was anchored out myself, it must have been no fun at all for the people close by.

       I spend some of my non San Juan boating time around jet skis, water skiers, tubers, newbies, loud music and alcohol fueled people enjoying the water.  As such, I expect close encounters, big wakes and general on water mayhem.  But not in the San Juan's, the San Juan's attract an older more refined, mature crowd. We have miles of room to navigate, there is really no reason for close encounters. Jet skis are outlawed and proper boating is the norm.  On this visit a thirty five footer at high speed overtook us and passed by so close they would have hit us if I had turned unexpectedly.  I had no time to react, their wake rolled us so violently that one crew was thrown out of their seat and some of our belongings came crashing off shelves and out of cabinets breaking on the cabin sole.  I regret I did not get a picture or name of the offending boat.  I am not embarrassed that acting on reflex, I cussed them over the radio.  Then after realizing in my haste I may not have keyed the mike, I did it again clearly to make sure they heard.  I hope they heard me but my antenna was down with the inflatable on the roof so my range was greatly reduced.  I apologize for may last paragraph, I'm still reeling when I think about the incident.

     On an upnote, at Jones Island, as we were anchoring, a skipper at the float yelled over to us that he was leaving in a few minutes. We aborted lowering the hook and moved over, thank you very much.

     Also at Jones, we thought we lost a cell phone, trail mix and passports in a drybag at our camp site, only to find it two days later where a racoon had stashed it in the bushes, unharmed but chewed on.

     

      

7/06/2022

My get home system is finally put to use.

 More than a decade ago I installed an outboard bracket to carry the dinghy motor on the back of my  40 year old Nordic Tug.  The transom mounted bracket allows me to store the 5hp Honda and easily transfer it to and from the dinghy.  Thinking way ahead, I mounted the bracket down low  so that if I ever needed an emergency push or trolling kicker, I would lower the motor, connect the fuel line and away we'd go.

Well it finally happened.  Last month, the tug made a strange sound so I shut off the motor and began drifting.  Because I had forgotten how the mechanism worked and fiddling with it while hanging over the back end was a little uncomfortable, it took me a few minutes to get the prop in the water and the fuel line connected.  After about ten pulls the motor came to life and we were ready to go.

Holding the cowling I pointed it at what I guessed was straight ahead.  I shoved the gearshift into forward and twisted the tiller to a medium fast idle.  At first we didn't move but then it was apparent our nearly ten thousand pounds was actually making headway.  Because I was hanging over the back, I yelled to Linda, asking if we were pointed okay or should I try steering.  Her answer was not helpful.

I made my way inside and determined we were indeed headed for a mud flat.  I turned the wheel and observed an agonizing slow response.  The gps showed we were making 4 mph but our smallish rudder is designed to have the force of the diesel engine pushing our 18" prop wash against it. The outboard is far over on one side and actually behind the rudder.  Never the less we began turning away from the shallows.

So,  the system worked.  I can't say I am impressed with performance but it will beat using the canoe paddle that I keep on board.  The two gallon fuel tank will be very limiting and I am aware that the outboard can't be lowered with the dinghy on its davits.  

I know others have get home plans and motors, I thought some may benefit hearing my experience.

Oh, and the tug, as always, it was fine.


5/02/2022

San Juan Islands Cruise Starting at Cornet Bay in Deception Pass State Park

This post first appeared in the web site in  2011. Parking and launching fees at Cornet Bay have since gone up a little.
       Camping, traveling, vacation rentals, condo's, resorts, on a budget, is it even possible? Yes it is. Inexpensive (cheap) vacations are possible if you go by boat or yacht as some say. The trick is to already own the yacht and then camp on it at all the great places.  Think of it like going to RV parks only without the garish over the top  land schooners parked on the best reserved spots.

           Okay, no more promos for boat camping.  Assuming you are a newbie to the San Juan Island boating group, you may be wanting to know why you should start at Deception Pass State Park if you are headed for the islands.  Simple, the park has the best all weather, all tide launching ramps and long term parking lot. Plus,  Deception Pass is one of the places to see that you should not miss, and the Cornet Bay dock is a wonderful place to hangout overnight, or for a few days or longer. 
Map of San Juan Islands showing rosario strait, Anacortes, Friday Harbor, James Island, Deceptiopn Pass

Snapshot showing Cornet Bay and Deception Pass

The Google photos above with labels will help you to orient yourself. Because slow boats must time their passage through the pass you may find yourself spending the night at the dock.  I always plan to spend the first night at the dock because  after driving six hours, rigging and launching my sailboat, it's late and I'm tired.  My crew can fish, hike and race around in the dinghy while I take a break.  The next day I'm ready to go, and cast off at slack tide which may be at noon or 9am.  The time doesn't matter, I'm on island time now.

