Monthly Archives: October 2013

San Juan Islands: Hiking Moran State Park

View from the top of mount constitution

View from the top of Mount Constitution.

If you want to get off your boat and do some exploring during your charter, Moran State Park is a can’t-miss stop! Located on Orcas Island, the park was donated to the State of Washington by Seattle Shipbuilder Robert Moran in 1921. Moran is also the original owner of the historical Rosario Resort, previously a single-family home, located near the entrance to the park. (The resort is another must-see site on Orca’s Island. You can read about it in our previous blog post.)

Within Moran State Park, the trails, roads, bridges, and buildings were all built by the Civilian Conservation Corps during the 1930’s using native materials, making this park both a historical and natural wonder of Orca’s Island. The park boasts over 30 miles of hiking trails as well as the highest point in the San Juan Islands, Mount Constitution. On a clear day, the view from the top of the 2,409 ft. mountain is spectacular. The Cascade and Olympic Mountain Ranges, all of the San Juan Islands as well as Vancouver Island are all sites that may be visible from the top. Visitors can walk, bike, or drive to the summit, making it an accessible stop for everyone on your charter. Visitors can also swim, fish, or rent a paddleboat at Cascade Lake, located at the base of Mt. Constitution. Recently, the San Juan preservation trust received another land donation from a generous Orca’s Island family. The donated land is adjacent to Moran State Park and will allow visitors access to Moran State Park’s first saltwater beach. This area is accessible via hiking trails, and also contains a historic lime kiln, a nod to the area’s original industry.

For those staying at Rosario Resort a short (but steep) trail leads up to Cascade Lake.  The resort map shows where the trail starts.  For those needing a good leg stretch after a day aboard, a hike around Cascade Lake and back is perfect, and at around 90 minutes it is short enough to sneak in between arrival and dinner.

Here is a video link to the View from Mount Constitution from Bowser F on Vimeo.

Rosario Resort & Spa


Photo by Jared Cruce

A popular and easy-to-access destination during your charter is Rosario Resort, located on Cascade Bay on Orca’s Island. This historical resort was originally a mansion built by Seattle ship engineer Robert Moran. Moran moved to Seattle from New York City with naught but a dime in his pocket, and pulled himself up by his bootstraps to become part owner of Seattle’s largest ship-repair company by 1902. By 1904, due to the stress of business, Moran was in poor health and was given only a few years to live. He purchased 7,000 acres on Orca’s Island, which was uninhabited at the time, and built himself a massive and elegant mansion. The design of the mansion is a nod to Moran’s nautical past and his appreciation of the natural world. Guests can take a self-guided tour of the magnificent mansion and the museum on the upper floors, eat at the Mansion Restaurant, or indulge in a massage at the unique, turn-of-the-century spa. On Saturdays at 4 p.m., pianist Christopher Peacock gives a presentation in which he shares stories of Rosario’s history and plays the Steinway and pipe organ. Admission is free, and this performance comes highly recommended from San Juan Sailing and Yachting staff.

Surrounded by the natural beauty of Cascade Bay and his beloved custom mansion, Robert Moran’s health turned around and he lived with his family until 1943. Rosario Resort is sure to have the same soothing effect on all of its visitors.

There is a 36 slip marina, fuel dock and eight mooring buoys available in Cascade Bay. Due to heavy summer traffic, all boats in the harbor area wishing to use moorage facilities at Rosario Resort need to contact “Rosario Harbormaster” by VHF radio on channel 78A prior to entering the marina.

Are you ready for a San Juan Islands and Victoria Flotilla?


Victoria Inner Harbor

Pack your bags and your passport and be prepared to be wowed by the beauty, charm and history on our Victoria and Salish Sea Flotilla.

Starting May 29 through June 7, this San Juan Islands guided vacation takes you on a tour of the San Juan Islands while stopping at various points to explore, hike and play along the way. You’ll be guided by San Juan Sailing owners Roger and Marlene Van Dyken during this incredible voyage.

Let’s take a look at where we’ll be stopping and what adventures you can enjoy along the way.

Sucia  Island – Our first stop on our flotilla, it’s a chance to visit a somewhat desolate island, which is also a state park. A bonfire will likely be in store at night, after a day of sailing and exploring.

