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Old 07-21-2020, 03:21 PM   #1
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How Crowded are the San Juan Islands these days?

Thinking of heading out 2nd week of August and wondering how crowded things are up there. Looking at charts showing AIS locates looks like lots of folks at the state park islands. Guessing maybe one out of ten has AIS?
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Old 07-21-2020, 05:03 PM   #2
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We were there last two weekends. Weekend of 11/12 the bay we were in had 12 boats - next weekend there were 53. Launch folks said it was crab season opened and closed border.

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Old 07-21-2020, 05:57 PM   #3
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We're hoping to be up there, too. Hope there's plenty of room for everyone. Maybe see you there!
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Old 07-21-2020, 10:19 PM   #4
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We're home ported in Friday Harbor and trying to get away from the hordes. 4th of July was nuts and it hasn't stopped. All the state marine parks are jammed as are the usual anchorages near the north end of San Juan. Went by Lopez today and Spencer Spit, Mud Bay and Hunter Bay had lots of boats. James Island was busy as well. LaConner Marina is full tonight. Talked with folks who had been at Stuart and Sucia who said they had never seen it so full. You might think about South Sound or Hood Canal.
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Old 07-21-2020, 10:26 PM   #5
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We love south sound, but are just completing commissioning in Blaine, so we need someplace to overnight for the shakedown. Sounds like an anchorage will be tough to find. On the other hand, it looks like everyone is out enjoying their boats, which is a bright spot in these crazy times....
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Old 07-21-2020, 11:09 PM   #6
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Lots of boat activity in South Puget Sound. McMicken Island had lots of boats anchored and moored nearby. Busier than I remember.
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Old 07-22-2020, 12:19 AM   #7
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Crowds nothwithstanding, in our past experience arising early and planning to arrive at your destination by a about 9am, then being patient, will often result in a good dock spot, mooring bouy, or anchorage. Then explore by dinghy. Not ideal, but it used to work for us. It seems that a lot of transients seem to leave between 9:30 and 10:30 or 11:00. The early bird and all that . . .
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Old 07-22-2020, 09:28 AM   #8
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crowds nothwithstanding, in our past experience arising early and planning to arrive at your destination by a about 9am, then being patient, will often result in a good dock spot, mooring bouy, or anchorage. Then explore by dinghy. Not ideal, but it used to work for us. It seems that a lot of transients seem to leave between 9:30 and 10:30 or 11:00. The early bird and all that . . .


stop!!!!!!!!!
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Old 07-22-2020, 09:44 AM   #9
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We've been in the San Juans since March. They're definitely feeling crowded, but it's not terrible, especially midweek. We're anchored in Eastsound now and have lots of room, maybe 7 or 8 other boats here.

The marinas and state parks are busy, especially on nice weekends. Last weekend was packed, probably due to the nice weather and the crab opening.

That said, it's not that difficult to find places that aren't crowded. Just look on a chart, find a bay that's reasonably protected from the prevailing weather but not super close to public shore access, and try anchoring there. Just because a bay isn't written up in the cruising guides, or doesn't have a glowing review, doesn't mean it won't work.

We haven't tried any marinas other than occasional quick stops at Cap Sante, and they've always had space. We stop at SYC outstations every couple weeks and have always found space. Maybe we're lucky.
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Old 07-22-2020, 11:38 AM   #10
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We've been in the San Juans since March. They're definitely feeling crowded, but it's not terrible, especially midweek. We're anchored in Eastsound now and have lots of room, maybe 7 or 8 other boats here.



The marinas and state parks are busy, especially on nice weekends. Last weekend was packed, probably due to the nice weather and the crab opening.



That said, it's not that difficult to find places that aren't crowded. Just look on a chart, find a bay that's reasonably protected from the prevailing weather but not super close to public shore access, and try anchoring there. Just because a bay isn't written up in the cruising guides, or doesn't have a glowing review, doesn't mean it won't work.



We haven't tried any marinas other than occasional quick stops at Cap Sante, and they've always had space. We stop at SYC outstations every couple weeks and have always found space. Maybe we're lucky.


