Sharing the joy of the cruising lifestyle with family and friends is extremely rewarding. It brings people closer together and provides opportunities to learn new skills, enjoy nature, and have fun in a relaxed environment. And you don’t need a second stateroom on your boat to invite overnight guests to join you.
When my husband Peter and I were searching for the perfect cruising vessel, one of my criteria was to have a second stateroom so that we could invite our children or friends to join us. As it turned out, the boat we fell in love with did not have a spare room. Peter convinced me that we wouldn’t need it, that it would seldom be used as sleeping quarters and would most likely be the catchall space for spare boat parts and extraneous stuff. After one season of boating, I had no doubt he was right. As of now, after nine years and 20,000 miles of cruising, we have had other people on board with us only five times, and for short periods of no longer than a week.
We discovered that a great way to handle overnight excursions when we invite family or friends is to find marinas near hotels or bed and breakfasts. Peter and I sleep on board, and our guests sleep ashore. Our guests are able to fully participate in boating activities during the day and then in the evenings they can retire to comfortable accommodations. Often, a bonus is that Peter and I can enjoy some of the land amenities offered to our guests such as pools and restaurants.
Our most memorable time cruising with guests was when our boat first arrived in the Pacific Northwest. Peter and I were excited to share our love for the cruising lifestyle with his parents who, up to this time, had been following our journeys from afar through our photos, stories, and texts. Where better to make them part of our adventure than in the beloved San Juan/Canadian Gulf Islands where Peter spent many of his childhood summers.
Peter’s parents live on Orcas Island year-round, so that was our logical starting point. For this cruise, we planned to space our stops so that we were underway no more than three hours at a time, so we tracked down inns and dining venues that could accommodate this. We normally create a tentative itinerary, keeping the schedule flexible in case of weather challenges, but in this instance we needed to make reservations for overnight accommodations well before knowing the weather. Our timing for this trip was after Labor Day, so most summer vacationers had returned home, and we found that many of the hotels and inns would not charge cancellation fees if we gave them 24-hour notice. This meant that if we needed to rearrange our schedule due to weather we would not be penalized. Fortunately the weather was perfect — spectacularly clear and calm sunny days.
Our first day we picked up Peter’s parents at Deer Harbor Marina and cruised to Poet’s Cove Marina, Resort and Spa in Bedwell Harbor on Pender in the Canadian Gulf Islands. Not only is it a full-service resort community, but it is also one of the locations of the Canadian customs office, which was ideal, since we had to pass through customs to travel in the Canadian Gulf Islands. We enjoyed a stunning sunset from the deck of the resort, followed by a great meal.
The next port of call was Salt Spring Marina on Salt Spring Island. We picked this marina because it is next door to the wonderful, British-style Hastings House inn, which has an award-winning restaurant. Peter’s parents stayed the night in one of their 18 suites, and the four of us dined in the restaurant. What fun for Peter and I to be able to enjoy the stunning views and beautiful gardens of this country house hotel set on the hill above the marina.
Our last stop was Roche Harbor on the north side of San Juan Island, where we passed through U.S. customs and re-entered U.S. waters. Roche Harbor is home to one of the two major marinas on San Juan Island. The other is in Friday Harbor, the largest town in the San Juans. The two properties contrast greatly in atmosphere. Friday Harbor is a bustling port with car ferries, commercial boats and pleasure yachts. Roche Harbor, on the other hand, is reminiscent of days gone by, with a historic waterfront hotel and classic yachts in the stunning, naturally protected harbor. It is busy with boat and seaplane traffic yet relaxing and peaceful.
We reserved rooms for Peter’s folks in the contemporary boutique hotel on the hill. Accommodations are also available in Hotel de Haro, the oldest continually operating hotel in Washington State. There is no town along the shore of this harbor, but a small grocery market and both casual and formal restaurants are available to marina guests.
More like a yacht club than a marina, Roche Harbor caters to the upscale cruising crowd and at the same time is casual and family friendly. Part of the charm of this nautical community is its nod to the yachting traditions of earlier times. Every evening just before sunset, from early May to the end of September, a traditional color ceremony is held. The dock staff retires the flags to music and the boom of a cannon. Following this ceremony, announcements about weather and special events are made. My favorite moment of our four-day cruise was watching Peter arm-in-arm with his parents, standing at attention during this special ceremony. What a wonderful conclusion to a magical vacation.
The next morning, we cruised at a leisurely pace the short distance back to Deer Harbor Marina, all of us relishing the amazing gift of spending just the right amount of time underway, balanced by the beautiful settings, perfect weather, memorable meals and great company.
Peter’s dad had an opportunity to take the helm, contribute to route planning and discuss vessel maintenance challenges, while his mom developed an appreciation for her son’s nautical skills and enjoyed the Pacific Northwest from a new on-the-water perspective. She wrote a touching poem called “The Skipper” in Peter’s honor following this excursion aboard the vessel Bee Weems.
By Dorothy W. Trogdon
Each morning he goes down
under the floor of the cabin,
to check fan belts, filters, exhaust.
Up again, floor replaced,
he moves to the console,
flicks three or four switches.
A rumble arises from below
like a great beast awakening
beneath him, then slowly sliding
forward on heavy sea-paws,
forsaking the land to move out
over the trackless waters.
I will carry you, sings the sea.
And he goes, man and boat as
one, to the realm of seagull, tern
and cormorant who swell free
and feather-light in the lift and
glide between wind and water.