Cruising the San Juan Islands

The last vacation my family shared was a trip to Munich eight years ago. I was 15, my brother was 17, and although we had a great time most of what I can remember was the stress. After graduating from college and finding a new groove as a family, I don’t know if there could have been a better time for us to take another vacation.

Dad booked a boat charter out of the blue from San Juan Sailing. No one was opposed. The trip was ON.

After a two hour flight to Seattle, a two-hour drive to Bellingham, a two-hour safety briefing, and some delicious ramen, we were ready to cruise. San Juan Sailing required that we had an instructor for the first two days of our excursion. Our instructor, Hal, born and raised in South Africa, was a sailor out of a storybook. Hal was a man of few words. The few stories he did tell were epic by anyone’s assessment. In another life, I would love to be a poor and adventurous sailor, accepting dangerous jobs just to see more of the ocean. But I digress…

As follows is our itinerary for the five-day adventure:


Day one- Sucia Island

We left Bellingham in the early afternoon driving through Hale passage around the northern tip of Lummi Island.  By 5pm we arrived at Sucia Island, nestled ourselves into Echo Bay, and dropped anchor. We were visited by otters and fishies and seals! It


Day two- San Juan Island

After a short little hike around the southern tip of Suicia Island, we left for San Juan Island. On our passage through the north-west of Orcas Island (Presidents Channel), we stumbled upon a POD OF KILLER WHALES. There was an educational boat coming around to give the responsible boaters watching a little background on the whales. We watched in awe, and after they had moved on, we made our way to Friday Harbor. That night we partook in some delicious food at Cask & Schooner. My brother pulled off a miraculous parking job in the dock of Friday Harbor and we delighted in the showers the next morning.


Day three- Lopez Island

Our plan was to take a long sail around Blakely Island and into Hunter Bay inside Lopez sound. We had great fun jaunting around the islands and feeling like we were truly the only ones out in this beautiful part of the world. By the time we made it to Lopez Island, it was around 5pm and we had plenty of time to anchor, and motor around in our dingy in Hunter Bay. The sunset was stunning. The bald eagles echoed in the bay and seals visited us as we munched on a delicious dinner.


Day four- Stuart Island

After a morning dip in the BRACING water of Hunter Bay, we headed north-west to Stuart Island. Reid Harbor, the east harbor of Stuart Island, was where we anchored and admired the otters, jellyfish, and another spectacular sunset.


Day five- Orcas Island

Our morning on Stuart island consisted of a spectacular hike around the state park. If you are to visit this island, which I highly suggest you do if you are in the pacific northwest, the hike is essential. There is a lighthouse, an old schoolhouse, and a t-shirt shack which operates on an IOU system. All a must see! Once the hike was over, we turned east, and set course for Rosario Resort. Another day where we felt as if we were the only people in this glorious passage.

Day six- Bellingham

Our final morning we made the decision to head to Bellingham that night and avoid an early morning on our final day. We took our time cruising around the southern, western, and finally northern edge of Orcas Island.  That night we ate fish and chips and reminisced on all the awesome times we had on the boat.

Highlights included watching erupt with joy every time we saw a sea creature, listening to the drama over the coast guard radio, and the incredibly lucky weather we were blessed with. I don’t know how we were able to get 10 days of sunshine and almost no wind in the pacific northwest but we did.

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