Breezin' along on a bright sunny day in the shadow of majestic Mount Baker — summer sailing couldn't get much sweeter than this!
marinas nearby as well. In summer, street fairs, sidewalk minstrels and harborside amusements give the wellscrubbed waterfront promenade a very festive feeling. Adjacent to the Empress lies the splendid Royal British Columbia Museum, with its National Geographic IMAX theater. Also adjacent is the B.C. Parliament building, as this is the seat of government for B.C. province. Dozens of shops and restaurants are within walking distance of the docks. Another (man-made) highlight is the charming little town of Friday Harbor, on San Juan Island. It's the county seat of the San Juans, and it's where you'll clear in to U.S. Customs and Immigration after you venture over to Victoria. Other than the comings and goings of land tourists and boaters, there's really not a heck of a lot of action here, but that's just the way the locals like it. Still, it's fun to poke around in the shops and galleries, stock up on provisions, have a nice meal and perhaps visit the
whale museum. No discussion of the Northwest would be complete without addressing the question of weather, as some folks seem to think of it as dreary and rainy yearround. True, summer showers are common, but in our experience they've been contrasted by plenty of sunshine. In fact, during our most recent trip we had two days with temperatures close to 90° — "That's the
upside of global warming!" said one local sailor. Wind and sea conditions vary, but not greatly. During the summer months, it's pretty rare to see more than about 15 knots of breeze, even
in a squall. And unless you're in a very broad channel, there is generally not enough fetch for big seas to build. Being used to San Francisco Bay conditions, we found ourselves making the most of squalls so we could cover longer distances under sail. Unlike some foreign destinations, charts and GPS seem to be in perfect sync in these latitudes, making navigation relatively painless. The most imIf you like to hike through pristine landscapes, you'll love the Northwest. Inset: It's common to sight playful orcas in Haro Strait.
The April 2006 issue of the West's premier sailing and marine magazine.