San Juans sunset.JPG

Trip Report    

Sea Kayak - San Juan Islands from Anacortes

A relaxing and fun 5 days of bright sunshine in our beautiful San Juan Islands! Photo credit: Terry Jaret

  • Road suitable for all vehicles


    GUEMAS CHANNEL EAST: S @ 1054 / +3.4 @ 1401 / GREEN PT:  S @ 1045 / +3.4 @ 1330 / S @ 1819 / SHANNON PT: -3.2 @ 0659 / S @ 1104 / +2.3 @ 1455/ STRAWBERRY: -5.4 @ 0736 / S @ 1121 / +3.8 @ 1431/ PEAPOD ROCKS : -4.0 @ 0735 / S @ 1126 / +3.5 @1502


    PEAPOD ROCKS: -4.2 @ 0812 / S @ 1201 / +4.2 @ 1543 /  LAWRENCE PT: -2.4 @ 0818 / S@ 1206 / +3.3 @ 1550 / CLARK ISLAND: -2.1 @ 0830 / S @ 1209 / +2.7 @1624


    CLARK ISLAND: -2.1 @ 0948 / S @ 1336 / +3.1 @ 1753

    06/26/21 SAT: CLARK TO ANACORTES,  15 NM

    CLARK ISLAND: S@ 0557 / -2.0 @ 1028 / S @ 1428 / TOWHEAD ISLAND: S @ 0751/ -.07 @ 0941 / S @1210 / BELLINGHAM CHANNEL: S @ 0432 / -5.2 @ 1003 / S @ 1358 / +5.1 @ 1755/ GUEMAS CHANNEL: -3.2 @ 0934

    06/24/21 SUNRISE/SET: 0509 / 2116

06/22/21 TUE – ANACORTES TO DOE ISLAND, 10 NM I arrived at the WA Park boat launch about 11:30.  Michael Everett’s team was already there and I was greeted by Karen Chriswell after I dropped my first load off.  We were joined by Laura Predmore and Kevin Bulley stopped by to say hi.  Terry showed up next and we got the boats down.  I kept thinking we were on the ebb as usual and my noodles kept floating away.  I finally had to get in the boat and chase one down that cleared the dock.  I was almost finished packing when Ed showed up.   The others left ahead of us and headed for Pelican Beach on the east side of Cypress so no chance to paddle with them a bit.  We launched at 1315 after a short huddle.  We headed west until about ½ an hour later when we were halfway across.  Then we paddled out a bit more, turning eventually to get to the buoy.  I was headed straight forward to it for once and then Terry got in the way.  Ed was able to smack it with his paddle.  We all did a U-turn and went back to kiss it.  I think by then there was about 3 knots of current around it.  We continued on to Strawberry, arriving at 1425.  I stayed with the boats while the others roamed.  We left about 20 minutes later, going up the east side in the quick current.  I hopped in the continuing outside current, heading towards Tide Pt where we turned left and headed across the shipping lane.  Predictably we hit the back eddy and I soon found we had turned north towards the island too soon.  As I approached Doe I could see where the current was pushing me east away from it and I had to set a hard ferry angle, arriving at 1535.  So we averaged 5 knots.  I’d brought extra bags so although I had to make extra trips to the usual campsite it was an easier carry.  Terry had a new bear canister so Ed and I hung our own food.  It wasn’t too long that I had changed and was eating my wrap and Pringles at my viewspot, later joined by Terry and Ed.  The wind came up from the south and the water changed dramatically.  We stayed until it turned chilly and I put on another layer and walked up to the pay station, using the spotless potty while I was there.  We were the only ones on the island and it felt a little strange.  But I could get used to it. Even start a trend.  =) We sat at the table while Ed cooked and ate but the wind was chilly so eventually I moved down to the beach for a bit.  It was about 9:30 when I got into the tent and read a bit.  I had taken 3 ibuprofen so was able to get to sleep.  06/23/21 WED – DOE ISLAND TO MATIA ISLAND, 10 NM It had gotten damp with a marine layer during the night and I didn’t get up until 9:15.  The layer was already burning off.  We wound up launching at 1445 once the water had risen to the point for us to clear the rocks.  By then it was all sunny and getting hot.  We did the circ first and then headed out into the chattering water in front of the island (nothing like last year!)  What can be a slog in the a.m. turned out to be a pleasant stretch riding the currents, dodging the whirlpools and moving at a good pace out into the channel.  Once clear of the mess at Lawrence Pt we turned left after getting Clark on my left shoulder. The water chattered from time to time and as we approached The Sisters in front of Clark we saw a party of 10 kayaks on our left.  We never got close enough to say hi and we soon were well past them and at the north end of the island before they appeared at the south end, heading for the beach.  We paused for a snack as we drifted along about 2 knots. It wasn’t long after we got about halfway across the channel to Matia that it was like hitting a wall.  The water flattened out, the wind had dropped, the sun was hot and things were turning into a slog again.  Speiden was barely moving and I couldn’t seem to get shot of Orcas. Looking at the chart now about ½ mile below Puffin you hit a ledge that goes from 55 to 22 fathoms with one spot at 9.  The water seemed to reverse itself and there were times that when I stopped paddling I got pushed south.  We were definitely in a strong back eddy when we reached Puffin.  It was frustrating and annoying and it continued for most of the east side of Matia.  While that rocky side is interesting it seemed to take a long time to get around it before finally turning the corner and sliding past the rocky island at the mouth of the pretty cove.   There were three boats at the dock and two others anchored away from it but no kayakers anywhere.  Terry had taken the same campsite as last year.  There was a power boater in one next door.  A huge fir tree had broken and fallen across the campsite during the winter. It was cut up in large pieces and lined the outside of the campsite.  I would love to have some slices from it in my yard…. The sun was hot but still felt good as I went to the dock to sit and read later.  We talked until about 9:30 around the table and then I got in my tent. 

