Cruising Report No. 4

Sidney to Lopez Island

 

Telegraph Harbour Marina – Correction – Pizzas are still coming out of their oven!

In the last edition of my cruising report, it was incorrectly reported that they no longer have food service or pizzas. Please note that Telegraph Harbour Marina still has their well-appreciated pizzas and fresh baguettes available in their store.

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Sidney Spit

I have cruised by Sidney Spit many times on my way to Port Sidney. It just looked too crowded with boats anchored, on mooring balls, or at the dock. My big error. There is a reason it looked crowded Think long sand beaches, trails through the woods, campsites if you want them, but most of all a beautiful view of the sunsets and moon rises. A destination worth exploring if you have not been there.

Sidney Spit is part of the wonderful Gulf Islands National Park Reserve, a group of island parks, many with moorage and other services. In short, they are all beautiful and worth exploring. Dock fees are very inexpensive, and a mooring ball is less than $10 CDN. I recommend using a mooring ball as the Gulf Island National Park Reserve buoys are well maintained, and you will not be tearing up the bottom with your anchor. You will sleep better knowing that you are secure with all of your neighbors on a similar swing.

At Sidney Spit, take your dinghy ashore and walk the beach. Close your eyes slightly, and on a very warm day, you might think you are someplace tropical. Try it!

 

Port Sidney

The Port Sidney Marina has new owners, the Mill Bay Group.Yes, this is the same owners as Mill Bay Marina, Port Browning Marina, Pacific Gateway Marina, and MK Bay Marina up in Kitimat. For years, many visitors have thought, that the marina was owned by the town. The Mill Bay Group is a well-run business, and we can already see a few improvements at the Port Sidney Marina. The party tent with overflowing flower baskets are used for evening happy hours, and there is an ice cream vendor now open on the float. We were told by the Mill Bay Group, they also purchased The Rumrunner Pub and Restaurant above the marina. We are speculating that good food might be part of their winning formula like they have done in Mill Bay with Bridgemans Bistro. (This fall, will have an exclusive story about the Mill Bay Group and their ambitious plans for their new marina acquisitions.)

Port Sidney Marina has two new additions in the uplands area. The Surly Mermaid pub with indoor and outdoor dining is worth a visit. Also, note in the parking lot the newly renovated building for Victoria Distillers. This is an upscale tasting room and distillery for their hand-crafted spirits in a beautiful setting. Tours run from noon to 4 p.m., and the cost is $7. Kids under 19 are free (and we assume not tasting). Make a reservation (250-544-8217) or online or take your chances and drop-in.

The Shaw Centre for the Salish Sea is a few hundred feet from the marina. The young members who were cruising along with us (buddy boating) pronounced the aquarium fun and a thumbs up. They loved the touch tank.

The rest of the town of Sidney is quaint and beautiful as ever with many shops and restaurants to explore. I have to call out the Sidney Bakery on Beacon Street who has been in business for 108 years and the same family for 68 years. It is hard to walk by the window without stopping and licking the glass. For guys like me, it brings back memories of a small town bakery that I used to go to as a kid. What I had forgotten from previous visits is how their prices are old-fashioned too. Without thinking, I filled up a box with goodies for less than $10 CDN. I soon realized how much there was for me to eat and started to feel a little guilty, vowing to take three more hikes. Then I rationalized I would make it last a week – it didn’t.

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Since we had some business meetings and other errands to run I gave Budget Rental Car a call and they picked me up to fetch the car at the Victoria International Airport, about 2 miles away. The cost for two days was under $90 CDN and gave me tremendous mobility around the area. Also, it was much cheaper than taking taxis. With the car, we visited Victoria and Butchart Gardens for the Saturday night fireworks. It had been about six years since I have seen them and the firework show is still amazing. If you have not seen the show, the ground displays and the overall choreography to the music is impressive. The flower and ground displays at Butchart Gardens are a remarkable attraction, and the grounds clean, concessions and meals are fairly priced, and there is no charge for parking. I wonder whether Disney sends their people to see how Butchart Gardens does it – it is that good. The fireworks will continue to run every Saturday night up until September 3rd. If you can’t make it, put this on next year’s cruise list. You can still take your boat to Butchart Gardens year round and moor in Tod Inlet or even in one of the coveted moorings with stern-ties in Butchart Cove and enter through the boater’s gate.

Lopez IslandLyall Harbour, Saturna Island

Our last stop in B.C. and the Gulf Islands for the summer was Saturna Island and Lyall Harbour. Lyall Harbour is the opposite of Ganges. It is small, quiet, laid-back, relaxing, and the people are glad to have you visit. The government dock is small and located right next to the BC Ferry Terminal. There is no water or power on the dock, and the rates reflect it. You can pay the wharfinger, a pleasant woman named Katie who may come down from the pub to collect your moorage before she heads home to her husband and two young children, or in the honor box. She is proud to tell you that she is a 4th generation Saturna Island resident. You also have the option of anchoring in Lyall Harbour where there is plenty of room.