San Juan Island – From there, we’ll travel to San Juan Island to visit Friday Harbor and Roche Harbor Resort. Friday Harbor really captures the spirit of what the San Juan Islands are all about. Most people who live there were visitors who never left, so it’s a friendly community that welcomes visitors with open arms. Since it’s the commercial center of the San Juan Islands, there are plenty of things to do. Eateries, excursions or just touring the town and island, which you can by foot, it’s a good place to jump off.

Vancouver Island – For those who visit the San Juans without ever crossing to Vancouver Island, sorry, but you’re missing out. There’s so much to do on Vancouver Island, it’s really the gem of flotilla. From visiting the Empress Hotel and Government Hall, to touring the magnificent Butchart Gardens, this lively port town is a place where, after visiting, you might want to make your own vacation there.

Salt Spring Island – We’ll be stopping by this Canadian Gulf Island and the city Ganges. There is an outstanding outdoor market, filled with artists and farmers selling their goods. Salt Spring Island is one of the most populated islands of the Canadian Gulf Islands, so there are numerous restaurants, shops, and other things you would expect from the largest town on an island of 10,000 people.

After that, we make our way back to Bellingham. It’s an incredible adventure each year, with something new to explore and do each time. For more information and how to join the flotilla, contact San Juan Sailing at 360-671-4300.

San Juan Islands Lighthouses


San Juan Islands Lighthouses

There is a nostalgia surrounding lighthouses. They are cloaked in history, and speak to us of dedication, stormy nights at sea and dangers avoided. The San Juan Islands are ringed by five light houses, indicated on the adjacent map. You may have sailed past them before, perhaps given them a glance of respect for the service they provide you as a mariner, but do you know their stories?

Let’s take a look at these lighthouses and the histories behind them.


Patos Island Lighthouse

Patos Island Lighthouse – The northern-most lighthouse in Washington, Patos Island Lighthouse is just past Sucia Island on the Northwest point of Patos Island. The lighthouse began operation in 1893 but the current light tower was built in 1908. It was manned until 1974 when the light was automated. The Patos light was built to serve as a navigational guide to ships traveling to and from Vancouver and Nanaimo, through the straight of Georgia and Boundary Pass. Helene Glidden wrote a book called “The Light on the Island,” which was inspired by her life on Patos as daughter of the light keeper. Her father Edward, her mother, and her 12 siblings lived on Patos from 1905 to 1913 while Edward served as lighthouse keeper. For more history, click here.


Turn Point Lighthouse

Turn Point Lighthouse – This lighthouse, located on the northwest point of Stuart Island, recently became part of the San Juan Islands National Monument. It was built in 1893 and had 9 keepers before it was automated in 1974. The light, at the aptly named Turn Point, marks the turning point for those entering/exiting the north end of Haro Straight. In 1897 the keeper and assistant keeper were awarded special citations for their roles in rescuing the tug “Enterprise,” which had gone aground on the rocks. The fog signal at Turn Point was originally powered by a steam engine. It was upgraded to an oil engine in 1899 to give it more “oomph.” For more information, click here.



Lime Kiln Lighthouse

Lime Kiln Lighthouse – This is the newest lighthouse in Washington, established in 1914. Located on the western side of San Juan Island, it was established to watch over Haro Strait in response to several large vessel groundings that occurred at nearby Kellett Bluff. The Lime Kiln Lighthouse was named after the nearby kilns used to turn island limestone into lime for use in mortar. Its light was automated in 1962 but the two original keeper dwellings still house personnel at Lime Kiln State Park. For more information, click here.



Cattle Point Lighthouse

Cattle Point Lighthouse – This lighthouse is the southern-most of all the lighthouses in the San Juan Islands, and the second one located on San Juan Island. It watches over the south end of Haro Straight. In use since 1888, the Navy actually installed a radio compass station there in 1921 and took over management of the light until the compass station was closed in 1935. At that point the current structure was built. Here’s a fun fact: in 1984 the tower was used in the backdrop of an Exxon commercial. For more facts about the lighthouse, click here.




Burrows Island Lighthouse

Burrows Island Lighthouse – Located on the westernmost tip of Burrows Island, this light was built in response to several shipwrecks on nearby Dennis Shoal and Lawson Reef. It benefits mariners traveling between Rosario Strait and the Strait of Juan de Fuca. The tower stands 34-feet high and its first lighting took place in April 1906. The light’s range reaches over 10 miles. It was automated in 1972. For more information, click here.




