Yesterday looked like a good day to do the long paddle to Friday Harbor from Anacortes. It was supposed to be sunny and 73 degrees. There was an ebb current in the morning that would provide a good ride down Rosario Strait to the south end of Lopez Island, and a strong flood current in the afternoon that would propel you north through Cattle Pass and up San Juan Channel. Unfortunately when I arrived in Anacortes the islands were completely enveloped in a thick fog. Although crossing through fog can certainly be done with a compass and chart, you run the risk of being run over by huge tankers, ferries, and other boats in Rosario Strait, so I wouldn't do it. Instead I switched to Plan B and pulled my car into the line for the ferry but was told I would be on the waiting list, even though I arrived over an hour early for the 10:25 AM sailing.
It was so crowded getting on the ferry that I realized that it could be nearly impossible to get a spot on the return ferry Sunday evening. So I quickly changed my mind, pulled out of line and got a refund. Now for Plan C: park my car and walk on the ferry with my kayak. Of course the parking lot was completely full so I couldn’t even do that! I just want to warn you that even if you want to walk on the ferry to go to the San Juan Islands during peak season you might have trouble. This just illustrates the two big problems traveling in the San Juans during the summer: 1) fog. 2) crowds.
The San Juan Islands on the east side of Rosario Straight are easily accessible by kayak from Anacortes, including Burrows and Allan Islands. These two islands are essentially uninhabited and their exposed rocky shores, kelp forests, and seal colonies give them that characteristic San Juan flavor.
Burrows Island is a favorite kayaking destination because of the lighthouse. It also has a Washington Water Trails campsite. As far as I can tell, Allan Island is still owned by Paul Allen and has been on the market for some time now. The price has come down quite a bit from $25 million to $13.5 million, which might interest any bargain hunters out there. It also comes with a 1200 square foot log cabin built in 1985, landing strip and dock. It would be a nice place for a evil villain’s secret lair, except that it is pretty close to the mainland. By the way, Allan Island was named after a Navy hero, not Paul Allen.
I shouldn’t need to remind you that Paul Allan is a very rich man. So keep that in mind if you feel the need to stop to pee on his island. I didn’t see any “No Trespassing” signs, roaming guard dogs or armed patrols. In fact, the log cabin looked vacant and there is no evidence at all that the island was occupied. Locals say that it has remained untouched since Allen bought the island in 1992. Apparently he much prefers Lopez. Who knows −− there could be a high tech hidden security system with perimeter cameras and laser−triggered booby traps all over. On the other hand, the super−rich in this country have little to worry about: working class stiffs do a good job of keeping themselves in line without their help, due to the sense of awe and deep respect we have for obscene wealth, and our own self−loathing. Evidence of this can be found by how the class war of 2009 failed miserably. My, aren't we all such pathetic slavish losers!
The Burrows Island Light Station is undergoing restoration. Built in 1906, the lighthouse is the oldest effectively intact wooden light station in Washington State. In April 2011 the Northwest Schooner Society became the custodians of the property and began work cleaning it up. Previously, the 2 storey wooden lighthouse keeper’s house was boarded up but now it is accessible. The warning posted outside the backdoor entrance reads, “Visitors are not permitted inside the buildings, but we know there is no way we can keep you out. If you must go in, be aware that there is lead based paint contamination, asbestos, bats, and falling hazards throughout.”
Another reason the Burrows and Allan Islands are a good destination is that you can usually find some exciting tidal rips along the way. I almost always run into one at the west entrance to Burrows Channel. This time I also found one in the channel between Allan Island and Burrows Island and just in front of the lighthouse. The flood current was at its maximum and was stirring up some waves. They are ephemeral though so spend the time to play if you run into them. They don't last long.