The launch fee is around $6, parking is $10/day and staying at the dock is 50 cents a foot. The ramp has three or four lanes with floats. Trailer parking is abundant and long term.  You can anchor out for free, anytime, anywhere. There is a fist of quarters shower that short times you in the bathroom.  Lots of locals and campers come down to fish off the floats, but boats tying up have priority. Try explaining that to a fisherman.

It is a very short run out the pass, under the bridge and into the Strait of Juan De Fuca, where high seas or fog may cause you to change your plans, if so, just head the other way to Swinomish Channel.  If you have never cruised the channel do it anyway, it only adds about 15 miles to your trip and is well worthwhile.  Or when you come back a week or so later, use the channel, but try to work it into your plans.  FYI, your boat will need to make 10 mph or better to overcome the worst of pass current, otherwise you will have to time it like the rest of us.  Of course with a favorable current you can rush on through, but the standing waves can be pretty big at times and an open bow boat will seem like a poor choice. The pass is narrowest directly under the bridge, so you will have a fast current for only a very short distance.

Deception Pass boat launch at Cornet Bay

Dock and ramp at Deception Pass State Park (Cornet Bay)

        You should run through Deception Pass.  Next door, Canoe Pass, while navigable, should only be used at slack water, is very narrow  and sight distance restricted right under the bridge, it is a little creepy when the whirlpools turn on and begin spinning you towards the rock cliff face.  Sometimes we take our 9' dinghy with its 7.5 hp motor around Pass Island and wave to the gawkers on the bridge, but when the flood or ebb starts cascading, a dinghy has no business in either pass.

         When you come back a week or so later and are ready to head home you can wait  for slack water outside the pass at the dock in Sharpe Cove or Bowman Bay. 

           I always spend my last night at the dock, and get a good rest for the long drive home.
Here's a link to the marine parks locating map  marine parks maps etc. click here


Deception Pass at slack water

Tall ship ghosting through the pass at high slack water (photo taken from bridge)
 In 60 minutes standing waves 3-6 feet tall may form and the current will be 5-8 mph

I would be remiss to not point out that  most boats can transit the pass a good deal before or after slack water, slack water is simply zero current like in the picture.  Also don't forget Swinomish Channel is just around the corner and avoids the pass altogether.

3/19/2022

Friday Harbor Marina Map

       For first timers it is really handy to know where your assigned slip is in a maze of  fairways and other boaters.

        Even regular visitors can forget where G-dock is  or which side are the odd numbered slips!

Anyone see the dinghy dock?  (It's at the end of A-dock)

Tip #1  Ask for a slip close to land, that quarter mile walk gets old real fast!
Tip #2  If your visit includes loading and unloading passengers and gear,  save yourself a long walk and use the load dock below the marina office. (just motor past the fuel pier) The side facing land is for public use. The other side is for VIP's

Friday Harbor Marina Map showing slips, slip numbers, fuel, gas dock, and ferry  terminal
Image Courtesy the Port of Friday Harbor
Click on image for bigger view

Roche Harbor Marina Map


Thanks to Roche  Harbor Resort for letting us use their area map, it also shows where the Mausoleum and Sculpture Garden/Park are located.
Our 2019  cruise guide shows this updated map and the new  Friday Harbor map as well. It's really nice when getting a slip assignment to be able to check the map and know exactly where to go.
Roche Harbor marina map showing slips, numbers, dinghy dock, fuel dock, stores, anchorage, boat ramp, visitor trails
Roche Harbor

1/24/2022

Sobering thought worth thinking about

 

I was busy cleaning out my laptop and as usual became sidetracked reading something I wrote.  I immediately noticed punctuation and other errors but more than that, I vividly remembered the situation I had written about and how shaken I was.  I remember thinking that perhaps risking my family's lives was not my decision to make.  I remember considering turning around and quitting boating right then and there.