When you’re island hopping through the San Juan Islands this summer, keep an eye out for these beautiful lighthouses. If it’s dark out, they won’t be hard to find.

The lighthouse photos listed are courtesy of the great site, Lighthouse Friends.

Get in touch with nature on Lopez Island

Known as the Friendly Isle because of its pleasant residents, Lopez Island is a 15-mile stretch of land that boasts nearly 65 miles of shoreline. To say it is a beach vacationer’s paradise would be an understatement. However, Lopez Island has a lot more to offer than beach combing. The island is a mix of forest and farmland, where peaceful bays and beaches mingle and the spectacular Cascade and Olympic mountains loom in the distance. Those who live here most likely know about all the wonderful attractions and treasures in Lopez Island, but for visitors, discovering all there is to see and do is part of the fun.

Spencer Spit

Spencer Spit State Park


Those looking for natural beauty need not look further than Spencer Spit State Park, a 138-acre marine park on the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Known for crabbing and clamming, Spencer Spit offers visitors a host of amenities, including groceries and kayak and bike rentals. There are several miles of hiking trails and beaches, perfect for bird watching, bonfires and wildlife viewing. A junior ranger is on site from Memorial Day through Labor Day to educate interested visitors in the natural history of the area.  For boaters Spencer Spit offers state park mooring buoys and good holding ground for anchorage.

Other locations not to be missed include a trip to Shark Reef Sanctuary, a low impact nature area that provides an opportunity to see nature up close on a pristine bit of land. Named after a nearby reef, this spot is perfect for seeing orcas, seals, and sea birds, as well as trail hiking and biking, though camping and fires are not permitted. A short walk brings visitors to the main part of the park, where rocky cliffs overlook the water and offer expansive views of the San Juan Channel and the Islands.

When you’ve had your fill of outdoor activities and it’s time to relax with a glass of wine or a meal, head to Lopez Village.  There you will find the Lopez Island Vineyards tasting room as well as a surprisingly wide variety of eateries.  Some of our favorites include The Bay, Vortex Cafe, and The Love Dog Cafe.  If you are looking for a tasty meal on the south end of Lopez Island give the Southend General Store and Cafe a try.

Watmough Bay, on southeast Lopez Island.

Watmough Bay, on southeast Lopez Island.

Spend Your Summer Days Care-free in Friday Harbor

Friday Harbor

Friday Harbor

There is so much to do in Friday Harbor during the summer that visitors may have a hard time fitting everything in! Charter guests looking for a memorable visit can rent a kayak, bike or moped and see the village from a unique perspective. With hundreds of shops and museums to browse and enjoy, getting around can be half the fun! For those who want to take in some of the area’s natural splendor, enjoy a whale watching tour, go birding, or take a leisurely hike.

Things to do this summer in Friday Harbor include:

Friday Harbor Farmer’s Market – The Pacific Northwest is very proud of our fresh, local foods, and San Juan Island is no exception. Every Saturday from spring through fall just a couple blocks from the harbor, the island’s abundance is celebrated. Island-grown fruits and vegetables, meat, eggs and dairy, shellfish, seafood, artisan goods, crafts and more are available from 10 a.m. until 1 p.m.

Whale Watch By Plane and Boat – Located near the Friday Harbor ferry terminal, San Juan Safaris Whale Watching & Wildlife Tours is known for respectful wildlife viewing. The company provides high-quality, small-group size whale watching & wildlife tours. Fast, 55-foot ferries take guests right to the best viewing spots in the San Juans. Guests can also participate in a Whale Plane Package, which includes sightseeing via seaplane and a whale watching tour.

Kayak Tours – Outdoor Odysseys Kayak Tours offer beginners and experienced paddlers alike a chance to observe orca whales, porpoise, harbor seals, bald eagles and other wildlife at eye level. Other viewing attractions include breathtaking views of the Olympic Mountains, lighthouses and intertidal sea life.

Libations and Atmosphere – Visit the Westcott Bay Cider/San Juan Distillery in Friday Harbor to sample locally crafted and brewed cider, made in an Adrian copper still from Germany. Using Pacific Northwest apples, the distillery makes apple brandy with a crisp, English-style flavor. The San Juan Vineyards, also located in Friday Harbor, is a winery, vineyard, tasting room, and gift shop.

There’s always a reason to celebrate in Friday Harbor! Come be a part of the fun all summer long!