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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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!
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 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.
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.