The best months of the year are ahead of us for cruising in the San Juan and Gulf Islands. We are all ready for a warm summer on the water. The marinas and resorts are also ready for this season and there are many changes to report that just might adjust your cruising plans.

In general the big news is—food, food, food!!! Great food! The word must be out that boaters often choose their cruising destinations based on the dining or food shopping options. More and more marina resorts this year are focused on their culinary offerings. It seems that a latte bar and ice cream counter is no longer a good enough reason to attract visiting boaters to a marina or resort! The menus have improved with healthy compelling entrees. The marina stores, even the small marina stores, are stocking gourmet items. And get this—fresh sushi restaurants are being spotted throughout the waterfront towns of British Columbia! It used to be that we traveled by boat through the San Juan and Gulf Islands for the incredible scenery, now add to that the delectable food!

Dingy Dock Pub

When moored at Newcastle Marine Park, or in Nanaimo, it is a short dinghy or ferry ride, away to the Dinghy Dock Pub on Protection Island where you can enjoy pub food and watch the sun set over Nanaimo.

Anacortes

Lets start our update for the 2011 cruising season in Anacortes, the homeport to the San Juan and Gulf Islands and one of the best jumping off points for a summer cruise. At the Cap Sante Marina there is a brand new Anthony’s seafood restaurant with the best view of the harbor and great happy hour specials. Anthony’s is along the new esplanade in Anacortes. After dinner take a stroll on the esplanade to the south to see the new Seafarers Park. The town is also sporting several new restaurants including a Cameron’s and Cameron’s To Go that fit right along with the existing favorites such as the Rockfish Grill, the Brown Lantern Pub, and a new gourmet mexican restaurant called Freda’s across from the Majestic Hotel on Commercial Avenue. At the Skyline Marina Flounder Bob’s is a new arrival featuring Bob’s famous clam chowder and his special macadamian encrusted halibut. Bring the kids along and make sure they order the Chum Bucket desert (gummy worms and ice cream), or the rolled and fried Twinkie. When you include the Berry Cobbler, the desserts are properly decadent and cap a great meal.

Blakely Island

When you finally leave the dock, head out to the Blakely Island Marina and Store where new business owners Terry and Diane O’Hara will welcome you in one of the prettiest and well protected marinas in the San Juans. They are adding their own flavor to the venerable store with special treats and menu items from their years of experience in the food business. While the store is well known for its ice cream bar, check out their special Orcas roasted coffee in the store, their wine selection, and the specials coming out of the kitchen.

Rosario Resort

Rosario Resort is coming back slowly, but better than ever under the management eye of Rosario icon Christopher Peacock. Christopher was the artist in resident for over 30 years at Rosario and now he manages the entire place. If you have been visiting Rosario over the years you may have listened to Christopher play the room-sized pipe organ in the Moran mansion with his slide presentation on the history of the Moran family and Rosario. He still plays and presents the pipe organ performance everyday but Sundays at 4pm. Under his direction, the spa is now open again (reservations recommended) and the restaurant is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner with a star chef. The Cascade Bay Grill by the marina is also open for casual dining with burgers and other items cooked right there on the deck.

The marina and fuel dock is open and looks great. For those who prefer to moor, there are only two mooring balls at Rosario now, but good anchorage in sticky mud in Cascade Bay. If you anchor out, you can use the facilities of Rosario Resort for a $25 per dinghy landing fee for up to 6 people. Not bad for use of the pool and spa facilities for this historic resort.

Eastsound

While in East Sound you can visit the town of Eastsound either by dinghy or small boat at the county dock, or take the scheduled shuttle van from Rosario Resort. Note Christina’s is now Allium under star chef Lisa Nakamura. Dining is more casual with many local natural ingredients. The view is still incredible. The Lopez Vineyard has opened up a tasting room on Beach Street. Also take a look at Roses Bakery and Cafe for an excellent choice of cheeses and fresh bread. The restaurant looks very interesting and will be on my list the next time I am in Eastsound. The Lower Tavern, just off Main, still has the best burgers in the islands.

Passionate Pies

The new Passionate for Pies store is now open in Eastsound, 1 block up from the county dock. And they are good!

Orcas Landing

The grocery store at Orcas Landing has expanded and is offering a wider wine selection as well as its great selection of cheeses and specialty items. You can temporarily moor on the county dock near the ferry landing on your way to the islands. Watch the wake from passing boats when you moor here.

Deer Harbor

The fireworks at Deer Harbor are scheduled for July 3rd in case you want to enjoy the fireworks at Roche Harbor or Fisherman’s Bay on July 4th, which falls on a Monday this year.

Friday Harbor

In Friday Harbor, the Front Street Ale House is no more, but a new pub is taking shape and may be open in time for this summer. San Juan Vineyards has opened up a tasting room just one block up from the harbor, saving the shuttle bus ride out to the vineyard for those who want to try their very good wines.

Roche Harbor

At Roche Harbor you and your family can enjoy performances of a “The Winter’s Tale,” Shakespeare Under the Stars, July 28th–August 20th.

Bedwell Harbour, B.C.

Crossing over to British Columbia and clearing customs in Bedwell Harbour may be a challenge. In May, a large yacht damaged the primary and longest part of the Canadian Customs dock significantly reducing the available space to between 3-5 boats, depending on the length. As you approach you will see the yellow tape showing the dock area that has been damaged and not available for temporary moorage. On busy days, there could be a line up of boats waiting for room at the Customs dock. It is not clear when or if the dock will be repaired this season.

On a more positive note, Poets Cove resort will have vans available for marina guests to rent by the hour, or by the 1/2 day. This will allow guests to explore the Pender Islands, go to the Saturday Farmers Market or Driftwood Centre, stop by the Morning Bay Winery, or play golf at the Pender Island Golf Course.

