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San Juans TR

post #1 of 18
Thread Starter 


This TR has nothing to do with skiing, but I hope it will entertain while we wait for the snow to fly.  My sweetie, Terri, and I took a trip to the San Juan Islands of Washington and the Gulf Islands of British Columbia this last week. We had some wonderful times in a beautiful corner of the continent.


We sailed on Polly-Barb, a Beneteau 321 (32 foot sail boat) owned by my brother and his wife who are kind enough to let us use her when we please.


We left Bellingham’s Squalicum Marina in the morning, sailed across Bellingham Bay and said goodbye to local waters as we passed the Lummi Island ferry “Whatcom Chief” and headed for the waters of Georgia Straight, in the northwest corner of Washington, tucked up with British Columbia. 


a Whatcom Chief.JPG


Our destination was Sucia Island on the northern border of the state, a state marine park about three miles long in the shape of a horseshoe.  We found a parks buoy in Snoring Bay and settled in for the night in this tiny fjord at the southeastern tip of the island.


d snoring sunset.JPG



The Bay had a variety of wildlife evident.  We saw eagles, seals, porpoises, herons, and bugs to name a few. 


e heron.JPG


Here are two more views from around the island.  Notice that skiing is never far from anything we do here, as Mt. Baker attests in the background.


f morning to west.JPG


g baker & boat.JPG


After a dinghy tour of Fossil and Echo bays we were off for the land of the maple leaf, Canada itself.  In the following picture you see Polly-Barb’s dinghy, Sucia Island on the left and Orcas Island on the right.


h dinghy.JPG


A couple of hours later, after dodging a freighter we entered into Canadian waters at Bedwell Harbour on South Pender Island where we cleared customs and were off again in a flash.  Imagine not having to present your passport to anyone, you check in over the phone. There is nobody at the station, and the guy on the phone was polite too!


We sailed on to Annette Inlet on Prevost Island.  This is a small, narrow, shallow inlet with wonderful anchorage.  We set the hook near the mouth and were treated to a fabulous sunset with our wine:


i sunset 1.JPG


j sunset 2.JPG


k sunset 3.JPG


The next day, with a good steady southwest wind in our face, we rounded the northern head of the island and entered Trincomali Channel and then Plumper Sound.  We had a great morning of sailing and entered Port Browning in time for lunch.  There was a large encampment of people at the small Marina that were there for a set of races, which we never quite figured out.  There was a sail race going on when we entered the inlet but many of the people there were obviously kayakers.  Anyway, as we left Port Browning we saw spinnakers from race boats headed right at us as they headed for the finish:


m spinnakers.JPG


Our destination was Poets Cove in Bedwell Harbour, where we had checked in with customs the day before.  As we exited Plumper Sound and entered the Straight of Georgia we spied whales ahead.  Orcas to be more exact and correct.  We were under power at this point so we cut the power and drifted as we watched them surface and breath before heading down to hunt salmon.  I noticed an animal heading our direction and got a long shot of its dorsal fin


n orca 1.JPG


It kept getting closer


o orca 2.JPG


Until it either went just in front of Polly-Barb or just under her bow, but either way it targeted us with a swim-by.


p orca 3.JPG


We saw several other orcas further on at the head of Bedwell Harbour, one even breached not too far from us.  I’ve seen killer whales at other times, but this approach is the closest I’ve ever been associated with.


Our stay at Poets Cove was relaxing and enjoyable, but they tore down the old, cool hotel and bar and put in a “Whistleresque” (in the words of one of the folks on the dock) place that is nice looking, but no equal to the funky old one.


q poets cove.JPG


At Bedwell you are very close to the border.  This picture shows a light and head in Bedwell Harbour in the foreground, Stewart Island in Washington in the medium ground, and the Olympic Mountains of Olympic National Park in the background.  It was taken from the cockpit of Polly-Barb at our slip in Poets Cove.


r from Bedwell south.JPG


Next day we set sail for the USA and chose to clear customs in Friday Harbor on San Juan Island.  This was much more of an ordeal than going into Canada, despite the best efforts of the amazingly patient, polite, and efficient border agent.  We taxpayers get our money’s worth from this guy.


