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San Juan Island to Portland/Rum/Sidney/D'Arcy


Jan 17, 2021
Portland, Or
Hi Team West Coast Paddlers,

It's that time of year again when my son and I will hit the water. Below is the proposed and mostly cemented itinerary:
Monday Aug 22nd: Friday Harbor to Jones Island
Tuesday: Jones Island to Stuart Island (Prevost Harbor)
Wednesday: Stuart to Portland Island (shell beach looks like best bet given timing) via S. Pender Check in at Bedwell Harbor
Thursday: Portland I. to Rum, if full, we'll move south to Sidney I. (I reservied a site just in case)
Friday: On to D'Arcy Island, with potential pit stop at Island view to see cousins
Saturday: Cross Haro Strait to San Jaun County Park.

I've scoured John Kimantas' books and looked closely at the trip reports in this region. I'm super stoked to get there. Are there any "pay attention" areas beyond "rips" and "ferry routes" that I should take note of or, you must stop on this beach just for the view?

Never ever am I looking for your secret beach or proprietary fun zones. Just looking for thoughts on things to look for while on the trip.

Hope everyone is well, and I'll look for you if you there when we are.

On Stuart Island, the hike out to the lighthouse is not to be missed. Along the way, you’ll get a glimpse of real island living, including the one-room schoolhouse.

On Jones Island, the nicest campsites are in the large, southern cove, out on the enclosing arms of the bay, especially the western arm. On a Monday, you should have your pick of sites, but if there’s a crowd, you can proceed to the two kayakers-only sites on the west side of the island.

Great itinerary, don’t forget to post a trip report here when you get back!

On Rum Island, look for the Pirate's chest.
It's been a few years now that I was there, but the chest was hidden in a mini cave (no heroic rock climbing needed)
It was like a geocache where you could sign a book, and take, or leave something. A small bottle of Rum would be suitable :)
On Rum Island, look for the Pirate's chest.
It's been a few years now that I was there, but the chest was hidden in a mini cave (no heroic rock climbing needed)
It was like a geocache where you could sign a book, and take, or leave something. A small bottle of Rum would be suitable :)

Wow! I've been to Rum several times and had no idea this existed. A good excuse to go there again soon.
It seems unusual to start on the San Juan Island and cross over to Jones, then go back to cross Speiden Channel to Stuart. Many people leave from Rueben Tarte on the San Juan Island, head north, and cross there. I'm guessing you're a "walk-on" on the ferry and have to cross over to Jones for a place to stay for the night,

Though the south end of Jones is considered the kayakers' side and the north is the Yachty's side - I've never had a problem on the north side. Most of the boaters stay on their boat; the compost toilets seem cleaner. There is also a WWTA camp on the West bank of Jones.

On Stuart. I much prefer the bluff over the northern "sailboat" side (Prevost Harbor) than the dark or barren, left and right side of the beach at the end of Reid Harbor (the Kayakers' side). Check 'em both - there's a trail connecting the two - out so you know which you prefer on your next visit. At the saddle between the two, almost at the Prevost Harbor kiosk, there's a trail heading up a hill on your right (facing north). I've been told there's a site up there that Guides like. I've never checked it out because once I land on Stuart I'm too tuckered out to do anything but set up camp as close to where I landed as practical.

Along the road to the Stuart Light House, by the old school. there's a display of tee-shirts and hoodies. Samples - to try on for sizing - are on a line and New shirts, in plastic wrappers, on in the trunks. So you decide on the size/style you want from the samples, then get a new one out of the trunk. It's an honor system - there are instructions for payment once you get back to the mainland. And it's an honor to have a "Stuart Island" logo'd item. You can't buy them in stores; you have to earn them by paddling over there.

Most important is doing your homework on the currents for crossing from the San Juan island over to Spieden and back later. I usually (twice) cross near the narrowest point (north of Rueben Tarte) and go behind Spieden, along the northern shore. On return, I may have to wait at the point on Johns Island for favorable current - but that's because I'm coming from Prevost on the north side of Stuart.

You can check www.deepzoom.com and other sources for current flow but it looks like you'll want about a 7 am to 1 pm window in order for the current to be your friend on the way to the San Juan County Park.
Hi Everyone, Thank you for the comments.

@alexsidles: I'll be sure to post the trip when we get back. You set the standard so I'll try my best.
@WaterSpider: I love it. I'll take something special to leave for the next visitor.
@cougarmeat: You are correct; we are walking on. Last year we did the seven day paddle from Anacortes to SJ County park. This year we are skipping ahead with a ferry assist.

I almost forgot the most important part: make your ferry reservations right now. Washington State ferries makes reservations available in three tranches: one prior to the start of the season (already long passed), another two weeks prior to the sailing date (which is today for your August 22 Anacortes to Friday Harbor outbound leg), and the last one two days prior to the sailing date.

I just checked, and most of the sailings for the August 22 outbound leg are already booked. You should lock down one of the few remaining sailings immediately if you haven't already done so. If you can't get the specific sailing you want, lock down a different sailing and then try to change when the final tranche opens on August 20.

You'll need to do the same thing for your return leg. Mark your calendar now for the opening of the two-week tranche for your return leg.

Each tranche opens at 7:00 AM, so you need to be Johnny-on-the-spot with your web browser if you want to get a good sailing. You'll be competing against hordes of other desperate travelers, all of them logging on at the same instant to try to get a reservation before they're gone. The website constantly crashes under the server load, kicking you out before you can finish making your reservation, even if you have one in your "cart"!

I usually keep three web browsers open, two on my laptop and one on my phone, booking the same reservation simultaneously with all three, because I know it is likely that one or more of my attempted reservations will get kicked out by a website crash. It's pretty much the Hunger Games of maritime travel.

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