Our first cruise beyond Puget Sound was across the Strait of Juan de Fuca to the San Juan Islands. We left Seattle and headed north to our first stop at Port Townsend, docking at Point Hudson Marina for the night. This is a location typically used to stage a crossing across the strait, which can be rough in windy weather. At the mouth of Admiralty Inlet, just outside of Port Townsend, is Point Wilson that is known for dangerous tide rips on an ebb tide. However, it’s best to start across the strait on a dying ebb so the current is with us, then time it so the tide changes to a flood when you are about half way across the strait so the flood current helps push you along. For a slow boat like ours, every advantage like that helps. So we left on the dying ebb and encountered somewhat rough conditions around Point Wilson and a little further into the strait. It was uncomfortable, but not enough to make us turn back.
Here are the conditions after they improved somewhat. We continued on the east side of Lopez Island, one of the larger islands in San Juan Islands archipelago, then turned into Lopez Pass and were greeted with calm cruising waters.
Our destination was Blind Bay on the north shore of Shaw Island. This island has no commercial facilities like restaurants or hotels, only residents and a general store. There is also a ferry dock here. Blind Bay is generally well protected from the weather, but we did get a little wake from passing ferries.
We moved further north to Echo Bay on Sucia Island, the so called crown jewel of the Washington marine park system. It is uninhabited, has many trails, and many good anchorages. Echo Bay is the largest anchorage. We dinghied around the bay, went to shore for a hike, and then relaxed on the deck with some wine.
The next day we motored over to Garrison Bay on the northwest side of San Juan Island. It is a very protected bay and the site of the historic English Camp when the island was up for grabs by the US and Great Britain (see Pig War). American Camp is on the south end of the island. Here in Garrison Bay is small dinghy dock for visitor access to the historic site, which included the garrison, thus the name of the bay. We hiked a loop trail and walked the historic site before going back to the boat.
The next day we started back south, this time not across the strait, but rather through Deception Pass. We have to time when we go through the pass because the current is very strong and reverses with the change of the tides. The safest time to go through is at slack, when the current slows and changes directions. Once you get through the pass, it is typically really calm. That was our experience on this trip too.
Once through Deception Pass, we looked for a place to stop for the night and anchored on the south side of Hope Island Marine Park. There was not much protection here but the winds were calm so it was a peaceful night.
The final day was about a 4 hour trip back to Seattle from Hope Island. There is a very popular fishing spot on the south end of Whidbey Island, which we passed. You can see the many fishing boats showing up on my radar screen.
We returned home, then a week later I decided to return to the San Juan Islands for another adventure single handing. This isn’t really difficult if I anchor every night, which I did. I can also raise and lower the dinghy by myself. The only issue is no helm relief or breaks without stopping.
I left Seattle and cruised nonstop back to Garrison Bay, with an uneventful crossing of the strait. I spent two nights there, crabbing the second day. Next, I motored the short distance north to Reid Harbor on Stuart Island, a very large and protected bay. There is also a state marine park here. Crabbing was fairly productive, and I was able to catch a limit, cook, and clean them.
Heading across the islands I came across a sistership, a boat just like ours. It is in charter out of Bellingham. Before we purchased our boat, I contacted the owner and talked about his experience with his boat.
I planned to anchor and spend the night at Spencer Spit on Lopez Island but it was too windy. I moved further south to Hunter Bay where it was a calm night. This was my last night; I headed home in the morning. When I got up the next morning and started the generator, I noticed something not quite sounding right. Turned out that I had sucked a jellyfish into the cooling system, but it was caught by the strainer. Very gross. I cleaned that out before pulling up the anchor, heading out of Lopez Pass, and turning south to cross the strait.
It was a very calm day and the water was flat.When I got to Seattle I called the marina for a hand with docking. They sent a kid down to the slip to catch a line. And with that I completed my first successful single handed trip!