In the San Juan Islands, unplanned anchorages can often be the best 48° 41.5′ N
122° 54.4′ W (published July 2013)
Go cruising and you usually have a well thought out plan of the anchorages you’ll use, ports you’ll visit and sights you’ll see. More often than not, though, when you actually get to your destination plans change because you discover overlooked spots that pique your interest. These are the anchorages that turn out to be the most memorable.
Last spring, while on a two week cruise through Washington State’s San Juan Islands, that is exactly what happened to us. As usual, we had a general plan of places we wanted to go, but one evening while thumbing through a list of anchorages we happened upon Fishing Bay in Orcas Island’s East Sound and decided to anchor there the following night.
East Sound is a seven-mile stretch of north-south water that slices through the middle of hilly Orcas Island. The sound is infamous for funneling wind up and down its lengthy corridor, making anchoring options limited and potentially uncomfortable if the breeze pipes up. It is said, though, that on windless days in the San Juans, there is still a gentle zephyr to be had in East Sound.
With a light northerly predicted, we headed up the sound to anchor in its far northern corner at Fishing Bay. The sleepy village of Eastsound lies adjacent to the bay and the closest place to anchor if you want to go ashore is just west of Madrona Point. We dropped the hook in about 20 feet of water and just a couple hundred yards from the county dock so getting to shore would be easy. Besides the beach, the dock is the only other place to gain boat access to Eastsound. There are no mooring buoys and no marinas.
Fishing Bay was a perfect place to lazily hang around the boat, enjoy the sunshine and the view of Orcas Island’s verdant hills. Rowing ashore, we found a charming little village with shops and a few restaurants. After strolling around town, stopping occasionally to poke our heads into a shop or two, we hit a happy hour overlooking the bay and then headed back to Yahtzee, our Grand Soleil 39. The quaint feel of Eastsound made us wonder what living in such a place would be like and the only word I could think of was “relaxing.”
We stopped in Fishing Bay during the spring when there were relatively few cruisers in the San Juans, so we had the anchorage, and the town it seemed, all to ourselves. I would guess that in summer this spot sees a little more traffic from cruisers, but not much due to the lack of services for boats. That’s one of the main reasons it drew our attention to begin with, and I’m sure we’ll visit Fishing Bay the next time we find ourselves cruising through this enchanting archipelago.