I hope I have caught the attention of others like me.  Below is the gist of what I wrote almost ten years ago.


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


While we’re talking currents, I am sure you know that your boat will be dragged sideways whilst you drive forward when crossing a channel or fast water.  It is very easy to not pay enough attention to the currents “set and drift” and what’s on the side of your boat. Let’s put it simpler, if you’re driving forward and looking forward you will miss what you’re heading for sideways. It is easy when close to hazards to allow yourself to be dragged into them because your looking where you want to go, not where you are really going. Tip. Please re-read that last sentence and get it into your default system, it may save your boat or someone’s life.


Please leave your SCARY story in the comments below.  You will never know but you may save someone. John

12/17/2021

Troubling winter time thoughts

       Dinghy's, tenders, shore boats come in a dizzying array of shapes and sizes, and the on going "best dinghy" argument is far from complete in my limited mind.

But right now now I'm wondering if the pointy end of a dinghy is really needed.  I mean the part that is normally above water.

So here's the question, when comparing a 8' pointed dinghy to a 8' blunt nosed dinghy (some call them prams, others punts) do they both have the same load capacity? rowing, sailing ability?  I think if you take a 8' flat nosed dinghy and add back what it would take to make a decent pointed end you would in essence then have a 9.5' (give or take some inches)  pointed dinghy. Am I missing something here?

If I'm correct, it means a flat nosed dinghy of a given length may actually be a bigger boat (other issues and factors being equal) than a pointy dinghy of the same length overall. Right!
I think carried to extremes this line of thinking means a rectangle boat  is bigger, followed by a square boat as being the best shape for big loads. So a barge may be the shape it is for good reason.

So this brings me full circle  back to my earlier thought, is the pointy end of a dinghy really needed, or does it just make it a smaller boat?
Dinghy and Sunset at Matia Island in the San Juans, with Sucia and Echo bay in background


I'm am really looking forward to summer.


10/05/2021

Places to go in the San Juan Islands

Places to go and things to do in the San Juan Islands.  All places listed are accessible by boat, some by vehicle also.

  • Hikes:  Pretty much every park has easy to lengthy hikes so instead of making a long list you may follow this link to all the parks  All the parks
    • Eagle Bluff on Cypress (Start at Pelican Beach)
    • Afterglow Mausoleum at Roche Harbor
    • Turn Point Lighthouse on Stuart Island
    • Young Hill at English Camp
    • China Caves from Fossil Bay
    • Vendovi Preserve on Vendovi Island
    • Fort Whitman on Goat Island
    • Turtleback Mountain, begin at West Sound county dock
    • Click here for >> Detailed instructions for the hikes listed above
            
Eagle Bluff on Cypress Island
Eagle Bluff (Cliff) from Rosario Strait


  • Dining/eats:  I have never reviewed restaurants and won't here.  However a newbie to the San Juans has no idea what to expect or where to go so here goes some locations.
    • Blakely's: Just inside Peavine Pass has a small deli bar
    • Eastsound: It's a one block walk from the dock to downtown with many bistros, shops.
    • Rosario: Dock, restaurants
    • Lopez Village - Fisherman Bay: Restaurant at Islander resort or for Dinghy beach landing at Lopez Village
    • Friday Harbor: many places are walking distance from complementary tie ups in marina
    • Deer Harbor: Deli on dock, restaurants on shore
    • Roche Harbor: several restaurants on shore, complementary dock
    • West Beach: north shore on Orcas, deli in store on dock
  • Groceries, shopping:  The best advice here is to bring what you can before you head out, but the San Juans are not without good grocery stores.  You just need to know where they are.  This comprehensive post has them all >> Where are all the big stores?
  • Fuel:  Gas and diesel are readily available.  I would arrive with full tanks but not to worry if you don't.  This link will take you to all of them  >>  fuel docks
  • Museums and points of interest: 
    • Whale Museum in Friday Harbor is just up a flight of stairs from the marina office
    • Turn Point Lighthouse museum on Stuart Island
    • Patos Island Lighthouse Museum on Patos
    • Moran mansion has a third floor museum at Rosario Resort
    • English Camp at Garrison Bay on San Juan Island
    • Sculpture Garden at Roche Harbor
    • There are Saturday Markets at Lopez Village, Friday Harbor and Eastsound

9/20/2021

Where are the Boat Ramps for your San Juan Islands Cruise Vacation?


