We’ve Been Boarded…

Arrr Matey we’ve been boarded…sounds like something out of Pirates of the Caribbean but in our case it was our first of the season visitors to the Beach House. Woo-Hoo…We have been looking forward to having friends onboard Beach House and showing them the beautiful San Juan Islands.

After doing what seems like a million projects on board Beach House, I keep saying to Wally that next season we will just get onboard and go. Wally just rolls his eyes and says uh huh. But truly, I think we are ready now to have some serious fun with friends onboard.

Shawn and his delightful daughter Tatum, were in the area looking at colleges and had some time to hang with us for a few days. Shawn and Wally worked at Intel together for over 20 years so it was fun for Wally to reconnect and catch up on all the scuttlebutt at Intel and just spend some time chillin with Shawn.

Being up for an adventure, they stowed their gear on Beach House and off we went for an overnight somewhere. Our crossing on Rosario Strait was a bit lumpy and windy so Shawn and Tatum get bonus points for getting their sea legs so quickly. We were headed over towards Lopez Island but had hopes of getting on the small dock at James Island.

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The view from the hiking trails looking north…that’s Beach House on the left side of the dock.

James Island lies in Rosario Strait just off the eastern shore of Decatur Island and west of the city of Anacortes. Rosario is a big open body of water that leads in to the Straits of Juan de Fuca which goes on out to the ocean. We call the Strait of Juan de Fuca “Juan de Fu*k You” because the weather and water conditions can really get nasty, so we give that area some serious respect. Since James Island is located just on the edge of Rosario the currents around the island are really fast moving. Combine that with some wind and getting on the dock can be a challenge but the crew on the Beach House got lucky. After one attempt to get on the side of the dock that the wind and current were blowing us away from, the boat on the “easy” side of the dock left so we took advantage of the conditions and let it help move us on to that side of the dock.


James Island is marked on this map by the star so you can see how big that the straits around it are.

The cool thing about James is that it is great for a day trip or overnighter as it is a quick 30 minute cruise from our marina and it is another island in the Washington State Park System that is entirely a park for camping and boating – no private residences. If you are looking for a great camping getaway, you can get to James via a private boat from Anacortes and have your choice of three different camping areas complete with composting toilets but no potable water. The camping areas combine for a total of 13 campsites and are connected by a loop trail. James Island is about 113 acres and has 12,335 feet of saltwater shoreline with some great views of Mt Baker.

The weather was picture perfect plus the wind died down in the evening so we were able to dine alfresco with the sounds of the water rippling out in the channel as our music. Grilled spice rubbed flat iron steak with chimichurri, corn on the cob and a garden salad finished with watermelon. That’s a summer dinner for sure. Nothing tastes better than when its served outdoors with friends at the table… the coup de grace was the wonderful sunset.

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Just another San Juan Sunset!

We spent the next morning doing an easy hike around the island and then had a leisurely lunch at the dock before we made the cruise back to Anacortes. Tatum later wrote in our guest book that she thought the cruise back was good but wasn’t sure as she slept the whole way back! Glad she was feeling so relaxed.


After finding this tree riddled with big holes, I was hoping to see a Pileated Woodpecker but they were elusive. In the background you can see the currents and whirlpools in the water.

After a trip to fuel the boat, the captain made a perfect docking back at the marina. A wash down for the boat and crew was in order, oh and maybe a glass of grog (ok wine) or two for the older pirates! Our marina is located just on the edge of old town Anacortes so it was an easy walk into town and over to Cap Sante Marina where we had a casual outdoor dinner at Anthony’s Cabana. This outdoor eatery sports two bocce ball courts that overlook the picturesque harbor. It was boys against girls and poor Tatum got the short stick with me on her team. I didn’t suck too horribly but was the only one who ended up with a “sports injury”. The boys won handily but us gals quickly forgot our loss with a big ole scoop of ice cream at the Mad Hatter Ice Cream shop on our stroll back to the boat.


Hanging at the Cabana.


That my friends is a single scoop …blow me down!!

Shawn and Tatum packed up the next morning and headed out for two more college tours as we started prepping for the next round of friends….Arrr Mateys it was sure great havin ye on board!


Bentley gave James Island a 4 paws rating…seriously what dog gets to have a whole island to play on.

Beach House 2017 Shakedown Cruise – Part Two

Somehow six days at Sucia Island just flew and we were ready for a change of scenery.  Beach House’s 2017 Shake Down Cruise – Part One. Jones Island State Park had been our first choice but the wind was not favorable and would be blowing right into the anchorage which is already exposed to boat traffic wake so we decided Reid Harbor on Stuart Island would be a good alternative.


Beach House underway in New Channel between Spieden and Cactus Islands.

