In the last three days we’ve gone from Seattle to Matts Matts bay, to Watmough Bay in the San Juans, and then on to Sucia Island. We had forgotten how amazingly beautiful the San Juans are – they really are a Washington state treasure. Everywhere we look are scenic mountain ranges, evergreen covered islands, blue skies (sometimes), and wild life. Our journey is only just beginning, but it already feels like we’re a world away.
From a sailing perspective the most amazing part is we’ve sailed most of the way and haven’t had to sail upwind even once – when there has been wind, it’s been at our backs. We’ve been riding a wave of southerlies north. That hasn’t meant it’s been easy – there have been a few challenging times as we’re getting back into the routine of cruising.
Matts Matts Bay
Matts Matts bay is a small anchorage north of Port Ludlow, and one we’ve wanted to visit for a long time. Friday evening had 10-20 kts south wind forecast, so we cast off from Shilshole by 5pm hoping to cover the ~25 miles in 4 hours. The only problem was we knew the current would be against us – a strong flood 4pm – 9pm meant we’d have to fight some of it. Nearing Point No Point and Foulweather Bluff, with the wind haven risen to 15-18 S, made for really challenging seas.
Nevertheless we made it to the hidden entrance to Matts Matts about 9pm and motored in. It’s what I call a keyhole anchorage – you enter through a narrow channel and come upon an anchorage super well protected on all sides – it reminded me in that aspect of Matilda Inlet.
In the morning we took the dinghy for a row around the harbor. There are several nice ketches moored there, and a hillside home with three donkeys (yes, donkeys!) on the southwest side.
Sailing to Watmough Bay in the San Juans
Saturday we took off around 10am, with no wind and a light rain. The current was favorable to go through the Oak Bay canal, with its bridge marked as 58 foot clearance in the charts, so we decided to give that a try. With almost a 3 knot current push, and our boat doing 4 knots at 1/2 throttle (overall 7+ knots of speed) we had to be really certain our mast could clear the bridge. Our boat is a 52 foot clearance, and from below / far away, 52 feet and 58 feet look basically the same. Going under that bridge at 7 knots pretty much looks like you’re going to hit it – we nearly soiled our pants.
Half way across the Strait of Juan de Fuca we finally got some west wind, so we set the main sail and took out the spinnaker. We rode that to the southeast corner of Lopez Island, where Rosario strait was still ebbing and was kicking up some pretty big tidal rips against the south wind as we rounded the corner to Watmough bay.
We had heard great reviews of Watmough. It certainly is convenient, being one of the closest anchorages if you’re coming up the east side of the Strait of Juan de Fuca. There’s a tall imposing cliff on the north side, and great views of Rosario strait to the east. It turned out to be a rolly anchorage for us though – it’s exposed to swell from Rosario strait, which kept us mildly rocking and rolling through the night. Surprisingly it’s also not protected from SW wind, which just rolls in over the low spot in the SW of the bay. But, because of that we got to sail onto and off of anchor.
Sailing to Sucia
Sunday there was some more south wind forecasted – only about 5-10 knots, but enough to sail all the way to Sucia, through some very light air sections (2-5 kts). We’re getting a lot of use out of our spinnaker – more than ever before – and realizing in many ways it’s the perfect sail for San Juans sailing.
We’re on a mooring ball in “Snoring Bay” on Sucia Island now. There’s no one else on the other mooring ball in this tiny cove, so we have it all to ourself with a fantastic view. As I sit admiring the sunset, I can’t help but think we’ve found the best anchorage in the San Juans. But then I wonder, are the other people around the corner thinking the same thing? They probably are, and that’s what makes the San Juans such a magical place.