I agree with the above report. We are at Sucia now. There are lots of boats but plenty of room. I would try to stay away from weekends and plan to anchor wherever you go.
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Old 07-22-2020, 11:45 AM   #11
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That's a good point Retriever.
Anchor in Mud Bay instead of Spencer Spit.
Choose anchorages by what’s not there .. ashore.
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Old 07-22-2020, 12:16 PM   #12
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My advice, get really good at anchoring and make sure your tackle is top notch.

I've cruised the islands extensively, but until last summer it's all been on sailboats. Never had the option of getting there early to get a spot, by the time we'd roll in in the late afternoon, the stinkpots had all the dock space and mooring balls. But as long as your good at dropping anchor in a crowded or tricky anchorage, you've always got a home for the night.
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Old 07-22-2020, 01:35 PM   #13
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I agree with the above report. We are at Sucia now. There are lots of boats but plenty of room. I would try to stay away from weekends and plan to anchor wherever you go.
Is it normal to stern tie at Sucia? Weve been boating and an anchoring in south sound for years, but have spent very little time in the San Juans. Were still commissioning our boat and I havent figured out the stern tie rig, yet.
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Old 07-22-2020, 01:57 PM   #14
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Re stern tie at Sucia: stern tie is not typical at Sucia in my experience (nor anywhere in the SJIs. Circumstances may make this a good time to practice and hone one skills. Just be mindful that a lot of shoreline is privately owned and I doubt the owners would appreciate folks crawling around their shoreline (if "rock wrapping") or running a line around a tree (with potential damage to the tree bark). I was just thinking about this subject earlier today and plan to test things out. Jones Is comes to mind. Small inlet, steep anchoring grounds...
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Old 07-22-2020, 02:31 PM   #15
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I've stern tied at some of the smaller, trickier anchorages in the San Juans; Ewing Cove on Sucia, Active Cove on Patos, even the west cove on James. It's a good thing to be prepared for and know how to do. But for 95% of the anchoring you'll be doing in the San Juans, stern tying wouldn't apply.

Now up in the Gulfs and beyond, stern tying becomes more prevalent.
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Old 07-22-2020, 03:23 PM   #16
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Lots of boat activity in South Puget Sound. McMicken Island had lots of boats anchored and moored nearby. Busier than I remember.


It seems that more people are discovering McMicken Island. It has been getting busier over the years. The nice thing is that the bay behind the island is large with lots of great anchoring. Id just as soon folks forgot about this spot however. It is a favorite of ours in the summer.
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Old 07-22-2020, 03:41 PM   #17
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Is it normal to stern tie at Sucia? Weve been boating and an anchoring in south sound for years, but have spent very little time in the San Juans. Were still commissioning our boat and I havent figured out the stern tie rig, yet.
I've never seen a stern tie in the San Juans in many years of going there. The State Park anchorages are typically big enough to swing on the hook and mooring buoys are available in some spots. As mentioned, in the Gulf Islands and up farther to Desolation Sound, stern tying is common.
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Old 07-22-2020, 04:05 PM   #18
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... Id just as soon folks forgot about this spot however. It is a favorite of ours in the summer.
And therein lies the conundrum of sharing on an internet forum. The desire to help the community you are part of and respect vs keeping something special to yourself.

I like South Sound a lot. But I worry that with the The Canadian San Juans (the Gulf Islands) and further north closed South Sound will be discovered and over run. So many here and face to face are talking about South Sound as an alternative to the San Juans. Oh, well, at least it's a big place.
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Old 07-22-2020, 04:19 PM   #19
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It seems that more people are discovering McMicken Island. It has been getting busier over the years. The nice thing is that the bay behind the island is large with lots of great anchoring. Id just as soon folks forgot about this spot however. It is a favorite of ours in the summer.
There were a dozen or more boats anchored in that bay Sunday afternoon.
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Old 07-22-2020, 04:23 PM   #20
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And therein lies the conundrum of sharing on an internet forum. The desire to help the community you are part of and respect vs keeping something special to yourself.

I like South Sound a lot. But I worry that with the The Canadian San Juans (the Gulf Islands) and further north closed South Sound will be discovered and over run. So many here and face to face are talking about South Sound as an alternative to the San Juans. Oh, well, at least it's a big place.
Until last summer we owned a home that looked west through Dana Passage. Over the years we used to remark about how little boat traffic there was. Well, it has picked up considerably in the last few years. I think South Sound has been discovered.
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