2018 Summer Cruise to the San Juan Islands

Our summer cruise to the San Juan Islands was supposed to be filled with kayaking, paddle boarding and hiking however the week before our trip, as fate would have it, I tore my calf muscle while in Cardio-Kickboaxing class. Nonetheless, we ventured on and still had a lovely holiday enjoying good meals, beautiful scenery and a restful 2-weeks away from the grind.

We left early am about 4am, and plotted our course to Garrison Bay. Arriving in late afternoon, we had a long but uneventful cruise day. Once in Garrison Bay, we joined our good friends and proceeded to work on getting into vacation mode. We chose to anchor in Garrison Bay as it is very conveniently located to Roche Harbor and one of our furbabies is particularily sensitive to the canon booms each night during the colors ceremony. We really like the ambience of Roche Harbor and all that it has to offer so it is a must visit destination when we travel to the San Juans. Roche Harbor has amazing stores, great people watching, a swimming pool, good restaurants, an art park and off leash dog park!

Don’t get me wrong, Garrison Bay is an outstanding anchorage to spend time in. There is lots of room, around 20 ft. of water with a good mud bottom and easy access to English Camp, home of the historic Pig Wars. If you enjoy history, you won’t be disappointed. There is also an English Maze garden and hiking. If your lucky you can participate in the flag lowering and folding of the flag with one of the park Rangers in the early evening. If you have pets, best to keep them leashed as there are alot of deer.

Another highlight was our visit to Wescott Bay Oyster farm. The last time we visited, it was very rural with little to offer other than shellfish. Not anymore, apperently a couple from Napa had a vision to turn the oyster farm into a destination and they did a mighty fine job! It now can cater to weddings, has a gift shop, ample seating and people visit by land and sea! We had a wonderful afternoon enjoying barbecued oysters and wine.

From Garrison Bay we headed over to Sucia Islands heading up Mosquito pass and out the Westside of Pearle Island. It tooks us about 3 hours to travel the 18 natical miles. Green Point off the Eastside of Spieden Island can get choppy with with the tide current coming around the point, but once through, it is easy cruising to Sucia. We archored in Echo Bay which is a large achorage with a mud bottom in 40 feet of water, with State Park mooring buoys, and two line moorage site on the Southside of the bay. Empress a 53′ Selene, with Todd, Melinda and the pug Lucy, aboard rafted off us for a nice 3 night stay. Sucia Island is a Washington State Park with a lot to do. There is a great beach to land the dingy and explore the Island’s many miles of trails. We all loaded in the dingy and hiked up Northwest side of the Island over to the point and then hiked back to Shallow Bay to watch the sun set.

There is good trolling for salmon east of Ewing Island, but you are likely to catch some bottom fish. If you jig too close to the Island, just remember to release the bottom fish. There is a national wildlife refuge to the north of Ewing Island that has a great stellar seal population. We dingy’d over and saw a very large male seal that had to be over 800 lbs. From a distance it looked like a bouy or large grizzly bear in the middle of the ocean!

The last night on the hook we experienced an East wind that came up the bay and at about 10:00 pm we had 3 foot swell coming in the anchorage. This caused our little raft to start bounching around, slamming into each other. You can imagine this caused quit a commotion between Empress and R Lil’ Ship. We had to deploy all our fenders to keep the two boats a part. Fortunately we made it throught the night with no damage to the boats.

After bidding farewell to our friends, we headed to James Island. We have never been to this Island but many of our friends touted it as a great little place to visit with good crabbing and hiking. On the way to James Island we were fortunate to witness a small pod of killer whales outside of Doe Island and Orcas Island. When we arrived at James Island we quickly realized that the one thing no one mentioned, was the currents… needless to say we needed all the help we could get from other boaters that had already successfully docked. Apparently the dock was extended and becuase of that, the current on one side pushes you away (thats where we were) and the other side slams you into the dock! Once tied up the current was so strong that R Lil’ Ship at 50,000lbs was listing uncomfortably just from the strong current! While the island had great trails and was fun to explore, we didn’t have much luck crabbing and actually lost a pot due to the heavy currents. We stayed 2 nights and then made our way to Friday Harbor to provision for the remainder of our trip

Our last anchorage stop was at Watmouth Bay which was by far our favorite. Located on the south side of Lopez Island, there are dramatic cliffs and towering douglas fir trees. Watmouth Bay has about 5 mooring bouys however we ended up anchoring in about 20ft of water. We hiked up the only side one could hike and views were stunning. The beach is small and secluded and if you decide to walk inland, it is suggested you wear an orange vest during hunting season. Needless to say, we stuck to the shoreline.

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