Steep hills, forested with evergreens, surround two pristine lakes, Horseshoe Lake and Spencer Lake, nestled in the middle of this private island. Its residents, many of them wealthy, enjoy the convenience of electricity, a general store, cafe, and post office. They travel to and from the mainland by water taxis, private boat, or airplane. In fact, Blakely Island, the sixth largest island in the San Juan Islands, is the only non-ferry island to maintain a private paved and lighted airstrip for its residents. The small Blakely Island Marina, on the other hand, allows transient boaters to tie up as guests.
In the center of the above photo is Blakely Head with Mt. Baker beyond. It shelters the marina on Blakely Island’s northern shore located further right. Peavine Pass, the open channel shown, is flanked by Obstruction island at the far left. North of this island, but hidden from view in this picture, is Obstruction Pass. On rare occasions, Washington State ferry captains sail through this scenic passage giving passengers an opportunity to exchange greetings with the surprised islanders ashore!
Blakely Island was named for Johnston Blakely, a naval commander during the War of 1812 by Charles Wilkes during the Wilkes Expedition of 1838-1842. Native Americans from the Samish tribe established summer villages on the island’s east side to fish, hunt and gather berries. And by the late 19th century, European settlers arrived to homestead, making their living by fishing, farming, and logging. In the photo below, Willow Island, lying offshore Blakely Island, is part of the San Juan Island National Wildlife Refuge and is off-limits to such activities.
A sawmill was built and operated on the east side of the island on Thatcher Bay until 1950 when its machinery failed. By this time, the island had little timber left standing. Soon, individuals like Floyd Johnson and Doc White platted the north end for a flying and yachting club while David Syre platted the south end for a few larger estates. Thomas Crowley, Sr. purchased the remaining property.
In 1976, he donated 967 acres to Seattle Pacific University, a private Christian institution, for use as a biological research field station. Jon Parle, a dear friend who taught evening classes to engineering students at SPU, attended a faculty retreat in this idyllic spot.
Besides owning a residence on Blakely Island, the Crowley family operates a worldwide Harbor Ship Assist and Tanker Escort business headquartered in Anacortes. In July 2014, the company assisted in the successful removal of the infamous Costa Concordia, after the wrecked Italian cruise ship sat for two and a half years on a reef at Giglio Island near Tuscany. To learn more about the role they played, complete with videos, click here.
The following photos were taken in Washington State. (Left photo – Wikimedia Commons)
In recent years, a friend of ours has helped the residents of Blakely Island upgrade their community water system. And a painter we’ve hired in the past has worked for the owner of a large estate, commuting to work with other building contractors and groundskeepers by water taxis. Needless to say, they enjoyed the serene solitude and park-like atmosphere of Blakely Island.
“Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.” (Phil. 4:8, NKJV)
Thank you for reading!
Thanks for your great and informative article. I am interested in perhaps travelling to Blakely Island in the near future.
You’re welcome, Barbara. Enjoy your visit!