After storming the Olympics, we took shelter under the peninsula’s rain shadow with Esther’s brother Eric and sister-in-law Jacqueline (Jaco). Our generous hosts, offered us their fully-equipped casita cottage and took us crabbing, fishing, and exploring on the waters and islands of the Strait of Juan de Fuca.
The Strait of Juan de Fuca is a 96-mile long salt water channel that forms the international boundary between the United States and Canada. To access the Strait, Eric and Jaco moor their power catamaran at the John Wayne Marina on scenic Sequim Bay.
Just west Sequim Bay is Dungeness Bay and the longest natural sand spit in United States. With no roads, exploring the five-mile long narrow strip usually requires a protracted round-trip walk. Lucky for me, Jaco, Eric and Esther dropped me off in the boat and let me hike back to the mainland and an awaiting car ride home.
Named after the Dungeness Headlands in England by the late 18th century British explorer George Vancouver, Dungeness, Washington also lends its name to the famous species of Pacific Northwest crab. We ensnared several of these prized crustaceans and dined on their delicate and slightly sweet meat, dipped in melted butter.
The Strait of Juan de Fuca is also a major migratory passage for several species of wild salmon. Today, anglers compete with a small population of killer whales for these high-protein fish. While fishing with Eric and Jaco, we spotted a distant pod of whales, but failed to hook a salmon.
Because salmon is essential to the local ecosystem and economy, the federal government in 2014 restored an important salmon spawning habitat by demolishing the nearby Glines Canyon Dam. To see the result, we hiked to this former dam, the world’s largest ever intentionally breached.
Since we failed to catch a fish, we relied on Jaco’s shopping and culinary skills, and still enjoyed grilled salmon for dinner. After a second unsuccessful day of fishing, we had to pick-up sashimi at the local sushi shop. For Jaco’s birthday, we took no chances and went to a restaurant in Friday Harbor.
Friday Harbor is the largest town in the San Juan Islands, an archipelago of over 400 islands and rocks on the north side of the Strait of Juan de Fuca. On uncharacteristically placid and glassy waters, we travelled the 30 nautical miles across the Strait, tied up at the busy dock, and had a celebratory lunch overlooking the marina.
After lunch, we watched the boat traffic and strolled the quaint streets of town. Connected with the mainland by the Washington State Ferry system, Friday Harbor is also a popular destination for tourists without their own vessel for transport.
During our time on the Strait, we re-united with family, relaxed in a private cottage, dined on fresh local seafood, and explored scenic and interesting coastal areas and landmarks. After storming the Olympics, Esther and I were truly fortunate to find a safe harbor with Eric, Jaco, and Juan de Fuca.
Feature Photo: Low tide at Slip Point on Clallam Bay, Strait of Juan de Fuca (British Columbia, Canada visible across the Strait)