Double Island – Exploring the Central San Juan Islands (Part 3)

One morning we stepped into our sailboat’s cockpit to explore West Sound itself when we noticed smoke billowing from a small powerboat’s inboard engine. Thankfully, by the time we jumped into our inflatable, the two men had doused the fire. When we asked if they needed a tow to West Sound Marina in the northeast corner of the bay, they eagerly accepted our offer. There, they would have access to a chandlery, fuel dock, and a small boatyard.

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West Sound Marina is protected by Picnic Island

Or they could arrange a tow to their homeport of Friday Harbor, and if necessary, moor their disabled boat while they took the Orcas Shuttle to the ferry landing at Orcas Village to catch a vessel home.

Orcas Village – Washington State Ferry Landing
San Juan County Public Dock (Left), Orcas Hotel (Center), Orcas Village Store (Right)

For our assistance, they offered to pay for our planned breakfast at the nearby West Sound Cafe & The Kingfish Inn.

West Sound Cafe & The Kingfish Inn (Kingfish at West Sound in 2023)

And they invited us to stay for free at their waterfront vacation rental in Friday Harbor. We took them up on the breakfast, a more than generous gift.

Port of Friday Harbor on San Juan Island

After helping our new acquaintances tie to the guest dock, we spotted Time Bandit, a J120 sailboat owned by Bob Brunius. An Orcas Island Yacht Club member, he and his crew have raced to Cape Flattery in the Swiftsure International Yacht Race many times. One of the largest yacht competitions on the West Coast, this event is held on the U.S. Memorial Day weekend in Victoria, BC, Canada.

Time Bandit – West Sound Marina on Orcas Island

The Canadian naval sail-training ship, HMCS Oriole, has been a participant in the Swiftsure International Yacht Race too. Launched in 1921, the 102-foot ketch started competing in 1955, twenty-five years after the race began its annual trek westward through the Juan de Luca Strait to round the Swiftsure Lightship marking its entrance from the Pacific Ocean before returning to Victoria and its homeport in Esquimalt until a few years ago.

HMCS ORIOLE IN BARLEY SOUND (Wikimedia Commons – Photo by Redonebird

For a close-up view of the participants, stand at the western end of the Ogden Point breakwater to watch the fleet leave the Inner Harbor or bring your binoculars to Clover Point to catch the starting line action. More, walk the docks when the competitors return to celebrate their victories and share their adventures.

View of the Victoria Clipper from the Ogden Breakwater (before safety fencing) in Victoria, BC, Canada

Wishing our new acquaintances well, we motored westward past the Orcas Island Yacht Club with its private clubhouse and dock. They host several sailing events including the Shaw Winter Classic, Round Orcas, and the very popular Round the County Race. It’s great fun to watch their weekly summer evening races and see the island’s youth taking daytime sailing lessons. In 2008, the OIYC’s Junior Sailing Program merged with Sail Orcas, a nonprofit organization, enabling some of these talented students to compete nationally and internationally for the Sail Orcas club team at Orcas Island High School. And it’s our observation the best sailors at the helm of large boats honed their skills in small boats where there is a great incentive to stay aboard in the Pacific Northwest’s cold saltwater!

Orcas Island Yacht Club – Youth Sailing Lesson
West Sound Marina (Left), Orcas Island Yacht Club Dock (Right)

Tying to the San Juan County public float (day use only), we walked the short distance to the West Sound Cafe & The Kingfish Inn. Be sure to moor with your bow pointing south to prevent wind-generated waves or the occasional boat wake from splashing over your transom.

San Juan County’s Public Dock at West Sound (Day Use Only)
Kingfish at West Sound (Left) – Orcas Island Yacht Club dock (Right)

From this 1902 historical landmark, we’ve walked north along pastoral Crow Valley Road and visited the well-stocked Island Hardware & Supply store on our way to the village of Eastsound. Upon arrival, it’s usually time for lunch at one of several restaurants before visiting the quaint shops, mailing postcards at the post office, and shopping for groceries at Orcas Island Market before returning aboard the Orcas Island Shuttle. Of course, you can ride the shuttle roundtrip but be aware it only runs in the summer months.

The Fleischer Farm in Crow Valley

If you enjoy hiking, you will pass the North Trailhead parking lot for the Turtleback Mountain Preserve’s “Summit Trail” on Crow Valley Road. It’s a 5.7-mile roundtrip excursion to the top with an elevation gain of 1,295 feet starting on a logging road with several side trails to explore with different scenic views. Alternatively, you can start at the South Trailhead located on Deer Harbor Road but it is a longer trail with more elevation gain. If you’re curious how this preserve and other properties have been acquired for everyone’s enjoyment, then I invite you to learn more about the San Juan County Conservation Land Bank.

Perhaps the closest I’ve come to hiking Turtleback Mountain is visiting Turtlehead Farm to paint Trillium flowers as part of a watercolor class with friends. On our return to Beach Haven Resort where we were staying, we stopped to paint cherry tree blossoms along the shore of Massacre Bay in the springtime sun. On the following day, we traveled by charter boat from Deer Harbor to Yellow Island Preserve where we met the caretaker before sketching its unique variety of wildflowers. This diversity of native plants is due to an absence of grazing over the years which also prevented them from becoming threatened by non-native species.

Cherry Blossoms

In Pt. 4, I’ll introduce you to the western side of West Sound, home to the Four Winds/Westward Ho Camp.

Thanks for reading!


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