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Old 01-07-2016, 08:25 PM   #1
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1st Trip to the San Juan Islands

Planning are 1st week long trip to the San Juan's this August. Was thinking Friday harbor for 2 days then up to Sucia island for 2 days. Then finish up at Rosario resort for a night then back to Bremerton. Would love to hear about other great places to stops.
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Old 01-07-2016, 09:15 PM   #2
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Well, you'll get a ton of different answers. Depends on what you want out of the experience. We're not fans of harbors and in August all but a few of them tend to be jammed packed with noisy tourists and charter boat people.

Our list of places that the public can go that we like is as follows (in no particular order).

Eagle Harbor on Cypress (DNR Marine Park)
Cypress Head on Cypress (DNR Marine Park)
Prevost Harbor on Stuart (WA Marine Park)
Active Cove on Patos (WA Marine Park)
Parks Bay on Shaw (anchorage)
Indian Cove on Shaw (anchorage)
Shallow Bay on Sucia (WA Marine Park)
Fox Cove on Sucia (WA Marine Park)
Fisherman's Bay on Lopez (anchorage or commercial harbor)
West Sound on Orcas (commercial harbor)
Garrison Bay on San Juan (anchorage)
Jones Island (WA Marine Park)

Friday Harbor and Anacortes (Cap Sante) are nice harbors, particularly Cap Sante, but in August they tend to be very crowded and noisy, particularly Friday Harbor.

Places we absolutely despise are Roche Harbor and Deer Harbor.

However the truth is that we rarely go to any of the places listed anymore except Cypress during the winter because we prefer to use an anchorage in the islands that the public doesn't use because it's off the beaten path and there is no public access to to the shore or land around it.

The only harbor we tend to visit is West Sound on Orcas as we have friends on the island and the harbor is fairly close to them plus it's very laid back. West Sound is not within walking distance to the sort of thing most visitors want to visit which tends to keep the cruising boaters away.
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Old 01-07-2016, 09:26 PM   #3
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Russ, there are a lot of great places up there, both marinas and anchorages. Your choices are all good, but remember to make reservations in August as Friday Harbor and Rosario will be very busy. Our favorite Marina is Roche Harbor, at which we usually stop for one night to refill our water tank and pump the holding tank. Mostly we anchor, with our favorites being Reid Harbor, Garrison Bay, Jones Island, Blind Bay, and Sucia. We try to anchor in places where there are no ferry wakes. I suggest you download the free 2016 Waggoner Cruising Guide.
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Old 01-07-2016, 09:32 PM   #4
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Pacific Northwest Boater has some nice videos on youtube about the various places. They are worth a look.

https://www.youtube.com/results?sear...rthwest+boater

Where to go depends on what you like. Friday Harbor and Rosario sound OK if you like towns, restaurant dining, etc. Sucia is the other end of the spectrum. Expect crowds everywhere in August.
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Old 01-07-2016, 09:46 PM   #5
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Gee, Marin, so you DESPISE, ?? Roche harbor!! Yea, as a veteran of the 10 th special forces group [69 to 72] I have to sincerely agree with you. The way their staff honors the colors at dusk after playing taps is truly disgusting-- indeed, a great place to stay away from--- [and you are a guru???]
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Old 01-07-2016, 09:56 PM   #6
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Gee, Marin, so you DESPISE, ?? Roche harbor!! Yea, as a veteran of the 10 th special forces group [69 to 72] I have to sincerely agree with you. The way their staff honors the colors at dusk after playing taps is truly disgusting-- indeed, a great place to stay away from--- [and you are a guru???]

I couldn't care less if a flag goes up and down on a pole. That's a pretty silly reason to go somewhere in my opinion. We hate Roche because of the incredibly snobby attitude of the staff as well as a fair number of the boaters that go there now.

We clear customs there a few times a year so are well aware of what the place is like now. That's all very nice that the staff honors the flag and plays taps although I suspect it's because they've been told to do this by someone in the marketing department, not because they actually give a hoot. But that doesn't make up for the sh!tty attitude on display there. Deer Harbor isn't much better.

We used to fly into Roche a lot back in the early 1980s both on wheels and floats. Back then it was a very nice, very laid back, very friendly place. We used to eat in the little restaurant over the water there. Then the place got "discovered" by the developers and today it absolutely sucks in our opinions. We are not alone in this. Most of the members of our boating club hate what the place has become for the same reasons.

