Leaving a "duration" note on your car dash - good idea or not?

cougarmeat

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Sep 17, 2012
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958
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Bend OR USA
Alex,
If you were going to do a circumnavigation of the San Juans (say from Orcas to Sucia/Patos, down to Stuart, back through Cattle Pass, across the south side of Orcas, up to Clark, and back to North Beach), how long would you feel comfortable leaving your car at North Beach? - 3 days, 5 days, 10 days?

I wonder if one of the kayak shops would take a little money just to take the car and park it in their area for the duration?

There is always this security issue - if I leave a note on the dashboard telling when I'll be back, people will know I haven't abandoned the car or ... met with a problem. But it also tells someone the vehicle will be "available" for that length of time.

Do you take any precautions when you leave the car for more than three days? Or do you just park it in an available slot with faith it will be there when you get back?

Once I tried overnight parking in the lot of the Day Use area at Deer Harbor. I figured "Day Use" meant no camping in the park (which it does), and I got the police (I called them) to agree that having the car overnight in the lot was not violating the Day Use restriction of the park.

But though I was cool with the authorities, I apparently was not cool with the locals; on my return, there were several notes on my windshield - with recommendations crafted with various degrees of politeness - protesting my stay. But it didn't go beyond note leaving.
 

alexsidles

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Jan 10, 2009
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Seattle WA
Paul,

Overnight parking is a nightmare in the San Juans. The guidebooks are no help, because most authors show parking without specifying whether it is overnight parking. The fact is, there just isn't much overnight parking available.

The North Beach road-end isn't posted with any parking rules. As such, I would presume that the default right-of-way parking rules apply. The San Juan County Code regarding abandoned, junk, and unauthorized vehicles, SJCC 10.20, provides that unauthorized vehicles may be impounded. "Unauthorized vehicles" has the same meaning and impoundment procedures in the SJCC as it does under state law, RCW 46.55.010(14), which provides that a vehicle left unattended in the public right-of-way may be tagged by the police, and then impounded 24 hours after tagging (unless the vehicle poses a traffic hazard, in which case it can be impounded immediately).

So I think the rule at North Beach is, you can park until someone calls the police on you, and then for 24 hours after that. The longest I've parked at North Beach is three nights in February 2017. I've also parked at North Beach for two nights on two other occasions, in January 2013 and September 2017. I've also parked at North Beach for one night on numerous occasions at all times of year. On no occasion did I ever get tagged by the police, or find a note from the locals, or encounter any other sort of parking enforcement problem. But you're definitely taking a risk parking for more than one night. I suspect they crack down harder during summer than they do in January or February!

I wouldn't worry about security in the San Juans. It's a very safe place. I still wouldn't leave a note at North Beach, though, because if any locals were inclined to object to your car's presence, the note would only confirm their worst suspicions. "Five days?! We'll see what the sheriff has to say about that!"

You could always pay to park at Brandt's Marina right next to North Beach.

[Edit:] Your itinerary sounds great. I recommend you find some way to camp on Sucia, even though it's right next to your launch beach. Patos is a really good island, but Sucia is something special.

Alex
 
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cougarmeat

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Bend OR USA
Alex, Thank you for your information. I know about several parking areas on Orcas including a "locals" parking spot giving access to Jones. So it's the duration, not the location that's the issue. I must have been lucky so far because I've never had a problem with staying up to 3 days. Sounds like it would help - in regard to abandonment - to notify the authorities if the vehicle will be in one place for a number of days. As you mentioned - there is no "restriction" at North Beach. The launch at Lieber Haven does (or did - it's been a while) have a posted 3-day limit. One could also launch from Doe Bay but the resort wants a launch fee and daily parking fee. There are three "free" spots at Deer Harbor - usually full - and I don't recall a duration on them (maybe 24 hours). You can also pay a launch and daily fee at Deer Harbor. The launch fee is worth it because they have a shower facility and Wash Down hose for your boat. But launch sites with daily "stay" fees can get expensive - though not in the same category as what you had to pay for your testing to get into Canada).

I've been to Sucia a couple of times - stayed there overnight once - and I agree that it's good for kids. But the timing is usually such that I don't want to stop there. The ideal would be to cross over at Slack before it turns to Ebb, giving you a free ride to Patos.

As a hammock camper, I run into two issues. First, trees are removed from a site for tents - required of course - but that just leaves trees on the perimeter with lots of underbrush. If the site designers would just extend the site perimeter a little more ... But with a little "checking it out" effort, I can usually find good spots. Usually, when wooden platforms are used in Canada, I've found that they leave some trees around the perimeter of the platform. I'm thinking of an idea setup on Rum Island. There are sites on Patos that are good too. This summer I'll get a portable "stand" and be free of the tree requirement. Second, most often picnic tables are not oriented between two trees so you can easily put up a line to suspend a tarp over the table. As I - and especially my companions - get older, it seems they make those tables heavier every year - if not actually staked down in one spot.
 
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