Paddleboarding 36 Miles Around San Juan Island
Shane’s paddle aspirations landed him here at San Juan Island, anchored at Roche Harbor on a Saturday morning before 4th of July. We had a quiet morning, sleeping in a bit and relaxing in the sunshine of our pilot house. The air was chilly, compared to the previous days here.
The plan was for him to leave at 10:30 when the current was, in theory, pushing him south towards Cattle Pass and then giving him a boost up the pass when he arrived. I made him an egg breakfast with sautéed kale and zucchini, and fried polenta. He had purchased cliff bars, nuts, and his favorite paddle snack, snicker bars at The Company Store the night before.
Before he left he put on some zinc sunblock and filled his waterbottles, leaving behind the gallon jug we had on board for emergencies. I had hoped he would take it, but he didn’t want the added weight on his board.
Equipped on board for emergencies, he had his first aid kit in his dry bag along with his snacks, a neoprene coat, a jacket, neoprene socks, and neoprene gloves. In his PFD he always keeps a knife, compass, whistle, VHF radio on channel 16 and at times whatever ferry or commercial traffic channels he’s going by, and more snacks.
Today was the first time I was more nervous about us, than him on his paddle. We were still in Roche Harbor, a busy area on the festive 4th of July weekend. We were never in any actual danger, but I like having Shane’s reassurances when we have boats trying to anchor close by and when the wind picks up. I also knew the kids couldn’t stay onboard all day and I would have to lower the dinghy, and take them into town by myself at some point.
Always punctual, he left at 10:30, right as our anchor neighbors pulled anchor too. It wasn’t long before he rounded the corner and was gone. For the past couple of years he has used Strava for allowing us to track him while on his paddles. I have fun checking in on him to see where he’s at on his route as he goes, and it makes me feel better knowing he’s making progress.
As the day went on, clouds started to drift in and the wind picked up a bit, making for a sweater type of day. The boys and I had lunch while watching boaters argue over the anchor spots next to us. Seaplanes landed and took off in front of us, yacht club dinghies wizzed by coming in from nearby Henry Island, and our anchor alarm went off here and there. It was an eventful afternoon.
After cleaning up and checking in on Shane I gathered up the courage to lower the dinghy by myself. Shane had told me Kelly has done it with him in the past and should be able to help. Kelly couldn’t quite remember, so we decided we would do our best. The good news is the dinghy was down quickly and ready for us to go. Ha! The boys were champs, getting down into the dinghy from our starboard side while wakes from passing boats kept us rocking and leaving our footing not as secure as I would have liked.
Weaving in and out of anchored boats, paying close attention to the faster boats zooming by us, we navigated our way over to the dinghy dock. We were handed all of the challenges, including a landing seaplane and handled it all with no issues. Shane had prepared us well.
While checking in on Shane’s progress I realized he was moving much faster than I thought he would. I treated the boys to ice cream and they ran around a bit and we had to head back.
Shane was already at the boat when we arrived. To be honest, he looked tired, but was still in good spirits. This was one of the longer and more challenging of his island paddles at 36 miles, passing a variety of water conditions. He told us later that the first part of his paddle was the hardest for him. By the time he reached Cattle Pass his legs were exhausted, but he had a great time going through the channel. The water was still mixed up, but his planning had given him a boost. From Friday Harbor all the way to Roche Harbor was a downwind paddle and he had a blast.
I made him fish tacos for dinner and he grabbed any snack we had left to gobble up. We watched the sunset and the kids enjoyed a show before bed.