Our First boating trip to the San Juan Islands – Part 3
Our first boating trip to the San Juan Islands has come to an end. We started in Seattle to La Conner (Part 1) and then La Conner to the San Juan Islands (Part 2). Not knowing originally how long it would take us to get home, we planned to stop half way at Oak Harbor on Whidbey Island on our way home on Monday, Jul 24th. Now that we have done the trip, one regret we have is that we didn’t stay longer on each of the islands to allow time to explore them. It’s a long way up and expensive, to simply turn around and come home. But we had fun, non the less.
My brother Ron and his wife Patsy moved on to my sister’s boat, Semper Fi in the morning and we departed soon after. We really lucked out on the weather and the conditions of the sound. We decided to go south along Lopez Island, through Cattle Pass and then towards Deception Pass. Deception Pass is very very tricky to get through. Because of the severe currents that create whirlpools, it’s best to go in during slack tide. Given this information, we had to go through between 10:30am and 12pm.
We went back and forth if we should travel north back through Thatcher’s pass, which we knew or head south through Cattle Pass, which was unfamiliar to us. But since Cattle Pass was east of Deception Pass, it made more sense.
As you come through Cattle Pass, especially at high tide, be very careful to not get too close to the end of Lopez Island. There are a number of small islands and reefs and we almost slammed straight into one.
We went through Deception Pass very quickly at about 18 knots, but it was definitely like driving on black ice!
After we got through the pass, we came upon Hope island in the channel. We weren’t sure if we should go through on the west side or east side and no other boats were around for us to see what everyone else was doing.
Well, we quickly found out that we should have gone on the western side of Hope Island, because we were suddenly in only 4 feet of water!! We carefully and slowly made our way towards Whidbey Island.
Skagit Bay was extremely windy and choppy on our way to Oak Harbor. When we arrived to the channel, the tide was super low. We stayed dead center, but even then we were only about 8′ of water. Then when we got to the Oak Harbor Marina, we weren’t sure where to go in. We tried calling the office, no luck and they didn’t have a VHF channel posted for the harbor master. But we did have our slip number, so we eventually figured it out. Luckily when we pulled in, another boat was next to us and they had to help us dock as the current was really strong.
The slips have picnic benches and there are seals that lay around on the logs surrounding the marina. This marina is a city marina, so it’s not super fancy, but it does offer the basic amenities, including free Wi-Fi. I will warn you though, it is very noisy due to the fighter jets from the air base that fly day and night!
We walked into town, about a 15 minute walk from the marina. There are lots of memorials throughout downtown in honor of the fallen service men who served our country.
Downtown is very small and there’s not a lot to see or do. They have a few small shops, a couple of taverns (which we found one….that was interesting!!) and we ended up having dinner at the Loakal Pub.
While at the Loakal, we ended up buying drinks for a jet engine mechanic who was headed to Japan for a two year tour. He has been in the Navy for over 20 years – we were truly thankful for his service and longtime commitment.
We ended the evening enjoying the sunset, but again it got hard to talk due to the loud jets flying over. Not super romantic. But we were so exhausted from the entire trip that we fell into bed early and slept in the next day.
The Journey Home
We left Oak Harbor at high tide (yea!!) around 9:30am and we had placid waters all the way home!! This is so rare for the Puget Sound. Scott made the comment that if it was always like this, he would go up north regularly!!
I tried taking photos of the whales we encountered, but this is what I got every time! See the tail? Oh, yea, it’s already underwater!
We got home around 12:30pm and gassed up (another $300). For the next three hours, Kokomo was scrubbed & cleaned from top to bottom. We took off all of the vinyl/canvas windows and scrubbed them clean. It was so nice to have a shiny boat again.
Lessons learned from this trip:
pack light! We ended up wearing the same clothes multiple days, no need for a new outfit every day.
Food – pack light! Our fridge holds A LOT of food, we were amazed! But we brought enough food to feed an army and so did my sister-in-law. We used every nook and cranny to store food.
Stay longer and explore the islands.
