Wally and I have cruised solo to some very isolated areas. We have enjoyed every minute of exploring these new areas and the peaceful, quiet anchorages. #our38ftliferocks, #our38ftlife
We also really enjoy cruising with friends and “buddy boating”. Our first cruise of the summer was with friends, Kristen and John who chartered a 36 foot motor yacht out of Anacortes. They had never operated a boat that large so we were totally up for the challenge of helping John learn how to handle a big boat and showing them the San Juan Islands.
To charter a boat with out a licensed captain means that you need to have experience in a similar boat, understand the rules of the road, navigation and how to operate a big, heavy floating object with no brakes! Yep, there is a test and basically you have to be able to get the boat out of the slip, out of the marina and back in again, then dock the boat back in the slip. Ideally you don’t hit anything…yep, that will get you a big F. Sounds pretty straight forward right??? Well, toss in winds and currents and things can get hinky really fast.
John did great on his two training cruises with us on the Beach House. Wally ran him thru the paces, did some docking at a nearby marina with big open slips and took him to the marina that the charter boat was moored at. Once there he practiced maneuvering in and out of their breakwater.
Ready, set, go…Saturday was D Day! I was a nervous wreck, hoping the wind didn’t pick up, hoping our training sessions were enough, hoping everything went well during the check out cruise. Like proud parents, we knew he would do just fine (but I was still a nervous wreck) and of course he aced his check out test. Now it was a mad rush for them to load the boat and get out on the water. We had plans to meet them outside our marina which is on the other side of Anacortes.
It was so exciting to get their text that they were underway and to see them out on the Guemes Channel headed our way. The sky was dark and a bit foreboding but that certainly didn’t dampen our enthusiasm to hit the marine highway.
Part of the fun of buddy boating is sharing meals and trip planning. Kristen and I planned menus and divided dinners, then shopped together to provision both boats. Since we live aboard all summer, our floating pantry is usually pretty well stocked which makes buddy boating easier too. Forgot something? Good chances are one of your buddy boats will have it.
I had put together a loose itinerary which included some of our favorite anchorages and a marina stop.
Weather and wind sometime dictate where we go and on this trip we mostly had ideal weather. We did make a few adjustments…especially when I found out our favorite seafood farm wasn’t open until Tuesday. I know, tough life right!!! But hey, fresh oysters, mussels and clams were part of the menu plan.
Our first night was spent anchored in Hunter Bay which is on the south end of Lopez Island. The Beach House was the anchored boat with Scaparre rafted to us. Rafting is essentially when one boat ties off the other. Typically, the heaviest boat anchors and in our case that was true plus we have years of experience anchoring. Anchoring can be tricky and is definitely a learned skill.
We had a relaxing evening In Hunter Bay after a stressful but exciting day. There was definitely some wine consumed and an easy dinner of pulled pork tacos, black beans and slaw on the Beach House was enjoyed by by all.
After a slow, relaxed morning we pulled anchor Sunday and cruised about 2.5 hours to Stuart Island where we found a great anchorage in Reid Harbor. Stuart Island Marine State Park is one of our favorites, with two great harbors for boaters, docks, mooring buoys and hiking. The rest of this 2.8 sq mi island which is only assessable by private boat or private plane is home to two communities of full and part-time residents, a state park, a one-room schoolhouse, and two airstrips. At the northern end is a beautifully restored light house which is 6.2 mile hike from the marine park.
The highlight of our two night stay there was watching a pair of Osprey’s fledge their chick. Those parents weren’t messing around either….despite juniors squawking and numerous attempts to get back in the nest, they had him flying like a champ by the end of the day.
Not only did we see ospreys, there were numerous eagle sightings, otters, kingfishers and we even saw a seal thermoregulating right near us for hours.
Our second day in Reid Harbor, we left the Beach House tied to a floating dock and took the Scaparre for a day cruise around Stuart Island. We anchored the boat in Prevost Harbor and had lunch, then continued the cruise around the island. It seemed fitting to have John cruise through John’s passage!
On Tuesday it was time to move on to Garrison Bay which is just a short 35 minute cruise from Reid Harbor
Garrison Bay has loads of history, some great hiking trails and the Wescott Bay Shellfish Company is just around the corner. Not only did we enjoy a great oyster happy hour there, freshly harvested mussels, clams and more oysters came back to the Beach House.
Our big excitement while we were anchored in Garrison Bay was seeing two Orca whales swim into the mouth of the bay. Hell yes, we stopped our happy hour on the flybridge of the Scarparre, jumped in our dingy and flew out there to check it out. We got close enough to see them surface a few times and head out through narrow Mosquito Pass. Orca sightings are very common on the southern side of San Juan Island but we have never seen Orcas come into Garrison Bay…what a thrill!!!
After two beautiful days in Garrison Bay it was time for a “city” fix! Roche Harbor Marina is the premier marina in the San Juan Islands and no cruise is complete without a stop-over there. Normally, Roche would be bustling with summer travelers but with Covid-19, the resort and marina were unusually quiet.
During our two day visit the resort and marina were operating at 50% occupancy as part of Washington’s phase 2 reopening plan. Even at that, we found plenty to keep us busy plus we had a birthday to celebrate.
We toured the sculpture garden, took a hike out to the creepy but historical mausoleum, had lunch at the outdoor cafe, checked out the historical Haro Hotel and its beautiful gardens, had a fun BD Happy Hour on the outdoor deck at the restaurant.
After two days in the big city we were ready to get back to the quiet outer islands. Sucia Island was our final destination and we found a unique way to raft/tie up there. The forecast was calling for a bit of wind that would blow into the bay so instead of anchoring we decided to use the mooring cans.
So far Captain John had conquered rafting on an anchored boat (with and without wind), tying to a floating dock, docking the boat in a busy marina, navigating Mosquito Pass, anchoring the boat for a picnic lunch and now tying to the mooring cans.
We spent our last two days at the Sucia Island State Marine Park. This 814-acre marine park with 77,700 feet of shoreline, abundant camping and moorage is a boaters dream. The main island and several smaller islands comprise the “Sucia group.” There are no services on this island and no ferry service but loads of camping areas, hiking trails and hidden coves to explore. Despite only being assessable via private boat Sucia is always busy during the summer.
From Sucia Island we cruised back to Anacortes. John and Kristen got to experience a “lumpy” crossing on the top side of Rosario Strait, the wind and tides were causing the lumpiness (2-3 ft standing waves) from the eastern tip of Orcas Island to Sinclair Island. That toughens up all new boaters for sure!!!
We had a fabulous 10 days with our Buddy Boat Scaparre and the crew, John, Kristen and Duchess. Looking forward to our next adventure!!!