Category Archives: Boating

Teri’s Log: Matia Island

teri williamsWhenever 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

Matia Island
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

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The Many Moods of “White Rock”

SandiGravatarSM CROPPEDPosted by Sandi

You’ve read our posts about Indian Island, the curious tiny island in Fishing Bay, Eastsound. Well there’s another tiny island off the west coast of Orcas Island that I’m curious about: White Rock.

Located halfway between Flattop Island and Waldron Island, White Rock is just one of 172 islands in the San Juan archipelago. But I happen to look out upon it every day. And therein lies its magic: Depending on time and type of day and season, it takes on a completely different mood. Take a look:

When we first got a boat a few years ago, one of my first requests was a closer investigation of this magical rock, actually the tip of an ancient submerged mountain.

Nautical chart of White Rock, Orcas Island

The red arrow is pointing to White Rock, southwest of Disney Point on Waldron Island. Part of the San Juan Islands National Wildlife Refuge, boaters need to stay 200 yards away – no landing ashore.

White Rock, Orcas Island

The Rock is more interesting than I thought — some vegetation and lots of orange stuff — a lichen perhaps?

White Rock, Orcas Island

To give you an idea of scale, note the harbor seal hauled out on rock

Soon we’ll be moving higher up the hill when our house is finished. While I won’t miss our current cramped quarters, I’ll miss gazing upon an ever changing face of White Rock, my trusty friend and focal point through all seasons.

Looking to enjoy the simple life on beautiful Orcas Island?
Contact T Williams Realty – we’ll help you find your way home.


Filed under Boating, Nature

Mixing Business and Pleasure on Stuart Island

Posted by Teri

The forecast was calling for record high temperatures (a whopping 75 degrees here) so Jay and I packed the boat and headed out onto the water. Our destination was Stuart Island, west of Orcas near the Canadian border.

On this trip, I could mix business with pleasure as clients of mine own a large parcel on Stuart Island and had hired Permit Resources to permit a dock and a residence. It’s not often that I get to see the finished project — this looked like a good opportunity to do just that.

Dock on Stuart Island by Permit Resources

We located the dock built by our Permit Resources client.

Stuart has two harbors, Reid Harbor on the south side and Prevost Harbor on the north side. Both harbors provide easy anchorage, state mooring buoys, mooring cables and floats. There is a County dock located in Prevost Harbor. Stuart Island State Park lies between these two harbors and the park is easily accessible via public docks.

county road on stuart island

We hiked up the road amid lush vegetation.

The 85-acre marine state park allows for camping and provides miles of trails and county roadway for exploring. Keep in mind, there are vehicles parked at the county road end in Reid Harbor, but the road is nothing more than a wide gravel trail.

reid harbor cove, stuart island

A hidden cove in Reid Harbor.

The environment is lush with a variety of native fir, maple, madrona, moss-covered rock outcroppings and hidden coves. A short hike will take you to the schoolhouse and museum where you will find the walls covered with history. There is an honor system for souvenirs where you can purchase T-shirts, cards and books.

As I viewed the photos of school children from the early days, I wondered about the kind of cast iron constitution it must have taken to stand strong to the challenges of living in a remote island in the northwest.

Turn Point Lighthouse and Lover's Leap

We sailed around Turn Point Lighthouse and Lover’s Leap.

If you are a hardy hiker and make it to the north end, you will discover Turn Point Lighthouse where the shipping lanes of Boundary Pass and Haro Strait meet. We skipped the hike and circumnavigated Stuart on the sailboat, where we had a great view of the lighthouse.

Prevost Harbor

A welcoming view of Prevost Harbor.

There is plenty to do on Stuart Island. We tried our luck at crabbing, clam digging and beach combing. All we can think about is: when can we return?

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Boat Rides and Mooring Buoys

Posted by Teri

I love my job. I get to visit beautiful sites around Orcas Island — some of them from the water!

Today I was working on permitting a mooring buoy for my clients who own an island getaway in Eastsound. An eelgrass survey is required for submittal to all the state and federal agencies.

Chris Betcher at Jen Jay Diving

Kurt Schwalbe helps Chris Betcher of Jen Jay Diving prepare for eelgrass survey

On these projects, I call on Chris Betcher at Jen Jay Diving in Deer Harbor. Chris and his wife Tracy are the best to work with. Their depth of knowledge, relationships with state and federal agencies and professionalism is respected and held in high regard by all who have the opportunity to work with them.

I always learn something as well.

Eelgrass survey on Orcas Island

Kurt keeps watch while Chris dives

Eelgrass surveys and mooring buoy installations can only be performed at certain times of the year. The window is June 1-October 1 for surveys, July 15- Jan 15 for installation.

Jen Jay Diving Boat on Orcas Island

Jen Jay diving boat is well equipped

Chris Betcher of Jen Jay Diving examines mooring buoy on Orcas Island

Chris examines mooring buoy

The boat met me at the County public dock in Eastsound and we headed south to the site. On their way to Eastsound to pick me up, Chris and his sidekick on the boat, Kurt  Schwalbe saw something big swimming in the area larger than a seal. I had my eyes peeled for a whale even though it is highly unlikely one would venture this far into Eastsound Bay.  Just so you know, nothing surfaced. BUT the sun was out and the water was calm — it was a perfect day.