          Taking your boat for a camping vacation cruise isn't expensive or difficult if you know the places to go and what to do. If you're going to camp aboard I recommend that you start out in Bellingham, all the places to travel are close by. But if you need a campground for your home base you should reserve a site at Washington Park in Anacortes and launch your boat at the park ramp..
Recommended #1 best  #6 last      #1 being the very best in my opinion  Oak Harbor is ranked #6 simply because they are farther away.
  1. Squalicum Harbor in Bellingham  -  unlimited free parking, fresh water rinse hoses, guest docks, restaurants (you will be glad you began and ended your trip here) (updated 10/1/21) I just became aware that Squalicum Harbor has changed their free parking to FIVE days maximum. This is bad news for some of us that like to take 7-10 day cruises. I recommend calling them.  Cornet Bay requires payment but at least has  much longer parking. 
  2. Cornet Bay at Deception Pass State Park  -  lots of pay to park, guest docks, nice place and float to hang out.
  3. La Conner (south end Swinomish Channel) city ramp, float, on street parking, cheap fees, guest docks.
  4. Washington Park in Anacortes  -  limited pay parking, double ramps with float but open to swell and waves from Geumes Channel,  no guest docks,  very nice on site campground, easy bike ride or hike to ferry.
  5. Twin Bridges (north end Swinomish Channel) County ramp, limited pay parking, small float that's dry at low tide, security risk area  NOTE: It's just a little further to La Conner and well worth it!
  6. Oak Harbor  -  free ramp, $2/day parking, guest docks nearby, full marina services nearby, long walk to town!
  • Cap Sante in Anacortes is not listed because they have a sling, not a ramp, Cap Sante would be second choice if you want to sling your boat in. Guest docks and big RV or trailer pay parking lot. (you can spend a lot of bucks here)

San JUan Islands map showing boat ramps at Cornet Bay, Squalicum Harbor, Twin Bridges, Oak Harbor, Washington Park, La Conner,

Click on picture to make it bigger!
For first timers, see articles titled  "San Juan Islands for First Timers"
Click below


7/03/2021

They say Canada visits are open after July 21st 2021

      I just read a website that says we can go back and forth after July 21st.  This is undoubtedly subject to change with current conditions and remember what the US says and Canada says may differ so check with both sides before you cross over.

     Interestingly,  the last time I had a passport problem (expired) and could not find the answer online.  I simply called the office in Friday Harbor and talked directly with an agent. He gave me the straight and current poop in a simple phone call.  It made me realize how much I had gotten away from talking to people who actually run the show.  Now if I can get certain people to quit texting for hours on end when picking up the phone is more expedient anyway.


San Juan Islands visiting Victoria, Butchart Gardens


5/26/2021

Summer is upon us - Memorial Day kick offs are this weekend

 and we don't know what to expect regarding Covid 19 closures - openings or anything else. Are we allowed to visit Canada, what about our regular haunts and favorite hideouts?

I was hoping to give everyone a heads up for Fourth of July plans around the San Juan's but I am in the dark.  I know that earlier this month we dropped in on a scheduled rendezvous at a local dock and only three boats showed up, all stating they didn't know anything about approved  summer activities.

Well, all I can say is, we will be heading out as often as we can, trying our best to enjoy cruising in 2021 and beyond.

John


4/23/2021

Summer Cruising Plans - Do it now! - Ten resorts and phone numbers where you can reserve a slip

 Sometimes it is really nice to have a slip reserved just for you.

      After spending a few nights on the hook somewhere, or jostling for dock space at a park that only holds four boats and has no water or shower, I look forward to my guaranteed reservation.

If you have a firm date planned, 4th of July maybe, you can call or get online and reserve a slip.


  1. La Conner 360 466 3118
  2. Cap Sante  360 2930694
  3. Squalicum Harbor 360 676 2542
  4. Blakelys   360375 6121
  5. West Beach  360 375 6121
  6. Islander Resort  360 468 2233
  7. Friday Harbor   360 378 2688
  8. Roche Harbor   800 586 3590
  9. Deer Harbor  360 376 3037
  10. Rosario Resort  360 376 2152

Most of these places will be able to fit you in with short notice, but plan ahead to be sure.

