Well what a weird year! Normally our two week vacation would be chalked full of new places in areas we don’t normally visit but with borders closed, and marinas operating at 50% capacity to comply with social distancing rules we found ourselves in a quandary over where to go. Fortunately the Pacific Northwest offers some of the best boating in the US with amazing anchorages so in the end we ended up staying within the San Juan Islands, primarily visiting some of our favorite places while adding just a couple of new spots.
Out of 16 days on the water we anchored for 14 days and only went into a marina twice! We always use to joke that should the zombie apocalypse come we had the perfect boat! Set-up for self sufficiency, we relied heavily on our water maker, our 750 hour house battery bank, generator, trash compactor and our trusty 110lb Bruce anchor.
Our first stop after crossing the straight of Juan de Fuca was Whatmouth Bay off of Lopez Island. We had previously visited this lovely little anchorage a few years ago. Whatmouth has a small beach for easy dinghy landings and a looping trail nearby that our fur babies can enjoy. We only stayed one night as our next destination was Sucia Islands.
We spent 4 days anchored in Echo Bay with an abundance of other boaters. We have never seen the Islands this crowded but I guess everyone is in the same predicament and those fortunate to have a vessel took advantage of getting away.
Buddy boating with good friends who have a 53 ft Selene and 43 ft North Pacific we enjoyed hiking, crabbing, 5 o’clock dinghy drink hour while exploring the islands and the general splendor of anchoring in a beautiful setting.
After 4 awesome days at Sucia, we pulled anchor and headed to Blind Bay to avoid the Southern winds. This was a new to us anchorage. We only stayed for one night but got in a nice walk around the bay, did some light provisioning in the general store and enjoyed a Crab Louie dinner from the fresh dungeonous crab we previously slayed!
The following morning we broke off from our boating buddies who were heading to Garrison Bay. Our destination was a new to us anchorage, East Sound off of Orcas Island. Winds were forecasted favorably and we heard there was a pet store in town so with three doggos’s we just had to go for a visit. We tucked into Judd cove which can only fit a few vessels and stern tied. This was our first opportunity to utilize the very expensive and not just for looks, stern tie wheel. We have been toting around this stainless steel beast but never had an opportunity to try out out. It worked great, deployment and retrieval was very easy!
After settling in, we harnessed the girls and headed into town to explore. We found East sound charming and interesting and a destination we will definitely return to. We had the best prawn poy-boy sandwich that we have had in a long time and took a great walk through town to the airfield. The town has a nice little co-op where we picked up some fresh fruit and the fixings for a refreshing margarita after our trek. The fur-babies of course spent a fair bit of time in the local pet store where they each came home with a toy or treats. It’s a dogs life!
We joined our friends with the 53′ Selene in Garrison Bay following East Sound and spent four full days anchored in the bay. Garrison Bay is close to Roche Harbor, Westcott Bay and Stuart Island, so its a great spot to anchor and treat as a home base. We visited Roche Harbor which is always a popular stop for our fur-babies as they have a fantastic off-leash dog park. The sculpture park is also a favorite place to walk around in as it has 19 acres and allows dogs. You are even welcome to let your dog/s off leash we were told. Of course with our 3-mutley crew we wouldn’t stand a chance of every catching them! The sculpture park had several new exhibits including bears, crabs and orcas.
Due to Covid, many of the restaurants would only take reservations and will only seat 5 people max per table. This was true of the Westcott Bay Oyster farm as well but we lucked out and were able to visit. A memorable highlight this trip was our hike up Young Hill at Garrison Bay. After touring most of English Camp we made our way to the summit of Young Hill which is about of 500 ft elevation gain. The trail is easily maneuverable and clearly marked. Once at the top we were rewarded with breathtaking views.
After Garrison Bay we decided to try and get into Roche Harbor for a couple of days. Roche Harbor was not taking reservations and operating at a lower capacity due to the pandemic. We had to radio in and get on a waitlist. We dropped anchor outside of Roche Harbor and listened to the VHF for a few hours for our names to be called, it was actually quite entertaining to listen to the plethora of boaters that were coming and going. We were lucky and the marina was able to get our boats in. Although we wanted to spend 2 nights, the weather window for a calm crossing of the Straight of Juan de Fuca was quickly changing to we ended up leaving a day early, making our way South towards home. We ended up anchoring at Mystery Bay, State Park, just outside of Nordland.
This was another anchorage that was new to us. We had anchored in Ft. Flaggler before but never this far in. The route into Mystery Bay is the shape of a question mark, so naturally we believed this to be why the bay was named as such however since it is sequestered between Marrowstone and Indian Islands, Kilisut Harbor was one refuge used by smugglers to evade Coast Guard vessels. Smugglers’ boats were easily hidden in the overhanging trees at a small bay near the end of the harbor. Smugglers’ regular disappearance here was categorized by the Coast Guard as “mysterious,” hence the name of the bay.
We had a great time exploring Ft. Flaggler and the old shore gun batteries. The group of forts once known as the “Triangle of Fire” (made up of Fort Flagler, Fort Worden and Fort Casey) is a must see. This was a significant coastal defense fort established more than a century ago to guard the entrance to Puget Sound.
We also really enjoyed the eccentric old country store in the town of Nordland. They had a little bit of everything and we picked up a new burgee to add to our collection!
Last stop at the end of our 16 day vacation we tied up to the public dock at Eagle Harbor. We did a little cleaning and waxing, dinghy cruising and just relaxed on a nearby beach.
Upon returning home, Piper did not want the vacation to end as it took a fair bit of coaxing and treats to get her out of the dinghy!
It is always astounding how fast time goes by, especially when you are on a boat and having a good time. Even though this has been a strange year, we had a really good vacation.