Clearing customs, we sailed across San Juan Channel to Fisherman Bay on Lopez Island where we dropped a hook in the shallow, mud-bottomed bay.  It was sunny and nice when we arrived and we watched the action on the shore at the local marina.


s fisherman sun.JPG


After a good night’s sleep we woke to a different scene:


t fisherman fog.JPG


This forced us to wait around until the fog cleared.  Even though Polly-Barb is equipped with radar and a GPS navigation system I didn’t want to duel with the Washington State Ferries and other large floating objects out there without being able to see them unless I had to.  We waited and suddenly at noon the fog cleared and the day began in bluebird glory.


Olympics looking south

u Olympics backdrop.JPG


Mt. Baker looking east-northeast.

v Baker revisited.JPG



This was our last day and we enjoyed the sights as we approached home:


w home.JPG


We reached Bellingham, sorry for the trip to be over, but blown away once again by the beauty of our region.

post #2 of 18

Gorgeous pics!  I love the San Juan and Gulf Islands, doing it on your own (or your brother's) sailboat sounds like an incredible way to do it.  Looks like a fantastic trip.  icon14.gificon14.gif

post #3 of 18
Thread Starter 

I highly suggest you find a way to get out there and do this.  I Jonesed about the islands for years before finally buying a partnership in a boat.  It was worth it and didn't take that much money.  Now I'm able to use my brother's boat (I pay him a charter fee) which is much cheaper than owning.  It's a great deal.

post #4 of 18

Very nice. Looks like an awesome trip!


post #5 of 18

Wow, gorgeous TR.  Thanks for sharing'


post #6 of 18

awesome TR, I saw snow!  Great pics of the orca.  How was the food?  super fresh seafood I am hoping....

post #7 of 18
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by Finndog View Post

awesome TR, I saw snow!  Great pics of the orca.  How was the food?  super fresh seafood I am hoping....

Yeah, there's so much snow up at Baker that they decided not to open the highway all the way to the top at Artist Point, the first time that's happened since the world record snow year.


As far as seafood goes, we had our share and it was all great.


post #8 of 18

Absolutely beautiful trip.  That looks outstanding.


Thanks for the report.

post #9 of 18

Private yacht would be the best way to see the San Juan's for sure.  But if your on a budget, biking them and using the Washington State Ferry system is pretty darn good!




I've also gotten good deals last minute on a package at the Rosario, on Orcas.  Kenmore Air will fly you up from Seattle in about 30 minutes and land right at the dock!

post #10 of 18
Thread Starter 

Unfortunately there is no way to get to many of the Washington State and British Columbia marine parks other than private boat.  Many people take kayaks to the main islands on the ferry and then make crossings to get to these parks on smaller, more remote islands.  It's similar to skiing in the back country, though.  If you don't know the waters and are not well trained and prepared you should definitely either get a guide or refrain from going.  The currents out there are tricky and strong, the weather can be unpredictable, and the water is cold.  A person could be in a life threatening situation in an instant, even on a beautiful warm day.


There are many different groups that sponsor guided island kayak tours.  I've never done one, but I keep wanting to.  The islands by kayak is a different experience than in a sail or power boat, superior in many ways and a whole lot cheaper.

post #11 of 18

I'm envious, I've never been on a private boat in the San Juan's and thus never experienced the smaller islands.  I did kayak around Orcas and agree, It's quite the experience!


I was surprised by how many people I met that lived aboard a boat year round there.  Rent's are high on the islands and there are lots of boats, but they would seem kind of cold and moist in the winter? 

I'm getting soft!

post #12 of 18
Thread Starter 

Did you kayak all the way around Orcas?  That's a long way!  You would have had to paddle right by Jones Island, Doe Island, and Blind Island State Parks if you did.  Sucia would have been a bit of a crossing, but you would have gone by it too.

post #13 of 18

nice summertime tr


post #14 of 18

Not all the way around, just a three hour tour out of the Rosario.




post #15 of 18

Nice, thanks for posting.  Love the photos.  Last year our BVI sailing trip that we captain'ed,  I left the Dingy  in gear.  Under sail the dingy started up all by itself and then tried to pass us.  roflmao.gif  Fortunately the dingy did not get away. 

post #16 of 18



Nice, posting.  That place roks.

post #17 of 18

Sounds like a great trip!  My gang stayed in the Roche Harbor area and had a ball this summer.  Don't know if you are interested at all, but when you get that good a shot of an orcas "saddle patch" you can look them up.  I believe that is K21 (Cappuccino) a male born in 1986.  The sites to look them up are:




post #18 of 18
Thread Starter 

I believe that you are right, it sure looks like Cappucchino.

Edited by Posaune - 9/1/11 at 5:54pm
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