Gem of Stuart Island

We squeezed our first sail to the San Juan Islands into Christmas vacation in the middle of my third year of teaching. Weather proved to be windy and wet, so we donned our foul weather gear. And when we arrived, we anchored in the middle of protected Reid Harbor on Stuart Island. Of course, this photo is from a different trip in the summer.


Eager to explore, we rowed to the marine park dock, tying our dinghy alongside the only other boat in the harbor. A Christmas tree bedecked the racing sloop’s stern in holiday splendor and its owners invited us aboard when we returned from our ambling ashore. What we didn’t anticipate is that this afternoon visit of exchanging sea tales would end at ten o-clock in total darkness.

If we had thought to turn on our anchor light, brought a compass and had taken bearings, or packed flashlights, we might know where our boat swung at anchor in the large bay. Later, we learned that flashlight and lanterns aren’t effective unless you are a couple boat lengths away. Spotlights, like the landing lights of a small plane, are needed. Who knew? What should have taken us half an hour, took us an hour, but we did find our boat!

This gem, Stuart Island, is flanked on two sides by the U.S./Canada border that splits Haro Strait and Boundary Pass.

Both channels are vessel traffic lanes for ships arriving from the Pacific Ocean, through the Strait of Juan de Fuca, to Vancouver, Canada. The same waters are home to pods of Orca whales.

From Reid Harbor, it is a 7.6 mile hike roundtrip to Turn Point Light Station where the above photos were taken. The keeper’s home shown below is under restoration, but the accompanying barn is a Coast Guard museum open to the public and staffed by volunteers in the summer.

Atop nearby Lover’s Leap, a sheer rock cliff (with a story behind its nickname, I’m sure), is a popular picnic spot overlooking the Canadian Gulf Islands. We never tire of the view.

A family operates the island’s single retail business on the honor system. After visitors select locally designed t-shirts, greeting cards, and postcards from two wooden sea chests staged beside the county dirt road, they mail in their payments using the IOU slip and envelope provided. It’s fun to take a peek at their treasure each visit.

Unlike the ferry accessible islands, finding enough students to keep Stuart Island’s one-room schoolhouse open has been a challenge in recent years. The old teacherage (Stuart Island museum) and old schoolhouse (library) were built in the early 1900s. The newer building was erected in 1980, first as a gym, theater, and community meeting hall before becoming the main school. Since the island does not have electricity, the school runs on a diesel generator and invertor. It is heated by an oil-fired furnace and woodstove. A well provides fresh water and there are outhouses. Rustic!

There are two ways to visit Stuart Island. By air, landing on a short grassy runway in a wheel plane or landing on the water in a floatplane.

Or by sea, dropping anchor, snagging a mooring buoy, or tying to park docks in Prevost Harbor or Reid Harbor.

Where do you find shelter from the storms of life? When the winds blow and the waves rock your boat, do you seek the Lord, read His Word, and pray? Or do you seek your family and friends first? God draws near to those who fear Him. He is in control and you can trust Him to lead you to safety.

Psalm 46:1 says, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in the time of trouble.” (NKJV)

Thanks for reading!



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2 Responses to Gem of Stuart Island

  1. Penny Raddon says:

    We bought a t-shirt in May and have lost the slip to mail in payment, could you send an address
    Thanks Penny Raddon
    Orofino, Id 83544


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