Onshore, the large building houses a store with all of the basics, as well as, ice cream, a bookstore, and an art gallery. There is also a bike shop with rentals, and a real estate office. Downstairs is the pub, and it is THE local favorite on the island. Good food and great company. It looks like a fun place to spend an evening. There is also a new kayak operation on the dock where you can rent kayaks or take a guided tour of the area.

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The next morning, consider taking a “hike” about 1/8 of a mile up the hill. On the left, you will see a pleasantly painted light green double-decker bus named Lucy. This is Wild Thyme, well-known for its organic coffee, bakery items, breakfasts, and lunches. The food is prepared with love, and you can dine out on the patio. It is very peaceful. If it is raining, climb the stairs and enjoy the upper level of the bus with the locals.

Point Roberts

Thanks to Kaiser Wilhelm I, when the decision was made in the 1800s on where the disputed border between the U.S. and Canada should be, a short stub of land in Canada became a U.S. territory called Point Roberts. To get there by car, you need to enter Canada at the Blaine border crossing and drive some 20 miles before heading south and then cross back into the US  by way of a U.S. Customs checkpoint. By boat, Point Roberts Marina offers an alternative destination to enter the U.S. and clear Customs. It is pretty straight forward. You can pull up to the customs dock and use the direct phone line at the top of the dock to report in, or call ahead from your cell phone to report in and arrange for a Customs agent to meet you at the dock. They drive over the border auto crossing to meet arriving boats for inspection. Whenever we have cleared in Point Roberts, it is faster and easier than clearing in Roche Harbor or Friday Harbor.

Point Roberts Marina has a fuel dock with snacks, a chandlery, a boat yard for repairs, and a newly remodeled restaurant, now called the Compass Rose Bar & Grill. The restaurant has a huge bar shaped like a boat, done in teak and holly. There are several rooms, one with large TVs for watching the latest sports events. There is also a meeting room that would be perfect for visiting yacht clubs or flotillas. A new star chef is arriving this week, and there will be a new menu.

Lopez Island

The buildings at Semiahmoo were originally part of a cannery.

Semiahmoo

Semiahmoo Resort is a destination worth visiting. It feels far away, and though on the border with Canada, it is only 30 miles north of Anacortes, Wa. For many, a trip to Blaine and Semiahmoo is about the same distance as a voyage to Roche Harbor. The payoff is a beautiful destination with a luxury hotel and a choice of two restaurants. If you boat in, a daily spa pass with pool privileges is available at the marina for $20 per person. Kids will enjoy the pool, and adults will like a day lazing next to the pool in the sun. There is also kayaking and bicycle rentals. Or, bring your golf clubs and play on two world-class Arnold Palmer designed golf courses as part of the resort. This resort is the type of place where you could bring another couple or two on the boat for a fun-filled weekend where you can stay on your boat, and your friends can stay in a beautiful hotel room. On the weekend, you can cross over on the classic ferry boat M/V Plover, or your tender, to the small town of Blaine for shopping and dining. Craving oysters? Sit out on the patio at the Drayton Harbor Oyster Company in Blaine and taste a few Drayton Bay oysters along with your favorite beverage.

Want to give Semiahmoo a try? We have arranged a Waggoner Guide Special with harbormaster Doug Romano, and the resort management, during September and October. Travel to the marina by boat, check-in and stay at the Semiahmoo Resort and Spa and you get two nights free moorage with 10% off the room rate, and 10% off store and cafe purchases.  Purchase fuel and they will knock $0.10 per gallon off their already low fuel prices. This package is limited to those arriving by boat. You could travel with another couple and have them stay in the hotel and qualify. Or, take your older kids, lets them stay on the boat and you stay in the hotel. When you reserve your slip at the marina, tell them you would like the Waggoner Guide Special. What’s the catch? Assuming you enjoy your stay – tell five boating friends.

Note: if you have been there before, there is a new buoy, R6, marking the shallows in front of the marina. It is still not shown on most chart plotters or charting software yet. When you round this area, you will see on your charts why this buoy was needed to mark the shoal areas.

 

Blaine Harbor

A stone’s throw (literally) from the Drayton Bay entrance is Blaine Harbor, run by the Port of Bellingham. When entering the narrow entrance, bear to starboard. Pass through fishing boats and their support docks. Keep going down the narrow fairway. When you see the perpendicular docks with the antique lights, that is the long and wide, side-tie visitors dock. It is a short walk into the town of Blaine to explore the restaurants and small shops.

