A Glimpse of Cypress Island

A friend of ours decided to get into sailing in a small way. He purchased a 12-foot wooden lug-rigged Pelican dinghy designed by Bill Short and built by the Smith brothers on nearby Samish Island. From him, we learned a group of owners often sailed to Cypress Island, camping on their favorite east-side beach. When Washington State’s Department of Natural Resources turned the area into a marine park, it was officially named Pelican Beach.


Photo courtesy of DuckWorksMagazine.com

Anchoring in Deepwater Bay gave us our first taste of aquaculture. Three Atlantic salmon pens, stationed several hundred yards apart in the most protected part of the cove, provide entertainment as we watch workers feed the leaping fish, but they limit the space in the harbor where we can anchor. This can be a problem during the peak tourist season or during high winds.

The Cypress Island facility is one of eight marine finfish facilities owned by Pan Fish North America, a subsidiary of global aquaculture giant Pan Fish Norway. Its 30 cages are divided by metal gangways. Each one is built of reinforced nylon stretching 40-feet deep and can contain 25,000 fish. After the fish reach 12 pounds, they are shipped live to a processing plant in LaConner. This local operation is a multi-million-dollar industry, but it is not without competition from Canada and Chili. Nor is it without critics concerned for the welfare of native wild salmon in terms of disease, competition for food, and habitat.


 Chilean Aquaculture – Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Secret Harbor School, a residential treatment program, was founded in 1947 by the Ryther Child Center of Seattle as a working farm for troubled boys. Successful for more than 50 years in modifying the boys’ behaviors in the isolated island environment, the school was less successful in helping them retain what they’d learned after returning home to their families and communities. In 1998, a foster care program was started for boys whose behaviors had improved at the school and expanded to include girls. Later in 2008, the island school was closed and replaced by group homes on the mainland. A year later, the Family Connections program was opened to serve families in their own homes. Secret Harbor sold the property to Washington State and it is now preserved for wildlife.

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Photo courtesy of www.secretharbor.org

An easy two miles from Anacortes, Cypress Island is a natural magnet for boaters. From the local Cap Sante boatyard crew, we learned that every summer a number of their repair jobs involve charter sailboats whose deep keels hit the rocks in shallow water off Reef Point, the southern tip of Cypress Island. Once they repaired the same boat for the same reason three times!


Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Why were these skippers and their families sailing so close to the reef? To watch the Harbor seals hauled out on the rocks at low tide.


Harbor Seal – Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

 “I will instruct you and teach you in the way which you should go; I will counsel you with My eye upon you.” (Psalm 32:8)


Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Thank you for reading!



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Photos courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

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4 Responses to A Glimpse of Cypress Island

  1. Peggy Wirgau says:

    Great job, Deb! I love the little tours of your part of the country.

  2. Caren Gallanger says:

    As an island lover myself, I enjoy your informational pieces about our area. I’m planning to try some of your recipes!

    • Deb Garland says:

      I’m so glad you are my island friend and enjoy my posts, Caren. We are so blessed to visit the San Juans as often as we do. I hope you’ll enjoy my recipes too. Blessings!

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