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Walt Drechsler

Sometimes you have to look deeper……

We slipped the lines in Friday Harbor early the next morning. Dodging the ferries and sea planes, continued North in San Juan Channel. Weather was clear and cool but not enough wind to sail so we once again had to rely on the Iron Jenny.

We ran along the Western shore of Shaw Island, passed the Wasp Island group and up the East side of Spieden Island. Back in the 70’s this island was populated with exotic animals. A hotel, air strip, and hanger were constructed to accommodate visitors who came for the animals. (We wont elaborate except to say this was frowned upon and community pressure soon won)  Some of these animals can still be seen roaming the island when traveling via ferry or private boat along the island. We motored past Spieden and grabbed a buoy in Reid Harbor for lunch. We lowered the dingy for a quick trip around the bay. Large bay with several mooring bouys as well as a liner tie. We wanted to grab lunch and head for Roche. We did not give this bay its proper attention so will have to come back on another day do this bay justice. Prevost harbor is just over the hill and we would like to explore that as well.

A wind blown selfie of the crew touring Reid Harbor by dingy


Lunch was sandwiches in the cockpit as it started to spit rain. After lunch we headed across the channel toward Roche Harbor. As you approach Roche from the NE you see Battleship Island to the West and Pearl Island guarding the harbor. This Island was originally named after William Morse from the Wilkes Expedition in 1841 but renamed in 1921 due to the resemblance of a battleship when viewed from a distance. It has been told that one foggy day (I think it was in 1906 during Teddy Roosevelt’s visit to the harbor) it sent the crews scurrying to battle stations before someone realized this was an Island and not the real thing,

(Here is where the picture of Battleship Island would be if I could find it)

Entering Roche harbor, we find a marina with some very very large yachts. Very humbling to a lowly sailor boy and his crew!



We tucked up to the East where the Riviera owners were holding a rendezvous. They had a great turn out and everyone was having a good time. It seems Roche is also a very popular wedding destination. We saw two weddings during our time in Roche and both weddings dodged the rain showers and were stunning.

We checked in and looked around town a bit. It was very historic and we enjoyed viewing the Hotel De Haro,


General Store in the old Lime building and the variety of other shops scattered around the grounds.


If you were to look at Roche Harbor on the surface, it was nice but seemed to have very little to offer. We discovered over the next two days we only needed to look deeper………

Included with your moorage is a visit from the m/v Phecal Phreak! You do have to schedule your visit as he is very popular.


We gave this little guy a lot of crap before departing Roche Harbor!

While visiting with some of the Riviera group we were informed about the retiring of the colors ceremony. We were told it is one not to miss. With our new information we lowered the dingy and took a ride around the harbor before the ceremony. It was a beautiful evening to slowly motor through the harbor and take in some of the beauty before tying up to the dingy dock where we disembarked for the ceremony.

Retiring the colors is a nightly event in Roche Harbor during the summer months. It was a beautiful evening and the ceremony was very moving. The young men performing the ceremony did a wonderful job, The entire marina shuts down while the colors are being retired.

While visiting with one of the staff he mentioned there was coffee in the lobby of the Hotel De Haro. We discovered they also had a fireplace. The air was a bit chilly so we grabbed a nice hot cup of coffee and cozied up to the fire. We visited with the hotel staff and enjoyed the lobby and historic pictures of Roche Harbor while we savored our coffee.

The hotel staff was very informative and we learned there were quite a number of interesting things to do and places to visit in and around Roche Harbor. We were learning that if we looked a little deeper this little harbor at the top of San Juan Island had a lot to offer…..

We walked back to the boat as the sun was setting to the West. The town took on the most captivating tone that reflected off the smooth, still water. We felt fortunate to be in this special place on such a perfect evening with good friends.

As we settled into the cockpit with our  “coffee”  discussing our  plans for tomorrow, It was unanimous that we give this harbor a full day of effort and look deeper for the treasures it holds………

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