Hikes with a View
Yacht charter in the Pacific Northwest often includes itineraries in scenic Alaska or British Columbia’s Desolation Sound, but it’s worth the effort to look a bit farther south, between Seattle and Vancouver off the Washington State border. There, you’ll find the San Juan Islands, a region that is much less-traveled by charter yachts but that is absolutely brimming with wide-open views and outdoor adventures.
Yachts that charter in the San Juans are typically based there during at least part of the year, because tax laws make it unfavorable for out-of-region yachts to move into the market. The downside of that reality is limited supply — charter clients have to book early to get the best yachts — while the upside is having captains and crew with virtually unlimited local knowledge. They usually know the captains of the local whale-watching fleet, to get the scoop on pod positions. They know the harbors that remain empty come sundown, to ensure a quiet night on the hook with a good view. And they’re familiar with local fishing fleets, which provide the chef with the freshest catch.
Want to wet a hook yourself? Charter yachts here usually have fishing and crabbing equipment, and tow center consoles with fish boxes and other gear. Guests can leave their own rods and reels at home but will want to pack a favorite pair of hiking boots, as well as clothing that can be layered. Early morning climbs can lead to stunning views in the crisp air, followed by gunkholing or paddleboarding in a bathing suit and T-shirt under the midday sun.
Pro tip: Think layering when researching charter yachts too. Those with open as well as enclosed lounging areas will let everyone enjoy the views in any weather.
About the San Juan Islands
Remember the little guys: While most activity in the San Juans takes place around the four biggest islands — San Juan, Orcas, Lopez and Shaw — there are actually 172 islands and reefs to explore.
Arrive by seaplane: A 45-minute flight from Seattle can land guests right at the harbor where the charter yacht awaits at anchor.
Watch the whales: The orcas are generally around from spring through autumn, as are the sea lions, bald eagles, porpoises and, well, charter yachts.