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Old 05-09-2014, 07:19   #1
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Sailing the San Juan Islands

Greetings all,

I'll be sailing the San Juan's for the first time starting next week. We'll be chartering out of Bellingham and be out for six nights. I'd appreciate any suggestions about itinerary, with a mix of some night life and pristine anchorages, and any tips for a sailor not accustomed to major tidal currents and ranges.

Thanks!
Tom
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Old 05-09-2014, 08:24   #2
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Re: Sailing the San Juan Islands

Anchor at Stewart Is and take the hike to the lighthouse at Turnpoint. 1/2 day hike.
Either side of Stewart is good for overnight.
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Old 05-09-2014, 08:49   #3
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Re: Sailing the San Juan Islands

Don't miss Sucia Island... Spent 6 months there in the northern anchorage in 1972 before there were any bouys and it was declared a marine preserve. Ate local clams, oysters and fished for salmon(jigging) and lived like a king with my old girlfriend! Cruised over to Friday Harbor to the general store a couple of times for supplies but basically hang out at Sucia. I'm sure it has changed a bit in over 40 years but still have fond memories of the place. There used to be a couple of Indians living there but I heard they were kicked off the island by the State who knew how to care for the island better than them.
I understand that it is a pretty popular place these days... Phil
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Old 05-09-2014, 09:47   #4
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Re: Sailing the San Juan Islands

Use the tides to your advantage, try to plan your hops so the current is with you.

A counterclockwise circuit from Bellingham might be nice. Sucia would make a good first stop after going up the north side of Lummi.

From there Stewart or Roche Harbor (or both!). Friday Harbor might be next if you like towns.

Heading to the Spencer Spit area on Lopez would be scenic passing the south side of Shaw.

From there I'd head to the north end of Cypress for a hike to Eagle peak then back to Bellingham.

Pick your stops and routes to suit your style. If hiking isn't your thing plan on visiting more villages, Orcas has some great things too. You'll never get it all in one trip so keep your eyes pealed for what looks interesting and be flexible with your route and schedule. Keep the hops short to maximize explore time and make it easier to get there by sailing.
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Old 05-09-2014, 09:58   #5
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Re: Sailing the San Juan Islands

Quote:
Originally Posted by Capt Phil View Post
Don't miss Sucia Island... Spent 6 months there in the northern anchorage in 1972 before there were any bouys and it was declared a marine preserve. Ate local clams, oysters and fished for salmon(jigging) and lived like a king with my old girlfriend! Cruised over to Friday Harbor to the general store a couple of times for supplies but basically hang out at Sucia. I'm sure it has changed a bit in over 40 years but still have fond memories of the place. There used to be a couple of Indians living there but I heard they were kicked off the island by the State who knew how to care for the island better than them.
I understand that it is a pretty popular place these days... Phil
Definitely have to go to Sucia for a nice place. Especially leaving from Belingham. Not much night life in the islands, that would have to be Friday Harbor probably or Roche.. and only on the weekend. Occasionally there is something going on on Orcas.
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Old 05-09-2014, 10:17   #6
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Re: Sailing the San Juan Islands

On the negative side of things, do get a set of charts and locate the parks. That and the marinas will be the only place you can set foot ashore. All the shore lines are privately owned. But you can anchor most any where you desire.

Any time there are narrows, check your tide table. The tide averages 12'. So try to go with the flow. There are a few passages that get a bit rough during an exchange.

Do expect to motor a lot. The winds are not really good sailing weather except on rare occasions. Don't expect to sail much within the islands. The wind changes direction rounding a point.

Roche Harbor doesn't have much, but is pretty. And if you go thru Mosquito pass, do watch your depth on the charts.
Friday Harbor is a small town with lots of facilities. The main anchorage I liked was NE of Brown Is. in a little cove, which was close to the Marina, and a place to put the dinghy around the back side of the Marina.
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Old 05-09-2014, 10:26   #7
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Re: Sailing the San Juan Islands

Get a cruising guide, here's an online one I just found:
Salish Sea Pilot | San Juan Islands

Get a good current guide, you can't always go with the current, but planning for fighting as little current as possible is nice.

I can't think of anyplace I didn't like, everything in previous posts are good. Jones Island (deer), Doe Island (personal pocket island), Blind Bay (Country Store), James Island, Rosario Resort was fun to tour, Garrison Bay (English camp)
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Old 05-09-2014, 11:50   #8
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Re: Sailing the San Juan Islands

Don't forget to zip over to Victoria, town of and gardens!
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Old 05-09-2014, 13:17   #9
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Re: Sailing the San Juan Islands

All great suggestions above. You're going at a good time, the peak season is ended but the weather is still nice. I'm guessing you got a good rate on the charter accordingly.

As everyone mentioned, you've got to pay attention to currents. I suggest picking up the book of Canadian Hydrographic Charts covering the San Juan Islands, and also the Waggoner Tables (used to be the Washburn Tables) which make navigating that book simple. Any local boat store will have these, or your charter company will likely set you up with copies.

The last couple long trips I did through the islands we chose not to set any kind of itinerary. Rather, we took it day by day. We'd wake up in some perfect harbor and decide that days plan over our morning coffee. Do we want a marina or anchored at a quiet island? How far do we want to sail? What is the wind doing? Then we'd consult the current charts mentioned above and route it out. All the cool places in the San Juans are a day sail away, so this sort of loose planning works well.

Enjoy!
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Old 06-09-2014, 09:59   #10
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Re: Sailing the San Juan Islands

Thank you for all of the info & suggestions, especially the link to the Salish Sea guide - very helpful!

I'll post a trip report when I'm back.
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Old 06-09-2014, 10:56   #11
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Re: Sailing the San Juan Islands

We just bought a newer cruising guide, San Juan Islands - a boater's guidebook, by Shawn Breeding and Heather Bansmer. Lots of color pictures, anchorages and marinas, and suggested itineraries. Good guide.


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Old 06-09-2014, 11:46   #12
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Re: Sailing the San Juan Islands

Near Bellingham there are two anchorages near one another worth visiting. Each affords protection from opposite prevailing wind, serene with shore access for exploration. They are Chucanut Bay 48 41.8 122 30.3 with anchoring in 30' or less closer in, and Pleasant Harbour, 30+'. 48 40 122 30 Access to shore in Pleasant Harbour is on the south shore.

West SW of Bellingham there's also Cypress Island that depending on the time of year offers a hike up to Eagle's Nest. The trail is closed during nesting season, but... There's a small anchorage at 48 45.3 122 41.7. Watch your approach, particularly from the East in the vicinity of Cone Island because the current runs crosswise and can be quite strong. Best near slack water. Beautiful surroundings.
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Old 06-09-2014, 17:46   #13
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Re: Sailing the San Juan Islands

For currents - The CHS Current Atlas is great



I use Murray's Tables or follow the instructions on the inside cover of the Atlas. You need CHS Tide Tables to use the instructions.

Sucia is great. For a quiet spot, I like Hunter Bay on Lopez. Rosario Resort is a nice treat.

If you visit Roche Harbor, visit the the mausoleum. Book a window table at the restaurant to watch the sunset ceremony.
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