Fuel- if you travel between 18-22 knots, you will burn through a lot of fuel. Our fuel tank is 148 gallons and when we left Seattle, we put in 75 gallons, then in Deer Harbor we put in about 90 gallons and upon our return we put in another 90 gallons.
While we don’t have any major trips like this scheduled for the rest of the summer, we are going on a quick weekend trip with friends closer to home in August. Stay tuned for our next adventure!
San Juan Islands Boating Trip – Part 2. On Friday, July 21st we left La Conner around 1:30pm after replacing our power steering pump on the port side engine. We were headed to Fisherman’s Bay on Lopez Island through the Swinomish Slough and up and around Anacortes and via Thatcher Pass & Guemes Channel, about 26.6 nautical miles. If you missed Part 1, Seattle to La Conner, read here.
The slough is a no wake zone and is very shallow. It took us about 30 minutes to get through it. The weather was cloudy and quite a bit colder than the day before.
As soon as we came out of the slough into the bay, we headed into the Guemes channel around Anacortes. Going across the Guemes channel was a bit choppy and you definitely want to be on the look out for logs! Within a few minutes, we were now in rain which makes in a bit hard to see.
One other word of CAUTION when docking at Fisherman’s Bay is the current is wicked! It might look calm, but you will need help from either the harbor master or crew from another boat. We struggled and we also watched boat after boat, struggling with the current.
Fun on Lopez Island at Fisherman’s Bay
That evening, friends of Kurt’s were also moored at the marina and they had just gone crabbing. Looks like we’re having a crabfest on Semper Fi!
After our fabulous crab feast we headed to the bar at the Islander Resort where they had live music and lots of beverages! Trust me, if you get to this bar you will have a ton of fun!
We had custom t-shirts made for Kokomo
Day 3 of our San Juan Trip
Saturday morning (Day 3), we followed Kurt’s dingy out to the bay in our dingy LilMo to put crab pots out. It was so shallow, that Scott and I stayed in the bay in about 2 feet of water and I made him pull the engine up. I didn’t want it to get caught up in all of the sea grass. It was bizarre how low the tide was.
The marina had quite a few boats anchored in the bay, including this very cool “pirate” ship! Everyone who came into the marina, took a moment to take a photo of it.
We let the crab pots sit for a few hours while we waited for high tide to leave Fisherman’s Bay and head to Deer Harbor, Orcas Island. It was scheduled for 5p, but checkout was 12p. Knowing that we couldn’t go anywhere, the marina was very flexible with our departure time. We ended up leaving about 2pm, as that was half way between low and high. I still recommend going low and slow thru the bay and channel!
As soon as you come out of the bay you enter the San Juan Channel. It was pretty windy and rough for us. We headed due west towards Friday Harbor.
Again, you need to look for logs and it’s difficult as we had 2′ white caps going through the channel. We got through pretty quickly, going about 20 knots and got into Deer Harbor within about an hour.
Welcome to Deer Harbor Marina
When we arrived to the Deer Harbor Marina , we first went to the fuel dock and also pumped out. My brother Ron was incredibly generous to fill up our tank. I kept asking him “are you sure??!! it won’t be what you expect!” Another $300 in fuel and we were set to go.
I will say the marina staff wasn’t the friendliest welcome committee. We had made our reservations weeks ago, along with my sister. They gave us our slip assignment and when we got to the spot, one of the dock hands came out and said he was going to put us in the slip across from the assigned one and walk us in stern in first and put Kurt’s boat in front of us. That made no sense, as we wouldn’t be able to leave and we couldn’t use our dingy. The kid argued a bit with us and asked why we needed to leave during the day. I replied “Well, we are here to go boating and crabbing”. Apparently they were trying to squeeze in a 52′ boat behind Kurt’s boat, but they gave up. The moorage is also quite a bit more expensive than say Fisherman’s. We paid $34/night at Fisherman’s and for Deer Harbor, with power it was $63/night. Plus you have to buy tokens for the shower.
They do have a cute gift shop with lots of clothing items and souvenirs, plus a well stocked grocery store. On Saturday and Sundays they sell freshly made donuts in the morning and they have local artists selling goods too.
