Planning for a San Juan Islands sailing trip

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For those who wish to follow along, I’ll be planning an August 2011 sailing trip in the San Juan Islands. Sailors, feel free to make this interactive and ask questions in the comments section as the plan develops.

I’ll be using the approach I described in my February 2009 post about planning a Puget Sound sailing trip. I’ll also be using information we learned from our August 2007 San Juans Wonderland sailing trip.


At this point a good date in August to leave from Bellingham appears to be Saturday, August 13. A mid-morning departure will get us into Hale Passage in time to catch the turn of the tide and race to the north end of Lummi Island with a boost from the flood current. Bailey and Nyberg say the flood current flows northward, and that’s where we want to go.

However, Rosario Strait current is predicted to be up to two knots. In our 2007 trip, we underestimated the effect of this persistent current and ended up getting flushed northward, motoring back against the current to make our Sucia Island anchorage. We started from Lummi Island by aiming at Matia Island. I think this time I’ll aim south of Matia and more closely monitor how far the current sets us to the north as we cross the strait.

(I’m using tidal predictions generated by Tidal predictions are available Current predictions are available at

I suggest trailering to Bellingham on Friday so you can get the boat in the water and enjoy a relaxing evening in a local bistro. In August 2007, Squalicum Harbor Marina emailed these directions to me:

If you were to take the exit 256, since I am assuming you are coming up from the South this will allow you to not have to deal with driving thru Bellingham.  You would take that exit turning left onto Meridian St., going past the Bellingham Golf and Country Club going to the second light in which you will take a right turn on to Squalicum parkway.  This road leads you right down to the water onto Roeder Ave., where you will pass the Bellingham Cold Storage complex, go over the railroad tracks and then you will see Boondocks and Lummi Fisheries Supply on the corner of Coho Way which is where you will need to turn Right to come to our office anyways.  We can then point you in the direction of the boat launch which is further down the road on Roeder Ave.

More coming soon!


7 thoughts on “Planning for a San Juan Islands sailing trip

  1. Genie Williams

    We hope you have clear skies and great sailing weather. Ah, the thought of warm winds and August are mighty appealing right now. When you get to Friday Harbor, drop by and visit us at The San Juan Hot Shop & Flavor Emporium and say hello. We'd love to follow your travels.
    Eddie & Genie Williams

  2. Jalene

    I definitely want to make this trip so I'm excited to follow along in the planning process. For now, all I have to add is enthusiasm!

    Newport, OR
    Chill Pill P19

    1. TomSalzer

      I think a rig-and-sail day is coming in July. I suggest posting a message to the Northwest Potters group on Yahoo to find out!

  3. liv4outdoors

    I very much enjoyed your post. Can you tell me about gunkholing and any thoughts on liveaboard in the San Juans.

    1. Tom Post author

      You should get on the Northwest Potters Yahoo group and pose that question. There are many folks there with plenty of gunkholing experience, so you'll get a much richer set of responses than I could provide!


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