Newby needing road map for possible 2 boat purchase for Orcas Island (San Juan Islands, WA state)...

Hi All,

New kid in class and very first post here for me.

I am hoping to get a “big picture road map” for all things kayak.

About a year ago my wife and I purchased a waterfront cabin on the east (quiet) side of Orcas Island in the San Juan Island chain in upper Washington State. It is right next to Doe Bay.

I have been working on remodeling all the outdated systems and am now ready for some fun! I am looking for a single kayak for myself, a possible two person kakak for my wife and I and later on a possible cheaper sit on top Kayak for short runs on sunny calm days.

We are both in our mid 50s and reasonably fit. I am 6-4” and 230 pounds. My wife is 5-4” and 120#. Our experience is minimal, just some San Juan Islands four hour sea tours and casual paddling on rivers and lakes, etc.

My wife prefers that we get a tandem kayak for when we paddle together. This might change? For my single boat I want a safe, not too “sporty” ocean boat for mostly day trips and the occasional overnight camping venture. The same thing goes for any tandem we buy. I do not want a massive heavy “barge” as I just don’t see us needing to carry that much gear.

Our house has direct water access but there are a lot of rocks, depending on tides. The tides fluctuate wildly up here. I might be able to use our neighbors property with better access but the house will have new owners soon so who knows? I do have shelter for storage though. I am a photographer so having an accessible (while on the water) dry storage hatch for cameras and gear would be great.

I think I am looking for a latish model used plastic boat? While thinking about this I resize I may end up with three boats? This will be fine as we will be hosting guests and family. I plan on taking courses (spring/early summer) here on Orcas Island and perhaps Seattle as well. There are some excellent trainers and world renown experts out here like Boat Body Blade, etc.

I will also be getting a used (island car) Subaru Outback or Volvo XC70 wagon to transport boats to other locations here on the islands.

In the summer there is a large bull kelp island that forms directly across from us which attracts tourists and fishing folks. Many seem to do just fine on slower SOT or inflatable boats. So, I can see having a cheaper spur of the moment short distance runner just to get out on the water for an attempt at catching a fish?

All of this will be the lifestyle change we have worked so hard for, so I want to do this the “right way” without getting over my head and spending silly money.

I better cut this short. But any thoughts here would be most welcome…



Not sure if you saw the thread here, but Body Boat Blade is for sale and they’ve put their 2019 class schedule on hold. Shawna and Leon are doing consulting, so it might be in your best interests to give them a call not only for recommendations about coaching, but about kayaks which would fit your needs.

I did hear the rumor that the biz was going to be put up for sale. I plan on going up to Orcas for a few days on Thursday, so I will try to stop by and learn more. Your suggestion is interesting: it might be worth seeing it if it is possible to get one of them to come over and view our launch site directly and see where the general conversation goes? Might save me some money and anguish down the road. I could take pictures but having a local experienced eye viewing the whole location would be awesome. Thanks!

Plastic sea kayak is what I would consider.

If you haven’t taken an intro to sea kayaking class (which covers a lot, but most important for you is the deep water recoveries), I would strongly recommend doing so. If you don’t want to, then I would stick to just using sit on tops. Easier to get back on a SOT in deep water without training. Added benefit, be easier to launch and land in a SOT from a rocky shoreline.

There are significant currents around the San Juans. I would also find a class may not be same class as Intro) that ensures you understand these.

On dry storage for camera - don’t expect any hatches in kayaks to stay dry enough for electronics. Cameras should be kept in a high quality dry bag or dry case.

Most modern sea kayaks come with front and rear bulkheads and deck lines. If you are looking at one that is missing one or the other, don’t get it.

Definitely contact BBB. They can help you learn the necessary skills for that environment so that your paddles are more fun than fear or hazard.

There is this thing called a seal launch that you might later learn. It is not a place where pinnipeds frolic, though I guess it could be. :wink:

"I plan on taking courses (spring/early summer) here on Orcas Island and perhaps Seattle as well. "

Does your wife also plan on taking courses? Reason I ask is that it only takes one panicked or frozen person to take an on-water rescue from doable to questionable. At least unless the group paddling is more like 3 or four people.

When you contact the BBB folks for advice on where to get training, I suggest you ask about couples-friendly coaching where one of the students is less aggressive than the other. Getting that part right now will make a huge diff in your paddling together later on.

"I plan on taking courses (spring/early summer) here on Orcas Island and perhaps Seattle as well. "

My bad on missing your note of this with my response.


Before buying anything I would talk to the BBB people and if possible take a class Before purchase of any boat. This way you don’t buy a boat that wont really work for you.

Have left a message with BBB. Sounds like they might be busy. I also plan on stopping by the store this weekend. Thanks for all the tips!!!

I would recommend that you take a good look at a Current Designs Sirocco for you and maybe the Squamish for your wife. Until you have a lot of time in the saddle I would stay on the inside. Conditions can change in minutes out in the channels; you don’t want to be there when it does. When you’re ready for it, Sucia should be on the top of your list.

When you’re ready for your ultimate boats, check in with NC Kayaks down near Tacoma. If you’re over around Bellingham, stop in and see what Sterling has. You might even take a little trip over to Port Townsend and look at the Pygmys. Eddyline is also in your neighborhood.

@magooch said:
When you’re ready for it, Sucia should be on the top of your list.

Keep in mind that while you wander around on Sucia, the weather/tide can change significantly. So a calm crossing from Orca’s North Beach to Sucia may be less benign on the return. There are tidal rips awaiting in the channel. Local kayakers should be able to give good advice.