Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Roche Harbor, San Juan Island

Roche is French for Rock

Roche Harbor Marina

San Juan Island and Stuart Island, click on map to enlarge...

Hotel de Haro and McMillins Dinning Room

Chapel overlooking the marina

All of the islands offer different venues. Roche Harbor is one of our favorite islands. Roche Harbor Resort is one of the tourist hot spots. There are only two ways to reach Roche Harbor; boat, or plane. It is located on the north side of San Juan Island; Friday Harbor is another popular place, located on the east side of San Juan Island.

There is a U.S. Customs building facing the harbor on the outside finger of the marina. There is plenty of space there to tie up, and are usually plenty of agents. This is one of the main customs offices for entry into the U.S.

We were able to find anchorage outside of the marina in about 30 ft of water close enough to the marina to receive Internet reception. We subscribe to BBX Internet which is a marina based Internet provider and were able to log in while swinging on a hook. It was not a great connection but good to know if in a pinch for money, or if you just want to anchor for lunch and check your e-mail.

It takes us about seven hours to get to Roche Harbor. Sailboats are not about speed. We usually make it a two day trip on the way over, and a straight shot back. If it is our true destination we might spend the night at Spencer Spit which is on Lopez Island. It is a popular anchorage with plenty of space, lots of mooring balls and easy depths to anchor in. It is probably about three hours from Spencer to Roche. Otherwise, we will just go in a general westerly direction and stop off at one of our other favorite anchorages for a day or two.

We rent a slip for at least a couple days each year in the marina and always have a great time. They have one dock that is for guest moorage and so we are all grouped together Everyone is relaxed and ready for a good time. That particular dock holds about 80 boats. Boats of all shapes and sizes. There are covered floating patios located between the slips for large gatherings. They have motorized barges to take you over to the pool area. They even have a mobile pump out boat and will come to your boat free of charge.

Guest docks at Roche Harbor

This summer when we went they had a Tolly Craft Convention. The guest dock was full, although we did have reservations. Our friends, John and Bettie Perry met us at the resort and were standing at our assigned slip when we pulled up. The Roche Harbor Master ended up assigning us a slip on the opposite side of the marina in the permanent slip section. It was a nice slip but it would have been a lot more fun in the midst of the Tolly Craft's Margaritaville Convention.... =)

One of the Tolly Crafter events; Margaritaville Dingy Parade

Oh, well...we were glad the weather had just changed for the better; it had been in the high 60's, and cloudy. Summer took a long time to come this year. We were at Roche Harbor probably the hottest days of the year, June 28, and 29th, and it was in the 80's.

John, Bettie and Daisy sailing on True Blue

We planned to give The Perry's a sailing lesson. They'd like to learn how to sail, and go with us on a leg to Mexico. We took them out into Speiden Channel and hauled the sail up. Bettie took the helm, she was eager to learn all about sailing. Mitch loves to teach. He explained all the procedures and mechanics of the different instruments. He's a natural teacher, whether it be sailing, water skiing or what have you. He enjoys the technical aspects of things. The only cog in the works...nice hot weather is not condusive to sailing wind. We decided to venture out to Haro Strait hoping to find a breeze.

We eventually agreed to sail over to Stuart Island and have lunch. John was at the wheel and pulled along side a linear moorage and we tied off. The sun was blazing down on us and the “pretty" umbrella I brought was no use to us (it was too big and hit the boom and the back stays in the cockpit) Mitch had tried to tell me... but I didn't listen.We later took turns standing in the water on the ladder to cool off and after about the third rung down one was able to feel the cold begin to penetrate your feet. The water temp was about 48 degrees. Not too inviting for swimming. It was still fun to show the Perry's Stuart Island and eat lunch in the cockpit with our xm radio playing. We returned to our slip and they treated us to dinner. We'll have to invite the Perry's out again in better sailing weather. They were wonderful to us and we enjoyed our time together. Thank you!!!

Picture of Stuart Island Click to enlarge

Example of a linear moorage on Stuart Island

Roche Harbor is a great place with all kinds of ammenities: pool, small grocery store, two restaurants, art vendors, sculpture park, historic hotel, a chapel, old brick pathways, flower garden, showers, fuel dock, condos, cottages, bike rentals, hiking, tennis and ping-pong, not to mention kayak rentals and whale watching tours.

It is wise during the summer months to make a reservation although I haven't heard them turn people away. The dock crew are very accommodating. They stand at your slip while you pull in and tie your boat off for you. They'll also bring you a hose, or an electrical cord if you've forgotten one. It's a top notch marina.

The captain is on the stern of the boat manuevering the boat
along side the fuel dock by remote.
Click to Enlarge

There are a lot of mega buck yachts moored in the marina there. It is fun to walk by on the docks and look at their dingy boats that are really regular speed boats worth up to maybe $80,000. I've seen some with a helicopter aboard and many with wave runners.

The Sculpture Park is a must see. It is located on top of the hill near the airport in a meadow. A small donation is suggested at the gate, where they hand you a brochure with the names and locations of all of the sculptures. Many of them are for sale with their prices listed ( in the thousands of dollars range). It's still fun to look and get a little exercise at the same time.

View of the Sculpture Park: Mitch, Lori, John & Bettie

A few of the many Sculptures at the park

At sunset the marina holds a colors ceremony which has been their tradition since 1957. It is fun for the whole family (well...maybe not the dog = ) There is music, the lowering of state and country flags, and cannon firing.

The ferry doesn't run to Roche Harbor but friends can take the ferry to Friday Harbor and bring their car, or take a shuttle to Roche. The return trip on the ferry is free. Actually we boated over to Friday Harbor with friends in their big motor boat and hopped on the ferry back to Anacortes for free.

If you ever go to the San Juans make sure you don't miss Roche Harbor.