Lopez Island Channel Entrance

We went out yesterday to practice, practice, practice. It was a good day and very successful. We greatly improved our relationship with Bolero at slow speeds and have a much better system for casting off and sailing up to the mooring.

But we needed a little sailing to recover from all the "work". So out we went on another low tide (between zero and plus one). I had hardly finished my blog post yesterday about the challenges of the Lopez Island channel entrance and the danger of the rock to the east of the channel and here were we looking at a boat that had hit this rock.


They successfully pulled her off but she headed off towards Friday Harbor. Maybe for repairs or just because Lopez Island wasn't worth the hassle.

Well the wind was light and we wanted to get home so we turned around and rowed / sailed in. But another motor boat passed us on the way in and sure enough ran right into the same rock. We watched him go in. It looked like he was aiming for for it. There was the horrible thunking sound as he hit and then a scraping, grating sound as he motored over it. Ouch!

No pictures of his boat as we were focused on navigating the channel for our own entrance, but I asked about his boat as we passed him in the anchorage and it sounded bad. I hope it is better than he thought.

As I mentioned before, this is a common event. And I wonder why. It seems like people are so afraid of the bar to the west that they swing wide and put themselves on this single rock. From my gps plot of my exit and entrance it appears that this rock is accurately mapped so it should be easy enough to avoid.

So I thought that I would, one more time, show my typical path entering and exit Fisherman's Bay on Lopez Island. This is not a replacement for your own navigation, I am just showing what works for me and my sailboat which draws 4 1/2 feet and often has to tack (zig-zag) through this channel.

So our typical entrance procedure is to sail to the outer channel marker (Fisherman Bay Sector "Light") and turn tightly around it to starboard on a line directly to "Fisherman Bay Entrance Daybeacon 4".

Personally, I have much more concern about the shallow and rocky beach than I do about the shoal to the west. Especially in a low tide. Should I run aground on the shoal (I have rarely seen this happen to boats entering Lopez) the flood current lift you back into the channel instead of further into shallow water towards the east beach.

After clearing the "Fisherman Bay Entrance Daybeacon 4" we head directly (we often have to tack) to the "Fisherman Bay Channel Daybeacon 5". From there it is a straight line to "Fisherman Bay Channel Buoy 8". We are never tempted to cut this buoy short (to the west) during a low tide.

I don't use "Fisherman Bay Channel Buoy 8" at all. On very low tides it can be on dry land. I give it plenty of clearance.

Here are pictures of my tracks yesterday (when the two boats came to grief on the rock). First is from my laptop gps program.

And this is from my gps track upload to Google Earth.

I hope this helps. Remember this is just an approach that works for me, you are in charge of your own vessel. This post is for information only and not for navigation.