Island of pirate raccoons
After a late crossing of Rosario Strait to the San Juan Islands, moorage at James Island is a tempting alternative to popular destinations such as Watmough Bay or Spencer Spit.
James Island is a marine state park, with three park mooring buoys off the eastern shore which are protected from prevailing summer winds. If the buoys are taken, there is stern-tie anchorage and a park dock on the western shore, or secure anchorage west of Decatur Head in a bay off Decatur Island.
Ashore, the island park is lovely and neatly kept with much to occupy adventurous young families. There are campsites, picnic tables, fire rings, composting toilets, about two miles of sometimes steep hiking trails and fabulous views from on high across Rosario Strait and south toward Puget Sound.
The state park service warns hikers with children to take care near cliffs and rocky banks to avoid falls.
The island is also somewhat famous for its aggressive resident raccoons who will help themselves to any food left within reach, or on the other side of any barrier they can claw or chew through. Boaters who moor at the park dock should be very careful not to leave hatches or companionway doors open if they don’t want raccoons to climb aboard in search of sustenance.
The bay west of Decatur Head appears to offer sedate shelter, but we have anchored there as stiff southerlies howled across the low spit at the south end of the bay. Fortunately, there is typically lots of room to anchor at limited depth, allowing the use of generous scope.
Shore access on Decatur Island is possible at a public boat launch on the spit to Decatur Head, though there are few sites of interest to boaters within walking distance. Island residents are typically short-term, many arriving by air at the island’s grass strip, packing in what they need.
Boats anchored off west of Decatur Head should take care when visiting James Island by dinghy. Currents can flow quickly in the narrow channel between Decatur and James islands. Dinghies with only human power, or limited engine power, should time their crossing to near slack water.
(James Island is covered in Salish Sea Pilot’s Cruising Guide to the San Juan Islands.)