Summer Cruise Part 2: San Juan Islands

We spent two nights in the marina in Port Angeles. We had drinks the first evening with Terry and Barr (our friends from St. Helens) on their Irwin 38 center cockpit. We really enjoyed seeing them and swapping sailing stories. I think we were still decompressing from the experience on the way up and it was great to talk about it. We also spent some time looking at charts and they had some tips on anchorages and destinations in the San Juans. The following day was spent exploring Port Angeles, getting ice, propane, and a few groceries.

Leaving Port Angeles on our way to Lopez Island


After that it was on to the San Juans. It was calm so we motored across the Strait of Juan de Fuca to Mackaye harbor on the southern side of Lopez Island. We had a few guide books which said Mackaye Harbor was well protected but could be rolly. We arrived under sunny skies and dropped the anchor in about 18-20 feet of water. The shore was mostly private property so we stayed on the boat, but we hoisted the dinghy off the foredeck for the first time since Tongue Pt. It was great having the foredeck clear! The dinghy really obstructs the view foreward from the helm and makes any foredeck work (like anchoring or readying dock lines) difficult. The afternoon and evening were calm with a slight breeze but after we went to bed we learned what a rolly anchorage is!! The harbor is very sheltered and the Strait is not even visible, but the shore between the harbor and the Strait is pretty much rock walls so the waves and/or swell must get refracted off the rock and into harbor. During the daytime the slight breeze kept us oriented into the swell but after the breeze died we ended up beam on to the swell and had some pretty extreme rocking, with things flying off the counters and crashing around. We took turns getting up and securing things that were banging around.

At Spencer Spit, dinghy in foreground & 'Imi Loa in the background


The following morning we pulled up anchor and headed to Spencer Spit (also on Lopez Island). The wind was pretty light but we were able to sail the first couple of hours. We were still learning to use our Cape Horn windvane and spent much of this time playing with it, learning how to adjust it to maintain a course, etc. Eventually the wind died and we motored the last hour to Spencer Spit. We rowed ashore and explored the area, though there wasn't really much to see. The following day we walked across the island (about 3 miles) to Lopez Village for some supplies. We could have taken the boat to Fisherman Bay, where Lopez Village is located, but it was a little too shallow for our liking. We actually watched from the beach as a sailboat ran aground trying to get in. Besides, we didn't really need anything and thought a walk across the island would be nice. We were right except there was an area where they were resurfacing the asphalt so that wasn't much fun to walk through.

Echo Bay at Sucia Island


Next stop was Sucia Island where we anchored in Echo Bay. This was our favorite stop, very pretty and protected with some nice trails for stretching our legs. Much of the shore in the San Juan Islands is either private property or state owned but protected for the sake of wildlife so there aren't actually that many undeveloped places where you can go for a walk. If you look closely you can see 'Imi Loa in the photo to the left. There are three sailboats and one power boat just to left of center, we are the middle sailboat. If you click the photo you will get the full size image and can see our dark hull.

Devon sailing 'Imi Iki


Devon took advantage of the nice weather to do a little dinghy sailing and we both spent some time rowing around the anchorage. It was lots of fun, especially since we weren't fighting a river current, still a pretty novel experience for us.

Echo Bay is well protected, except from the east. Our last night there we got a pretty good east wind, putting us on a lee shore. For non-boating readers, being on a lee shore means the wind is blowing toward the land and if your anchor doesn't hold you could end up with your boat getting blown onto shore. The wind kicked up a pretty good chop in the bay, but our anchor held fine.

From Sucia Island we went to Roche Harbor on San Juan Island. The weather was still fairly rough leaving Sucia but it improved immensely by the time we got to Roche Harbor. The marina at Roche Harbor is expensive but very nice, they even have dock hands ready to catch your lines and help you tie up (a first for us). Roche Harbor was very relaxing, with nice (but expensive) showers, but best of all, for the first time it was warm enough to start our days wearing shorts! After a couple days of the good life at Roche Harbor we spent a few nights anchored at Friday Harbor (also on San Juan Island). This was our first time anchoring in 60 feet of water and it took us a few tries, the anchor set fine but we had some trouble anticipating where we would end up once we had sufficient scope out. We ended up resetting the anchor 3 times, not easy with a couple hundred feet of chain and a manual windlass! On our first couple of attempts we ended up a little too close to one or another of the other boats already anchored, but eventually we got the anchor set in a good spot. The next day we rowed ashore and headed to West Marine. I don't even remember what we were looking for but they didn't have it. As mentioned in our short post about Friday Harbor, the store there is a West Marine Express (I didn't even know such a thing existed).