We were able to snag a picnic table on the dock, that we used for our meals and gatherings!
A day of crabbing & fun
The next day, Kurt went out to pick up the crab pots they dropped on their way in. Oh, are you wondering how many crabs we got in Fisherman’s Bay? None…..he forgot to cut the plastic zip ties that hold the doors together when they are shipped. LOL This time around he got five (the limit for one person per day) beauties! We celebrated with Mimosas, pre-made that we got from The Wine Alley! Yumm!
Scott and I spent the morning zipping around in our dingy and checked out all of the cool boats that were in the harbor!
That afternoon, we all went out on Semper Fi to check the pots, since Scott and I both had crab licenses. Unfortunately, they lost a pot either from a high tide or someone took it. It was a very fun relaxing afternoon hanging out with everyone on one boat.
We met a local traveler from Olympia, Ray who has been a live-aboard for a long while and his dog Rex. Rex got all of the attention and he had “human” eyes. But I could never quite capture his look.
The day ended with a great crab feast, salad and birthday celebrations!
Soon after this “party” photo was taken, the guys headed up to the Island Pie, a pizza place to order a pizza and the gals chatted away. We were parting ways the next morning as we were headed home and Ron & Patsy were staying a bit longer on Semper Fi. Stay tuned for Part 3 – Deer Harbor to Oak Harbor! #KokomoSeattle
Boating to the San Juan Islands for the first time. When we bought our boat, Kokomo in May, we hadn’t planned on taking a trip this summer to the San Juan Islands, as we wanted to become more familiar with the boat, etc. But my sister Susan thought it would be fun for us to boat up there with them and invite my brother and his wife. So we mapped out a 6 day vacation leaving Seattle and head first to La Conner, which is 54 nautical miles.
My brother Ron and his wife Patsy, stayed with us the night before and we headed down to Elliott Bay Marina first thing in the morning. We learned right away that all of us over packed both food and clothing. Our boat, Kokomo has lots of storage, but it’s not that easy to access and if you don’t use it, things get cramped quickly. It took four carts to load the boat with refrigerated items, beverages and their stuff (and remember, we had already loaded our clothes and non perishables the weekend before!).
The winds normally come from the north or northwest, but on Thursday they were 8 knots from the south – which really helped us out a lot!
My sister Susan and her husband Kurt were traveling on their 34′ trawler Semper Fi at about 7 knots and they left Shilshole Marina around 8:30am on Thursday, July 20th. We knew we could catch up to them traveling about 17 knots, so we didn’t leave until 10:15am.
We caught up with them around the north end of Whidbey Island, around 11:45am. Scott thought it would be funny to circle around them, but you know the story of the Tortoise and the Hare? Well, more on that later. After we circled around them, Kurt called me to say we had a loose line. Turns out one of the lines on our dingy had come loose and was flying all over the place, including under the engines, yikes! Soon enough Karma caught up to us and about an hour later.
We started hearing a rattling / pinging noise from one of the engines, so we stopped and decided to check it out. Since we have two engines, we can use each of them to compare what the other should look like. We noticed right away that the power steering pulley was at an angle and there were also some metal fragments from the ball bearings. Not sure what we should do, since the serpentine belt was still working, but noisy, I called my brother-in-law Kurt (retired Chief Engineer for the Washington Ferries) and he zipped over on his dingy for a quick assessment. Determined that the power steering pump needed to be replaced, we now had to limp into La Conner on one engine – and 8 knots, right along side Semper Fi.
Luckily for us, the waters (as you can see in the photos and video) were very very calm for the sound. So calm, that Patsy and I decided to sit on the bow and enjoy the smooth ride up.
Ron relaxed on the stern…….
To get to La Conner, you enter a channel and then up the Swinomish Slough.
We had made reservations a few weeks ago and were fortunate to be on G Dock on the outside on the end, since we didn’t have much steering control. Semper Fi was right next to us.
