Islands in the Straits
On Saturday afternoon, we were running north along Lummi Island, and Mount Baker wasn't the only local feature that had us in its grips. Illuminé was caught in a swirl of current: Our speed over the water was an impressive six knots, but our speed over the ground was three knots and falling. Nevertheless, after 24 hours of flying, driving, provisioning, and ice hunting, no one was in a hurry. The engine remained off, and we took in the scenery as we enjoyed an early afternoon happy hour.
Soon enough we were in open water and reaching westward to encounter our first ferry and, soon after, our first towboat and log boom. Over the next few days, it would seem to us as though both type of craft are about as common as seals in these waters. The ferries, steaming to fixed routes and schedules, aren't bashful about relying on tonnage when determining right-of-way. We determined that it was the prudent skipper who'd tack out of their path, especially near the entrance to harbors. The much slower towboats were far less threatening, but given the number of breakaway logs-called deadheads-floating freely in the current, we wondered if there might be a more efficient way to get trees from here to there.
By midafternoon we were at Matia Island, naïvely hoping to anchor in the tiny but alluring spot mentioned in the cruising guide. We should've known that on a summer weekend there'd be plenty of earlier birds going after that particular worm. Indeed, with four boats already filling the cove, we continued on in search of decent swing room elsewhere. Just ahead, sailboat masts sprouted up throughout the two harbors on the east end of Sucia Island, so we continued along it's pine-covered southern shore to the snug channel and cove at the western end. Like many of the San Juan Islands, Sucia is a state park that's accessible only by boat; a crowd was camping ashore, and moorings had long since been snapped up. There was, however, plenty of room to drop the hook, which we did in about 40 feet of water, just yards from the cliff-lined shore.