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Group Trip Advisor

San Juan Island Boating

After two weeks boating in the San Juan Islands off the coast of Washington state, I'm back to blogging.


What a trip! Bird watching. Kayaking. Whales diving under our boat (and me in tears with a mixture of fear and awe). Dining like royalty on freshly caught crabs. Anchoring and tying up to docks around the islands. Meeting other boaters and reveling in the comaraderie. Feeling more relaxed than I have in years. Meeting up with family and dining with friends on various stops along our cruising route. Ah, that's the life. Now, back to reality and awaiting the Visa bill.

Each island has a unique flavor, as does each harbor and bay. Although the charm of Deception Pass State ParkĀ (on Whidbey Island), Friday Harbor and Roche Harbor (both on San Juan Island), Fisherman's Bay and Spencer Spit (both on Lopez Island) is specific to each locale and its inhabitants, I found Sucia IslandĀ the most mesmerizing.

Sucia is a state park unto itself without permanent residents, a fossil bed, a tranquil respite from urban sprawl, a sanctuary for birds, vultures, seals, and very possibly a mouse or two. It offered what I needed most - silent nights and a bounty of nature to explore. The abundant plant and tree diversity was pointed out to me by my forester companion (who also doubled as skipper and chef - what would I do without him?!). He identified species as we hiked along the 15 miles of trails around the island. I believe there were approximately 14 tree species alone; each time we saw a new one, our heads would tilt back to find the top (I was looking at the beauty of it all while he analyzed the tree health and age). Madrona, firs, cedar, oak, maple, juniper, aspen, alder, yew - the list seemed as endless as the seascape, viewable from various bays, inlets, rocky embankments, and beaches around the island. Sucia is a wonderland for nature lovers. I know I'll return.

Quick tips for boating trips:

  1. Take a wearable PFD and wear it
  2. Learn how to tie knots before the boating or sailing trip
  3. Practice at least once jumping off the boat to the dock to secure the lines (when docking) so the vacation isn't your first time having to do it (this is to avoid looking like a novice nerd at the docks when your boat cruises in; and also for safety)
  4. If you're not the skipper, be a great crew member by being alert for his/her instructions and thinking ahead to anticipate problems and needs
  5. In peak boating season, plan ahead for places you must see by making reservations (and wing the rest - leave room for flexibility based on weather and whim)
  6. Bring two cameras in case one dies or you run out of film on a remote island (trust me on this)

Boating trips - whether you charter a boat, take a cruise, or book a sail or cruise as part of a group trip, is a great way to go. You get a unique perspective on scenery from the water and have an opportunity to explore where cars cannot go.