Islands in the Straits
To be honest, it was a bleary-eyed but eager crew that set off at 4 a.m. from Boston on a jet for Seattle, where we rented a car and made the 100-mile dash through Friday-afternoon traffic to get to the San Juan Sailing offices in time for the skippers meeting at 1630. There, company owner Roger Van Dyken began his weekly sermon for the soon-to-be-converted and the returning true believers who cherish this blessed cruising ground. Along with his wife, Marlene, Roger has spent years plying the waters that flow between the mainland and Vancouver Island, and he quickly put to rest some of the dire warnings found in the cruising guides we'd read. On this particular Friday, he was recently back from leading a monthlong flotilla to the far north of Vancouver Island, his annual getaway with customers that affords him some time for exploration.
His advice: Sail counter-clockwise through the San Juans to take advantage of the prevailing southwesterlies. Keep in mind the effect of the sometimes-quite-strong current that sweeps between islands. When anchoring with the all-chain rode found on the charter boats, go with a scope of 3-to-1 or 4-to-1; that's what the locals do. Remember, you're sailing around a flooded mountain range; the islands you see are really mountaintops, and the valley can be quite deep, so don't panic if the depth sounder freaks. If you're searching for whales, simply watch for the colorful high-speed boats that whisk the tourists in for a look. Good luck with the crab traps aboard each boat; just remember to get a license, and be sure it's legal to fish that day.
Preaching the pleasures of the Pacific Northwest, Roger even closed the meeting with a prayer asking the Lord to keep us free of all ledges. Amen. Then all were invited to the dockside barbecue, a Friday-night tradition.