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Seattle to the San Juans...

Old 11-21-2018, 05:22 PM
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Default Seattle to the San Juans...

We're looking at making a trip this next summer from Seattle to the San Juans...

Our starting point will be Lake Union and we'll enter the Puget Sound through the Ballard Locks...

Our boat is a 25' (27.9 LOA) Bennington Tritoon with a Merc 350...

I took my previous Bennington through the Locks and spent some time in the Sound, but just right in the immediate area...

On this trip, we'll be renting a VRBO on one of the Island's and use that as a pivot point to explore the whole area over a 10 day period...

Looking for some input on navigating the Sound... Dangers to be aware of... And of course, as much information I can get on boating in the San Juans - Docking with tide issues, fuel, etc...

Thanks...
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Old 11-23-2018, 02:36 PM
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I used to run my Dad's 43 foot powerboat and my uncle's 35 foot saliboat up to San Juan Island each year. A fun trip is up through the "Hole in the Wall" by LaConner. It empties through a well marked channel in the bay near Bellingham. It is protected and there are plenty of marinas along the way for shore power and good restaurants. In the islands there are fewer places to stay but nearly all marinas have some slips for overhighters. Get some good charts and the locations are obvious.

If you stay out of the Straights of Juan de Fuca, most the SJ Islands are pretty protected. The wind tends to run north and south a lot. Sailboats are always running and beating rather than reaching which is preferred. I am noticing your pontoon boat. Not good. Where are you from? You must realize that we are talking about salt water with a lot of tidal range and water moving through islands. Keeping track of tides and the weather are your greatest challenges. Tidal rips can run 8 knots. In Deception Pass and a few other places they can be 12 knots.

I don't think I have ever seen a pontoon boat in the SJ Islands. Not one, ever. They are really designed for smaller lakes. They are not very seaworthy. The weather even in summer can be wet and pretty cold. You have no where to hide on your pontoon boat. I would rethink a trip in that boat. Don't take my word for it. Ask around.
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Old 11-28-2018, 05:15 PM
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If PPINE hasn't caused you to rethink your plan, check the weather and always have a place to run. Inside of Whidbey island is very protected, but then you need to make the choice of deception pass and the swinomish channel by La Conner (I'd choose that way). A Cruising Guide to Puget Sound and the San Juan Islands is a great resource--spiral bound and has info on each port and other highlights. This can show you the areas where protection isn't real close by. Other dangers are rocks and sandbars and then tide movement. You should be pretty shallow, but there are some right under the surface. A good fishfinder/chart plotter is a necessity.
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Old 11-29-2018, 07:05 PM
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Mike
I would have to agree with the other statements on your pontoon boat,just not the best choice,...That being said it could be done IF the water is FLAT CLAIM,which it can be how does it handle large boat wakes??...I to would highly recommend a chart plotter/depth finder, charts,and a Waggoners boating/marina guide....I assume you are just going out on short dat trips?? To say Friday Harbor,Roche Harbor,or some of the great parks Garrison Bay,Reed Harbor?.....Just a thought here how about renting a boat large enough to live on for this vacation instead of VRBO......Good luck..Brad

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Old 01-02-2019, 09:08 AM
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Trailering to Washington Park in Anacortes would be preferable but you can do the run from the locks to San Juans fine if the weather is calm. If it's not you'll be taking lots of spray in your face. But it's doable. There are spots to duck for cover on the run up. Once you get to the Juans you can find protection if needed in the lee of many islands. Do you have a dock at your house? If not I'd plan out your anchoring system. Bring several good anchors. Most folks don't understand what big current means to them until they see wind against current waves!
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Old 01-02-2019, 07:04 PM
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No way would I take my family in Admiralty on a trip on a pontoon. Maybe a morning were I was watching the weather window. Cargo ship wakes, ferry wakes, currents, wind are just to unpredictable.
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Old 01-02-2019, 07:44 PM
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I'm not a big fan of pontoon boats but that's pretty easy boating you're talking about. And pretty sheltered. Go up through La Conner obviously. The only watchout for me would be crossing Rosario but keep an eye on the weather and even that won't be a problem. I assume you've got something like a 20 knot cruise speed so you don't need to be out in exposed water for very long. Hang out in Anacortes until the forecast is good and then get it done early in the morning. Go for it.
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Old 01-02-2019, 09:06 PM
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Thanks for the feedback...