Stuart Island is north of San Juan Island and west of Waldron Island in the U.S. state of Washington and is near the U.S.-Canada border. It is also a great hopping off point to cruise on into the Canadian Gulf Islands, which we are hoping to do later in the summer. The 2.9 square mile island is home to two communities of full and part-time residents, a state park, a one-room schoolhouse, and two airstrips. There is no ferry that stops at Stuart Island, so boat, private plane or kayak is the only way to get there.


Picture an island with turquoise inlets and craggy coves. The northern San Juan Islands may not come to mind at first, but Stuart Island Marine State Park could surprise you.


An aerial view of Reid Harbor at Stuart Island.

There are two harbors where you can fish, crab, dive or swim but yikes, the water is cold so you won’t catch me in the water on purpose! While Stuart can’t compete with Sucia as far as hiking trails, there are some nice short hikes near the camping area or you can hoof it to the Turn Point Light Station outside the park where you can tour the fully restored Light Station. Kayakers can beach boats and pitch their tents in the primitive campsites in either harbor. In the evening, the sky glows red and the sun falls below the horizon often creating some spectacular sunsets.


Not a cloud in the sky at sunset on this evening so not the most spectacular light show but pretty and peaceful none the less. 

Counting waterways and anchorage areas, Stuart Island Marine State Park is a 433-acre marine camping park with 33,030 feet of shoreline. The park is part of the Cascadia Marine Trail and offers camping and moorage at Reid and Prevost Harbors. http://www.wwta.org/home/water-trails/cascadia-marine-trail/

Typically, we preferred to stay in Prevost Harbor as the sunsets are more spectacular but decided try Reid for a change of scenery. The bonus for Reid is its close proximity via the whaler to Roche Harbor on San Juan Island so lunch at the Madrona Bar and Grill was on the agenda! http://www.rocheharbor.com/marina


Beach House on the mooring buoy in Reid Harbor.

The cruise over to Stuart Island was beautiful and uneventful which is just how we like it to go. We had a choice of mooring buoys or a dock so we choose the option of a mooring buoy as sometimes a neighbor free buoy is just perfect. The cool thing about hanging on a mooring buoy is that you rotate with the wind and current so your view is constantly changing. This can also be a huge bummer if the weather is stormy or unsettled so sometimes a dock is your friend. Being on a mooring buoy is more secure than anchoring so we always take advantage of them if they are available at state marine parks.

A mooring is really nothing more than a really heavy weight with a tether, typically a chain, also known as ground tackle, which then attaches to a float known as a mooring ball. The boat is then attached to this simple system with a line, more properly called a pennant. Boats that are moored are most commonly located within a designated mooring zone. The moorings are ideally spaced far enough apart to keep boats from hitting each other. When the wind changes direction all the boats swing together, their bows always facing into the wind.


This sailboat is tied off to an older style mooring buoy.

I am the designated driver when we are anchoring or grabbing a buoy. I love the challenge of getting the boat lined up and stopped so the Wally can reach out over the bow of the boat and grab the mooring buoy ring with the boat hook.


It’s not always a piece of cake to get hooked up to one of these. One time                                  we couldn’t find the boat hook and Wally had to grab the ring with a broom.

There is plenty to do on or around Stuart Island. We hiked the trails around the state park and the “secret” trail out to the now defunct school-house.


This is the original school which is now a museum.


This is the newer but now defunct school which closed in 2013. There are not enough children attending to support keeping it open. Stuart Island families must transport their children to San Juan Island via boat each day to attend school.


The only shopping opportunity on Stuart Island is the two community treasure chests. It is on the honor system, you can take an IOU and send a check later! The proceeds go to maintain the school property.

Exploring in the whaler is always fun too and we found Gossip Island on this trip … it must be the smallest island in the park system. You can walk completely around this tiny island in 5 minutes. Bentley loved exploring and watching the birds!


Exploring tiny Gossip Island.

One afternoon we took the 8 mile whaler run to Roche Harbor on San Juan Island for lunch on the deck at the Madrona Bar and Grill. It is a really quaint little village with some good walks, a bit of shopping, great people watching and the mega-yachts moored in the marina are fun to gawk at.


The gardens in front of the historic Hotel De Haro are spectacular.

The whaler runs at top speed of almost 30 miles so we can zip around just about anywhere we want to go, if the weather is fairly settled. Bentley loves riding shotgun on the bow when we toddle around the bays on our cocktail sunset cruises. Every dog we have had loves the whaler and the bow is always their rightful spot.


Bentley beaching the whaler on Gossip Island. I think he is wondering if he could grab that really big stick!

Four days passed way to quickly and really we didn’t have to go back to our marina but the Captain was anxious to get back and do all the annual maintenance chores on the engines. We are expecting a series of guests on board so getting all of our chores done means we can go back out and play the rest of the summer. So back we went, despite having plenty of food in the refrigerator and cases of wine onboard.


Heading back to Anacortes with the whaler in tow…what a gorgeous day!