With fall fully upon us and winter peeking around the corner, two things are bound to happen in the coming months in the Salish Sea: low pressure systems will sweep in off the Pacific Ocean bringing strong southerlies, and brisk northerlies will push down from the Fraser River Valley.
As boaters, we obviously need to keep a keen eye out for these potentially hazardous winds and to protect our boats appropriately. And if you’re out cruising this time of year — which we highly recommend — you’ll want to have some places in mind to duck in and wait out the weather.
In our years spent cruising Puget Sound and the San Juan and Gulf islands throughout the short, cooler days, we always had a lot of anchorages or docks in mind to escape and hide in the event of a big blow. That being the case, I’ll share a few of those over the next few weeks and months for those out taking advantage of the amazing winter cruising in the Pacific Northwest. Here’s our first:
Blind Bay, Shaw Island
Blind Bay is a favorite stop while cruising the San Juan Islands no matter the season. In settled conditions, or even a bit of a breeze, Blind Island State Park is a gem in the norther portion of the bay. We’ve spent a number of nights swinging on the park’s moorings without another cruising boat in sight and had fires at the empty campsites ashore. But when a big southerly arrives, it’s not a great place to be.
Instead, we like to move south deep into the bay to drop the hook and pay out a good amount of chain in about 15 feet to wait for the wind to build. The highest we’ve recorded here while waiting out a blow was steady at 35 knots with gusts to 45 or more. Our preferred spot is towards the western end of the bay just south of the dock near the point. There’s a marked wreck on the chart that I use as a guide, setting the anchor well south of it.
There are also a number of boats on moorings in this section of the bay throughout the year as well, and it is quickly evident why. The wind can funnel over Shaw Island from nearby Indian Cove, but with such little fetch and a sticky mud bottom, we’ve always been confident that we and everyone else would stay put — and we have.
If you’re in this part of the islands and a big southerly is forecast, Blind Bay bay is well worth a stop.