Hippity Hops Through the San Juans
Timing is tricky on a boat, especially around the islands. The wind might be good to sail, but the current rushing through the islands could be strong enough to put you in a standstill. There’s a high tide and low tide twice a day at varied times and levels. We could have a route timed out, but the forecasted weather doesn’t show up as predicted.
On top of the more weather and water related timing issues, there are also considerations around people. Family commitments, interests of the kids, and the factor with the most weight — work.
For this reason, we’ve made little hops from island to island for the most part. On each of our two week outings we have traveled two to three hours to and from Blaine Marina to Sucia. From there we travel at most two hours to each location, leaving very early in the morning, or after working hours. Our weekends have been tied up on timing factors unrelated to the wind for most of the summer. I’m missing getting the sails out and taking the longer cruises with no engine sounds. Even when we have had the sails out, the engine is on, charging our batteries.
(Note: I wrote that this morning, but we ended up having a nice sail with the engines off leaving Lummi for Blaine. Hooray!)
I can’t complain — I love having power on the boat. And, Shane does a good job of planning our routes around our preferences, his paddle ambitions, work, the wind and currents.
On our latest move we hopped a few times between anchorages. From Lopez Island we hopped over to Doe Island, on the southeastern side of Orcas Island. We dropped anchor around 7:30pm, hoping to avoid the wind cutting across Rosario Strait. Once we were nestled in between the two islands, the waves calmed down. It was a small area, with a few boats privately moored, and a state park dock. The shore was rocky on either side, with homes lining the land on Orcas. The view to the east was beautiful, getting a glimpse of Mount Baker behind Sinclair and Lummi Islands.
Shane and Wyatt rowed around Doe Island while I cleaned up after dinner. We spun Dr. Strange and the Multiverse of Madness on our Summer Movie Wheel, which we watched on the iPad. As we were going to bed the waves started picking up. The current had us stretched sideways, with each roll hitting our beam coming one after the other. It was a pretty uncomfortable night sleep. Shane thought the waves were coming up from the Strait of Juan de Fuca.
By the time 5am came around Shane was ready to move and I happily got up to help out. We pulled anchor and headed for the opposite side of the Strait, Cypress Island.
We’d been to Cypress Island last fall and were excited to go back. It’s a beautiful island, primarily undeveloped and managed by the Department of Natural Resources. Last year we moored at Pelican Beach, behind Elephant Rock. This time we found a free mooring ball north of the Cone Islands at the Pelican Beach trailhead.
The beach was so close to our boat! When we got settled, Shane went for a quick paddle. I turned on the electronics a few times to check the depth. We never got below 20 feet of water, which is just incredible. I could see the sand under the water just off our stern, but the drop off was so quick right there.
With the beach being so close, the kids used the opportunity to paddle over and have some time on land to themselves. They ran around the beach, skipped rocks, and explored the area. There was a group of kayakers who had camped over night at the end of the beach, but the rest was unoccupied. Shane and I watched them from the windows of the pilot house. They came back onboard for lunch.
After lunch the kids and I got ready for a hike. It was a short one, but I still prepped a dry bag with snacks, treats, water, sun block, my small first aid kit and mosquito lotion. I have a few small bags that I just transfer between my purse and dry bags now — a different bag depending on if it’s skateparks or beaches.
Like most kids, my kids are not all that interested in going on hikes. However, they legitimately loved the payoff of this one. We hiked up to Eagle Cliff, the rocks on the northernmost point of the island. It’s a beautiful sight to cruise by. The hike up there was so fun. The kids complained a bit about the fact that it didn’t just go straight up the cliff. The surroundings were beautiful, taking us down a little valley, before heading back up switch backs toward the top. The eagles’ nesting in the rocks closes the trail down for part of the year. When we got up to the top we were amazed to see juvenile eagles just overhead. It really was Eagle Cliff!
After our hike we went on a quick paddle around the boat and then packed everything up to head north to Bellingham Bay’s Squalicum Harbor. We got our keys to the boat almost a year ago while it was moored there! It was fun to pass by Vendovi Island (a favorite of the kids’) and head north past Lummi Island. There was a noticeable absence of freighters anchored in the Bay this time, unlike last year.
We were even at the same gate. We tied up the boat and walked over to The Loft for dinner, the boys enjoying a meal out served in paper pirate ships.
Shane’s Paddle Report
Shane paddled just under 70 miles since Sunday. When we were at Cypress Island he paddled Sinclair Island and Boulder Reef off it before work and Cone Islands during his lunch hour.
To extrapolate on his Monday, early morning paddle around Blakely Island, he also went around Frost Island, Flower Island, Armitage Island, Willow Island, Pointer Island, Black Rock, Spindle Rock, Leo Reef, and Blakely Island Shole. Circumnavigating each one. He never complains about a paddle or being sore — maybe a little bit about being sore. Ha! We’re all proud of him for going after what he loves.