|NATIONAL PARKS QUICKLINKS|
Backpacker Magazine – October 2008
See one of the sea's keenest hunters as you paddle San Juan Island.
Bring a strong sea-kayaking resume for this three-day circumnavigation of San Juan Island, 24 miles off Washington's Pacific Coast. You'll glide amidst orcas and sea lions, passing rugged and wind-scoured shorelines on a challenging 30-mile sea-kayaking circuit. From Friday Harbor, leave the day-tripping ferry crowds behind as you paddle clockwise around the island with prevailing winds at your back. Small inlets and pine-lined pocket beaches offer respite from choppy seas. Deadman Bay, on the western shore, is one of the few places in the country to see orca cows and their calves. Camp at Griffin Bay Recreation Site, San Juan County State Park, Posey Island State Park, and Jones Island.
Changing currents and tricky tides. The tidal exchange brings 13-foot swells, and rough water around San Juan Island has claimed seven kayakers in the past year.
Proper timing. The narrow Cattle Point channel, on the island's southern tip, funnels vast amounts of fast, freezing water four times daily as the tides go in and out. Avoid the channel in whipping winds and white-capped water–both are harbingers of potentially life-threatening conditions. Take the same caution when passing between San Juan and Spieden Islands. Study up-to-date tide charts and time your departure from the Griffin Bay campsite during slack tide–midway between high and low tides when the water is calmest.
Take the ferry from Anacortes (64.4 miles north of Seattle) to Friday Harbor.
The Washington State Ferry ($13; wsdot.wa.gov/ferries) goes between Anacortes and Friday Harbor 19 times daily. Pack Sea Trails Adventure Guidemap WA003 (seatrails .com) and NOAA chart 18423 SC (nauticalcharts.noaa.gov), available at Friday Harbor marina. Hit Discovery Sea Kayaks for rentals, advice, and tours (discoveryseakayak.com).
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