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Cruising the San Juans: Part 7

Cruising the San Juans: Part 7

Sucia Islands to Poulsbo

In our final episode of our journey we head back home. But before we head back home we take a quick break during to acknowledge my uncle Ken. He was my godfather and loved everything water related. He was the one who got me into fishing and boating as a child. We had some very memorable trips out including one where we got caught some bigger than wanted swell. We had to turn around and go back. As we turned we were hit on the side by a wave which could have overturned the boat. Luckily it didn’t. But at that point we decided we had to go into the swell away from shore before going towards the shore. It was one of the nastiest days I have been out on.

After a night of swell in Echo Bay we left Sucia Islands and headed for an overnight stay in Watmough Harbor. When we got there we did not feel very good about the anchorage, probably just newbie thoughts. We then backtracked to Hunter Bay to spend the night. It was a windy one with the chain going back and forth over the bridle. Not much sleep was had.

The next morning we proceeded back across the Juan de Fuca. Without knowing, there was a small craft advisory in the strait. We noticed a lot more swell than our previous crossing but it was not uncomfortable. It maybe just felt like it was bigger due to the fact there was not any fog. Here was definitely more wind though. We were cruising at 5-6 knots.


We were slated to meet with Peter and Mary in Mystery Bay. Once across the strait, we headed toward Marrowstone Island. If you have never been here before, the entrance can be quite tricky. This was our first time going in so concentration was of the essence. Once in Kilisut Harbor we started motoring toward Mystery Bay. We arrived to a “Please do not anchor” sign. We looked around and saw lots of mooring buoys and a state park dock. We headed out of the bay to look for anchorage but it was too windy for us to get any sleep. Port Ludlow, here we come.

We exited the harbor and made our way down the sound. We anchored in Port Ludlow while the sun was going down and a twelve hour day under our belts. That being said, it is a great harbor to get some well needed sleep. We were still deciding whether to go back to Mystery Bay or just go home.

sailboat at sunset in port ludlow

Waking up the next day with the decision to just go home, we headed off. It was a pretty uneventful rest of the trip. Although as we were motoring into the wind, I saw other boats on a slightly different course sailing. I couldn’t have this. We point Willow out into the sound and threw the sails up.  Tacking back and forth we finally made it into Madison Bay and sailed all of the way up to Agate Pass. Sails went down and motor came on for the remaining time.

After a few informalities, pumping out, we got Willow back into her slip and put away. It was kind of a happy moment knowing that we were going to get a couple of days of much needed sleep but also a sad one. We knew that our summer cruise was over and we would soon be hunkered down for the winter. We do go out in the winter, but with the lack of a diesel/kerosene/propane heater we are limited to mostly day sails.

We hope you enjoyed this first trip of ours with much more to come. We had a great tome sharing it and can’t wait for next season.


Sail On!

Cruising the San Juans: Part 6

Cruising the San Juans: Part 6

Stuart Island to Sucia Island

Stuart Island and Reid Harbor definitely left their mark on our hearts. So much so, in fact, that I am setting part of my NaNoWriMo novel there. We were fascinated that so many people live there, yet the only way to access the island is by boat or small plane. In some ways, it reminded me of my own childhood home. We had roads in and out of the tiny community where I lived, but we had no power (we used a generator) and it took us 30 minutes to drive to the store or to school. I think the seclusion really spoke to me for that reason.

dinghy in reid harbor
Jim checking out our fishing spot at Stuart Island

We decided to leave Reid Harbor and anchor for a night in Roche Harbor. We needed water and to dispose of some trash and the people at Roche said we could do both things if we purchased some fuel, so we made our way to the marina, zig-zagging through multi-million dollar yachts and sailboats that could fit ours inside of them.

sucia island dinghy
Dinghy on Sucia Island

We got ran our errands at the marina and then made our way back out to anchor in the harbor. There were so many boats out there, we had a hard time choosing a spot (though not as hard as we did in Friday Harbor), and with the wind picking up, we were feeling kind of unsure when we left in Brutus.

We walked around Roche Harbor and watched the boats and planes coming in and out for a while. To be honest, we only spent enough time there to see the highlights so we could say we’d been there and then we left. When we got back to Willow, the wind had changed yet again, and we decided we’d rather spend another night in Reid than risk a sleepless night in the wind, so we pulled up the anchor and made our way back to Stuart Island.

sucia island, san juans
View from Fossil Bay, Sucia Island

Our spot was still open when we got back, so we dropped anchor, prepared a nightcap and enjoyed the sunset in the protected harbor.

