San Juan Flotilla: Day 5 – Roche Harbor to Succia Island | NW Explorations


San Juan Flotilla: Day 5 – Roche Harbor to Succia Island

A morning in Roche Harbor is not complete without a stop for donuts at the Lime Kiln Café!  The morning started off cloudy, but by our departure around 10am the clouds were burning off and blue skies were poking through.  It has been great to watch as each crew becomes more comfortable with the docking/embarking procedures.  Today everyone was off and running by themselves; Tim and I standing by ready to assist if need be.

We crossed over to Speiden Island hoping to see some of the exotic deer and sheep that live there.    The exotics, including Mouflon sheep, Japanese Sika deer and Fallow deer, were imported by two brothers in the 1970s.  They started a game reserve where people could hunt for trophy animals; however, after an environmentalist outcry and concerns about safety, the business was shut down and the animals were left alone.  Despite being non-native, the populations have thrived on the grassy slopes of Speiden Island. We spotted bald eagles and harbor seals, but the exotic herds eluded us.

Calm seas, sunshine and harbor porpoise accompanied us on the way to Echo Bay on Succia Island.  This long bay offers a scenic and protected anchorage.  Succia Island is mostly made up of sandstone, and the shoreline exemplifies the erosive powers of water and wind.  In some places the cliffs look as if sculpted by a master potter, other areas feature honeycomb-like holes.  There are also mushroom rocks that stand on thin stalks and look like they could topple over at any moment.  Sandstone also means sandy beaches which are otherwise rare in the San Juan Islands.  Succia is paradise for hikers, kayakers, beach-goers and boaters.

After dropping anchor, having a late lunch and a short nap, it was time to explore!  The many coves and inlets along with the low tide led to great wildlife sightings on our dinghy cruises.  We saw a couple dozen harbor seals sunning themselves on rocks nearby, Pigeon Guillemots diving for fish, and bald eagles feasting on the shore.  The low tide also revealed plenty of marine invertebrates in the tidal zone.  We saw crabs scurry away from our approach, bright purple Ochre sea stars clinging to rocks, and many different types of snails, limpets, chitons and kelp.

After dinner we met up for a bonfire on the beach.  We watched as the light faded over the harbor, painting the boats at anchor with a golden glow.  It was a fun evening spent telling stories and roasting s’mores in the warm summer air.  We took a short walk over to Shallow Bay on the west side of Succia and watched as the sun went down.  As the sky darkened, the first stars shone through.  Another great night of stargazing awaits us if we can stay up for it!  For me, the gentle rocking of our boat and the quiet, peaceful anchorage are going to make that difficult.

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