San Juan Islands 2018

Visiting Washington’s San Juan Islands is always a welcome treat. The islands are beautifully serene with lush landscapes, calm waters, and blue skies. Well, the blue skies were a little smoky for a couple of days due to the many forest fires in British Columbia and Washington. We had hoped to see the Perseid meteor showers on its peak nights, but the smoke prevented that from happening. Nonetheless, we had an enjoyable visit to three new locations at Fisherman’s Bay on Lopez Island, Double Island anchorage and Rosario Resort, both on Orcas Island. Rounding things out were two nights at my favorite anchorage in Reid Harbor on Stuart Island and two nights at Roche Harbor Resort on San Juan Island with the Meydenbauer Bay Yacht Club group before heading back south to Seattle. Here is a map of these stopovers:fullsizeoutput_36ae

Fisherman’s Bay is a fairly sheltered and very shallow anchorage on the west side of Lopez Island. Depths in the anchoring part of the bay range from 8-10′. We anchored in 9′. Fiddler has a draft of 4.5′, so we had 4.5′ under us at the average low tide. However, the night we were there was a 2′ minus tide, which meant we only had 2.5 feet under us at the lowest point, which was barely enough. The main town on the island is Lopez Village and it is located a half mile away from Fisherman’s Bay, an easy walk with lots of blackberries to pick along the way, so many that Cathleen made a crisp with them. Yum!! We walked around the village, stopping for lunch and a glass of wine. We noticed a lot of rabbits in town too. This was a fun stopover made even better with a pretty sunset.

We picked a lot of blackberries on the way back from Lopez Village
Lunch and wine in Lopez Village
No apparent rabbit predators on Lopez Island
We were anchored near the seaplane “runway”
Pretty Fisherman’s Bay sunset

Our next anchorage about an hour away was called Double Island even though it sits between three islands in West Sound on Orcas Island. I wanted to stop here because it looked like a pretty place and we had not been there before. The only downside was no shore access so we spent the time on the boat. We also noticed the wake from the passing ferries and other boats before dark, although it wasn’t bad.

The next and final new location on this trip was historic Rosario Resort, also on Orcas Island. This was originally a 5 level, 54 room mansion (and surrounding 4,000 acres) built in the early 1900’s by Seattle shipbuilder and former mayor Robert Moran. His shipbuilding company built steamships for the Yukon River trade during the Klondike gold rush and later built the battleship USS Nebraska. Subsequent purchasers of the Rosario property turned it into a resort, spa, restaurant, marina, and museum for tourists. Moran donated most of the land to Orcas Island that became Moran State Park. We tied up to a mooring buoy outside of the marina and went to shore for a walk around the mansion and grounds and ate dinner at the mansion restaurant. At the museum we listened to a Rosario historian while he played the piano and a huge pipe organ (the first in the Northwest) that Robert Moran built for entertaining his mansion guests back in the day. This was very interesting and definitely one of the highlights of the trip.

The front entrance to the mansion at Rosario Resort


Moran installed this figurehead from an old clipper ship on the Rosario grounds overlooking the bay


Here is a photo from the internet of Robert Moran sitting in front of the figurehead
Tied to a Rosario Resort mooring buoy in Cascade Bay. The mansion is on the point.

Next we cruised over to Reid Harbor on Stuart Island and anchored for two nights. This may be my favorite anchorage in the San Juan Islands. It is large, scenic, and protected from winds. It is the location of Stuart Island Marine Park which has docks here and on Prevost Harbor on the opposite side of the island. Shore access is easy with a kayak or by tying the dinghy to the state park dock. On shore there are hiking trails, the longest going to Turn Point Light House. We set out the crab traps then kayaked to shore and hiked to the old school house for a picnic lunch, planning to hike further until Cathleen’s sandal strap broke. At the old schoolhouse is a self serve T-shirt shop with a display of shirts hanging on a clothes line. You pick out a shirt and then mail the payment after you get home. It’s been here a long time and must be successful. We ended up with only two crabs since the Judges were not with us. With Mark and Linda along a couple of years ago, we had 22 crabs in two pots with 10 keepers. Here are some photos from Reid Harbor:

On the way back to Fiddler, I noticed the dinghy was missing, no longer tied to the back of the boat. I had not tied a very good knot and it had worked its way loose. As I got closer, I saw our dinghy tied to a buoy. A good samaritan found it adrift and tied it up for us. How nice was that?! That situation could have been much worse. I have since started tying the dinghy and kayaks using solid knots that will not work loose. I felt pretty silly for awhile, but a glass of wine or two later and that went away.

The final island stopover was at Roche Harbor Resort and Marina where we joined MBYC on an organized cruise with all of the attendant festivities. Happy hours, breakfast, and dinner on the dock, crab contest, dog show, plus a real treat by an MBYC member whose grandfather purchased Roche Harbor Resort in 1955. He regaled us with colorful stories while leading us on a guided walking tour of the resort and surrounding area that included the Mausoleum where the prior owners buried their family and others that worked at the resort. The resort, marina, and mausoleum are big tourist attractions.

Sunset at Roche Harbor on our final day in the San Juan Islands

We departed the next day for Seattle. The forest fire smoke worsened significantly, so much that we needed radar and navigation lights on the way back.

Poor visibility due to smoke

Despite the intermittent smoky days, this was a very fun trip full of new locations to see and old favorites to enjoy again.

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