It doesn't disappoint.
Over Memorial Day we get a waterfront campsite at friendly Shaw County Park, where kayakers from several Seattle area groups have landed for the holiday weekend. Shaw is the smallest and least populated of the San Juan Islands served by the Washington State Ferries.
While the San Juans are known for strong currents and tide races that require careful consideration when kayaking there, Shaw is somewhat protected, sandwiched between the bigger islands: Lopez, Orcas, and San Juan.
We check the tides and time our trip to avoid the strongest currents at Neck Point on the northwest point of the island. Lucky us, there's not much wind when we shove off around 9:30 a.m. from the white sandy beach at Indian Cove (one of the best, if not the best stretch of beach in the islands).
|Loading up at Indian Cove, Canoe Island in the distance and Lopez Island beyond.|
|Matt, Peter, Amy, and I paddling southwest in Upright Channel.|
|Heading northwest in San Juan Channel as we pass close to Pt. George on Shaw.|
|Patches of blue sky!|
After a couple hours, we're all getting warm and ready for a break, so we pick up the pace and charge toward Neck Point, passing Friday Harbor over on San Juan Island across the channel. We take a quick break in a small cove thick with kelp and other seaweed just south of the point. It's not a public beach, so we're careful not to linger; I don't get out of my kayak.
Then we round Neck Point and paddle into Wasp Passage. If we're going to hit any strong tidal currents, it's here. It's not too bad. We also keep our eyes open for boat traffic and any ferries because they charge through this narrow passage on the Friday Harbor to Orcas Island inter-island ferry route.
|Clearing Wasp Passage, Orcas Island ahead of us.|
|Getaway homes are scattered through the islands. North side of Shaw Island.|
|Turtleback Mountain to the north on Orcas Island.|
|Beach at Shaw ferry terminal, Blind Island in the background.|
|Shaw Island ferry terminal.|
On the last leg of our trip, around the northeast side of Shaw and back into Upright Channel, Amy and I decide it's the loveliest stretch of shoreline. The forest runs thick down to the rock outcrops above the sea, with unusual moss and hidden little coves.
|Northeast side of Shaw, Lopez Island in the distance.|
On a lovely day like today, these islands, this sea, and the fresh air exhilarate me. I'll be back. (Which means you'll likely see more San Juan Island kayaking blog posts this year:).
|Beach at Indian Cove, Shaw Island|
When You Go
Here's a ferry schedule to Shaw Island. Shaw County Park is likely booked for much of the summer already, but you can always check. Be sure and check the tide and current charts as well as the weather forecasts before embarking on any kayak trip in the San Juans.
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