Did you know?
For your land bound friends and relatives (children). They can make campground reservations.

  • Sucia Island State Park
  • Odlin County Park
  • San Juan Island County Park
  • Spencer Spit State Park
  • Washington  Park (Anacortes city park)
These five parks are boater accessible and take reservations for camping.

Think outside the box, and plan a combination land and sea adventure with your non-boater friends.

Follow this link to a post outlining a land and sea outing involving - cars - campgrounds - ferry rides - bicycles and one boat used as a taxi.
Outside the box cruising

Marinas and telephone numbers in the San Juan's
What are you waiting for - Winter?




2/01/2021

Where is Odlin Park Dock on Lopez Island



Odlin Park float on Lopez Island holds one big or two little boats



       This is one of those really handy but easily overlooked places you may be driving by.  San Juan County Parks allow two hour tie ups but I have left my dinghy all day, tucked in out of the way while bicycling the island or running to Lopez Village.

        You can anchor as close as you want and stay as long as you want. If you are really a rule stickler, simply drag the dinghy up above high water. The park bathrooms, fire pits, and parking lot are just a 200 foot walk away.  If you bring your bike like me you can ride into Lopez Village, it's only about 2 1/2 miles.

        Since all of Odlin Park is  totally exposed to wakes from Upright Channel, anchoring is always very rolly polly and boats at the dock get smacked around too. You can use one of four  park buoys for a small fee and still flop around. Other than that, Odlin is a great place to expand your horizons.


Odlin Park dock on Lopez Island
I don't think bicycles and dinghy's work well together, what do you think?


Map showing Odlin Park and Spencer Spit park in the San Juan's
Since parks aren't marked on charts, this snapshot may help you find Odlin Park.

Update: We have dropped the kids here again (Odlin Park). This time they had reservations for a campsite (smart idea). They left their car at Washington Park in Anacortes, and came by bicycle on the ferry to Orcas.

I know that may seem confusing since Odlin Park is on Lopez.
So here is the quick low down.

We started at Squalicum Harbor - Bellingham
 and anchored at Jones Island.
Two days later we picked them (our adult children) up at the county dock in Eastsound (Orcas)
Went back to Jones where they camped on shore.  The next day we ran over to Stuart and rode bikes to the lighthouse, then came back and camped at Jones again. The next day we dropped them at the county dock at Odlin Park on Lopez, and we  took a slip at Friday Harbor.
Two days later, we picked them up off the beach at Odlin Park (bikes in dinghies),
had an ice cream break at Blakely's,
and then hiked Eagle Bluff on Cypress.
We tried to camp at Cypress Head, but  because of wind ended up anchored for a calm night at Saddlebag Island Park where they slept on shore again.
On the kids last day we dropped them and their bikes at the dock at nearby Washington Park where their car was parked. We then ran back to Bellingham and slept at the dock in Squalicum Harbor.

If you have read this far, you should see that mixing ferries, foot passengers, bicycles,
 and camping on shore, can all come together for a custom outing in the San Juan's.
Did I mention the visit to the brewery in Eastsound?

If Lopez Village is on your bucket list (free showers) try this link.
How to land your dinghy at Lopez Village


1/06/2021

Pontoon boats, Hobie Cats, Wave Runners



      W
hy are some boats seldom or never seen in the San Juans?  I'm going out on a
limb here and speculating because I really don't know why I have never seen a pontoon boat in the islands. I may have seen a small cat once but I don't remember when. 

     I have read that jet skis and pwc's are forbidden in San Juan county so that explains their absence on the water. I have seen them many times on the decks of larger yachts or being towed. Small cats with limited or no storage don't lend themselves to cruising but I would think that if a kayaker can get by with minimal gear so can a  wet and wild sailor in a wet suit. This leaves me with pontoon boats.  Party barges as they are sometimes called are common on lakes and rivers and easily trailered. They can certainly carry camping gear and some have cabins, so why aren't they seen in the San Juan's?  

     I'm guessing that pontoon boats don't do well in big waves. Except with suitable weather windows big waves might be avoided (this is a big maybe). Big wakes are another thing but they happen everywhere including lakes and rivers, especially with the advent of ballast shifting wake boats.  My next thought is that party barges are the boat of choice for the younger crowd and much of the cruising crowd is a more seasoned bunch preferring beds, fridges and galley sinks.  

