Planning A Trip To Sucia Island
If this is your first time visiting Sucia Island Marine Park and you're trying to decide where to go first, you'll want to explore each of Sucia's six bays and coves online at the links above because each one is very different in personality and suitability depending on your type of boat and projected weather conditions.
For the most part Sucia Island coves offer safe harbor and calm waters but certain anchorages can get very bouncy depending on wind direction and wind speed. (Mainly Ewing Cove with an East wind, and Shallow Bay with a west wind.)
Know Before You Go - Weather Warnings
Be sure to check the National Weather Service Marine Forecast before attempting any crossing to Sucia or any other area island especially via Sea Kayak. Pacific Northwest storms are notorious for their sudden onset out-of-the-blue and their ferocity.
Weathering a Puget Sound storm in an unprotected anchorage can be an almost religious experience, and after such an unpleasant experience you just might find yourself listing your dream boat on Craigslist the following morning. During one of these storms or even a shift in wind direction you could find yourself breaking anchor and drifting towards the rocks. Talk to any fellow boater that has spend some time on local waters and they will have stories to tell you.
A Day In The Life On Sucia IslandSucia Island is situated just north of Orcas Island and is easily reachable by watercraft from all directions. The majority of boaters visiting the island originate from Anacortes, Bellingham, Blaine, and Friday Harbor, with a sprinkling of Canadians down from Vancouver.
Canadians visiting Sucia Island must call the U.S. Customs and Border Protection office using the "Small Vessel Reporting System" and carry a "Proof of Citizenship" with them while in U.S. Waters. The Canadians visiting Sucia seem to enjoy a camaraderie with fellow boaters from the States and they tend to be great conservationists. Some have also created ingenious ways to reserve buoys and dockspace for their friends that haven't arrived yet, like placing rows of chairs along the open dock area or tying up dinghies to buoys.
Sucia attracts a wide variety of boating enthusiasts. There's always a good mix of cabin cruisers, sailboats, and perhaps a few chartered trawlers. Larger Yachts tend to arrive for long weekends Friday through Sunday, and you tend to see a larger number of Kayakers day-trippers and Kayak campers arriving on weekends especially during peak vacation months.
During the high season, your best chance at getting a buoy is early in the week or any morning about 10:30 a.m. - 11 a.m. when many people have finished breakfast and cast off for their next port of call. Dock space is much harder to come by in summer months but keep a positive attitude and maybe some space will open up for you.
The floating docks in Fossil Bay are great for meeting fellow boaters and are a great place to tie up without fussing with threading your line through a Buoy--a skill some skippers and crew can't seem to master. The dock also makes it easy to make your way to the pay station and bring firewood ashore. As the sun sets some people settle in to their cockpits often with a glass of wine while others row or motor to the dock or ashore in their dinghies for a campfire and some late evening socializing.
On shore there tends to be a kind of Camaraderie amongst fellow boaters, but just like anywhere else you may run into an occasional caustic sour apple or two but as a rule people tend to be happy-go-lucky on the island enjoying their mini vacation.
The unique terrain of this 677 acre island park accommodates its visitors in 6 different bays and coves- each of which has its own unique personality. Echo Bay - Fossil Bay - Ewing Cove - Snoring Bay - Fox Cove - Shallow Bay.
Sailboats with large drafts and larger boats tend to gravitate to Echo Bay. Mid-sized cruisers and boats of all types can usually be found in Fossil Bay, and Kayakers tend to take advantage of the shallow waters and sandy beaches of Snoring Bay and Fox Cove. People that gravitate to Shallow Bay seem to want a bit more away from the mainstream and the activity that goes with it. On a busy weekend the coves and bays are alive with activity--swarms of dinghies, kayaks, sailboards, and small sailboats make for great people and boat watching.
If you prefer solitude you might prefer to visit during the week or in the off season, or choose one of Sucia's smaller coves like Snoring bay but during the busy season no place is really secluded.
Exploring Sucia Island Via Dinghy Lingy
The unique shoreline around Sucia island makes exploring the coastline in a dinghy a favorite past-time. Every nook and cove has something special to discover like eroded sandstone cliffs and shorelines with patterns and shapes that are both beautiful and bizarre. Sucia is teaming with wildlife-- Bald eagles, seals, Canadian Geese, Ducks, and Puffins are a common sight, and of course there are plenty of Seagulls ever eager for a handout.
The best time to observe wildlife is early morning at day break as you set out in your dingy. You will likely see a half dozen or more resident Bald Eagles swooping down and skimming the water between the finger islands of echo bay, and you can do a bit of seal watching, which is best down just outside of Ewing Cove on Sucia's Northeast corner. If you have a pet on board the seals tend to be very curious with a special interest in little yappy dogs. After a few cautious passes they then dive and disappear.
Mysterious Moving Island
Like in an episode of the television show "Lost" where one of its villainous characters is able to move their island, Sucia Island has done a bit of moving around of its own over the years.
Geologists say that the west side of Sucia Island was once at the ocean floor where it was home to prehistoric reptilian sea monsters like the 49ft Mosasaur. When Sucia was home to giant sea reptiles it was located over 1,500 miles away in Baja California. During its migration north to become one of the San Juan's, Sucia picked up portions of it's east side of the island in multiple places along the way creating a mosaic of different rock types. You don't have to be a geologists to notice the distinct layers and composition of the various rock features around the island.
Giants From The Abyss
Today, the deep waters surrounding Sucia Island are no longer host to Mosasaurs however they are home to other large creatures including a resident Orca Whale population and the mysterious Giant Bluntnose Sixgill Shark or "Cow Shark" (Hexanchus Griseus). Giant Sixgill Sharks have far more in common with Jaws than they do with swimming cows. A mature Sixgill can grow to more than 24 feet in length and weigh in as much as a Great White Shark.
These strange and elusive predators prefer the deep waters of Puget Sound during the day but as evening falls they come up to the surface to feed on their unsuspecting prey. During courtship the male Cow Shark bites and nips at the female's gills to entice the females to mate which often results in scaring and facial wounds. The female Six Gill reaches sexual maturity between the ages of 18 and 35 years. Weather beaten and scarred the female goes about her life, but just like their human counterpart, if they haven't found a man by then they're prospects probably aren't very good.
Unique features of these underwater predators include a painted black top side their prey can't see them swimming below and no dorsal fin. Unlike other sharks, Sixgills are simply smooth on top with no fin poking up through the water, so you never see them coming. Attacks by the bluntnose family sharks on humans are rare but in the unlikely event you see one swimming up to you it is best that you refrain from splashing or bleeding until they've lost interest and have gone their way.
For information and instructions on registering and using the onshore pay stations once you arrive, Visit our Park Registration Instructions Page.
Nearby Islands Worth Visiting