The next morning we got up and started making our way toward Sucia Islands. Our friend, Pamela, had instructed us to keep our eyes out when we passed by Spieden Island because you can often see exotic non-native animals, such as big horn sheep and Fallow deer left over from the island’s days as a playground for big game hunters. It is now privately owned and a wildlife sanctuary, but it was sure neat to scan the shores and hillsides searching for animals.

tent on shallow bay
Someone’s camp spot on Shallow Bay, Sucia Island

We pulled into Echo Bay just before sunset, set our anchor and grabbed what was left of the 5 pound bag of peanuts we bought at Costco and sat outside to relax. The next morning we loaded Katie and our camera gear into Brutus and motored over to Sucia Island. It was such a beautiful island, and we only saw a small portion of it. Our time is always limited when we bring Katie because she can’t figure out how to behave herself on a leash. We will go back again without her and hike some of the spots we missed.

trail on Sucia Island
Walking through the forest on Sucia Island


Check back next week for the final episode of our trip to the San Juan Islands.







sailing the san juans

Cruising the San Juans: Part 5

Cruising the San Juans: Part 5

West Sound to Stuart Island

In this episode, we leave West Sound where we anchored between Double Islands which had us caught in a wind funnel. We are headed off to Reid Harbor. There are a few things we wish we had caught on camera. This first was when we were coming into San Juan Channel. We did not realize that the ferry lane went between Crane Island and Shaw Island. All of the sudden we heard a big horn blow and looked behind us. Oh Crap! There was a ferry telling us to get out of the way. We made a quick turn port to make sure we didn’t get run over.

stuart island swing

The second moment was funnier more than anything. We got into Reid Harbor and needed to pump out. I had done some research and noted that there was a pump out barge. We had no problems getting tied up with it. As we checked out the situation, the deck fitting on one pump was in very bad shape. It was lined with duct tape a someone tried to make a homemade fitting. The other pump had a better-looking fitting, but the handle was broken that you use to pump out. Let me explain a little clearer. This pump out barge does not have electricity, so it needs to be pumped manually to create suction. We ended up taking the better fitting and putting it on the pump which had a handle. We soon realized that it wasn’t a great seal, and nothing was happening. We then took some duct tape and put it onto the end of the fitting to create a better seal. Then Stephanie started pumping with the very long handle. It was hilarious to watch. You really needed some elbow grease and stamina to make this work.

turn point light sign

We then found a nice little cove area to drop anchor. Once we felt comfortable that the anchor had grabbed, we went to the state park dock to check things out. After looking around, we knew what we were going to do the next day. We were taking the hike to Turn Point Lighthouse.

steph and jim at turn point light

This was such a pretty walk. We saw gorgeous scenery on the way and a beautiful view when we got there. On our way back we ran across a little family of deer. We couldn’t help ourselves but to take a couple pictures as they walked within about 50 feet from us.

stuart island deer



Check back next week as we visit Roche Harbor and do some hiking on Sucia Island!

Sail On!





turn point light

Cruising the San Juans: Part 4

Cruising the San Juans: Part 4

In case you haven’t caught on yet, we’re suckers for good coffee, and when we learned that the Shaw General Store roasted their own coffee beans, we had to try it out.

And, frankly, we had to get some more of those salted caramels. They were so amazing, we still dream about those salty-sweet little morsels.

But we were also ready for an adventure, and our friend, Pamela, had suggested we take the mile or so walk to the county park at the other side of the island. So we did.

shaw island seeds

abandoned little boat

Shaw Island is one of the coolest islands we went to. The general store alone gives it major points, but we were pleasantly surprised to find so much character here. From yard art that could put any other to shame to the tiny seed shack (that was sadly, not open) to the old boats left to die in the bushes, we enjoyed every moment of our time on this island. It was a beautiful walk and the sounds of birds chirping and wind rustling in the trees as we walked down the road made for a serene and peaceful day.

shaw island

From Blind Bay, our plan was to stay a night in West Sound. We found a marina where we hoped to get a little water and pump our tanks, maybe stay an hour and check out the cafe close by. It didn’t look like there was a lot to do close to the marina, but we wanted to do a little exploring anyway. Sadly, things didn’t go as we’d hoped, and we had to come up with a different plan.

Willow anchored in Massacre Bay

That’s how we found ourselves on Skull Island with Katie. We wanted to do some exploring, so we found somewhere else to do some exploring. It was a neat little island, small enough to walk all the way around in a short amount of time, but it was hot, so we let Katie do some swimming and got ourselves back to to the boat.



Next week we make our way to Stuart Island and hike to a lighthouse. Check it out!


Cruising the San Juans: Part 3

Cruising the San Juans: Part 3

Mackaye Harbor to Blind Bay

ferry at Friday Harbor

Our first night in the San Juans was a rough one. We barely slept all night because of rolling waves, so we woke early, got some coffee together and headed to Friday Harbor!

With only two night’s of anchoring behind us, we had a challenging time anchoring in busy Friday Harbor. With so many boats around, it took us over an hour just to choose the right place. We dropped and pulled up and chose a different spot twice before we finally settled down somewhere that felt comfortable to us…only to have a fishing boat show up a few hours later and hook up to the “crab pot” we thought was floating near us. Fortunately, it was a small boat and it wasn’t too close, but its presence kept Jim awake for the second night in a row.