We called the local NAPA store and they had the part. The La Conner Marina staff was so helpful and drove Scott down to the store. He had taken the old pump with him and when he got the new pump, they informed him that it didn’t come with the pulley shaft and that a machine shop, La Conner Maritime Services would have to use the hydraulic press to remove it from the old one and put in it in the new one. They would be able to do that in the morning.
The La Conner Marina is very quiet and has nice facilities for restrooms and showers. That evening, we all walked into town for dinner. La Conner is super cute with lots of quaint restaurants and shops. We were drawn in by fresh oysters (not me!) at the Oyster and Thistle Pub and decided to eat there for dinner. Now that I’m looking at a map, there were many other restaurants to choose from…..but we stumbled on this quaint cute place first.
Knowing we had to fix the boat, Scott woke up bright and early and headed to La Conner Maritime Services. He picked up the part and we thought we were on the home stretch, when he realized it was not threading (connecting) to the engine. Uh ho! Turns out it couldn’t reach and it needed an adapter piece. We called all of the parts stores, nothing. At this point we are preparing to limp home on one engine and transfer my brother, his wife and all of their stuff over to my sister’s boat. Not a fun moment.
Kurt and Scott were not giving up and they went to La Conner Maritime that put the shaft in to try and find this piece in the back room. Still no luck. That’s when Kurt got the idea of taking the old part off of the original pump and using it! Voila!! That worked great. Scott then added power steering fluid and went to put the cap on when there was no cap. The new pump didn’t come with one. Now what?? Wait – why don’t we go back to the machine shop and get the cap off of the old pump Voila again! Note to self: always keep your old parts until you are sure you are done with them!
Prepping for our first trip to the San Juan Islands!
Next week, we are leaving for the San Juan Islands for a five night trip. My brother, Ron and his wife Patsy are joining us. We’ll tag along with my sister Susan and her husband Kurt, who will be on their trawler. We stayed Friday night on the boat last weekend to relax and then do some prep work on Saturday.
Friday night, we decided to eat at Maggie Bluffs restaurant, as we didn’t want to bother prepping dinner on the boat. What a great spot to relax and enjoy the views!
Mac was once again a trooper. For an old dog, at 14+ years old, having to walk to the boat which is a quarter mile, he does very well. But he doesn’t really enjoy “boating”. So with that said, he will have a dog sitter next week when we go to the San Juan Islands.
I decided to relax on the bow, enjoy the sunset while catching up with my favorite boating magazines.
We had a full moon and once again, we find that this is certainly a great retreat after a long busy week.
Heading out on our own!
Saturday, was our day to take the boat out by ourselves – our first time!!! We wanted to measure how long it took us to get to Shilshole Bay at 7 knots. It ended up taking us 30 minutes, BUT our boat cannot go that slow. The engines rumbled and were not happy. We were testing that speed, as that is how fast my sister and husband will travel in their trawler. So on the way back, we increased our speed to 14-15 knots and it hummed happily.
This means we will be far ahead of them. With that said, we plan on leaving about an hour after them and catching up in Mukilteo. We will get to La Conner a few hours before them, barring any issues. (fingers crossed!!!).
We were planning on having me practice docking the boat along our main dock where the yachts park, but we had too many rolling waves that were making me uneasy. I want to practice in calm waters to fully understand what I’m doing. I will say, that Scott is doing an AMAZING job operating / docking the boat. He was my instructor!
Our next big test was to bring it back to our slip and this time docking with another boat next to us! I wasn’t sure if I should be on the bow to push off, or on the stern to jump off. I decided to stay on the stern and Scott brought the boat in perfectly, swung the stern to port and we tied off in less than a minute! Wow!!
We spent the rest of the day, taking stuff off of the boat that we wouldn’t need next week, to make room for storage (under the seats, closets, etc). Our plan is to go down for the day this Saturday, get gas, clean, load up anything we can in advance and get things ready.
In order to feed six people and have plenty of food and beverages, we knew our little galley fridge would not be sufficient. Scott and I bought a great cooler, Coleman 120 Quart Coastal Xtreme Series Marine Cooler from Amazon and when we are at port, we leave it on the swim step. Obviously, when under way, we bring it on board.