San Juan Islands Advice

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bkuhn
Posts: 6
Joined: Sat Jul 08, 2023 9:39 am
Sailboat: MacGregor 26X
Location: Colton, OR

San Juan Islands Advice

Post by bkuhn »

I am planning a 4 to 7 day trip to the San Juan Islands in Washington this spring/summer and was hoping for some advice.

I have never sailed in the area and am nervous about where I'll spend each night. I realize I can book marinas ahead of time, but ideally I'd like to avoid this so that I have some flexibility each day. I wonder if anyone has sailed the area and can give me a sense of how full marinas are, and will I have difficulty just showing up each night and hoping for a spot, or is this foolish at this time of year.

I'm new to sailing and have never sailed this area. So I'm not feeling paricularly comfortable with spending the night at anchor just yet.

Does anyone have any thoughts on a reasonable approach to this trip? Is pre-booking every night the best approach, or is it likely that I could get away with winging it in this area at this time of year and still get a spot in a marina each night?

Thanks so much, appreciate all the advice!
Brad
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rsvpasap
Engineer
Posts: 181
Joined: Fri Dec 13, 2013 2:05 pm
Sailboat: MacGregor 26X
Location: Seattle, WA

Re: San Juan Islands Advice

Post by rsvpasap »

I've spent a decade cruising Puget Sound, the San Juans and the Gulf Islands on a 26x. Chances are good you will be able to find space in a marina without a reservation in May and June. Space gets much tighter in July and August. I would call the marinas directly now and ask for their advice. Because the weather is usually calm in July and August, chances are you can schedule reservations and actually be able to stick to a schedule.

You might like to consider getting a moorage pass from Washington State Parks. It's approximately $130 for a year for a 26-ft boat and allows unlimited usage of the many state park morning buoys and docks year-round, maximum stay of three consecutive days on any single site. In many locations, you can register for the buoy or dock space immediately after tying up by phone without having to go to the land. These are very popular during July and August, so it's good to understand the system. You get overnight use of a mooring until 1:00 p.m. the following day, so it often works to show up around noon or 1:00 p. m. to the moorings that you would like to use since that's when many people tend to be leaving.
https://parks.wa.gov/passes-permits/per ... age-permit

Also, not trying to be annoying, but learning to confidently and securely anchor is your passport to cruising independence. I suggest a 25 or 35 lb Rockna or Mantus, 30-60 ft of 1/4-in G4 chain and 250 or 300 ft of 1/2-in double braid. In this area, you will often have to anchor in 20 ft of water or more, sometimes 30+ feet. Add 10 to 14 ft for tide and 3 ft from the water to the bow, so you will often need a substantial length of rode to get an acceptable scope-to-depth ratio. Probably the most important thing is to learn how to properly "set" an anchor. Suggest you do not just copy the folks around you, even the folks on big boats, because many of them seem to not know what they're doing.

I've attached a photo of my little boat on a State Park mooring at James Island. Best of luck in your adventures.


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C Buchs
Captain
Posts: 577
Joined: Thu Apr 23, 2015 6:49 pm
Sailboat: MacGregor 26X
Location: Camas, WA 98607

Re: San Juan Islands Advice

Post by C Buchs »

We took a similar trip in our 2001 :macx: .

We drove up on day one and stayed in an RV park.

We launched out of Washington Park. We had to wait for the tide to come in. So check the tide tables. They had plenty of room to park our rig & trailer, which wasn't very expensive. We were also able to wash our trailer in the pump-out area.

I was super worried about crossing Rosario Strait. We had excellent weather and didn't have any issues.

We've stayed at Blakely Island Marina, Friday Harbor, and Roche Harbor.

Blakely is a private island. So you can't venture far ashore, but the family that runs the marina was very welcoming. They had a BBQ the first night of our trip and many people from around the island came. We also stayed here on our last night of the trip. We were having such a lovely sail out of Harney Channel that we came in right at dark. As we came in, the owner was watching out for us, greeted us, and made sure we knew where to go.

Friday Harbor & Roche are both good-sized marinas with nice towns to explore.

If you do decide to try anchoring or catching a mooring buoy we can recommend Spencer Spit, Sucia Islands, Blind Bay, and Westcott Bay.

One last recommendation is to have a dingy or some other way to get to shore. We bought a cheap inflatable raft at Bi-Mart. We usually beach our boat and go ashore for a stroll here on the Columbia River, but that's not common in the San Juan Islands.

Jeff
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Chinook
Admiral
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Joined: Sun Feb 26, 2006 7:20 pm
Location: LeavenworthWA 2002 26x, Suzuki DF60A

Re: San Juan Islands Advice

Post by Chinook »

Good comments regarding the San Juans. I strongly second the thoughts regarding anchoring. Being able to confidently anchor will greatly enhance your options for enjoyment. Be sure to have access to accurate tide and current predictions, either electronic or paper. Study your charts carefully, and pay particular attention to those "wavy" symbols. In several places, San Juan waters can generate really rough, confused seas when currents are running strong. Places such as Cattle Pass at the south end of San Juan Island, Speiden Channel between San Juan and Speiden Island (especially the east end), and the waters just north of Jones Island can get especially gnarly. What looks like a simple case of whitecaps from a short distance can turn into a white knuckled nail biter very quickly. Also, keep a close eye out for the ferrys, and never try to outrun one, even with your big Mac outboard. Lastly, I recommend picking up a copy of the Waggoner Cruising Guide, which contains a wealth of up to date information on cruising conditions, anchorages, ports of call, marina phone numbers, and things of interest. Enjoy!
C Buchs
Captain
Posts: 577
Joined: Thu Apr 23, 2015 6:49 pm
Sailboat: MacGregor 26X
Location: Camas, WA 98607

Re: San Juan Islands Advice

Post by C Buchs »

Chinook wrote: Sun May 19, 2024 1:53 pm Lastly, I recommend picking up a copy of the Waggoner Cruising Guide, which contains a wealth of up to date information on cruising conditions, anchorages, ports of call, marina phone numbers, and things of interest. Enjoy!
This is really good advice!

Jeff
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