06/24/21 THU – NO PADDLE DAY The sun was out when I got up around 10:30.  The really nice thing about this campsite is that it is a cleared spot and circled with trees so the tents are almost always in some shade.   It was pleasant in the tent and so nice to have a day off to be lazy, read, nap, snack and not have to think about anything more than what I wanted for dinner and when to eat it.   Ed asked if he could do a circ of the island and I told him to knock himself out.  There are no fires allowed on Matia. There was clearly a party boat pulled up on the dock but Terry said they hauled out as I was getting in my tent around 9:00. 

06/25/21 FRI – MATIA ISLAND TO CLARK ISLAND, 5 NM We had a soft 1100 launch but wound up leaving at 1020. The sun was out, it was crystal clear with a nice 7-8 knot NNW breeze, creating a few white caps and 0-1+’ wind waves. We went around the little island at the mouth of the cove first.  The current was running strong from the east so I moved over as close as I could get to the rocky shores.  That island is impossible to land on with a boat and you’d have to be a desperate swimmer willing to get cut up to crawl out on and up those rocks.  I wouldn’t be surprised that some have in that islands’ history.  We went around it and then through the rips between it and the point to go down the pretty east side of Matia.  There were a couple of small, shallow coves and then at the bottom a larger one that had two sailboats in it.  We think one was the party boat.  We waited for the other one to pass by and the nice couple thanked us; they were on their way to Pelican.  We passed by The Sister and I set myself at about a 45 degree angle with my bow pointed at what looks like a farm on Lummi.  I only had to make mostly corrective strokes in the following seas and basically ferried straight down to the north tip of Clark.  It was a pleasant and almost effortless journey in vivid contrast to the northern one. We were pulling up in the middle of the beach about 90 minutes later.   The forecast was for around 90’ so shade was our priority.  We got out and checked out a few of the beach sites before deciding on one that I think we had last year or next to it in the middle.  Two rangers appeared in a boat with a weed whacker and a rake.  I chatted with the raker; he started working for the summer season two weeks ago and getting a lot of boat driving seems to be a highlight.  They both declined an offer of water.  I don’t know if they stayed two hours so they worked fast.  The tide was way out so I didn’t hurry to unload.  Ed and I were sitting on a log in the shade having a snack when he noticed that there are peas growing on the bunch of flowers in front of us!  They must be leftovers from some campers.  He id’d on his phone a pretty bush that a little robin kept coming by to visit as a Twinberry Honeysuckle.  It has light to medium green leaves with brilliant dark red flowers kind of like fuchsias with small, smooth almost black berries. The info was that the berries weren’t very good to eat but the robin didn’t seem to think so.  Ed and Terry wanted to do a figure 8 of Clark and Barnes and so took off soon after kindly hauling my now empty boat up for me. I sat in the cool shade of some trees and bushes and ate a cheese bagel, crackers and drank a lot of water and juice.  I set up my tent on the shingle (we all did) using driftwood pegs and weighing them down with my empty drybags buried with the gravel.  It took a long time for the tide to come up the shallow beach.  It eventually maxed around 9:00 about 5 feet from my boat.  Her bow was almost touching my tent flap so that would have made it about 20 feet away. Later in the evening I walked up to use the bathroom and then followed the short trail to the other side of the island and its beautiful long sandy beach.  All of the islands looked like that before power boats and especially shipping lanes. The beach used to allow camping but now only boats are allowed to be moored there.  Somehow that doesn’t seem fair but oh well. Afterwards I walked a bit of the trail through the campsites to the south end where I sat on a rock, watching the water move and admiring the scenery.  You cans see all the way to Anacortes.  The water was moving in an odd way, rippling in seemingly two directions before hitting the rocky shore below; it was kind of weird.  You can’t pull up any boats there so the only way to use those campsites is to hoof your stuff from our beach to them and that’s a long haul.  Campfires and gathering wood is allowed on Clark and Ed gathered a good size load and we burned some trash after dinner.   

