This is a trip that John recently took with a large group of friend, to the San Juan Islands, which are situated just below Vancouver and Victoria, BC and in front of Seattle and Bellingham Washington. The islands are well known for providing a great backdrop for boating, and as well a wonderful showfront for some incredible coastal real estate.
We arrived in Point Roberts early on Wednesday, July 2nd, to help with getting the boat ready and gathering provisions for the trip. All crew had arrived by 7PM and we had dinner on board. Point Roberts is just south of Vancouver, a peninsula or point that juts out southward from the Canadian coast, creating a small section of land that for Americans that is only accessible by boat or by first going into Canada from the American mainland and then down into the small town of Point Roberts. It is landlocked. There’s a marina, nice golf course, and numerous homes along the seashore, many of the summer homes for Canadians.
Our hosts, Tina and John, welcomed us on board their new 75′ Nordhaven, recently arrived from La Paz, Mexico. They had purchased the boat there and then brought it up in the spring to Point Roberts, close to their home in downtown Vancouver. Also along were John’s parents, Jean and Joe (a long-time and well known fisherman on the BC coast), John’s sister Druanne and her fiancée Ted, and my father Harvey and uncle Gordy.
Our planned itinerary was to visit the San Juan Islands, traveling as far south as Olympia before making our way back home. Our first anchorage was in Penn Cove on the lower end of Widbey Island. We passed through Deception Pass when the tide was running and that made for a wild ride. The captain had a little trouble handling the boat as the rushing tide pulled us through, but he got us through it without any incidents, except scaring one small boat owner who had chose to stop in the middle of the very narrow pass. He got out of our way quickly when he saw us coming through.
Our first overnight outside of Point Roberts was at Penn Cove on Widbey Island. Quite a large cove, but not much too see or do, except we feasted on fresh oysters and mussels that are native to this area. Our next night was in Tacoma, which is pretty much an industrial port and town. At our dock we had access to the Glass museum and a car museum was close by that were within walking distance.
Our next stop was in Olympia, which is the state capital of Washington. It’s a small town situated at the end of a long inlet with the building of the state capital set on a hill overlooking the town and easily from our approach. We arrived on a Saturday and there was a market fair taking place in the plaza just off of our dock. Local seasonal produce was available such as apricots, apples and vegetables, as well as local artisan handicrafts. The real estate on each side of the long inlet is quite impressive. We much preferred Olympia over Tacoma. It is surprisingly small for being the state capital and has a wonderful small-town feel to it.
Sunday: Seattle – Bell Harbor
We were fortunate to find space available at Bell Harbor, which is situated on the water directly in front of Seattle, providing easy access to downtown and the famous Pike Street Market. We took the opportunity to do a little shopping and stock up on provisions.
Docked across from us was the new mega-yacht Invictus, which seemed to be hosting an all-day cocktail party. It is owned by an LA real estate developer Rick Caruso and has 8 state rooms, plus 10 more for staff and is 215 feet long. The Sockeye Blue (left) sure looks small up next to it!
Monday: Port Townsend and Friday Harbor
We passed by Port Townsend but there was limited dock space available so we decided to continue on to Friday Harbor. The town itself, though, looks very interesting with beautifully restored old buildings lining the main street. Shame about the pulp mill just down the coast billowing smoke, but otherwise, looks like a place to visit when doing a land tour of the San Juan’s.
Friday Harbor must be one of the most popular places for boaters to visit in the San Juan’s. The small town situated just above the docks is very picturesque and there’s a lovely park between the docks and the shoreside. If one needs provisioning or just some shore and town time, this is the best place to do it.
Tuesday: Roche Harbor
Where Friday Harbor you’ll find boats mostly under 60′ (the Sockeye Blue was probably the largest yacht in the marina) and many sailboats, Roche Harbor is the more upscale sister marina just up the coast of San Juan Island. Here there are mostly powerboats and many over 60′. And the homes that line the shores around Roche Harbor mirror that as well, with some very large estates with beautiful homes along the shoreline. Wonderful place to paddle board with very protected waters and very scenic shoreline. Roche Harbor was once a lime producer and what is left of the production has been turned into a museum. The resort was formerly a company town which was incorporated in 1886. Lime production was the major industry and revenue source for the corporation run by John S. McMillin, whose ashes are buried in a large mausoleum nearby. There is the lovely 19th century Hotel de Haro, the town church built around the same time, and a few wonderful restaurants overlooking the marina.
While in Roche Harbor an 86′ brand new Alexander Yacht caught on fire on the dock directly opposite of us. There were there large yachts on display for sale, and as we were finishing breakfast one morning we noticed smoke coming from the bow of one of them. Soon there was a lot of commotion on the dock as they brought in hoses and fire extinguishers. But as it was locked up so they couldn’t get into where the fire was taking place.
They did manage to separate the two yachts next to it though, so they wouldn’t go up with it. We decided to get out of there quickly as we didn’t know what could happen. As it did happen, the fire department arrived and a fire boat, but they really couldn’t do much. They battled the fire for six hours but it only finally went out when it sunk. Fiberglass fires are not easy to put out. The price tag on the boat was $7 million. Ouch.
Click on any of the photos below for a slide show: