On the Water Again


By Jim Favors

Even though it had only been a short hiatus of 1.5 years from boating it all came back very easily. The unique aroma of salt water, the feel of the water slapping up against the bow, the ebb and flow of the tidal waters all penetrated my inner most memories of why I like to be on the water. If you have a passion, whether it be golfing, biking, skiing, traveling or something else, you will most likely understand our joy of being back on the water.

Immediately after our three-day MTOA Rendezvous in Gig Harbor, Washington we struck out for destinations north on what I call our maiden voyage and shake down cruise. We try to plan our itinerary with new destinations in mind, but sometimes we just have to return to a favorite spot because we enjoyed it so much. We left the charming port of Gig Harbor, now on our “must return to list,” and headed out for a two-day cruise to Anacortes, where we’ll stop for only one night before we shove off to the nearby San Juan Islands and the beginning of our shake down cruise.

We met Herb and Willie on their new Ranger Tug R27, Willie’s Tug, shortly after we arrived in Anacortes. They are a long way from home, which is in Texas.

My idea of a shake down cruise is to become familiar with the boat’s inner workings as much as possible… our objective is to know intimately how things work and should perform. In a nutshell, because the boat is unfamiliar to us, a shake down cruise is meant to get a handle on the unknown variables, especially a boat’s mechanics, and become more comfortable with them. Sometimes this includes knowing what all the sounds are and if it is a normal sound or one signaling a problem.

We also wanted to put the boat through her paces. One of the first things Lisa and I wanted to do was see how our new Kismet handled at anchor. Some time ago I had made note of an anchorage on Bainbridge Island, tucked way back up in a cove by Port Madison, so we proceeded to this spot to see how easily the R27 performed at this task.

This is Friday Harbor – a busy, year-round boating community.

Bainbridge Island sits a little northwest of Seattle and is only accessible by personal boat, ferry or by a bridge that crosses Agate Passage over to the Great Peninsula. Obviously we were arriving by boat when we entered the channel to the cove at the north end of the island. As we meandered back into the protected waters we first tried to set a hook in what looked like a good location, but we had to abandon it because of a bad hold. Finally, just a short distance away, in 5 feet of water and closer to the end of the cove we found our spot. Our first night on the hook, although not like the excitement of my first date with Lisa, was spent in relative calm. However, this was only after we got past figuring out what controls deploy the anchor, where the anchor light toggle switch was, how to activate the electric panel once the genset is started and all the other things that we would soon discover on our R27. The only real problem we had was a minor one, I forgot to turn off the anchor light and didn’t remember that it was still on until mid-afternoon the next day!

From our anchorage in Port Madison, we headed back out into and across Puget Sound and tucked ourselves into the leeward side of Whidbey Island, shielding us from the often-unpredictable Strait of Juan de Fuca. On this particular day the skies were as clear and blue as the Bahamian Islands, which made our cruise that much more pleasurable. Off in the southeast direction (54 miles away), we could make out the snow-capped Mt. Rainier and soon we spotted Mt. Baker off to our starboard bow.

Garrison Bay, if you don’t mind the company of other boats, has plenty of elbowroom in a picture perfect setting.

After a short provisioning trip for hardware and groceries in Anacortes, we were off to Friday Harbor on San Juan Island and the seemingly unlimited gunk holing possibilities in the islands. As the cruise to Friday Harbor was only 27 miles, we decided to poke around a few inlets around the islands once we cleared Rosario Strait. Passing through Thatcher Pass we turned to starboard to cruise slowly up the west side of Blakely Island on our way to check out the little village of Olga on Orcas Island. Olga has a city dock and since it was full, we’ll have to save this stop for another time. Leaving Olga behind our route took us between Shaw and Lopez Islands. It was here I decided to enter a shallow, narrow channel between Canoe Island and Shaw, in order to check out a potential anchorage called Indian Cove. I thought this might be a good spot to anchor in calm conditions and with no winds out of the south, so I made a mental note of it for the future usage.

When the marina is full at Roche Harbor there could be more people on boats than actually live on land in the very small town!

Friday Harbor, with a population of 2,162, is the major commercial hub of the islands; it’s also the county seat along with being a favorite cruising destination for area boaters. When talking about the San Juan Islands, keep in mind, the only way to get to them is by car ferry, your own boat or air plane. Because you have to work to get to them it becomes more of a challenge for boaters and therefore more desirable from a cruising perspective.

While walking through the charming little town, we spotted a West Marine store a few blocks away from the marina – I have to say, I’m a pretty fortunate guy, but it really hit home when, just after sighting the boat store, Lisa exclaimed, “Hey there’s a West Marine, lets go take a look.” After she said this I told her how lucky I was to have someone who loved boating as much, if not more, than me. So, off to West Marine we went.

This waterside restaurant sits just steps from the one of the marina docks and they were packed on this Labor Day weekend.

The next day our mission was to find an anchorage in Garrison Bay, just around corner from the historic village of Roche Harbor, for a couple of days of peaceful solitude. Garrison Bay is on the northwest part of San Juan Island and straddles the US/Canadian border, with Canada’s Vancouver Island visible on most days. With no dinghy purchased to act as our tender most people might find it puzzling we could spend 48 hours on our boat without getting off to go to shore, not us. The leisure time on Kismet gave us time to relax, read books, play games, become more familiar with the boat by studying the boat manuals, and enjoy the beautiful surroundings.

We were in Garrison Bay during part of the Labor Day weekend and what a gloriously perfect weather weekend it was for boating. We had clear skies, calm water and when you mix this with boating we were not very surprised to count over 60 boats anchored out with us. Garrison Bay is large enough to accommodate even more than this without feeling cramped and the good news is that the anchorage has 360º protection. Early Sunday we decided to pull anchor and go into Roche Harbor with hopes of getting a slip at the city marina. After being on the wait list for only an hour we were happy to get assigned a slip, we really wanted to explore this historic port town. Besides, we were almost out of water and it was time to stretch our legs.

Look at this spread; they sure know how to thank their boating patrons in Roche Harbor.

The first European to explore Roche Harbor and the surrounding area occurred in 1787 when Captain de Haro plied the waters of the PNW. In 1886 Roche Harbor became a full-fledged lime works processing town, because of its rich deposits of limestone. Seventy years later, with the lime works business past its prime Roche Harbor was transformed into a popular boating and resort destination, which it still is to this day.

After a full day exploring the quaint little town, old hotel and walking the docks of the 350-slip marina to look at boats, we were delighted to hear about the end of season party the marina held to thank the boating community for a good summer season. The party included a live band, complimentary wine and beer along with crab, clams and shrimp and beef sandwiches. If that wasn’t enough, shortly before sunset an announcement came over the marina speaker system that the evening color ceremony would start in 10 minutes. Unbeknownst to us the marina does this every night during the summer.

Staff and quests lined up (on the upper dock) for the nightly diving event, just after colors.

Prior to the color ceremony lots of dinghies gathered around the main marina dock, more dinghies and people lined the piers and docks all vying for the best vantage point to watch the ceremony. The master of ceremony stood on the top of the harbor store and began the proceedings with the playing of a few patriotic songs, followed by taps and the lowering of the flags. After the flags were lowered the MC made several announcements, said some thank yous and gave the next day’s weather report. For the conclusion of the ceremony the harbor staff took turns jumping into the water from the flag pavilion followed by anyone else that wanted to join them. This was about as American apple pie as it gets and – oh, and by the way, did I mention how great it is to be back on the water, with Lisa, smelling the salt water while exploring new harbors and anchorages?