Beach House’s 2017 Shake Down Cruise – Part One

After a long seven month absence from the boat, we needed to do a shake down cruise to all get re-acquainted. Beach House was on a monthly boat watch program while we were away chasing 70 degree weather but even with all the systems being run, we knew there would be some regular maintenance and perhaps a few opportunities to practice the 5 whys.


This beautiful sunset was the reward for a windy, rainy day at the dock.

The five whys goes back to our first cruise on the Beach House in 2015…Why isn’t the Espar heater working, why are we out of water already, why is smoke pouring out of the Espar heating exhaust, why does is smell like an electrical fire in the galley, why aren’t the battery’s staying charged…Yep, that sure was a fun week. To be honest I called it the five “what the F@#k’s”. Little did I know at that point about the actual problem solving technique until a very smartie boating friend explained it to me. It’s great to cruise with an engineer and a high-tech quality control mechanic.

The 5 Whys is an iterative interrogative technique used to explore the cause-and-effect relationships underlying a particular problem. The primary goal of the technique is to determine the root cause of a defect or problem by repeating the question “Why?” Each answer forms the basis of the next question.

Even knowing the five whys might be deployed, we were uber excited to get out of the marina and back in the San Juan Islands. Despite the severe weather warning for Thursdays, we got under way early on Wednesday for Sucia Island where we would be joined later by friends.

Leaving the marina we had a fitful start when an air bubble in the hydraulic steering system cause us to lose steerage just out of the fairway. Wally and I wear these geeky headsets when we are leaving or docking the boat so we can communicate about what’s going on as we are on opposite ends of the boat. I am usually handing the whaler and making sure it is behaving as he backs the boat out of the slip. We were out of the slip, headed down the fairway and the boat seems to be handling oddly, so I ask Captain Wally what’s going on. The Captain Wally calmly says in my ear…I think we have a steerage issue. Me: what type of issue. Him: well I don’t think we have any steerage. Me: don’t think or don’t have…as we are floating towards the marina wall. YIKES!!! Luckily, we were able to get safely over to an outside dock and the air bubble was cleared. I gotta say it was a bit of a heart racing experience that left me wanting to pop a beer despite the fact it was only 9:30 am. Okay, that was the first what the F@*K, oops I mean why!

Once out on the water, it was calm, no wind and the cruise to Sucia Island was boating on a pond. The sky was dark and moody when we cruised out of the marina but there was blue skies in the horizon. Bentley and Sucia did great on the cruise over. By lunch time we were tied on the dock and they were both laying in sun spots in the enclosed cockpit area. Yes, there was a beer consumed at lunch!


I love Sucia Island State Park and yes, Kitty Sucia is named after the Island. Among the northernmost of the San Juan Islands, this horseshoe-shaped island is accessible only by watercraft. Boaters venturing into its coves and harbors quickly discover why Sucia Island is considered the crown jewel in the state marine park system and a boating destination that’s world class.

The main island, surrounded by picturesque rocks and smaller islands, gave pause to the Spanish explorers who navigated its waters in 1791. They called it “sucia” or “foul,” a nautical term describing navigational obstacles such as the rocks around the island. Ha-Ha, our kitty is foul!! The island and its waters are, in fact, pristine, and the satellite rocks make for interesting diving, kayaking and fishing.


A view of Sucia Island from the top of  Mt. Constitution on nearby Orcas Island.

On April 10, 2012, part of a femur bone from a theropod dinosaur was discovered in a rock on the island. (Theropods are a group of meat-eating, two-legged dinosaurs, including T. rex and Velociraptor.) The 80 million-year-old fossil was spotted and excavated by paleontologists at the Burke Museum. Fossil collecting is strictly prohibited in this and all Washington state parks so leave your excavation tools at home!

Known for its emerald waters and forested trails, its magnificent sunsets and sandstone formations, Sucia Island is prized by locals for its off-season beauty and solitude. We have been here often in the off-season only to have the entire island to ourselves. Since I now possess a Washington State Drivers License, does that make me a local?


Mushroom Rock in Shallow Bay…we have pictures of all of our dogs there.

