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Old 07-09-2016, 21:07   #1
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Winter Moorage in the San Juan Islands - liveaboard

Good Evening,

We recently acquired a 41ft sailboat and are anchored in the Bellingham bay, living aboard, our family of five; and are seeking where the best place to get a moorage is for the winter. Seems most marinas don't like liveaboards and are rather expensive. So far we found Deer Harbor marina which looks promising and Lopez Island Resort marina looks great, quiet, small town feel - hot tub year round! But they can have really bad winters as far as windstorms go?

Just seeking advice if anyone has been around these parts over the winter months, and knows of a good place to get a slip? Or someone who might rent out theirs for the winter as they go south? Or maybe we don't liveaboard this winter and someone know of a good mooring buey to leave it at till we come back in the spring? Living aboard isn't looking so feasible now in these parts, opinions?

Thanks!
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Old 07-09-2016, 21:30   #2
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Re: Winter Moorage in the San Juan Islands - liveaboard

Welcome to CF!
Are you more having issues with the liveaboard part, of a slip of that size? As sometimes the liveaboard issue is one which has a phone or email response which can differ from the one that you get when inquiring about such live. Such as was well denoted in a thread on this topic about finding a liveaboard slip in the SF Bay area, about 3 months ago +/-.

As to the weather in your vicinity, yep, it gets nasty in the Winter time. Which starts about now & runs until April or so. But if you can find moorage with good shelter from the wind, & only a small amount of fetch, it helps a lot.

Try pulling up historical weather data from various buoys & weather stations. Via NOAA, Wunderground, & many others. As the difference in location of 1/4nm can make a Huge difference.

The other thing too though, is how acclimatized are you & the family to being onboard for periods of rough weather? Ditto on getting in & out of a dinghy during same, as well as tying up to piers when it's blowing 50kts?

Meaning, that basically your lives will be dictated by the weather if you live onboard on a mooring in the PNW. With lots of days where going ashore won't be an option. Ditto on getting back to the boat at times. As it's not uncommon for them to shut down some of the ferry routes on the Sound at times in the Winter due to weather conditions.

It's not that a mooring won't work. But both it, & the dinghy dock must be very sheltered. And the family needs to understand everything involved. Which can be unfair for kids especially.

Also, is relocation to somewhere else on the Sound an option? As in anywhere from where you are now, down to Gig Harbor or Tacoma'ish. That could definitely help, especially if you move to a smaller estuary or bay.

Good luck! And please share what you find.
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Old 07-09-2016, 22:07   #3
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Re: Winter Moorage in the San Juan Islands - liveaboard

If you decide to move onto land for the winter you might consider keeping your boat at Fisherman's Terminal. It is just inside the locks and subject to much less winter storm action and they often have moorage for recreation boats. They don't have any live boards there though, but they have several good places to eat and other services close by.
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Old 08-09-2016, 09:01   #4
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Re: Winter Moorage in the San Juan Islands - liveaboard

Thanks for the reply! I am most interested to know if anyone who have boated this area know of the best place to hole up for the winter in a marina. We are finding most of them out of our budget, was hoping for around $350/mo. Anyone ever been to Lopez Island Resort in Fisherman Bay on Lopez Island? I know the weather is going to be rainy, but was unaware of the bad windstorms I have been hearing people talk about.

So really looking for a good sheltered marina from the wind. I have called all the ones I can locate and most are not accepting liveaboards. Or they are $550 a month. Or already full. Or want references from another marina where we lived aboard (but just starting, so none of those). We didn't realize how difficult it would be to get in somewhere.

My mention of the buey was for only if we were NOT going to liveaboard for the winter. As that is an option. Living aboard with children, I'd like to be in a well protected marina.

Thanks for mentioning the historical weather data sites, NOAA is down for that date but the Wunderground had a nice site and lots of info. Though not specific to each bay, but closest big city.