Friday Harbor sunset

We enjoyed exploring Friday Harbor the next morning. We got iced lattes and breakfast sandwiches at Salty Fox Coffee and then meandered through the streets of town, checking out shops and enjoying the beautiful day. Down at the dinghy dock as we were heading back to Willow, we happened to notice a couple in a dinghy struggling with their motor and fending off a piling, so we rode over to see if we could help. They were grateful for the tow back to their boat as they were transporting blocks of ice for their ice box, and were fearful they’d melt by the time they got the motor going again. Things always seem to go wrong at the least convenient moment, don’t they?

After debating staying a second night in Friday Harbor, we decided to move on. Peter (the old owner of our boat) had suggested we check out Blind Bay on Shaw Island. He said it was a quiet anchorage, not too much motion even though the ferries passed by on their way to Orcas Island, and a good place to just relax. It sounded perfect.

Though it seemed to be a more popular spot than he’d remembered, it was still exactly what we were looking for. We found a nice spot, dropped anchor and then took Brutus out to explore. We parked at the Shaw General Store dock and grabbed an ice cream and some of their amazing salted caramels and then brought Katie over to Blind lsland for a little exploring. We finished off the day with a nightcap on deck and watched the sun set over the San Juan Islands. It was perfect.

Stay tuned next week as we explore Shaw Island and head to Westsound!






Cruising the San Juan Islands: Part 2

Cruising the San Juan Islands: Part 2

*This post includes affiliate links. That means if you click a link and purchase the item, we get a little bit of commission, which we appreciate the heck out of, btw!

Port Ludlow to Mackaye Harbor

Our first experience anchoring was…fun. Aside from some quirkiness from the windlass, we did pretty good! Port Ludlow is a muddy bottom (like most of the Puget Sound area), so it was a good place to learn. We were exhausted by the time we got settled down after taking Katie to shore to do her businesses, but we managed to spend a few minutes enjoying a beautiful sunset.

sunset at port ludlow


We faced our first “living on the hook” challenge: making coffee with no shore power. Usually we use an electric kettle to get the water temperature exactly right, an important element of the brewing process when you use a Chemex coffee maker. Without power, we had to heat the water in a pan and then pour it into the kettle (we use a gooseneck kettle for even pouring). A stovetop kettle is definitely on our wish list for future cruising adventures, but for now, this worked quite nicely for us.

Before we got to the actual cruising portion of this adventure, we had one stop to make: my dad’s family’s annual reunion in Sequim.

I have such fond memories of attending the reunion when I was a kid. We made a road trip out of it several times, and those trips are some of my best memories of childhood. We would stop and camp along the way, sleeping in this green tent, all four of us (my parents and my brother, Matt. Dan was there for one trip, I believe), and cooking on a camp stove. The Pacific Northwest is known for its berries, and I remember picking strawberries one year and my mom making a strawberry pie inside the tent because it was pouring rain outside.


This was the first time in over 20 years that I made it to the reunion. Since I was a kid the last time I went, I didn’t remember a whole lot of people, so it was fun to re-meet so much of my dad’s side of the family. Jim and I both really enjoyed chatting with everyone, getting a tour of the dairy farm run for three generations by the Smith family, and having my fingers sucked on by baby cows. There was so much good food and good conversation that all around warmed my soul.

dairy farm in sequim, wa
The family farm from the mouth of Sequim Bay

That night was a full moon (or almost full), and it was red in all the smoke from the fires. We sat outside, enjoying a nightcap and listening to the music coming from the wedding at the yacht club. It was a perfect way to end a wonderful day.


red full moon


From Sequim, we made our way across the Straight of Juan de Fuca and into the San Juans. Our first stop was Mackaye Harbor on the south side of Lopez Island. We picked blackberries and checked out a cute little general store and enjoyed a beautiful walk on this green and lush island. Everyone who passed us waved from their cars, and we just loved how friendly and welcoming people were.

dirt road on Lopez Island

Next week we start really exploring the San Juan Islands. Stay tuned as we anchor at Friday Harbor, Blind Bay and more!


Cruising the San Juans: Part 1

Cruising the San Juans: Part 1

Poulsbo to Port Ludlow

The most unfortunate thing about our summer was that we were caught up in replacing the mast step and repairing a stringer for most of the cruising season. We had so many plans, so many intentions to cruise here and there, exploring the Puget Sound, plans that were put on hold while we made major repairs to our boat.

So you can bet your bottom we set sail at our first opportunity once the boat was back in operable condition. All winter our friends had been telling us how great the San Juans are, how we have to get out there and explore the islands. And we’d been chomping at the bit to do just that.

We had a long list of things to do before we could leave. Provision the boat. Clean the boat. Check to make sure everything was in working order. Laundry. Make sure Katie had food. Learn how to anchor. Charge all of our batteries, since we would be staying at anchor most of the time. Make sure we had enough coffee to last us the trip. Fill the fuel and water tanks. Pump out our holding tank. Etc. Etc. Etc.

We got everything done except “Learn to anchor.” It made me a little bit nervous that we had never done this before we left on a long trip, but Jim had done a lot of research, talked to a lot of people and felt confident that we could figure it out.

And we did. In Port Ludlow, just before dark, with a windlass that just didn’t want to work at first.

Check out our video for more about the first leg of our San Juan Islands adventure.