The entire island is a state park boasting a 564-acre marine park with 77,700 feet of shoreline, abundant camping and moorage. The main island and several smaller islands comprise the “Sucia group.” There are no services on Sucia Island, but there is potable water, composting toilets and over 10 miles of excellent hiking trails with stunning water views. For a mere $190 we purchase an annual moorage/parks pass, which gives us unlimited usage of all the state marine parks in the San Juan Islands. What a dealsky!!

Fishing, crabbing , clamming and shrimping can all be done in this area of the San Juan’s depending on the season. We came with a full freezer and refrigerator so we weren’t doing any foraging on this trip. Instead, our plan was to get re-acquainted  with the boat and try to remember where the heck we had stored everything. Our summer guest calendar is starting to fill up (it’s not too late if you have not made your reservations) so we are trying to get ship-shape for guests.

Beach combing is seriously awesome on Sucia and there are some great tidal pools to explore as well. We found some beautiful starfish on one of our expeditions and I was vindicated when I actually found a blue starfish …yes, it looks very much like the one I insisted we have on our boat lettering.


What…is that a blue Starfish???


Why yes it is!!!

Hiking is also great on Sucia and we all hit the trails everyday. We did a hike on a new section of trail that provides a loop trail between Shallow Bay and Fossil Bay. It was fun chatting with the hard-working group from Americorp who are building the trail and camping on the island. The total hike was about 3.5 miles, through the lower woodland area on a service road which takes you to Shallow Bay, then around the north point on the new section, where the trail hugs the waterline and returns you back to Fossil Bay. What a great addition to the existing trail system here, I think every point on the main island now has a trail. Click here for a trail map of Sucia.


A big thanks to the gang from Americorp for this brand new trail.


The first paws to hit this new trail. Mr. I  Don’t  Like to Hike Anymore had a great time too!

The whaler needed a good run as well, so we fired it up and ran the 5 nautical miles over to Matia Island. Another very cool, small marine park is on this island as well as a bird preserve. There is a short hike around the island but no pets are allowed so Mr. B had to stay home on this outing. For more info on Matia Island click here.

Our big bird excitement during our stay on Sucia was the discovery of a heron rookery and the big, bad juvenile eagle that was determined to have heron sushi for dinner. The strange clacking sounds and the constant presence of numerous herons on the small island just in front of our dock got me curious. We took the whaler, circumnavigated the island and using the binoculars we were finally able to spot not one but two fully occupied heron nests. They were so well camouflaged that even with the zoom lens on the camera, we couldn’t get any good pictures of the heron chicks.


This juvenile bald eagle is likely to be 2-3 years old based on size a feather coloration. He is sitting just below the heron rookery.


The heron nests are so well hidden in a gray, dead tree. The second one which you can’t see in this photo was buried deeper in the foliage to the left. 


Check out the sentry watching over the nest which is occupied by an adult and chicks.

We had 6 great days on the dock at Sucia, enjoying time with friends and meeting some great new folks. A big thanks to Mike and Shannon on Pocket Change for the 4 dozen fresh shrimp they gifted us. The seafood paella was enjoyed by everyone and the special ingredient was not only the fresh spot shrimp but the shrimp broth I made with the heads and shells which gave the paella a deep, rich flavor.


Spot shrimp just out of the ocean.



Paella with shrimp, scallops and smoked oysters, so good!!!

Bentley gives Sucia Island a resounding four paw rating…running on the beaches, beach combing and riding in the whaler were some of his favorite activities when he wasn’t napping in the sun. Kitty Sucia agrees but preferred sun bathing on the boat, watching birds and the sparkly water.


No sparkly water to watching this day…only sideways rain!

Good news, so far only one why…sweet! Stay tuned, the cruise isn’t over and we are headed to Stuart Island next.


6 thoughts on “Beach House’s 2017 Shake Down Cruise – Part One

  1. Wow – looks lovely. I can see why you oscillate between land and sea. If you’ll be any where in our area in Texas during Jan or Feb, I’ll need to take you to a Great Blue Heron nesting ground.


  2. What a great beginning to your summer island adventures! We love the San Juan’s, too — this will be our seventh summer on Lopez Island (we’re the interpretive hosts at Spencer Spit). We arrive in about a week and will be there until September. Your paella looks fabulous!


  3. Pingback: Beach House 2017 Shakedown Cruise – Part Two | our38ftlife

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