    I will be on watch.

                                              pontoon boat in the San Juans

11/21/2020

What Happens When You Wind Your Dinghy Painter Around Your Propeller? Twice!

        It may have happened more than twice, but that's all I remember so I will relate just the two.
  • We towed  this guy and his big dog in his dinghy from Orcas Landing across to Blind Bay.  In our haste we snagged the tow rope before we got started. We wound it up on the prop killing our outboard motor and then, since we had already cast off, we drifted dead behind the ferry that had just arrived.  For a few worried minutes I was glancing up at the ferry pilothouse, I was wondering if the captain saw us or
    wrapping rope around prop in the San Juan Islands, and drifting behind ferry
    was he looking down at us and laughing. I was close to making a radio call, but we got the line loose and moved on a few minutes before the ferry departed.
  • More recently in another boat, our dinghy line was tied to the stern rail and I unknowingly dragged it through the water all the way from Stuart to Jones Island. And then, wound it up around the prop when I used reverse while attempting to anchor. All hell broke loose with everyone yelling what to do or not to do as the line wound up tighter and tighter. By the time I put it in neutral our rail had begun bowing and creaking. We dropped the anchor and luckily were able to rotate the shaft freeing the line but someone almost had to go for a dip.
        So knowing this as an ongoing potential issue, I resolved to use only floating lines, and to shorten all lines so that they cannot reach the prop. Plus I resolved to use painter tow lines that are small enough that they will break before they damage or bend my boat and shaft should another mishap occur.

      The problem is I have procrastinated for years and done nothing, in fact the rope that I  snagged, I'm still using it minus about eight inches I cut off.

         My advice to myself is to follow my advice.

        (update, I think the last little snafu where we wound it up may have bent something because I might be detecting a little vibration at wot.  Its not too late to follow my own advice before I do it again and make the boat unusable costing some real boat $$$$)

10/12/2020

Pictorial Hike to Eagle Bluff on Cypress Island

       repost from an earlier time

      Some readers of this blog will never get to hike to the top of Eagle Bluff on Cypress Island so I snapped a whole bunch of pics while I walked along.

I'll try to keep the text to a minimum

 We took the dinghy to shore at Pelican Beach, which is a Department of Natural Resources Site (DNR)  see Pelican Beach >> Read about Pelican Beach on Cypress right here

Pelican Beach anchorage on Cypress Island, camping, hiking

Pelican Beach anchorage on Cypress Island, camping, hiking


Pelican Beach anchorage on Cypress Island, camping, hiking
The boardwalk quickly gives way to forested trail

Cypress Island hiking, camping, pelican beach

Many, many pictures yet to see

8/25/2020

Things to do in the San Juan's - Explore Fort Whitman and Battery Harrison on Goat Island

If you like to explore ruins and go on easy hikes, this is the place for you.


     Re-posted from 2012

You can find Goat Island at the south end of Swinomish channel just before the dredged channel terminates in Skagit Bay.  ( a few miles from Deception Pass)
Fort Whitman and Battery Harrison were built in the early 1900's to defend Deception Pass and Sartoga Passage, thus protecting Puget Sound.

The battery  had four six inch guns, so the concrete structure is quite long. Originally designed to be  invisible from the water and now totally overgrown you can land your dinghy and hike up the trail in about ten minutes.

Directions:  From the dredged  navigation channel on the north side of Goat Island (Swinomish Channel) look for the many pilings grouped together marking the old wharf, all you will see is a lot of rows of close together pilings with steel brackets still attached at the top. (look for the rusty old steel brackets, that's your only clue that makes these pilings look different from all the others.)Anchor to one side or tie to a piling. and then run your dinghy to shore directly behind the old wharf pilings and scramble up the  bank looking for trail heading westward.  At high tide the beach is pretty much submerged and may not look like a place to land.  Spotting the seldom used trail is really hard, you may do some bush whacking, just remember the battery is west of where you land and a couple hundred feet back from the top of the cliff.  
Have fun, its a fun and very short hike up to the old battery, oh and bring a flashlight.
Goat Island, Fort Whitman, Battery Harrison, Swinomish Channel
steel railings, doors, long gone

Goat Island, Fort Whitman, Battery Harrison, Swinomish Channel
trees have taken back the island

Goat Island, Fort Whitman, Battery Harrison, Swinomish Channel
the round pit is where one of four guns was anchored

Goat Island, Fort Whitman, Battery Harrison, Swinomish Channel
 rooms and hallways are  interconnected


If you want some  more off the beaten path places to explore, try this post.