Yes, relocation is an option. But I was calling marina's in the sound and most had no space available or were very pricey, around $600 for the month. We thought we were going to be able to get in one down there on the Hood Canal, pleasant harbor, by Brinnon, but they ended up not having a spot available.

It's looking like Lopez Island Resort is where we will be heading. They just said they have bad wind storms blow through there and are not a protected bay at all. They said about one storm a month, lasts one to two hours. How does that work tied up to a marina? Wouldn't our boat be bashing against the dock? They do have a lodge available we could go inside for the storm if it was too bad. My husband is more concerned about the boat during the storm.

Deer Harbor is another possible, but we don't know yet. They don't open up for winter moorage till mid-October and just gave us a date to call back, first come first served.

Anyway, thanks again for the reply! Have you ever sailed the San Juans? I was wondering how tricky it is to sail here with the currents and tides. Most of all our sailing experience has been on Lake Roosevelt (150mile lake).
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Old 08-09-2016, 10:34   #5
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Re: Winter Moorage in the San Juan Islands - liveaboard

It's rare to run across a marina which isn't well protected from the weather. As no one would want to keep their boat there, & the marina wouldn't be able to get insurance either. But some are more protected than others. Particularly when it comes to wind in the rigging & on the mast. Which can make a lot of noise, & have the boat dancing around a bit. Not enough to damage things or cause chaos, assuming you're well tied up. But if you're not accustomed to it, it's unnerving at first.

Most of the serious protection in marinas comes from man made break waters & sea walls. Though topography also plays a big role. As you can find marina's which are set into natural "holes" which shelter them from the wind. And then there are others where at times the hills & land funnel the winds through the area, such as happens in some of the passes in the mountains in Bellingham. Where they get winter storm winds of close to 100kts. And I imagine that you've heard of/been to Hurricane Ridge, up in the hills above Port Angeles.

I lived in Port Townsend for about 10yrs, & in the Winter a storm would blow through every 3 days or so. And due to where the mountain passes are on the Sound, part of the storms blow in from the South & West, down around Tacoma. With the other portion coming in through the Straits of Juan de Fuca.
So there are a huge number of micro climates in the region, in terms of what it's like when a storm blows in, & how many days of rain or sunshine you'll get.

As, for example, in Port Townsend, we'd get a storm every 3rd day, & then have crystal clear skies the rest of the time, from Oct/Nov until April. And yet in Seattle they'll go weeks, or longer, without having a clear day during the same time frame. With the numbers for precipitation not telling the full story on this either. As in some locales you'll have overcast with fog, & mist almost 24/7. Where in others it'll rain a few days a week for several hours, & that's it.

When you're looking, you can post notices on bulletin boards; both paper & electronic. And many times word of mouth is best. Such as visiting sailor's haunts, like sail lofts, gear chandleries & the like. Since those guys tend to know most of what's going on in the region that deals with boats.

Also definitely try boat brokers, given that they know when slip X or Y will be vacated or temporarily vacant. Due to a boat's selling, or being kept elsewhere so that it's easy for the brokers to show it.
And the same's true at marinas, if you establish a rapport with them, & or contact them regularly. Since they can also sometimes move boats around a bit when several vessels in the marina are out of town, or on the hard for maintenance. Thus freeing up a slip for a while. Being "creative" definitely helps. Heck, you might even consider hiring a boat broker to find you a slip, as they literally have the region wired. And you could assemble a resume, selling yourself/the family. Kids & families definitely help open people's hearts.

Hope that helps a bit with finding a spot to call home. Fortunately everyone up there isn't yet tucked into their winter hidey holes, so your odds are better now than they might be in December.