Note: The 2016 Waggoner Cruising Guide indicates a fuel dock that was closed and removed earlier this year. You can purchase fuel at the Semiahmoo Marina.

 

Bellingham

Squalicum Harbor, also managed by the Port of Bellingham, is well protected, and the guest dock is all the way in and just in front of the several marina shops and charter company offices. The facilities are top notch, and you can always find something nautical to spend money on at LFS Marine & Outdoor, just a block away. For breakfast and lunch consider the “Web Locker” restaurant, a local favorite. Need to get out of the marina? The Port offers an on-demand shuttle van to take you downtown or for provisions. There are many sights to see and a wide range of restaurants and shops in this college town. Have kids aboard? Stop by the Marine Life Center over in the Port’s office building to learn more about the underwater life around the marina and in Puget Sound.

 

Matia Island

From the north, you can enter the San Juan Islands through Matia, Sucia or Patos Islands. All three are beautiful with hiking trails through striking sandstone sculptures, courtesy of thousands of years of Mother Nature’s work. Though it was not yet the end of August, the leaves were starting to change to golden yellow and orange above Rolfe Cove on Matia Island.

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Sucia Island

Sucia Island is popular, and on the weekends there will be hundreds of boats distributed amongst the six different mooring and anchoring areas. This State Park has mooring balls, limited dock space, and linear moorage. Consider stopping by during the week when it is much quieter, and you can have the mooring areas, trails, and views for yourself.

Lopez Island

The lighthouse on Active Cove on the Island of Patos looks out over Turn Point.

Patos Island

The red and white lighthouse at Active Cove on Patos Island is very dramatic. It signifies the uppermost corner of the continental United States. When you look across Turn Point, the next stop is British Columbia, Canada. There is one mooring ball this year and room to anchor just a few boats. A morning arrival for a choice spot is recommended.

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Lopez Island

With extreme caution, enter Fisherman’s Bay, some rocks have a well-established history of biting boats and a very shallow entrance. Last year, I approached on a minus tide, took one look at the very narrow entrance at low water, and decided to skip it. Most of the times it takes vigilance to carefully navigate the entrance. The Waggoner Cruising Guide shows how to do it.

For a place like Lopez, that calls itself sleepy, and nothing seems to change much, there were a few changes on this trip. Lopez Bicycle Works moved to the other side of the street and now has hundreds of bicycles for rent and quite a few kayaks, too. The Island is ideal for a bike ride or just use a bike to visit the village.

The Lopez Islander Resort Marina is the place to go if you want to enjoy their pool, pub or restaurant.

Islands Marine Center Marina also has dock space and a well-stocked chandlery for boat parts, gift items, and books, too.

Lopez Village is worth the 15-minute walk. Many of the old favorites are still there such as Bucky’s Lopez Island Grill and Holly B’s Bakery. The bakery has new owners, and their creations are as good as ever. For dinner, try Haven Kitchen & Bar. The grocery store is large and well-stocked for provisioning. When walking down the streets and roads, don’t forget to wave to passing cars. The drivers and passengers will already be waving to you. Everyone waves when they pass someone on Lopez.

The Lopez Island Studio Tour is set for Saturday and Sunday, September 3rd and 4th, with 23 studios and 30 artists on display.

Fall

The weather from the Pacific High that seemed to be stuck off the coast for the last six weeks broke with a few low-pressure systems that worked their way across the islands during the last week of August. While the rain is more than welcome, the dropping temperatures signal the approach of fall. Typically, there is still a lot of warm fall boating weather to enjoy the San Juan Islands or points north. We know more than a few boats that enjoy this time of year and travel to Desolation Sound where the crowds have thinned, and you can enjoy the natural beauty of this special cruising ground.

For us, we are off to Port Townsend for the Wooden Boat Festival, September 9-11. There will be over 200 boats on display, free seminars, food, drink, music and activities for the kids. While the WBF takes over Point Hudson Marina, visiting boats can stay in the Boat Haven or anchor out if the weather stays settled.

The Waggoner Cruising Guide will be featuring two special all day seminars with Nigel Calder for Electrical Troubleshooting on Wednesday, August 7th, and Diesel Troubleshooting on Thursday, August 8th. The courses are $125 each, and you can register by calling our office at 360-299-8500 to sign up.

Next, the Boats Afloat Show runs September 14-18 on Lake Union. If you are considering purchasing a boat, this is the place to go. Many who have decided to sell their boat do so at the end of the summer season. Buyers have the benefit of closing on their boat and doing the upgrades they desire over the winter months to be ready for the 2017 cruising season.

Enjoy the fall out on the water.

 

~Mark Bunzel

 

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