Lopez Island: Fisherman Bay and Spencer Spit
Kelly turned 12 on Lopez Island! We were there to celebrate his birthday by spending hours and hours at the skatepark. Lopez Island is part of the San Juan Islands in the Puget Sound. Over the winter we anchored in Mackaye Harbor, hiking out to Iceberg Point. It’s a beautiful island with a much slower pace than it’s neighbor to the west, San Juan Island.
Honorable mention: Turn Island
Coco Mar and crew left Sucia Island for Lopez, as the sun was coming up. High tide to get into Fisherman Bay wasn’t until around 7pm. To “kill time” we had a few different plans depending on how the fog was looking when we got closer to San Juan Channel. In the past we’ve tried to grab a mooring ball at Turn Island with no luck. Amazingly, there was one open as we were passing by. So, we snagged it!
Turn Island is directly across the channel from where we were headed later that night. It’s a small, 35-acre State Park around the bend from Friday Harbor. In fact, we encountered a few different groups of kayakers who looked to be stopping there after launching at Friday Harbor.
To fill the time, Shane rowed around the island and later paddled it. The boys and I took the short hike around the perimeter. There were a few steep areas, with the trail barely there on the side of the cliff. Later we listened to Fantastic Mr. Fox on deck, enjoying the sunshine and perfect temperature. Kelly jumped in the water and Wyatt swam around a bit too. They were surprised how much colder the water was there than at Sucia. The current brought in the chilly water!
We departed at 6:30pm to enter Fisherman Bay for the first time. Tide was at a +7ft and we read the entrance to our marina would be 5ft at zero tide. We draw about 6ft of water. Still, Shane and I were on edge, even after studying the charts and taking notes on how to maneuver around the buoys.
Fisherman Bay is a shallow, marked bay with a narrow channel entrance. There are two public marinas, one being a resort with a restaurant, pool, and land-based accommodations. We stayed at the other marina.
Our reservations were with Island Marine Center. The marina was pleasant when booking and had a no fuss process for landing. Shane was torn between anchoring and getting a slip. We ended up getting a slip for three nights, but cutting it short on the last night to get out during high tide. The main purpose of the trip was to help Kelly get to the skatepark just a mile away from the marina.
The skatepark was down Fisherman Bay Road, on the outside of Lopez Village. It’s a Skatelite park, the same material Kelly scootered on at Woodward last summer. A few different locals told us that they thought someone who lived on the island donated the park. After looking it up, they were mostly right. Shawn O’Day, the President of his family’s Richlite company, the parent company of Skatelite was responsible for donating the park. However, he wasn’t a local, but someone with fond memories of visiting on his sailboat as a kid!
Thankfully, the park did not disappoint. I was amazed at how much harder Kelly scootered. He landed a few tricks he had been working on for a while. Both kids were so brave! Shane explained that the Skatelite material makes you feel more confident and less worried about scraping yourself up when you crash. Unfortunately, the skatepark put me on edge. There were a number of loose screws and boards popping out. The park is incredible. We all hope that the island organizes to maintain it.
Apart from the time at the skatepark, we also ate at local spots, did some light provisioning, and went for a bike ride. Lopez Kayaks and Bicycle Works was next to the marina. The boys and I rented bikes, with plans to ride over to Shark Reef on the southern side of Lopez. As we reached the top of the hill we got off our bikes to walk them. Mosquitos immediately swarmed us, so we turned back around down the hill to ride to the opposite side of the island. Shane met up with us and he lead the way on his longboard. We stopped at Odlin Park, checking out the beach.
The food on the island was incredible. The dinner at Vita’s Wildly Delicious restaurant was our favorite. It wasn’t exactly “kid food,” but the boys each loved their choices. The smoked macaroni and cheese was gobbled up by Wyatt and the flank steak and chicken skewers were Kelly’s favorite. The atmosphere was cozy. It was fun seeing everyone greet each other. We saw the same goings on at Roche Harbor. People returning to their island homes for the summer, greeting each other.
We also ate at the Lopez Islander Resort Restaurant. Shane and I were pleasantly surprised by the quality of food. The kids of course loved the kid menu options. The atmosphere was nice and laid back. They were short staffed, but we weren’t in a rush to be anywhere and the lawn games kept the boys busy.