PS: Any thoughts of living in the greater Vancouver area, or on one of the islands? There are lots & lots of big & little marinas up there too. And the quality of life isn't bad.
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Old 08-09-2016, 10:40   #6
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Re: Winter Moorage in the San Juan Islands - liveaboard

Have you checked Blaine Harbor or Semiahoo?
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Old 08-09-2016, 11:20   #7
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Re: Winter Moorage in the San Juan Islands - liveaboard

As usual, Uncivilized nailed it. I've lived aboard in Blaine and in Nanaimo. Both have pros and cons. Blaine is set up nicely with portable pump out stations, but you're going right out into whatever the weather is doing. Also, less money than Nanaimo.
Nanaimo is more sheltered from weather and offers different areas to sail dependant on wind conditions. Currents are something you learn to use and there are great tide/current charts available to time your passages through narrows. Also marina fees are in CDN$ so you've got 25% off right away. Can't remember exact figures since it was five years ago.
I also found winter sailing be great, no crowded anchorages. And warmer, less rain/snow than what I'm used to. YMMV.
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Old 08-09-2016, 11:51   #8
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Re: Winter Moorage in the San Juan Islands - liveaboard

Fishermans Bay can get a little windy due to the exposure to the south and westerlies. We spend a week there a few weeks ago and had a few days in the 30-35knots. That was summertime so I imagine winter is far more exposed to higher winds.
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Old 08-09-2016, 12:18   #9
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Re: Winter Moorage in the San Juan Islands - liveaboard

The Skagit Port marina in Laconner often has many slips available for non liveaboard, especially in the winter. No ferry time either. Not sure about your size and about sailboat slip availability, but give them a call.
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Old 08-09-2016, 12:28   #10
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Re: Winter Moorage in the San Juan Islands - liveaboard

Check Poulsbo municipal marina. they have a deal where you can get winter moorage in the summer transient slips and while it looks like you can't be a "true" live aboard you can be overnight on the boat for extended periods of time.
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Old 08-09-2016, 23:56   #11
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Re: Winter Moorage in the San Juan Islands - liveaboard

Check Warbass Way Marina, in Friday Harbor. Next to the Seattle Yachtclub dock between Friday Harbor marina and Jensens boatyard. Liveboards allowed, might be in your budget range. Nice spot and pretty well protected, nice people close to town. Not sure about slip availablity right now. If you need I can find a number for you.
Don't know what the rates are for sure though. Deer Harbor is nice but don't know it real well, it is a ways from town(eastsound, stores etc,) in Friday Harbor you'd at least be close to town and some stores, groceries etc.
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Old 09-09-2016, 03:07   #12
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Re: Winter Moorage in the San Juan Islands - liveaboard

Quote:
Originally Posted by Seattlescott View Post
Check Poulsbo municipal marina. they have a deal where you can get winter moorage in the summer transient slips and while it looks like you can't be a "true" live aboard you can be overnight on the boat for extended periods of time.
Anyone have tips on places which work well for Sneak-Aboards, as related to the above post? Meaning spots where either they "don't notice" your living onboard. Or let you live aboard for a while before 'discovering' it, & then changing your status & slip rent to reflect such. Which likely might help the OP.
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Old 09-09-2016, 05:03   #13
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Re: Winter Moorage in the San Juan Islands - liveaboard

Deer Harbour is great in summer with prevailing north winds. Not winter with southerlies but Orcas is quite civilized compared to Lopez. Water is quite thin in fisherman's bay and winds in winter will be a factor. Cheech has the idea...Try LaConner and move ashore November to March. Unless you crave adversity, you won't enjoy winter aboard.
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Old 09-09-2016, 08:07   #14
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Re: Winter Moorage in the San Juan Islands - liveaboard

Not sure exactly what you want or where, but liveaboard sublets used to be available at Shilshole Marina in Ballard for up to 6 months. I lived aboard in Shilshole for 3 years and always had a sublet as the list was long. Often we'd end up moving a couple slips down when our time was up.
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Old 09-09-2016, 08:37   #15
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Re: Winter Moorage in the San Juan Islands - liveaboard

$350 for a 41' boat is going to be a bit of a stretch, $550 sounds pretty standard for the area.
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