The boat is equipped with all the gadgets one would need to locate a property, mark GPS coordinates, find the depth and know the tides. In addition to the tools, lines, buckets, dive gear, binoculars, charts and floats, there is a comradery and communication that comes with confidence and years of working together.

First, the topo of the seabed is considered to find a level area and a depth is needed for the type of boat to be moored. Then we view the water from the boat looking for signs of eelgrass (Zostera marina). Once we have a location, a temporary float is set into the water to mark our spot. Chris then begins to put his gear on, with help from Kurt.

Chris swims a radius of 25 feet plus the length of the boat. He uses two measuring tapes to create his underwater grid. This day, the water was clear and visibility was out to 75 feet. Chris recounts his underwater findings to Kurt, who takes notes, and they promise to turn over the report in two weeks.

When the eelgrass survey is complete, I submit the mooring buoy permit application to San Juan County, the state Department of Fish and Wildlife, Department of Natural Resources and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. It sometimes takes as long as six months for all the agencies to approve this type of permit — all the more reason to make sure the permit is filed correctly so there are no delays.

Once I have the permit in hand, I’ll call Chris back for installation of the buoy. My clients’ island getaway will have a convenient spot to moor their boat, and I’ve helped another client sail through the permit process, enjoying it all the way.

Looking to enjoy the simple life on beautiful Orcas Island?
Contact T Williams Realty – we’ll help you find your way home.



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Part Two: My Perfect Birthday Weekend – Boating in the San Juan Islands

Posted by Teri

(Continued from Part One)

Resident orca whales in the San Juan Islands

Birthday whales! What more could you ask for?

…I looked at the mouth of Friday Harbor to the north and saw a whale jump! I could hardly believe my eyes when the pod of resident orcas started towards us. A few swam to the west of Turn Island but soon came back and headed past our boat toward the deeper waters of the channel. The activity unfolding in front of our eyes took my breath away. If you’ve not witnessed these graceful animals frolic in the water you really need to put it on your bucket (or birthday) list! I told Jay these were birthday whales and a gift I’ll never forget.

Sunset at Parks Bay, San Juan Islands

A perfect ending to a perfect day...Life is good.

After the show, we crossed the channel to the protected waters of Shaw Island’s Parks Bay, one of my top spots for viewing the sunset. It has good bottom for anchoring and is surrounded by undeveloped land owned by UW. Although you can’t go ashore, a row around the bay is a treat. You might see raccoons harvesting oysters  or a blue heron patiently fishing in the shallows.

Sleep comes easy after a day on the water. Sunday morning we awoke refreshed enjoyed a leisurely breakfast – meals always taste better on a boat! We reviewed the currents and charted our course for motoring back to our slip at Bay Head. I like to head back early before the waves get sloppy and boat traffic heavy.

My birthday weekend was filled with love, laughter, good food, nature’s gifts and boating. I can’t imagine a better way to celebrate another year of life in the San Juan Islands!   

Looking to enjoy the simple life on beautiful Orcas Island?
Contact T Williams Realty  – we’ll help you find your way home.


Filed under Adventure, Boating, Nature

Part One: My Perfect Birthday Weekend – Boating in the San Juan Islands

Posted by Teri

As the cooler weather creeps in, I like to assemble my favorite memories of the summer to keep me warm throughout fall and winter. Topping the list this year was my birthday weekend in late August.

Birthday Boating in the San Juan Islands

I can feel the warmth all over again when I look back at this blissful picture! My first gift was perfect weather.

It started with my husband and I sailing to Deer Harbor Marina where four of my closest friends had prepared a dockside dinner. They treated us with fresh crab, marinated local prawns, melt-in-your-mouth corn on the cob, chocolate cake from Roses Bakery and lotsa good wine. The weather was ideal for a night on the dock, and visiting boaters were friendly all around us.

Controlled burn on Yellow Island in the San Juan Islands, WA

Yellow Island on fire... on purpose

Saturday morning Jay and I headed out to sail San Juan Channel between Orcas and San Juan Island. While cruising past Yellow Island we spotted smoke and called 911. We were relieved to find out this was an annual controlled burn by the Nature Conservancy to keep the undergrowth from encroaching on the grasslands – a practice first used by Native Americans to protect camas bulbs and other food crops.

We continued out into the channel pushed by favorable warm wind. We were on the same path as the historic Adventuress and mirrored her course while feeling the pirate in our souls-arrrgh…. Only to be left behind with a few practiced tacks by the large crew aboard her deck.

Beach at Turn Island State Park, San Juan Islands WA

Approaching beach at 35-acre Turn Island State Park

Midday we headed south to hook one of the buoys located on the north side of Turn Island. The entire island is a state park with nice easy trails, camp sites, and several sandy beaches on the west side- yes I said sand!  I had just settled in with refreshment in hand, taking in the warm sea air and thinking ‘this is a great birthday’ when all of a sudden…    (To Be Continued in Part Two!)

Looking to enjoy the simple life on beautiful Orcas Island?
Contact T Williams Realty  – we’ll help you find your way home.


Filed under Adventure, Boating, Nature