Another noteworthy meal experience was at a food truck parked just across the street from the skatepark — Poutine Your Mouth. They specialize in feel good foods. Shane had poutine with dairy free cheese curds and Dungeness crab. The kids had their kid grilled cheese. A nice treat on a day of skating.
The mounting heat didn’t scare us off, but what did was being able to get out of the bay! We left the westside of Lopez for the east. Our route was motoring around the north side of Lopez to Spencer Spit.
Spencer Spit is a State Park with camping, a few trails, and a sandy beach. The sandy beach depends on what time of day you go! The majority of State Parks we’ve been to in the San Juan Islands are Marine Parks, only accessible by boat. Spencer Spit can be accessed by car. Lopez Ferry Landing is not far away and has ferries coming in from Friday Harbor and Anacortes. I believe your ferry ride would be free from Friday Harbor to Lopez! Drive on to explore San Juan Island and then ferry over to Lopez for camping before returning to Anacortes. We’ll come meet you!
The sandspit’s formation and history was explained with signage around the covered picnic areas. The small cabin visible from the anchorage is a replica of the homesteader’s guest house. We ended up anchoring, but there was a number of mooring balls lining the beach. I’m grateful for our Roche Harbor experience, where other boats anchored as close to us as they did. We’d always like to be by ourselves somewhere beautiful. However, when the sun is going down and the anchorage is crowded, it’s nice to know you can still drop anchor.
Shane was able to check off another, bigger island for his “paddle all of the islands” quest. He paddled Lopez Island on Sunday while the kids and I doodled and painted onboard.
We made a movie wheel! We did this Christmas of 2020 and had the best time. I was inspired by The Office’s chore wheel. This eliminates any arguments over what we will watch and ensures we get to all of the movies we wanted to see. That night we spun Sonic II and everyone was happy. The next night we spun Dr. Strange and the Multiverse of Madness and only Shane and I were pleased with that spin.
In regards to Shane’s paddle goals, his new board has boosted his spirits when it comes to getting out there every morning, especially on weekdays. He usually leaves as the sun rises, but for Lopez he was able to leave at 8:45am! The kids and I tracked his progress and were surprised at how quickly he was circling the island. He made it back by 3:30. The boys and I rowed out to meet him. He was in good spirits and joined us for a quick walk on the beach.
While exploring, Shane discovered Outdoor Adventures had a stand for renting kayaks and paddleboards onshore. Outdoor Adventures is where he got his whitewater certification. He bought a shirt with a map of the San Juan Islands on the back from them the next day.
Circumnavigating Lopez Island wasn’t enough for Shane! He got to work early the next morning paddling a few of the remaining smaller islands and named rocks. I was a little nervous for him with how much fog we had surrounding the boat. Kelly woke up and wondered why it was so dark. Shane always prepares for the conditions the best he can. He had a radio ready, his lights, foghorn, did his due diligence in checking marine traffic for ferries, and stayed out of the traffic lanes. The fog was pretty dense, but land was almost always in sight for him. He did use his compass — a handy tool. He rounded Blakely Island and a few of the small islands around it. The kids barely noticed he was gone! He returned right as they were waking up.
We all really enjoyed Lopez Island. Nevertheless, it was time to move on as we only had a few days left before we had to head back north. We left Lopez on Tuesday night to anchor off of Doe Island, next to Deer Harbor on Orcas. Pulling anchor was easy and the trip across Peavine Pass was stunning! Seeing Mount Baker and the North Cascades in the background, lit up against the bright blue sky made me feel grateful to be here in the northwest. The greenery, the color of the water, the snowcapped mountains… our winter was hard and our summer has been short, but who can complain now!
July is over and we’re heading into August. It’s almost been one year on the boat! This year has been crazy. I wish I could sum up our past year-and-a-half in a way that truly encapsulates the gung-ho, magical, and unique experience it was for the kids as they grow up. It can be hard to see how amazing this has been as we’re living it day-to-day. Yet, when you zoom out and think about what we’ve all done, it’s pretty incredible.