By now it was the end of July, we had hoped to make it to the Gulf Islands but didn't want to risk running into the fall southerlies on our way down the coast. We figured we were good until late August but it seemed to take us forever to get anywhere so we played it safe and started to plan the trip back down. First stop was Port Townsend, which we really enjoyed. There are tons and tons of salty looking wooden boats there and a nice waterfront row with restaurants, shops, and pubs. We browsed through the Wooden Boat Foundation chandlery, we didn't end up buying anything but it is definitely a place to check out if you are looking for bronze deck hardware. We actually bought our bronze chain pipe from them while we were still in St. Helens. They were the only place on the West Coast that had the one we wanted, as a bonus the price was right and the shipping was fast and inexpensive. Port Townsend has a real West Marine where we were able to get a chart book of the West Coast and some other miscellaneous stuff.

View from the mast in Port Angeles. Note the nice clean dock.


From Port Townsend it was back to Port Angeles where we enjoyed some nice weather and did a few boat projects. Now I remember what we were looking for at the Friday Harbor West Marine: Sirius XM weather! We were hoping to take the offshore route south to San Francisco which would put us out of VHF range. We didn't have a satellite phone or SSB so we needed a source of weather information. The Sirius XM receiver we were looking for was compatible with our Garmin chartplotter so the installation would be very simple. Nobody seemed to stock what we wanted so we ordered one over the phone from a local marine electronics shop in Port Angeles. It was waiting for us when we arrived. The installation was very simple and as a bonus it didn't even require us to drill any holes in the boat. The other things we did were sew weather cloths for the cockpit and replace our jib halyard. We had brought our Sailrite machine and still had some Sunbrella fabric left over from the dodger and bimini. I did the sewing in the cabin but all of the cutting was done on the dock since there really isn't any place in the boat big enough to lay out a bunch of canvas. Fortunately the docks were new and very clean, though the wind piped up and made it a little tricky getting everything cut without letting any fabric blow into the water. We had purchased the line for the jib halyard in Portland but hadn't had time to splice and install it with all the other things going on. Unfortunately we've already had to replace that halyard again, but that's a story for another day.

Freshly spliced Stayset-X

We enjoyed our second stay at Port Angeles quite a bit, there is a nice downtown area and the marina is clean and modern. The one thing that is lacking though is a decent laundromat. There is no laundromat near the marina at all and only two in the whole town (that we found anyway) and neither one is very good. They also happen to be at opposite ends of the town, I think we walked our laundry about 10 miles going to one very sketchy laundromat and then on to the other sketchy but cleaner laundromat. By the time we were done it was dinner time, so on the way back to the boat we took our laundry out to eat with us at a nice Thai restaurant. At least it was clean! Actually those sorts of challenges are one of the things we like about cruising. Or maybe we being able to walk everywhere and not worry about how long it takes. A lot of cruisers have bikes (either full size or folding), but we really enjoy being on foot. Besides, there is no room for bikes of any size on our little boat!


After all our projects and chores were done we motored to Neah Bay where we topped off the diesel tank and hoisted the dinghy back on deck. The following morning we raised the anchor, rounded Cape Flattery, and headed back out into the Pacific Ocean…



5 thoughts on “Summer Cruise Part 2: San Juan Islands

  1. We have a e31 and are docked in Monterey, Ca. Have enjoyed reading your blog and seeing the projects you’ve accomplished on your boat. Would love to see detailed pictures of your dodger, as I’m thinking of sewing one, but we’re not sure where would be the best place to install it on the deck. Are you in the Bay Area still?

    Lady Jane, E31
    Monterey Bay

    • Hi Dawn, I am so sorry I did not respond sooner. I have neglected the blog for the past year and did not see your comment (which is weird because wordpress notifies me when someone comments on the blog). Anyhow, if it is still helpful I would be happy to send you some photos of our dodger.


      • I’d love to see the pix of your dodger, especially where it sits on the cabin. Have you been sailing? Any new adventures? Thanks for responding, it’s nice to see what others have done with their Independence.

      • Hi Dawn, unfortunately we have not been sailing in a long time. We have a new boat and have been busy with various projects. We are still in the Bay Area, living aboard the new boat. I am working on finally finishing the last post of our summer cruise, then I will try to bring the blog up to date on all the newer happenings. Is it ok if I send the dodger photos to the email address associated with your comments?

        Cheers, Rowan

  2. Pingback: Wordpress Blog Post On Summer Cruise Part 2: San Juan Islands - Wordpress Blogs .NET

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