Tricky Anchoring at Patos Island, San Juans

This week we’ve felt like we were running before the storm – the weather forecasts have often been pretty pessimistic. One forecast was for “rain, 15-25 knot winds, possible thunderstorms, and a chance of hail.” But somehow we’ve managed to do short sails between islands in the gaps between bad weather, and the weather also hasn’t been as bad as forecast (no hail or thunderstorms).

After Sucia, we spent a night at Patos Island and then moved on to Prevost Harbor at Stuart. More on those below.


The postcard perfect lighthouse on Patos Island

Patos Island

We had wanted to get into Matia, the small island east of Sucia, but the two mooring balls there were full (we’d checked twice now). Patos, the island west of Sucia, is similar to Matia in that it also has only two mooring balls and very limited anchoring opportunities. So when we got to Patos we were disappointed but not really that surprised to find the two mooring balls full. We’re realizing getting a spot in Patos or Matia is pretty rare, even for a weekday in June.


But Patos has room to anchor inside of the two mooring balls, if you’re careful and have a relatively shallow draft (ours is 5’). There’s a large area with a 5’ sounding marked on the charts. And the lowest tide we’d have that day was a 2.2’ tide, so we should have at least 7’ depth. We anchored upwind (in a southerly) of the inner mooring ball, in 10’, and set a 7:1 scope due to the forecast of 15-25 S. But that meant we were too close to the boat behind us. So we ran a stern line to shore. That allowed us to pull the boat a bit away from the moored boat. It wasn’t a classic stern tie because we didn’t want to orient the boat sideways to the wind and swell – most of the time we kept it slack and only had it out as a backup option.


Anchored in Patos, after the boat using the mooring ball nearest us left

We went for a short hike to the lighthouse, and then did most of the loop trail around the island – but we turned around half way through the loop because the trail was pretty overgrown and we decided we didn’t want to bushwhack through brambles anymore.

Although Patos had a lot going for it, we probably wouldn’t return to this anchorage overnight – it was very rolly (exposed to swell from the shipping lanes to the west / northwest) and is exposed to both south and north winds. It also has currents moving through it – mild ones, but enough to give our anchor a real test – five 180 degree direction changes while we were there.


A family of geese had a hard time finding their way past our stern line



Mac and cheese with asparagus and salami for dinner – yum!

Prevost Harbor on Stuart Island

We’d been to Reid Harbor on the southern side of Stuart before, but not to Prevost. After our rolly night at Patos, Prevost made for a perfectly flat, peaceful night.


A rainbow on Stuart Island in a break between the rain

We didn’t hike out to the lighthouse, since we’ve done that hike before, but did do the 1-2 mile loop trail which gave us a great view of Reid Harbor (which was surprisingly empty – only 3-4 boats, out of perhaps a 25-40 boat capacity).

Shortly after our hike, the rain part of the weather forecast arrived, and it rained pretty much continuously for the next 20 hours. But we took this as an opportunity to hunker down inside and catch up on reading and writing.


Full rain gear – sometimes a necessity in the Northwest in June. I’m excited to haul anchor in the rain.

Coming Up

We’re in Friday Harbor now, staying in the San Juans for four more days to take Natalie’s parents out on the boat – they’re meeting us here by ferry from Anacortes. Then Sunday we’re taking off for BC.


Only an hour after putting on our rain gear, the weather changed to beautiful sunny skies with a light south wind

6 thoughts on “Tricky Anchoring at Patos Island, San Juans

  1. Chris Knauf

    Would there have been a way to anchor, instead of using the mooring ball? I’ve been there and the tides seem to rip through pretty strong. Thanks, nice blog.

    1. Patrick

      We did anchor – the two mooring balls were taken. The currents aren’t super strong, but I think the stern tie was necessary to reduce our swing.

  2. Rex

    That me in the background of your Mac and Cheese picture. That night was quite rocky for sure. The next night was dead calm. Pathos was beautiful. The loop trail hasn’t seen a lot of traffic, but did make a complete circle.

    1. Patrick

      Not sure why I didn’t comment on this 2 years ago, but that’s pretty awesome that you were able to identify your boat behind us way in the background!

  3. David Veale

    Anchoring in active cove is definitely a dicey proposition. I was relatively clueless about anchoring at the time (in a little San Juan 21), but awoke about midnight to fix a clanging halyard. It was a beautiful clear night. Then I noticed that the stars behind the trees were moving. Took a few seconds to register that this meant *I* was moving. I decided to move to the nearest buoy (which had been vacated right at dusk), fired up the motor just as our stern was about to go up on the beach. Ended up getting to the buoy but couldn’t hang on as a wave lifted the boat, about which time my rubbermaid tote for the anchor rode went overboard and fouled the prop. Spent quite a long time leaning over the stern to reach the prop and untangle it, holding my breath as my head went underwater with some of the waves

    Eventually did make it to the buoy, but bounced the keel on the rocks a few times as 3′ waves were coming through the anchorage, with wind probably 20kts out of the NW. Decided at that point that I really needed to learn how to anchor properly, and also how to keep the boat “ship shape”!

    Patos is one of my favorite islands, especially in October. The little cove at the SE end between the toes is actually a pretty good anchorage with a stern tie, but it’s also often occupied.


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