Whenever I leave the office and Jay is not on call for OPALCO, we welcome the opportunity to go sailing. Every trip offers new discoveries, and gives us a chance to relax and appreciate our beautiful surroundings. In this boating log, I share my adventures with you.
By Teri Williams
48 45.03’N, 122 50.99’ W
Matia Island is less than two miles east of Sucia Islands, just north of Orcas Island. Although equally beautiful as Sucia, it attracts fewer people. Matia is jointly administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Washington State Department of Parks and Recreation, and is designated as a refuge for seabirds, eagles and seals. Along with Turn Island (located southeast of Friday Harbor, where I saw my first small pod of whales for my birthday sail adventure), this is the only National Wildlife Refuge in the San Juan Islands that is open to the public.
On Matia, activity is limited to the five acres of State Park land, where there are a few campsites, picnic tables, a composting toilet facility, and a must-do mile trail where you hear nothing, literally, stand near many old growth who show signs of a fire long ago and notches from spring boards. The ferns are some of the largest I have ever seen.
You will find three beaches, two accessible. Sand, small gravel and large beach logs give welcome to getting your toes along the shoreline and explore. Sorry: no pets allowed on Matia Island.
The remaining 140 acres of Matia are the exclusive preserve of puffins, oystercatchers, seals and otters. We witnessed many blue herons close by, perching in the dead limbs of trees along the top of the sandstone/rock banks lining Rolf Cove.
In Rolf Cove, you will find a public small dock, which allows four tie-ups. We tied to the northwest end and shared the dock with three other 20-35’ boats. Rumor has it that there is an old settler’s ruins “Hermit of Matia,” who rowed weekly to Orcas to socialize. Jay and I did not spot anything that looked like ruins of a settler, just some ivy and fruit trees that suggest past inhabitants.
The current runs strong through Rolf Cove, and the south entrance is the better of its two entrances. Anchorage can be tricky, but we witnessed many come in for a short walk, to fish, or to just enjoy a relaxing float in a very quiet cove for the afternoon. Many of the overnighters left and went touring around the island in their skiffs with motors. Jay and I thought about it, but we row our skiff and did not want to spend the rest of this sunny relaxing day fighting a current that was taking us south. There are signs around the Island reminding you to stay 200 yards away. Puffin Island lies to the East and is surrounded by off-shore reefs and wildlife taking in the heat from the sun.
Getting ashore is limited to the State Park Float. The beach along this shoreline is sandy and gets afternoon sun, which heats up the sand and beach logs for sitting and taking in the scene, unbelievable September weather in the San Juan Islands.
Sunset featured deep colors that silhouetted the Sucia Islands group.
NOTE: My Cruising Guide to the Puget Sound mentions fire pits. We saw some homemade makeshift pits, but fires are not allowed on the island