Cruising the San Juan Islands: Eliza, Vendovi, Cypress, and Jack Islands.

We really packed some travel in for my Mother’s Day cruise.

Mother’s Day weekend and we headed out with no particular plan in mind other than to fish for some Ling Cod, sail when the wind blew, and forage for some cattails, nettles, and hopefully some mushrooms. My favorite kind of trip, trusting to our own capabilities to provide us with our food and no particular place to go in mind.

Square Cove

We got started on Friday evening, tide was out with the water calm and no breeze to speak of so we motored off toward Square Cove on Guemes Island. On the trip over there was large motor boat blowing its horn, we watched for a moment as it set an anchor right out in the channel on the South side of Huckleberry Island. This seemed rather strange so we changed course and headed over to see if they needed any help. We got close enough to hail the vessel but realized it was a group of young people having a party and for whatever reason they decided to drop the anchor. Not really sure what the horn blowing was about, but apparently there was no distress so back on course and we got to Square Cove in no time. As we turned back to our heading for Square Cove, the boat pulled anchor and was off toward Anacortes. We never did figure out why they dropped the anchor, but the whole incident took less than half an hour and I am just glad they were having a good time and not in trouble. We see some pretty entertaining things while cruising and this was one of them.

Kayaks at Vendovi

Saturday morning dawned sunny and bright without a cloud in the sky, and a light breeze out of the Northeast. We decided to head up to Eliza Island, we had both been told that the Ling Cod fishing is great there. Having checked the charts Ken spotted a couple of areas that looked promising on the North side of the island so we would start there and drift Southwesterly with the tide. Eliza Island is all privately owned with no public tidelands. It is a low island, partially wooded, with vacation homes all about. There is a private dock, and airstrip for the residents. The island was named for the commander of the Spanish explorations of 1790 and 1791–Lt. Juan Francisco de Eliza, and according to Jo Bailey and Carl Nyberg in their book, “Gunkholing in the San Juan Islands“, Eliza Island was regularly “bombed” with flour bags during World War II as training for the pilots from Whidbey Island Naval Air Station.

We spent a couple of hours working the drift and were rewarded with one very lovely rock cod, which we threw back, and a really big Sea Cucumber, which we kept. Unfortunately no Ling, so we pulled up our gear and headed over to Vendovi Island.

Our sea cucumbers

Vendovi Island was privately owned until 2010 when it was purchased by the San Juan Preservation Trust. The island is not as yet safe from developers though. The Trust purchased the island with donations and a (first ever) bridge loan, if the provisions of the loan are not met, then the Trust will have no choice but to re-sell the island. Vendovi is virtually untouched by the outside world and it would be such a shame if it landed in the hands of commercial developers. I urge all of you to visit the Trust website, educate yourselves on this wonderful island, and PLEASE donate what you can to saving this jewel for future generations!! The island will be open to limited use on the weekends starting this year and I really look forward exploring this incredible island. More to come when we get a chance to set foot on her.

Dock at Vendovi

The winds picked up quite a bit by the time we got down to Vendovi and so we were unable to actually do any fishing. I did get a chance to take some great pictures and I see that visitors are already taking advantage of the access to the island through the Preservation Trust. A group of kayakers were there and what looked like tour group as well. I truly hope that the island will remain in the hands of the Trust and available for us all. We sailed past and headed to the Cone Islands to try our luck there.

The winds were perfect and it was a wonderful sail over to the Cone Islands where we dropped the sails and once again went in search of Ling Cod. After about an hour or so of fishing it was apparent that the tides were just not going to cooperate with us so we headed into Eagle Harbor for a short break, and to do some foraging. We spent about two hours or so on Cypress Island and were rewarded with a very nice batch of cattail shoots, some thistles, and our favorite so far, stinging nettles. We took some time to look around for some mushrooms, but since neither of us have a lot of experience yet in mushroom hunting we found none, so we headed back to the boat and off to James Island for some more fishing.

A group of deer

The winds were still favorable so we sailed down to James Island and took a couple of drifts in our “lucky” spot. No luck at James today either! I cannot believe how bad the fishing was on this trip. We have never not caught fish, but it was not to be this time. We gave up and headed to “our bay” for a well deserved glass of wine and some rest. Luckily the tide was still low enough for us to harvest some of the fantastic oysters that can be found there so we had plenty for our feast tonight.

I awoke Sunday morning to one of the most awe inspiring sunrises I have ever seen, and was so enthralled I did not even think to take any pictures! I really am sorry about that too, I would have loved for you all to be able to share that with me. I let Ken sleep in a little and we spent most of the day just lounging around and reading. All too soon it was time to head back to civilization and so we pulled anchor and got underway. We did try one more drift around James Island but still could not catch a fish, so I chalk it up to the “fish gods” just not liking us this trip.

All in all it was a really wonderful trip, proving to myself that we are able to provide our needs by foraging, and knowing that even if we don’t catch fish there will be an abundance provided by Nature. We can live this lifestyle of sufficiency. We got so much travel in that it is hard to believe that we only had a couple of days. That “time warp” thing, as always, made it seem like we had been gone for a week when we finally tied off at the dock.

Next weekend off to Matia Island; I KNOW we can catch some Ling cod there.

Related posts:

Mushrooms at Home and in the Wild!
Finding Tranquility
Swallowing The Anchor
4 Responses to “Cruising the San Juan Islands: Eliza, Vendovi, Cypress, and Jack Islands.”
  1. Dean Dougherty says:


    Thank you for the kind words about Vendovi. We’re working hard to keep it in Trust hands. One question though. You have a photo with a picture of some deer from Vendovi Island. Deer haven’t been seen on the island in decades. Is this possibly a mistake and, if not, where did you see them?

    San Juan Preservation Trust

    • Sherrie says:


      Thank you so much for your visit to our site and you are correct, I stand corrected!

      I went back through the photo files on my camera and realize I had captioned this picture incorrectly, I am usually very careful about keeping my notes and this picture got out of sequence. I am currently going back through all the pictures I took that day and will narrow down where I saw these deer and fix the picture.

      I am so sorry for any confusion this may have caused. We are so excited about Vendovi and are speading the word to all our friends in hopes of keeping the island in the hands of the trust, and would hate to have incorrect information in any of our articles.

      Once again thank you for visting the site and calling my attention to this. I look forward to hearing from you again!


    • Ken says:

      Thank you Dean. We have visited Vendovi on a couple of occasions, and are very glad that the San Juan Trust was able to acquire this precious resource. I wish that we could contribute financially to this worthwhile endeavor, but are presently unable to do so in a meaningful manner. We are centered in Anacortes and if there is anything that we can do to contribute our time or labor in furtherance of the Trust’s goals on Vendovi or the other area trust holdings, we would be happy to do so.

      I’m sorry that we mis-identified the deer photo. We have seen a lot of amazing wildlife on Vendovi, but deer are not included. We had a long day of cruising, coming from Boat Harbor on Guemes, to Eliza, to Vendovi, Eagle Harbor, James Island and then to Center Island. Our picture log got a bit confused, from the time line, I’d place the deer on either James or Decatur Islands.

      We totally support the Trust, have read the history – that includes no deer – and encourage any and all to support your efforts. You are doing a great job!

  2. Toni Floor says:

    Hi Sherrie,
    My name is Toni and I’m with Dwellable.
    I was looking for blogs about the San Juan’s to share on our site and i came across your great story…If you’re open to it I’d love to feature your post here. Please shoot me an email.
    Hope to hear from you soon!

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