The boat has a cruise speed of 30 knots...

And if I sense any trouble she can run full speed at @ 43 knots...

Exposure in a tough scenario is less than 90 minutes...

We'll be renting a VRBO with dock...

I guess my main learning curve is charting my route and tides...

If the weather was poor, I'd simply delay my launch in either direction...
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Old 01-05-2019, 10:47 AM
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I read a Dear Abby column recently, If you have to askif it is appropriate, it probably isn’t
Here is my boat, Cruising at 30knts in the sound is a rough ride in a 11,000lb enclosed pilothouse, 43knts is doable only on complete glass. The winds, tides and currenta are vastly different at every turn around an island. We have see 4-6 wind waves on the same trip as running with the currents at 2.5mpg at 35mph Being that I have never seen a pontoon transiting the San juans probably is a good indication rhat it isn’t a good idea
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Old 01-05-2019, 03:06 PM
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Originally Posted by The Matador View Post
...
And if I sense any trouble she can run full speed at @ 43 knots...
...
I'm guessing that if you get into a trouble situation where you NEED to run at 43 knots, your boat won't be able to.
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Old 01-09-2019, 12:41 PM
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matador, you have received some good council above. i have never seen a pontoon boat in those waters. yes, people have crossed the Atlantic in rowboats. unless you are seeking that sort of adventure take note of the advice you have been offered. good luck
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Old 01-09-2019, 01:15 PM
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Originally Posted by krisinak View Post
matador, you have received some good council above. i have never seen a pontoon boat in those waters. yes, people have crossed the Atlantic in rowboats. unless you are seeking that sort of adventure take note of the advice you have been offered. good luck
You are very correct...

And I appreciate the feedback...

We're going to pass on the San Juans and take the boat up to Flathead Lake in Montana...

Thanks...
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Old 01-09-2019, 01:22 PM
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excellent idea. i had a pontoon on flathead lake for some years when we lived on finley point. we used to go to bird island and swim, picnic, and do happy hour. you will have fun. cheers
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Old 01-15-2019, 08:06 AM
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The other problem that was not mentioned are tidal rips. Sometimes out in the channel even on a calm day out of nowhere, waves can start building when the tide is running between islands. They can easily be 2-3 feet, sometimes much larger. They can be intimidating in a sea kayak when the ocean is in your lap. The tides in the islands create some strong currents. Some can bury a buoy.

Flathead Lake is pretty huge. It has a lot of fetch and some strong afternoon winds. There are a lot of sailboats on the lake. Pontoon would be better there but watch the weather and get off by 1400 or so.
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Old 02-22-2019, 12:36 PM
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Late to the party here, but I'll give my two cents. I live in Friday Harbor during the summer. I have seen pontoon boats in the San Juan Islands. It's rare, but you see one every once in awhile. In fact, you can find one moored in Friday Harbor. Frankly I wouldn't hesitate to run Matador's rig in the Islands. Yes, you have the big currents and tide swings creating serious rips in the known locations, but totally doable. I used to run a 13 foot rigid dinghy all over the islands that my kids and I used for fishing. Only a few times did I hit some stuff that made it a wet and bumpy ride, but never unsafe.

Coincidentally, I grew up on Flathead Lake. When the wind really blows, that lake can make Puget Sound and the San Juans look tame. However, storms that run across the lake are fairly predictable and short lived, so you can literally see them coming and make a run for it if necessary. In the summer, you tend to get short lived evening thunderstorms that can kick up some serious wind. As a kid, we must have rescued a half a dozen boats over a period of about ten years, so that gives you and idea of the frequency of bad storms. A pontoon boat will be great for Flathead Lake and you will have a ton of fun. I'm not sure where you will be staying, but I would recommend someplace in Lakeside or Bigfork. You can swing into Bigfork, hit some hopping restaurants and your kids can play in the pool while the adults do their thing. I prefer the north end of the lake closer to Kalispell, but that's a personal preference. In any event, I'm jealous of either trip and I'm sure you will have an awesome time!
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Old 03-28-2019, 07:34 AM
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I would consider Lake Pend Orielle in Idaho. It has lots of channels and islands, kind of like a protected inland SJ Islands. Closer than Flathead Lake and not so exposed.
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