Saturday, June 21, 2014

Kayaking in the San Juan Islands

21June__2Wednesday – Kayaking was one of the main reasons we finally decided to take a trip to the beautiful San Juan Islands. We were enticed by all the advertisements showing pictures of the kayaks with the whales.   I’m thinking some of those pictures are photo shopped.  Boats and kayaks are required to be 400 yards away from the whales. .  If you’re hoping to see the whales while you’re kayaking, you have to be just plain lucky.  We weren’t lucky.  I’m guessing some are lucky but probably most aren’t.  Being in the right place at the right time when those pods travel a great distance daily to forge food is just plain luck. 


Getting ready to go.  How did we like tandem?  Well, the decision is still out on that one.

One shot I got out of the kayak.
The other shot in the bay I got out of the kayak.

This is what we did.  We put the kayaks in at Smallpox Bay.  The kayaks we used were 22’ tandem kayaks that weighed about 95 pounds each.  Were they in the water and ready for us?  Heck no!  We all had to carry them down to the water and back.  Ugh!  We were given a safety talk and provided with waterproof gear.  Not only did the gear keep you dry, it also kept you warm.  That part was very good.

Taken from the beach.                
Our total trek in the kayaks was about 7 miles round trip.  I could tell you we leisurely paddled south taking pictures of the shoreline, birds and enjoying glass-like water.  I could tell you that but if I did, I’d be lying.  We paddled out of the bay and into the strait past the Lime Kiln lighthouse and into Deadman’s Bay.  Our guide let us know we’d travel as fast as our slowest boat.   In other words he was telling us to move and that it was literally a race with no time to take pictures or even scan the shoreline for wildlife.  We were too busy fighting a strong headwind (our guide estimated 17 mph winds), choppy seas and currents. We figured on our way back the winds and currents would be pushing us in the right direction.  That didn’t happen either as the wind and current shifted.  

Sharon and Joe
We did see one eagle and one harbor seal but those were in the bay.  Ask us if we’d do this again.  Just ask us.  It’s like Terry said.  If this was the first time we had kayaked, we probably would never do it again. 

Friday Harbor itself is protected.  The winds can be nearly non-existent there but when you get on the west side of the island, it’s a whole other story.  We did love the island and we’d love to go back.  Maybe even go to a different island. There is so much to see and do.  If we do, we’ll take our own kayaks and when the winds are strong, we’ll  kayak in one of the many bays. 

Thursday -- Joe and Sharon hopped on an early ferry out of Anacortes arriving in Friday Harbor a little after 9:00. It didn’t take us long to get on the road to other parts of the island.  The San Juan Islands have a very interesting history.  Both Britain and the United States claimed these islands.  The Treaty of Oregon drew the international boundary on the 49th parallel and referred to the western boundary as the center of the strait.  The problem is there are two straits. Thus, Britain decided it was down the eastern  Rosario Strait and the United States decided it was down the western Haro Strait.  The dispute came to a head over the shooting of a pig.  This became known as The Pig War.

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American troops arrived with a 64-man unit.  In response to this the British arrived with 62 guns, 400 Royal Marines and 15 engineers.  When the Americans wouldn’t budge, more British soldiers, ships and weapons arrived.  The British settled north of the island which became known as English Camp while the Americans occupied the southern part of the island known as American Camp.


For 12 years each army threw insults at the other trying to get them to fire the first shot.   It didn’t happen and no shot was ever fired .. except to the pig which was the only casualty of the war. The dispute was turned over to an international arbitration committee to decide where the boundary should be.  It took a year but eventually the islands were given to the United States and the British departed. 

Eagle Nest
Osprey Nest

First we visited American Camp. Then we went to English Camp.  Some of the buildings are still standing at each camp.  In one of the trees at the American Camp was an Eagle’s nest.  We could see the top of the heads of the babies.    At the English Camp was an Osprey’s nest.




Joe and Sharon checking out the English garden at English Camp.

Next on our list was heading back into the town of Friday Harbor to meet the 1:00 ferry.  Ed and 21June__17Linda were arriving and we were all looking forward to lunch on the waterfront with them.  I’ve got to say my lunch of steamed clams was amazing.  We had a great time talking, laughing and visiting before the four of them caught a ferry back to the mainland.

Here they come  ….. Ed and Linda.


One fscootun thing we didn’t have time to do was rent a scoot coupe.  Now that would be fun and maybe next time! 

Friday -  This was departure day for us.  It was time to get on the ferry at Friday Harbor and then again at Coupeville.  It was two ferries and then about 180 miles south. 

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A nesting seagull on the ferry dock. 

At the Coupeville ferry dock we saw many boats and trailers loaded with crab nets.

It was an uneventful ride back and a long day.  We were beat but we really had a great "vacation" even though the kayaking was disappointing.  We'll be ready to do another mini-vacation soon.

‘Tis life on the road.

I'm old enough to know better but young enough to do it anyway


  1. Sounds great! Love the bird photos.

  2. I'd fire the leader of that kayak trip. He could have stayed in the bay and given you a better trip.


    1. I think the leaders all do exactly as the owners instruct them. It was a $190 lesson for us.

  3. Okay, the pig was shot, but which side brought home the bacon??? :cD

    1. An American shot a pig owned by the Hudson Bay Company. I'm guessing the British got the bacon.

  4. Joe has ANOTHER girlfriend?

    Looks like a very tiring day. An adventure!

  5. That kayak sounds like a lot of work. I want to be able to slowly see the scenery, not fight headwinds. Yuck!

    I have never heard of The Pig War. People will fight over anything.

  6. A nice vacation that you had, too bad about the Kayak adventure.

  7. Bummer about the kayaking experience but glad the rest of the day was so enjoyable. I am intrigued that the British showed up with 15 engineers - "just in case?" That's not a big space to spend 12 years, I bet they all met at the pub every week and laughed about their governments discussing whether they should shoot at each other! Thanks for sharing such a little known piece of our history :-).

  8. Man - that is too bad about the kayaking. That was work, not fun. But now you know. How many times have we done something and said, well never again. Loved the pig war info. Poor pig. Good seeing Joe, Sharon, Ed, and Linda. And you guys stayed out of trouble. Wow.

  9. While the kayaking part of your adventure didn't sound like too much fun, the rest of your experience sure did. Thanks for the history lesson too, it was interesting and pretty funny.

    1. We're definitely going back but not on a kayak tour. Been there, done that and don't need to repeat.

  10. Sounds like a fun time, at least you didn't pull a Freddie while kayaking! !

    1. Well if they did, they sure aren't talking about it. LOL However in listening to them tell about the trip, it really was not a fun time.


  11. Our friends, Don and Sharon, always had two kayaks until the time when we went with them in Michigan. We rented a boat and based on the livery charge they decided to do a tandem one instead of their two boats. They liked the idea that they could take more pictures doing it tandem that they bought an inflatable tandem boat.

    1. We thought about an inflatable until we tried them. They aren't as maneuverable or track as well as a hard side. They are also harder to paddle but we still aren't sure on a hard sided tandem. Sea kayaks are bigger and heavier for a reason and normally have no problem with pictures when we're not on a tour. My trusty little camera is always right by my side.

    2. I generally carry my camera also, but Jeri and Sharon made me DELETE one of my pictures.ROFLMAO


    3. Now Joe - you know we all want to know that the picture was of.

    4. Sandie, if I told what it was about I'd get KILLED by not one, but 2 women. LOL


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