Shaw Island is the geographic center of the San Juan Islands and is 7.7 square miles with a permanent population of about 150, which better than doubles in the summer. Gunkholing on Shaw Island.
Shaw Island doesn’t have the busyness of Friday Harbor or the energy of Roche Harbor on San Juan Island, the elegance of Rosario on Orcas Island or the thousands of visitor like Sucia, Stuart and other islands in the archipelago. It simply offers peace and quiet, two small parks, and four anchorages.
The Tranquil Island of the San Juans – Gunkholing Shaw Island
Located on the east side of the island is Picnic Cove, a lovely nook with room for a couple of boats over good holding in 15 to 25-feet. Mooring buoys in the cove are private.
On the southern side of the island is Indian Cove is a delightful, half-mile-long, crescent-shaped cove. It is also the site of Shaw Island County Park, a 60-acre park, that covers the northwestern portion of the cove. The park’s long sand beach is one of the best in the islands, and low tides on sunny days produce water warm enough for wading. Tide pools make for endless exploration for both young and old.
Before setting the hook in 15 to 25-feet of water over a sand and shell bottom, I suggest dropping a couple of crab traps in the cove in hopes of some Dungeness crab.
Heading west from Indian Cove, less than 1.5-miles, is Point George and the serenity of beautiful Parks Bay. It’s about a half-mile long and a quarter-mile wide with the waters reflecting the deep green of the surrounding trees. Eagles soar on outstretched wings high above, while otters frolic in the water below. Herons stand on the rocky shores of the bay for hours on long, stick-like, waiting for a snack to swim past. Although there’s room for a number of boats, we’ve never seen more than eight at a time. Visitors in Parks Bay tend to be quiet, absorbing the tranquil mood.
The only drawback to Parks Bay is the lack of public tidelands. The entire shore is posted “Scientific Research Area, Positively no trespassing on tidelands or uplands and no dogs.” It’s a University of Washington Biological Preserve, and if you have kids or a dog that need a shore run, this is not the place to anchor.
Heading north is Wasp Passage, a narrow pass about 2-miles long, where Washington State ferries, other boat traffic, and strong currents may be encountered. Currents in the Passage may exceed 2.5 knots. Broken Point on Shaw Island marks the eastern entrance to Wasp Passage, and lovely Blind Bay lies approximately 1.5-miles to the southeast.
The entrance to Blind Bay can be on either the east or west side of Blind Island, using caution as both sides are rock-strewn. The preferred entrance is east of Blind Island, keeping west of the charted mid-channel rock marked by the remains of a navigational aid.
The rock dries at 3-foot tide and lies about 150 yards southeast of the Blind Island. Blind Bay is approximately .5 miles wide, with a depth of 12 to 20-feet throughout, except for 24 to 36-feet just south of Blind Island.
Blind Bay is another spot you might want to try your luck and drop a crab trap.
Blind Island Marine Park is a 3-acre jewel located in the middle of the bay’s entrance. The island’s rocky shore has pocket beaches on the east and west side where a dinghy can land. There are four mooring buoys and room to anchor south of the island.
From the park, the views look across Harney Channel to Orcas Island and West Sound, and east to Mount Baker.
A visit to Blind Bay would not be complete without a dinghy ride over to Shaw Landing to visit the general store. Since 1924 there’s been a store at the Landing. The wood-floored store carries deli, bakery and hardware items, wine and beer, gifts, provisions including dairy products, fresh produce, and seasonal fruits and veggies from local sources.
Shaw Island isn’t a terribly exciting island, but sometimes that’s just the way we like it.