Otter Bay

Otter Bay Marina has hired Chef Stefan and will be serving dinner on the patio and in the main building. On many weekends they will also be presenting special fixed price dinner events with lamb, beef or steak & lobster. They have a number of different themes planned such as a Hawaiian Lua Pig Roast. Call the marina for the upcoming schedule.

Otter Bay

Tranquil Otter Bay is now serving dinner and offering special event dinners.

Fulford Harbour

Fulford Harbour is still a funky place to visit with the Rock Salt Cafe and the Morningside Bakery and Cafe. The Fulford Harbour Marina still has not reopened after a storm significantly damaged the docks several years ago. There is 120 feet of dock space for a few smaller boats on the Harbor Authority of Salt Spring Island dock.

True Grain Bread

Cruising in the San Juan and Gulf Islands is becoming all about great food in addition to the breathtaking scenery. Here the baker at True Grain Bread in Cowichan shows an artisan loaf of bread fresh from the oven and still warm.

Cowichan Bay

The hotel at Cowichan Bay has been purchased and is now under professional management. Guests at their dock can use the pool and other hotel facilities. The merchants of Cowichan Bay are all ready for those who want fresh artisan bread or artisan cheeses. The Udder Guys ice cream is still a favorite for all members of the family. Their ice cream is now available in markets around BC and they are hinting at going national.

Genoa Bay

The Genoa Bay Marina has a new breakfast gazebo on the dock for serving coffee and light breakfasts. This will be the gathering place for the early morning crowd at Genoa Bay. The Genoa Bay Cafe has new owners and a new menu that looks very enticing.

Ganges, Salt Spring Island

In Ganges, the Salt Spring Marina has finally received government approval for their new expanded docks. No construction yet. They have expanded their rental fleet of scooters and now rental cars to allow you to explore the many artists studios and wineries of Salt Spring Island. M.O.B.Y.’s continues to offer family dining and good music. One little find in this corner of the harbour is the Rendezvous French patisserie. Worth the walk. The strip of stores on Fulford-Ganges Road, where the Saturday Farmers Market is held, now holds an interesting collection of small restaurants covering fresh past, sushi. These are small eateries where you get to meet the owner and chef. One standout is Bruce’s Kitchen—where everything is cooked with all natural ingredients.

Ganges outdoor dining

Ganges offers plenty of casual and even fine dining opportunities outdoors, under the Gulf Islands sun, or inside by a warm fireplace.

Bruce’s Kitchen

Bruce’s Kitchen presents all fresh and local ingredients and a special chef’s menu. Bruce’s is located in Ganges on Fulford-Ganges Rd. and is one of many small unique eateries located in this group of shops near the site of the Farmers Market.

Telegraph Harbour

Owners Ron and Tara at the Telegraph Harbour Marina continue to evolve and improve this choice destination. They have hired a star chef who will be preparing breakfast and fresh baked goods in the morning, lunches and a full dinner menu for dining in the main building. The ice cream counter and milkshakes are still outstanding and pies will be available again this season.

Telegraph Harbour Bistro

Telegraph Harbour now has a Bistro offering dinners prepared by their own chef in addition to their fantastic pies and milkshakes.

Silva Bay

The small grocery store at Silva Bay closed during the winter and the space is empty, a real loss for this harbor. They are looking for new proprietors if you are interested in a career change. The locals use this store in addition to the thousands of marina guests who descend on Silva Bay every summer. Page’s Resort has added motor scooters for rent along with bicycles. You can now explore Gabriola Island on two wheels when you stay in Silva Bay.

Nanaimo

You may see something new on the Nanaimo waterfront, a cruise ship sitting at the new cruise ship dock. While there will only be four ships docking in Nanaimo this summer season, it will still be a little shocking to see a large white cruise ship sitting just south of the Nanaimo Port Authority moorage and the Cameron Island Marina. In the ensuing years more cruise ships will be scheduling stops in Nanaimo at the new cruise ship dock. The dock only has room for one cruise ship at a time which should not overcrowd the town when one is in port.

Newcastle Island

You may see something new on the Nanaimo waterfront, a cruise ship sitting at the new cruise ship dock. While there will only be four ships docking in Nanaimo this summer season, it will still be a little shocking to see a large white cruise ship sitting just south of the Nanaimo Port Authority moorage and the Cameron Island Marina. In the ensuing years more cruise ships will be scheduling stops in Nanaimo at the new cruise ship dock. The dock only has room for one cruise ship at a time which should not overcrowd the town when one is in port.

New Castle Marine Park

Newcastle Marine Park offers dock or buoys for moorage. Note anchoring is now prohibited in Mark Bay. There are 42 new buoys for moorage. The rental shack has bikes, kayaks, and standup paddle boards available to enjoy for visitors.

New Castle Marine Park

Unusual “historical” marker

The following is not new—but was noticed for the first time in Newcastle Island Passage (see the photo below). Just past the area marking Oregon Rock, on the east side of the channel, there lies one of the last pilings from the days when Newcastle Island was a working quarry. It’s rock was used for many buildings, most notable, the San Francisco Mint. The piling has taken on a new meaning. Over the last 10 years a tradition has ensued where female crew members approach by boat, remove their bras, and attach them to the piling—at least that is what we were told! Today there is quite a collection of various styles and sizes decorating this historic piling. I am not sure what the nautical meaning is—go to starboard or port? Next time you head up the Newcastle Passage have your crew on the lookout for this unusual historical marker.

If you see something unusual on the water, or a significant change, pass it on to us. At the end of the cruising season we will publish the top 5 unusual sights from this years summer cruising season.

Mark Bunzel
Editor/Publisher

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