Thursday, August 10, 2017

Sailing the San Juan Islands - I'm Going Ashore!

Sailing the San Juan Islands out of Anacortes is a joy on and off the water. First, when you make the trip up from Seattle, you’ll want to stop and check out the tidal action at Deception Pass. Park near the bridge and you’ll have a great view of the straight’s rushing waters.

At Anacortes, you’ll want to sail with Windworks Sailing & Powerboating, which offers rentals and sailing lessons. If you need to grab any last-minute gear, there’s a hardware store and a grocery across the street.

You’ll want to take at least a few days to explore the islands. While only a fraction of the 450 islands and reefs that make up the San Juans are inhabited, there’s plenty of action whether you want to explore a cute downtown or whale-watch on a deserted beach. Stuart Island is a must, with its Roche Harbor and Friday Harbor. For fine dining, head inland to Duck Soup restaurant in one of the two Friday Harbor taxis. There’s also plenty of fine surf and turf restaurants in Roche Harbor.

On our last visit to the San Juans, we sailed first into Friday, where we took a couple hours to explore the fantastic Westcott Bay Sculpture Park. You might even run into a deer or two sampling the vegetation in the tranquil park. We then sailed around to the Roche Harbor side of the island, where we rented electric bikes to explore the island - including its former military sites. If you rent an electric bike or scooter, give yourselves plenty of time - you can make it all the way to Friday in short time, but to really explore you will want half a day. Just don’t be like me and use too much of your juice or you’ll find out how steep some of the hills really are. Also, be sure to spot the island’s lone camel, a guest on a llama ranch.

Spencer Spit State Park is a great place to tie up for an onboard barbecue. Take your shore boat down to the beach and check out the historical sites, small streams, and abundant driftwood. The brackish water at the neck of the spit and large Lopez Island harbors abundant life in the form of hermit crabs. Stare a while and they become as plentiful as the colorful sand.

Sucia Island is your must-stop for exploring nature in the San Juans. The lightly inhabited island has ample camping as well as tie-offs for your boat before you head to shore. You can hike the perimeter of the island and it boasts 10 miles of trails. Watch out for joggers coming down the narrow dirt trails!

On our trip, Blakely Island Marina was the last stop - the marina is surrounded by inaccessible private land, but we spotted deer on the neighbor’s lawn, and fantastic views. It also has pay showers, which you may be craving after a couple days sailing. The small marina’s draw is a little tight for bigger boats, so check the tides before you pull in to save yourself some heartburn.

The San Juans are a must for adventurous travelers, and whether you need a skipper, a sailboat or powerboat rental, lessons, or a place to store your boat, Windworks can do you right. Our host for a week-long trip through the San Juans (just about right for exploring, a little long if you’re not into sparse living) has brokered two boats through Windworks and charters them out of the Windworks slips when he’s not sailing himself.

Fair winds and good weather!

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