06/26/21 SAT – CLARK ISLAND TO ANACORTES, 15 NM It was predictably getting hot in the tent as soon as the sun came up. I got up around 6:30.  Terry had already gone for a walk and gotten some pictures.  He reported a group of otters off the southern rocks. I had my last scone and a fruit bar for breakfast.  It was easy to pack the boat; I just threw the bags down on the beach as I got them filled back up.  I don’t mind dragging an empty boat on gravel and it wasn’t a long haul to the water.  This was the first time I had to swim in the drysuit BEFORE packing the boat. There was only an occasional welcome whisper of wind that came from the north again.  It was 0820 when we launched, heading straight east towards Lummi and gradually shifting our course as we rapidly approached Sinclair Island.  We were well right of the buoy this time but it didn’t matter….the water barely rippled, let alone chattered as we passed the western shore of the island.  The current predictably quickened and it wasn’t long before I was taking a hard ferry angle to the northern corner of the first of the Cone Islands.  I could have kept sitting there, surfing the wave but wasn’t able to get around the west side.  Ed had circled from the east side and Terry was waiting for us on the other side.  Nobody had to get out so I drifted with the current through the area between the islands.  This may well be my favorite spot in the San Juans.  If it isn’t a wildlife sanctuary it should be.  The birds fly around and likely nest in the trees undisturbed, power boats don’t go in there and it is left to the seals all over the rocks.  They vacated as we approached though.   It was a rapid and easy paddle the short distance to Cypress Head with Ed and I to the right and Terry on the outside as we approached the little cove that had two boats moored in it.  Terry had to work a little to avoid getting swept around the head.  We hauled out at 1000 to sit in the shade and have a snack on one of the logs. While there are nice campsites up on the hill (I’m not sure if you can camp on the beach) you can’t win on the launch/landing on either side of the spit on low tide.  The south side is one long mud flat and the north side has some nasty rocks that go way out too.  It wasn’t too bad yet though and we spent ½ an hour there, part of it watching a paddle boarder that managed to avoid getting swept in the current and returned to one of the boats.  We saddled up at 1030, jumped in the current and spent a gleeful few minutes whipping around in the currents and whirlies off the head before making a south angle five plus thumbs left of the clearly defined WA Park boat launch.  The current continued to do its job, sweeping us west as we ferried across.  There was only one chattery part as we crossed the main current and few boat wakes.  For once we didn’t have to wait for a ferry!  We hit the shore at 1115.  I think that is the fastest crossing we have made down Guemas! I was amazed to see empty parking spaces but they filled before we could get our cars down from the overnight lot.  There was a boat trailer with its tires in the mud past the end of the ramp and from the long faces it wasn’t hard to tell whose boat it was.  They were going to be stuck there, blocking that side of the boat ramp for hours so using  one of the slings we hauled our boats up on it to unload.  It was already very hot and there were few people around; they must have stayed indoors or are saving themselves for next weekend which is July 4th.  We moved our cars to the regular boat ramp, parking along the side above it to load up.  Ed left before we had a post trip huddle and it was too hot to have one anyway.  Terry followed me to the day use parking where I finished tying my boat down in the shade and then we left for the Skagit Bay Brew Pub.  Except that it isn’t that anymore.   The menu offered burgers, sandwiches, fish and chips and when I asked the waiter where the ribs were she said that as of six weeks ago they have new owners who don’t brew, BBQ or offer pizza.  We had to wait a long time to order and my food wasn’t worth the price. Another institution gone, likely killed by the pandemic.  Right before Terry’s exit a freeway message advised getting off on 405 because of heavy Seattle congestion (lanes had been shut down with accidents) so I had to get on the hated 405 which crawled a bit with wrecks of its own.  I got home around 4:30 and got out of the car to immediately go water my poor flowers.  It was 100’ by the evening! Good teamwork from all members with excellent group dynamics.