San Juan Island

Scream spent this past week on a trip to San Juan Island.

Scream with Mt Baker

There was essentially no wind on the day we left Victoria for the 27 nm trip to Friday Harbour. So despite a good attempt at sailing, we motored most of the way. We were running late and decided that we wouldn’t get to customs by the time they closed. So we put up our Q flag and courtesy flag, and anchored in Griffin Bay, which runs the entire south east side of San Juan Island. While our stay was quite pleasant, this proved to be a mistake. While anchoring in a foreign country before clearing customs is a common practice and flying the Q flag while doing so is widely recommended, US customs does not appreciate this behaviour. Evidentially the fine is $5000. We got off with a written warning on our vessel’s permanent record, as we reported our transgression rather than having been caught.

Needless to say, clearing customs in Friday Harbor the next morning was a little difficult. Not only did we need to do the “normal” customs processing, but we also had to be warned about anchoring and we had to get our annual decal. The Waggoner Cruising Guide indicates that you can get your decal when you arrive at customs, which is correct. However, customs indicated that you should get your decal before you travel.

Friday Harbour Marina

Friday Harbor is a neat little town, whose primary industry is expensive homes for retirees. Which makes it a nice place to visit. We got some supplies and ate out a lot. They have tons of space on the docks and moorage was quite cheap ($0.70/foot plus $0.05/foot for 30amp electricity).

We also got Biodiesel for our engine and heating. Scream has two diesel heaters in addition to her engine. We used about 100 liters in 2007, but the tank holds 190 imperial gallons.(228 US gallons, 864 liters). We had looked for biodiesel before, but the only Canadian vendor appears to be in Port Alberni which is not nearby. So we were quite pleased to fill up with B20, which is 80% conventional petroleum and 20% biological oil. Biodiesel has been available in Friday Harbor since 2001. We were quite pleased to discover that thanks to US gas subsidies, biodiesel in the US is considerably cheaper than normal diesel in Canada. And you can apply to get the Washington state fuel tax refunded.

We sailed out of Friday Harbor in beautiful sunny weather, and planned a quick return to Griffin Bay in order to sail around in our dinghy, Gone Fission. However, as we approached the bay, we were boarded by the US Coast Guard for an inspection. Despite the strong assurances I received from Canadian officials at the Vancouver boat show a couple weeks ago that we only ever need to comply with Canadian regulations, the US Coast Guard proceeded to check to see if we complied with US regulations. Which I proceeded to discover are largely more lenient than Canadian standards, except that we need to have stickers on the boat explaining that we don’t intend to spill oil or dump garbage overboard. They let us off with a warning.

A front passed as we anchored in Griffin Bay. The forecast was for south west wind, so we anchored appropriately. Unfortunately the winds were north westerly, and we were exposed to about 2 miles of fetch. We had 60 feet of chain out in 15 feet depth, but the wind did seem a bit strong so I went forward to let out more. I discovered that letting out more scope is much more difficult in the wind and waves.

The next day we sailed off our anchor. We have always motored off the anchor before, so we were quite pleased that it worked readily. We sailed passed cattle point into a tide rip with 2 meter waves at 2 seconds. Winds were 20-30kn on the nose with accompanying 1-2m waves at 1-2 seconds all day. We sailed for a couple hours, but unhappy with our ability to point to windward, we motor sailed much of the distance.

We heard a mayday on the VHF radio as we returned to Canadian waters. A whale watching boat took care of the situation, which proved to have been a false alarm. However, when a Canadian Coast Guard Auxiliary zodiac pulled alongside a half hour later we were ready for another encounter with officialdom. Fortunately, they were just investigating the mayday.

Canadian customs were polite as always. However there was a reasonable wind blowing in the harbour and we removed a good deal of paint from the customs dock before we finally managed to get clear.

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