[get out] sailing in the san juan islands

Last weekend we took a day-trip up to Orcas Island to go sailing! It was a first-time sail for Edgar, his friend Jason and Elizabeth. Though we did it in a day, I would DEFINITELY suggest planning ahead so that you can spend an entire weekend exploring the island. We were pretty exhausted by the end of the day and having to wait for the ferry was basically the worst thing ever. Anyway, here’s my guide to sailing through the San Juan’s!


Getting There

We rented a Zipcar SUV for the trip, and Edgar picked us up at the crack of dawn – 6:30am. We had to drive about an hour and a half north on I-5 to Anacortes to catch the ferry. We were about an hour early, so after checking on the ferry line we drove back into town for breakfast at the Adrift Restaurant in downtown Anacortes. You can read about it here, but in short: best breakfast ever!


The Ferry

Riding the ferry is NOT a particularly affordable method of transportation. For four people and a car, it was nearly $90, so plan for that so you’re not taken by surprise. It is a one-way fare though, so you don’t have to pay for the ride back. The ferry ride is about one hour long and made a stop for walk-on passengers to de-board on one of the smaller islands before letting us off on Orcas.

Pack Snacks!

Even though we’d ended up having time to eat breakfast, I’d put myself in charge of bringing snacks along for the trip. I made a pizza from scratch and packed it up, defrosted some of Trader Joe’s croissants overnight and baked them off while I got ready in the morning, and picked up some grapes, hummus, pita chips, Goldfish, salt + pepper Kettle Chips (lord, those things are addictive) and a few candy bars to sustain us through the day.


Classic Day Sailing at Deer Harbor

Edgar had purchased a LivingSocial deal with Classic Day Sails several months ago and had scheduled our 3-hour trip with Captain Ward aboard the “Aura”. Once we got off the ferry, we drove about 20 minutes over to Deer Harbor Marina. The marina was super cute and had a little store, gallery, gift shop and a beautiful pier. The store also had a kitchen that was serving up your typical assortment of fried food and sandwiches and since Edgar will never turn down a corn dog, we ate lunch in the sun.



Once we boarded the Aura, Captain Wade taught us the very basics of sailing. I’ve always said that I don’t like sailing because it’s a lot of WORK, and I stand by that, even though the captain made it easy for us. We helped steer the boat, occasionally adjusted the jib and the sails but overall we got to sit in the sun and take in the beauty that is the San Juan Islands. We sailed around several and took a few detours so that we could see the seals (and baby seals!) sunbathing on the rocks.

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Getting Home

The day itself was delightful, but getting back home was nightmarish because we got back to shore around 4 and then rushed to get on the early ferry that left around 5:30pm. As we should have predicted, the early ferry was full (different ferries can accommodate different numbers of cars) and so we ended up being stuck in line for nearly 4 hours as we waited for the 9pm ferry boat. Even worse was the fact that the ferry is literally the only way off the island (except for a seaplane, I suppose).

On the plus side, there are several dining options in the ferry terminal area and a couple of gift shops. I would NOT recommend eating at any of the restaurants – instead, go to the little grocery store and pick up some stuff to create your own little meal. The food at the restaurants is highly overpriced and they were easily overwhelmed by all of the people waiting in line. We watched one employee literally have a meltdown – and Edgar found a long hair in the middle of his food. Yuck!

Next Time

Next time, we’re going to plan far far ahead so that we can book rooms on the island and stay for the weekend. That way we can likely avoid the horrid ferry traffic on the way home and not have to wake up so early to get there – plus we’ll be able to find out more about what the island has to offer! I can’t wait to repeat the trip next summer!



2 Comments Add yours

  1. Rudy says:

    Nice read, looks like a fab time! ~Rudy

  2. We took this trip too! It was a lot of fun and Captain Ward was awesome. Now I want to buy a sailboat and go around the world.

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