If I ever have a burning desire to watch a flag go up and down on a stick there are plenty of places I can do that around here without having to put up with a bunch of stuck-up a$$holes in the process.

But I'm not sure this kind of info is exactly what the original poster is looking for. Roche Harbor itself is picturesque and has a very interesting history that is quite relevant to the overall history of this region. That alone makes it worth seeing at least once.
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Old 01-07-2016, 10:16 PM   #7
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You will get a million answers, it's a fantastic trip, but Sept '14 we did a week long trip too. Not necessarily in this order, I'm not looking at a map, but we did Sucia, Friday Harbor, Rosario, Tod Inlet, Pender Island, Roche Harbor, and our last night in Chukanut Bay before returning the charter boat to Bellingham. That might sound like a lot but it felt like a very leisurely trip, it's all relatively close together. We had a blast, beautiful every day.

You'll get a million different opinions too of course, but my two cents, for whatever it's worth: Rosario is a charming little village, beautiful resort building and we had a fantastic dinner there, but it's a tiny place, only worth a day and one night in my opinion. Same with Roche (lots of people have a disdain for Roche Harbor I know because lots of richies go there with giant boats and it feels snobby, but oh well. My clearest memory of Roche Harbor was the obnoxious U.S. Customs guy processing us back into the US). Friday Harbor was fun, lots to do there, could easily spend two days there, but yeah, it's very touristy. Still beautiful and fun though. Make sure you hit the cheese shop. Excellent supermarket in Friday Harbor. Sucia was beautiful too, but it's a park of course, not a town or village. I'm glad we did it, and we hiked the trails, spectacular, but I guess it's a preference thing. We love little waterfront towns and discovering restaurants and seafood and marinas and people, but Sucia is really a hike through the woods, a backpackers' dream.

My two favorite places though were Poets Cove/Pender Island, and Tod Inlet. Both of those places were just magic. They were exactly what you hope for on a sailing trip. At Tod Inlet we stayed at the very top of the inlet, as far up as we could go. Perfect silence, eagles, seals slipping past the boat in the morning mist, and you can take a pretty easy walk to Buchart Gardens from a little Parks Canada dock/shed on one side of the inlet. Serenity like you wouldn't believe. Even if you're not a garden and flower person, Buchart Gardens will blow you away. And then the resort at Poet's Cove on Pender was another magical place. I see it gets lots of terrible reviews on TripAdvisor but when we were there it was paradise. Excellent showers and facilities, easy check-in into Canada, nice docks, posh resort building, fantastic meal at the restaurant on the outdoor patio, good drinks. On a chilly night we swam in the warm pool overlooking the harbor for hours under the stars with a few other boaters who were great fun. Yes, they may have management problems, but even then -- for example, the barrista never showed up to open the coffee shop in the morning, so the resort manager on duty opened the coffee shop for us and gave us the run of it ourselves, no charge. It was hilarious.

You'll have a great time.
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Old 01-07-2016, 10:27 PM   #8
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kthoennes brings up an excellent fact. That that is that the Gulf Islands in Canada are in many people's opinions, including ours, FAR superior to the San Juans in terms of a boating experience. Everything about the Gulfs is better. The anchorages are better and more plentiful, the towns and harbors are far more interesting and unique, the scenery is much better, and there are WAY fewer people, even in the peak boating season of June-August.

Our own list of great places to go in the Gulf Islands is much longer than our San Juans list and so far we have not found anyplace up there that we don't like. The places kthoennes mentioned are as great as he made them sound in our opinions.

