Provided that you don’t mind occasional spats of “liquid sunshine,” it’s tough to find better North American cruising grounds than Washington’s San Juan Islands or Canada’s Gulf Islands, especially if your idea of scenery involves glaciated peaks and orca and humpback whales. An international border bifurcates the two island groups, but the Salish Sea, the broader name for the waters of Puget Sound, the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the Strait of Georgia, links them together.
Classic jumping-off points include Port Townsend, Washington (home to the famous Wooden Boat Festival each September); Anacortes, Washington; and Bellingham, Washington. Visiting cruisers should beware of Port Townsend’s strong currents, which can be hard to buck in a light breeze. While Anacortes is a longer passage from Seattle than Port Townsend is, it’s home to several charter companies, and its more northerly location makes it an ideal springboard for extended cruises to the San Juans or the Gulf Islands. Cruisers looking to stay closer to Seattle can explore a few of Whidbey Island’s many charming communities, and for those headed farther north, Deception Pass, on the island’s east side, offers a decidedly sportier navigational challenge than the more frequently traveled Admiralty Inlet to the west.