The Island Within: Shaw Island, San Juan Archipelago

The Lummi Nation call it “Sq’emenen” for millennia.  A veritable smorgasbord of shellfish, crab, fish and game provided what the Lummi needed, and the Lummi took care of their Island. Upon the arrival of the Europeans and Asians, the Island was soon designated “Shaw Island” in 1841. It was named after John Shaw, a US naval officer, when the Wilkes Expedition wandered through.  By an 1855 treaty between the Lummi Nation and the U.S., the entire San Juan archipelago became the “property” of the U.S…  The Lummi did retain some of the rights over the fisheries. That must have been an interesting 1854 series of meetings. Perhaps it was just one meeting, I haven’t dug that far into the history of the Island. Perhaps I will… I find the history of places quite interesting. I don’t know why. And I am surrounded by the history of thousands of years of indigenous occupation and a couple hundred years of non-indigenous history. Who named this bay, Blind Bay. Why? It doesn’t appear Blind to me at all. But… that’s just me. Perhaps, in a dense fog, an early voyager ran into the little reef surrounding the island that guards the bay. The navigator was blindsided. Her comrades thought it quite funny and decided that Blind Island and Blind Bay names were worthy of a bit of mirth. Hard to tell… but its fun to make it all up. Call it fake history if you will…

There are several pleasant anchorages associated with Shaw.  Starting from Blind Bay on the Northern shore and going clockwise there are Picnic Bay, Indian Bay, Sq’emenen Bay (formerly Squaw Bay) on the Southern Shore, and Parks Bay on the Eastern shore.  This post covers Blind Bay, the largest anchorage. The following pictures were taken in mid August 2021, during the height of the Washington cruising season.

View to the East
View to the East
View to the North, includes Blind Island, the little island in the foreground (A State Park accessible only by boat… behind that lies Harney Channel and Orcas Island.

Compare the density of boats anchored in Blind Bay with the density at the Isthmus and Cherry Cove mooring fields out at Catalina Island in California:

It is a bit more crowded and way noisier…

Blind is not the quietest nor most placid of bays to anchor in compared to other anchorages, but the bottom is thick mud (good anchor holding stuff) and there is good protection from most winds. The next 2 pictures tells the story of why it might not be so placid:

The Shaw Island ferry terminal at the NE entrance to Blind Bay
The Orcas Island ferry terminal just across Harney Channel from Blind Bay

The coming and goings of the ferry and other traffic in Harney Channel do create significant wakes that make their way into the bay that causes a bit of rolling at times. For the most part it is not noticeable on a boat like ours that weighs north of 70,000 pounds full of fuel and water ballast, not to mention the thousands of pounds of tools, clothes, food stores, wine and spirits et. al. We do have 2 devices called “flopper stoppers” that we hang over the side if it gets bothersome. They attenuate the roll quite nicely. The smaller flatter bottom boats do dance around a bit at times

So… what’s there to do in Blind Bay one might ask? Cruising in a boat has been said to be nothing more than fixing your boat in exotic places. And there is always some of that to do. Boats like ours are very complicated machines. We have 2 large diesel engines, Fred and George, that have to be fed and nurtured. Ginny our 9 KW generator and Hagrid our 15 KW requires more of the same. The skiff has a motor and it needs occasional ministrations. I just changed its oil in Port Ludlow 3 days ago. Good for the next 100 running hours. There are multiple pumps, battery charging systems, 120V and 12V electrical systems, and multiple navigational electronics instruments that are also on the feeding and caring list… It;s a full time job mate. Good thing that form of work, for me at this juncture, is mostly play. Goal met. Goal acknowledged. A sip of wine will seal that thought…

Then there are the affairs associated with daily life: cooking, eating, cleaning, sleeping, napping, laundry, varnishing, reading, writing, watching movies, email, news gathering, jabbering with others lurking about the anchorage on their boats, dog walks, people walks, the usual… Just now I’m finishing dinner, and the sun is going down. Our meal was a perfectly easy dish to fabricate. I will call it Shaw Island Tuna Noodle Bake. There is no recipe. This one contained diced red onion, sliced baby crimini mushrooms, cream of mushroom soup (aha!) tuna (like duh), cream cheese, Dijon mustard, a bit of sea salt, small macaroni noodles, ground black pepper, a twist or two from an Italian spice grinder, 3 cloves of finely diced fresh garlic, Tillamook sharp cheddar cheese / fresh ground romano cheese layered throughout and on top… Oh my. No salad tonight, the onions and shrooms will just have to do for fresh plant life…

The following pics were chosen from just a few that we took yesterday on a dog / human walk on Shaw Island. the Island is mostly private so walks are limited to the few country roads:

Blind Bay Road leading up to the Shaw Island ferry terminal, the general store open half the year, a post office, a small public dock and a small park. What else is needed? A bit of history: The general store and ferry terminal were run by Nuns of the Franciscan Sisters of the Eucharist for almost 3 decades from 1976 until 2004. They relocated / retired to the Franciscan Center in Bridal Veil, Oregon. There are still 8 or so Benedictine Nuns who live as a contemplative, cloistered order on a 300 acre farm on the island.

And just up the road there are… unusual sights…

Fred and Carol, the local greeters
A retirement home for elderly paddles
The world famous Shaw Island resting bench for wearied travelers…
The Master At Arms guarding a private viewing dock…
A patina covered farm plow, the precursor to the plow anchor that has safely anchored many a yacht
The remains of an ancient wheelbarrow melting back into the earth from whence it came
A petrified heron and what appear to be 2 tree gnomes
A smokey sunrise in Blind Bay October 12, 2021. It cleared up the next day.

The Other denizens of Blind Bay:

Tiny house with outbuildings
A petit folkboat sailer
Someones semi-discarded dream
Picture from an earlier visit to Blind Bay
Farms in the head of the bay

We will continue our explorations of Shaw Island later this month and in September. Parks Bay and Indian Cove have sent out exploratory invitations that we will be honoring soon. But then… there’s Prevost, Garrison, Westcott, Rosario, Sucia, Hunters, Roche, and Canada all calling for our return.

More later…

One thought on “The Island Within: Shaw Island, San Juan Archipelago

  1. So good to hear of your travels. We are leaving for Kauai on the 27th if the Hawaiian Gods cooperate! This damn Delta variant is concerning. When Covid was at its peak earlier this year they closed the island. I’m just hoping they don’t do it again. Just a bit about work(what is that you ask?). I had lunch with Diane Nesbit and Debbie Ochs this last week. Diane retired at the end of last year and Debbie just retired the end of July.  She informed us that Sharp is going to dump Cerner and go to Epic!! I’m just thinking about how much money they are dumping! Oh well not my monkey, not my circus.Take care and sending love and hugs to you and Les.❤🤗Elaine Sent from my Verizon, Samsung Galaxy smartphone


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