Monday, June 18, 2018

Destination: Westcott/Garrison Bays, San Juan Island

So near, and yet so far. That's an apt description of Garrison and Westcott Bays.

Roche Harbor on the northwestern tip of San Juan Island is a busy place. Boats and huge yachts coming and going all the time, many holding position while they are assigned space at the docks, sea planes coming and going nearly continuously thru the day. Dinghies buzzing back and forth. And then there is that Retirement of the Colors Ceremony that is conducted every night at sunset.

Yet in the twin bays just the other side of a spit of land, there is peace and quiet.

Yes, the bays are shallow, but not too shallow.  In the chart above, the depth contours are the 1, 2, and 3 fathom lines...  there is plenty of depth for most boats to anchor, tho you should probably not try to go behind Guss Island.

(That's Roche Harbor at the top of the chart)

You will reach the twin bays thru a narrow passage that opens off of Mosquito Pass (Mosquito Pass leads from the south end of Roche Harbor to the Strait of Juan de Fuca).  Mosquito Pass is a little tricky - you will want to pay attention to your chartplootter and depth sounder while navigating it.  Turn left (east) after passing red Buoy '6' and enter the narrow channel, again watching your plotter and sounder.  Anchoring is good on a mud bottom, but the north shore of Garrison Bay near Bell Point is infested with kelp.  And do pay attention, there is a shoal extending from Bell Point a surprising distance to the northwest.  Because of the contours of the surrounding land, the bays are very well-protected from winds, even from the southwest, which you might not expect.

The formal garden at English Camp

On the northern shore of Garrison Bay is English Camp, a National Park containing the preserved buildings remaining from the English occupation of San Juan Island (1860 - 1872).  Well worth your time for a visit - let your imagination range back a century and a half and try to imagine how things were then, before Kaiser Wilhelm I arbitrated a settlement between Britain and the United States as to where the national boundary would run thru the archipelago.

BBQ'd oysters
Those are baby oysters he is showing me

In Westcott Bay there is the Westcott Bay Shellfish Company (dotted rectangle), a working oyster farm that supplies much of Puget Sound with these shellfish delights.  They also have a casual food service featuring their oysters, clams and mussels.  But if you want to partake, be sure that you arrive before 16:00, when they shut down the outdoor kitchen.  Take the time to talk to the folks running the operation - they take their work seriously, are very friendly, and will be happy to educate you on the process of shellfish farming.


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