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Old 29-11-2010, 18:26   #1
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PNW - San Juan Islands

Several friends are getting into serious discussions regarding a week in the San Juan Islands, June 2011. We are experienced sailors in NE, Chesapeake and BVI....can anyone offer any suggestions for a weeks charter in the SJI???? Thanks in advance.
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Old 29-11-2010, 20:34   #2
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You should look up weather history for the SJI in June. Normally in the PNW that is still rain season - until the first week of July. SJI are in the rain shadow of the Olympics, so you might escape that, but check for weather history. OTOH the last year or so has been a bit difficult to predict. You could get lucky. Google yacht charter companies SJI, Bellingham, Everett and Seattle.
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Old 29-11-2010, 20:46   #3
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Anacortes is very close to the islands and has charters.


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Old 29-11-2010, 21:42   #4
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I've chartered out of Friday Harbor as well.

The San Juans are absolutely gorgeous, and the Golf Islands (Canada) are even more gorgeous. But it's a different type of gunkholing than what you would be accustomed to in the Chesapeake. My first time in the San Juans I went swimming once, for about eight seconds. Gawwwd!! We're talking cold water. And the sailing is inferior--on a good day the winds are unreliable. But among the reasons we keep going back and back and back are bald eagle sightings every mile, orca, bears strolling on the beaches, et cetera. Take your Class A binoculars, because you'll spend hours every day gawking.

Oh. And tidal currents. If your sailing has all been in the Chesapeake and the BVI's you have no idea about how important it is to consult the tables before you so much as make the morning coffee.
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Old 29-11-2010, 21:45   #5
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The SJI's are a 'look but don't touch' environment. IAW you can sail anywhere you want but you can not just go ashore wherever you want (all private property). There are a few state parks where you can anchor or moor and you can go ashore. Some have a $10 a day mooring ball.

You can anchor most anywhere there is space. The main ports are Friday Harbor & Roache Harbor, which are real close to Canada. You can go into Canada w/o checking in if you don't go ashore.

The winds are not good for sailing within the island passages. It changes directions when you round a land mass but is OK when on the outer side of the islands. So do plan to motor some. As long as you stay on the right side of buoys there's little chance of going aground.

When anchoring stay away from steep embankments, the bottom is rocky and hard to hold. And be sure to back down on the hook for an all-nighter. The tides average 10-12' twice a day. Some days the high tide will only drop about 4' and come back up again.


You will have to be aware of the tides/currents so get a tide table or have it on the GPS. Some are so swift you can actually sail backwards (Middle Channel to SJ Channel). Be sure to study the whole chart of the SJI's. You can get into some Orca watching along the S. end of Haro Strait.

There is a lot to see. I'll let some others pipe in now.

Chart link: Chart 18400

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Old 29-11-2010, 22:19   #6
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The San Juans are absolutely gorgeous, and the Golf Islands (Canada) are even more gorgeous.
Aren't the Golf Islands in Myrtle Beach SC? Up here we've got the Gulf Islands
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Old 29-11-2010, 22:33   #7
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I believe if you drop the anchor in Canada, under US rules, you have to check in on return to the US. The Canadian rules require going ashore before you have to check back in to Canada. I would check current rules. The check in process for both the US and Canada are usually quite easy for cruisers.
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Old 29-11-2010, 23:15   #8
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Aren't the Golf Islands in Myrtle Beach SC? Up here we've got the Gulf Islands
Oops. That certainly explains my handicap.
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Old 29-11-2010, 23:39   #9
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If you plan on going into Canadian waters it would be best to also plan on clearing customs and likewise when returning to the US. I'm not current on the finer points but US Customs is not a good organization to run afoul of. Just sayin'. Also, do NOT stock up on fresh fruit and veggies and then plan on going into Canada. Buy in Canada for Canada and you'll not have to deep six so much stuff. For a one week charter, the US side is more than adequate.

Cruising the San Juans for a week allows cruising to the different islands interspersed with a couple 'marina/shopping' nights. It's all part of the fun. Actually, the area is quite compact and even allowing for currents, one can get pretty much where one wants to go each day. It's true however, that sailing might be a bit frustrating between the shifting breezes (usually light) and the currents but it's still all good.