So it you don't mind dealing with customs going in and coming out, or if all the people who will be on your boat have Nexus passes, the Gulf Islands could be worth thinking about.
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Old 01-07-2016, 10:35 PM   #9
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If you get to Poet's Cove, take your dinghy through the cut to Port Browning and have appies at the pub. Lots of nice folks.
Don't waste time looking for Fisherman's Bay on your charts. The correct name is Fisherman Bay. Kind of like "Puget Sound", common usage doesn't make it correct! (See how I avoided the term "tr****r"?)
Mostly, just go. We started a long time ago. Used the placemats from Tides Tavern in Gig Harbor and just went. Never got lost, met a lot of nice people, always fun.
The real secret is to knock on the hull of the boat next to you and ask for Bruce. It might be us, or it might not, but no one cares.
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Old 01-07-2016, 10:41 PM   #10
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Don't waste time looking for Fisherman's Bay on your charts. The correct name is Fisherman Bay.
Thanks for the correction. I started going in there in the floatplane years ago and so never really cared what the name was as long as there was space at the dock in front of the restaurant. When we started going in by boat I obviously never looked very closely at the name on the chart.
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Old 01-07-2016, 10:53 PM   #11
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Just a small thing, but it drives me crazy when people use a place name that is wrong. I boated out of Olympia for thirty years. Olympia sits on Budd Inlet. The Budd Bay Café opened (Bay rhymes with Café). Now you have Budd Bay Realty, etc. What are you going to do?
Fisherman Bay must be a great place to put a plane down.
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Old 01-08-2016, 12:08 AM   #12
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If you have a dinghy, when you get to Rosario take the dinghy and run up to Eastsound for a nice ride and a nice lunch. There's a dinghy dock on the east side of the sound where you can dock and walk into town.


There's a nice cove on the north side of Jones Island where you can drop the hook and spend a quiet night.


Friday Harbor was our absolute favorite place. If you belong to a yacht club you can get reciprocal moorage at one of the docks at Friday Harbor courtesy of San Juan Island YC.
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Old 01-08-2016, 12:32 AM   #13
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Just a small thing, but it drives me crazy when people use a place name that is wrong.
No argument there.

My most embarrassing mistake as an author (so far) is in the book I wrote about Kenmore Air Harbor. One of the chapters in the book is about the company's use of the Republic Seabee and the large number of private owners that kept their Seabees at Kenmore and for a few years had a very active social club centered around their planes.

One of the fairly dramatic events I describe in detail took place during a Seabee fly-in on Whidbey Island in Cornet Bay to attend a public tour of the Naval Air Station. For whatever reason I heard it pronounced as "coronet" in the audio interviews I conducted about the event and so I spelled it that way when I transcribed the interviews, and then spelled it that way throughout the chapter and that's the way it was printed. I write with MS Word and the spell checker didn't call it out because it turns out there is a word "coronet" as well as "cornet."

After the book came out Bob Hale, the then-publisher of the Waggoner Guide, asked me for a copy. He later told me that he'd really enjoyed the book but I'd made two mistakes. One was calling the bay "Coronet Bay." The other one was mispelling the island in the south Sound "Andersen" instead of the correct "Anderson."

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.....Fisherman Bay must be a great place to put a plane down.
The bay is easy enough even when it's crowded. The docks are another story....
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Old 01-09-2016, 01:27 PM   #14
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Well we will be visiting for the first time this spring too. Dinghy is a must and I would suggest buying an annual Washington State marine park sticker. It should pay for its self. We plan to visit Sucia, Friday, Roche Harbor, Jones Island, Garrison Bay and Reed Harbor before heading Canada!
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Old 01-09-2016, 04:20 PM   #15
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For anyone thinking about buying a Washington State Marine Park Pass be advised that the mooring buoys are limited to boats 45 feet and under.
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Old 01-09-2016, 11:28 PM   #16
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For anyone thinking about buying a Washington State Marine Park Pass be advised that the mooring buoys are limited to boats 45 feet and under.
My tape says ASD is 45ft
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Old 01-10-2016, 01:10 AM   #17
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I emailed the WA parks department to see how they measure boats for enforcing the 45 ft limit. My boat is a DF46 but at the waterline is a little less than 45ft. They replied that they would use whatever length is on the registration, which is 46ft. I won't be buying the annual sticker this year.
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Old 01-10-2016, 11:41 AM   #18
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Fisherman Bay - Lopez

Great lunch stop...

Dock at Islands Marine Center, nice folks and great docks. Self-service payment across the street at the office, if they are closed.

Take a brief walk into town, about 15 minutes. There is a relatively new restaurant there called Haven. The food is wonderful.
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Old 01-10-2016, 12:25 PM   #19
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I emailed the WA parks department to see how they measure boats for enforcing the 45 ft limit. My boat is a DF46 but at the waterline is a little less than 45ft. They replied that they would use whatever length is on the registration, which is 46ft. I won't be buying the annual sticker this year.
Interesting. I just looked at our original CG documentation and it says 41.4 ft. The boat measures 43 ft excluding the anchor pulpit and swim platform and 48 ft including them. Did the Coast Guard go off the waterline length? Guess I will pay a visit to the Parks booth at the boat show.
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