Suffering from a bad case of cabin fever, Arlene and I were in serious need of a spring boat trip, but the weather was predicted for more of the same – overcast sky, 20 to 25 kt. wind. So, with a few hours of break in the wind, we jumped aboard Easy Goin’ and set a course for West Sound Marina, Orcas Island – one of our favorite little San Juan Island hide-a-ways. We didn’t need all the amenities that Friday Harbor or Roche Harbor offer, but we did want to be able to walk to some rural island roads for some badly needed exercise and an excellent meal at West Sound Cafe.
West Sound Marina’s attraction:
- Full-service marina
- Relaxing environment
- Plenty of rural roads to walk
- Good eats
West Sound Marina on Orcas Island
A majority of boaters cruise past West Sound on their way to other places in the San Juan and Gulf Islands. But, West Sound is one of those interesting areas that has plenty to offer when you know where to look.
West Sound Marina is on the northeast shoreline in the lee of Picnic Island. Built in 1950, little has changed, and that’s the way we like it. Owned and operated by the Wareham family, this small marina offers permanent moorage for about 180 boats and a 200-foot guest dock. The north side of the guest dock is reserved for boats less than 30-feet because of the tight quarters. The south side is for larger boats, and we found 9-feet of depth on a zero tide.
The marina also offers a fuel dock, pump-out, and a well-stocked chandlery. The cell phone service and Wi-Fi are spotty, but that’s part of the appeal, allowing you to check out and escape from the rat race.
If you need a boat repair, you’re in luck. In addition to a 30-ton hoist, skilled mechanics are on-hand to address anything from a quick repair to a major overhaul.
The approach to the guest moorage is a bit tricky but should be successfully accomplished by all but the careless and clueless.
Picnic Island is immediately south of the marina, and arriving boats must stay far off the drying reef on the west side of the island and stay close to the guest moorage dock to avoid a protruding rock edge on the island’s north side. A properly scaled chart, work depth sounder, conscious plan and sharp eye will be useful here.
Take a Stroll
The one thing the area has to offer is options for stretching your sea legs. The roads offer a variety of sites – some beautiful and others intriguing. On a walk along the bay, you will see herons, loons, and otters. On the roads leading inland, you’ll discover pasture land, old cabins, and windmills. If you are feeling energetic follow the Deer Harbor Road north along the water to the Turtle Back Mountain trail head then up the trail to the lookout, the view is worth the effort.
While out walking on our last visit we spotted a flock of peacocks wandering alongside the road. No one knows where they came from, they just appeared about four years ago and have become residents of West Sound. They have even been seen in the marina and out on the docks.
Taste of the Islands
A pleasant 10-minute walk around the bay is the historic Kingfish Inn and West Sound Cafe. The small and popular cafe is a local gathering place and can be crowded, so reservations are recommended.
The interior is warm and inviting, with exposed wood walls and wooden tables. Baskets of flowers hang on the porch. During the warmer months, outdoor seating overlooking the water is available. The menu has plenty of variety, including sockeye salmon, half-pound cheeseburgers, fish and chips, and pork tacos. Also popular are the portabella mushroom burgers and the calamari. We enjoyed their steamed clams.
If you prefer not to walk to the cafe, launch the tender and motor across the bay to the county dock, which is for day use only, and the Kingfish Inn is conveniently located up the dock and across the road.
We find the quiet marina to be a perfect location to cure the cabin fever – kick back, enjoy a good book and take in the surrounding view and breathtaking sunsets.