June is actually a pretty good time. The crowds don't come until the 4th of July, the days are long and there can still actually be a bit of breeze on occasion. I actually prefer mid May through June for my cruising even up into northern BC. July and August I'm kinda happy at the dock OR far out on the west coast of Vancouver island or even north of there. (yes the outer coast can be a bit limited in visibility during Fogust)
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Old 29-11-2010, 23:43   #10
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I believe if you drop the anchor in Canada, under US rules, you have to check in on return to the US. The Canadian rules require going ashore before you have to check back in to Canada. I would check current rules. The check in process for both the US and Canada are usually quite easy for cruisers.
It's really unclear what the rules are. And maybe different in B.C. But to be on the safe side it's better to check in, if anchoring.

marinerscoalition.com/downloads/ReportingRequirements.PPT See page 5

U.S. Customs Clarifies Policy on Anchoring in Canadian Waters | The Great Lakes Cruising Club

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U.S. Customs Clarifies Policy on Anchoring in Canadian Waters
JCAcheson - 31 October 2008
Leaving a U.S. port to anchor in Canadian waters does not constitute leaving the United States or require reporting to Customs and Border Protection (CBP) on return to port.

CBP's Assistant Port Director in Port Huron recently clarified their policy on "pleasure vessel reporting after anchoring in foreign waters". It reads as follows (with syntax modified for clarity):

"[U.S. flagged] pleasure vessels are only required to report their arrival when they have touched foreign soil, have had contact with a foreign hovering vessel or received merchandise outside United States territorial waters. Small pleasure vessels leaving [a] United States port [and proceeding] into international or foreign waters without a call at a foreign port are not considered to have made a departure for the purpose of CBP reporting requirements. Therefore. . .any vessel which leaves from [a] United States port and returns without calling at a foreign port or place [has] not departed the United States and [is] not required to report [its] arrival to CBP."

This interpretation is slightly at odds with Canadian policy, in that they maintain that anchoring anywhere in Canadian waters constitutes landing in that country.
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Old 30-11-2010, 00:01   #11
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Canadian requirement is that you check in immediately upon arrival. You can sail around Haro Strait or Boundary Pass without checking in but if you are heading through the islands or on up Georgia Strait you need to stop at Sidney or Poets Cove or somesuch.
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Old 30-11-2010, 05:07   #12
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Thank you all for sound advice, i do appreciate it and will check into the weather issues first, and if we can decide on a dry time, check into charters, charts, and tide/current tables to plan voyage. A 10 - 12' tide is more than the Chesapeake has to offer. I'll be back in touch to fine tune the trip......happy holidays all!
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Old 30-11-2010, 21:30   #13
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Head north into Canadian waters and be prepared for 12-16ft. tides and 10+ knot currents especially through the many passes necessary for travel.
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Old 30-11-2010, 22:43   #14
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Canadian requirement is that you check in immediately upon arrival. You can sail around Haro Strait or Boundary Pass without checking in but if you are heading through the islands or on up Georgia Strait you need to stop at Sidney or Poets Cove or somesuch.
An excellent point! In my experience, the more immediate the check-in, the more likely that Canadian customs will expedite it. Drop the hook, hoist Q, call customs, and once you've been cleared, set the hook.

More than once I've been checked in where the phone call took less than 15 seconds--but it's been aparent that binoculars were trained on me the entire time I was looking for a spot to anchor.

One more thought: too many Americans entering Canadian waters don't get the etiquette of flying the Q flag. Learn it.
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Old 01-12-2010, 11:41   #15
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One more thought: too many Americans entering Canadian waters don't get the etiquette of flying the Q flag. Learn it.
And visa versa.

Most of the time checking into Canada it is just a phone call but they are watching you from a high point somewhere. I know this because they asked me if my dog had papers, while I was on the phone. I didn't mention the dog during the interview.

If your been threw there before it only takes a couple minutes. They already know the numbers on your boat and passport.
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