7/31/2020

Use the Friday Harbor Marina Camera

     Over on the left side of this website is a link to the Friday Harbor Camera. The live camera usually pans back and forth covering most of the marina.  If you watch closely you can see at the bottom of the gangway, A-dock, Comm dock, Walkway C and the By-pass dock, all are side tie and available for transient use. (look at the Friday Harbor marina map to get your bearings, marina map ) This area is first come first served and is assigned or reserved via the harbor master on ch 66. Looking at the space available and the dinghy dock spaces directly below the gangway will give you a sneak preview of how crowded the marina is.   If you choose to stay at one of these side tie docks you will reduce your walk to shore by about a quarter mile. The Comm dock has electricity.

7/10/2020

Excellent Anchoring Etiquette and Proper First Impressions at State Marine Parks

        Oh yeah!   Everyone remembers when you anchored, you were the one saying eff'g this and eff'g that while instructing your crew in dealing with your short comings. Yeah, we remember you calling your wife an idiot and moron.  Idiot for not pushing you over the side tied to the anchor is more accurate.

Loud, obnoxious, boisterous, yelling and foul language are no way to announce your arrival to the anchorage.  You should be on your good behavior, you will never get another chance to make that first impression.

It's entirely possible that there is no room where you want to anchor, and you have no choice but to move along to your second choice.  You can't squeeze in where you wont fit, and if you do force the issue, and there is an incident causing damage, you will be responsible financially.  I think most boaters are a forgiving and helpful bunch, but not if your an inconsiderate dweeb to begin with.  Hint: Ask the other boaters already anchored for help in anchoring before you anchor in their yard.  They may just move over a little to help you out.

The old adage first come first served is true when you anchor, meaning the guy there ahead of you has claim to his spot, and you need to respect his anchor location and swing of his boat. The guy that comes in after you will stay out of your way, and so forth.

Stern anchor plus bow anchor:
Many hot spots will have more boats than can hang and swing safely so skippers have taken to hooking out both directions, and stretching the boat in the middle to limit swing, thereby cramming more boats in safely.  This is perfectly acceptable provided the weather agrees.  If you arrive in one of these places and don't follow suit you're being somewhat within your limited boater rights, however taking an exorbitant amount of room to anchor your yacht spoils the fun so  you may not be invited to sun-downers.   When it gets really crowded, skippers will raft boats together, usually anchoring just the biggest boats.  Let the party begin.

Defensive boating, is just like in your car, you need to be prepared to move when a boat comes at you dragging its anchor.  Watch others upstream of you when they anchor, if they don't have much scope out, or didn't set their anchor, watch out.  Its better to move your boat in the daylight before they drag into you in the dark.

What about private anchor buoys?
Most of the harbors and resorts around the San Juan's have private buoys scattered around. You should leave them alone unless you have permission to use them. They may be not maintained and unsafe, the owner may show up after dark and tell you to leave.  Emergency's are different, but your emergency may not matter to the owner.

Anchor lights:
If you're in an established anchorage, (all parks are ) you don't need to have a light, but if you think someone may run into you in the dark, turn it on, that's the smart call.  We use a battery powered light run up a halyard, plus if we are on shore after dark, it makes finding the boat easier.  It is disconcerting paddling the dinghy into the darkness and not being able to see your boat.

See  article on first time anchoring,  How to anchor that yacht  Anchor that Yacht


6/06/2020

Kayak and Bicycle Camping in the San Juan Islands


  • Don't just show up with your bicycle or kayak without knowing where to go or what to expect, if you do you may miss out on something and not even know it.
  • San Juan area kayak launching and campsites with gps coordinates plus vehicle parking places  are just a click away.
  • >>>     park your car and launch your kayak    <<< did you click?
  •   >>>  Bike camping  <<<  Biker/hiker/vehicle friendly parks
kayak campsite in the San Juan Islands on Jones Island

kayaker campground on James Island


marine trail campsite in the San Juan's

marine trail kayak campsite in the San Juan's

park your car and launch your kayak     did you click?