the Inside Passage the San Juan Islands

Reid Harbor, Stuart Island

Wednesday, May 16, 2012S.V. CAMBRIA

Turn Point Light, Stuart Island

In 2008 we were sitting aboard Cambria in San Diego making plans to sail up the west coast with the sole intention of exploring the San Juan Islands.  Well, it seems we finally made it! 

For the past four years, with the exception of an anchorage here and there, we’ve skipped the San Juans in favour of Canadian cruising grounds with the intention of stopping on our way south.  But by the time we get back to the US in November, the weather has turned for the season and we’re tired from months at anchor, so we go home to Poulsbo promising ourselves we’ll stop some other time.  It looks like that time has finally arrived, because here we are. 

We left Garrison Bay yesterday for Stuart Island, home to approximately twenty year-round residents, a number which increases dramatically in the summer months. The island offers no services – no ferry, no town, no power, no water, no sewage, etc. – and much of the land is private, with steep and inaccessible shores.  So why bother coming?  Because of the 150 acre state park which is flanked by two excellent anchorages.  Of the two, we chose Reid.  If you can overlook the moorings littering the bay, which is difficult to do, it’s as beautiful here as some of the anchorages we’ve enjoyed in Desolation Sound.  The shore is lined with cedar, fir and madrona which contrast perfectly with the golden moss-covered earth.  But the real attraction (for me, not David) is the hiking trails – one of which leads to the county road that takes you to Turn Point Lighthouse … and I’m a complete lighthouse geek.

The view across Haro Strait and Boundary Pass (named so because it “divides” US and Canadian waters) is spectacular and worth the six-mile return hike alone. Unfortunately, the lighthouse is currently being renovated by the Bureau of Land Management, a slow process, and isn’t open to the public.  The grounds, however, are and I was able to walk around the property and peak in a window here and there.  I didn’t see another person the entire day, but I imagine it’s a completely different scene during the height of the season when the island receives over 15,000 visitors by boat – not exactly the quiet isolation we generally seek. 

But our time in the San Juans is limited.  We’d like to be in Canada by Memorial Day Weekend when thousands of boats from the mainland descend upon the peaceful anchorages, so we’ll be leaving Stuart Island Friday for our next stop, Sucia Island.  

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