Friday Harbor Heaven







Friday Harbor



The S. S. Ambition, moored at Friday Harbor



I have always loved the water. And boats. Boats of any kind. Water does basically the same thing for me that mountains do… gets my heart beating a little faster, gets my senses opened up and really working to the max, challenges my ability to navigate it safely and successfully, and renews my appreciation for the crazy, wonderful elements in nature that we have to work with and play with in this life.
                                                      The S. S. Ambition

B & I made a visit up to Friday Harbor on San Juan Island last month. Her daughter, Jill, lives on a 60′ sailboat up there. We thought we’d do her a favor and pay a visit to her and her husband Brent. We wanted to prove to them that they meant enough to us that we’d visit them from time to time no matter WHERE they lived… or how. That’s an important thing to do in families, you know…








Jill & Brent  were wonderful hosts. We had the kind of time with them that makes you want to turn 3 days into 3 weeks. I’m told they have had that problem before… with other guests and family members. And you know who you are… Anyway, we were determined to be “the good guests” and reluctantly left after our 3 days. It wasn’t easy… the San Juan Islands in general and Friday Harbor specifically are wonderful places to visit, and maybe even to live! B & I left there saying things like, “You know, we could live here…”

The San Juan weather can be quite different from Seattle’s weather, and that was the case for us. Warm, sunny days with few clouds and no rain during our time there. We toured Friday Harbor, of course – a cute little town on a hillside overlooking the harbor, several good restaurants and cafes with great views. The main bar in town is a place that has been there a long time – Herb’s. Food and drink are reasonable in Friday Harbor… lodging’s a bit pricey. But it is a somewhat remote tourist destination, after all, so what do you expect, right?

This is Popeye, resident one-eyed seal and beggar at the fish market

There’s a small airport at Friday Harbor, but the ferry from Anacortes, (which is the homeport to all the San Juan Islands) is the unanimous choice to get to and from San Juan Island. One can rent a sea plane from Seattle to Friday Harbor, and I’d love to do that sometime. Are you reading this, B??

Brent’s spectacular sailboat is the S.S. Ambition, built by Ted Irwin. It is a vessel of pure beauty, and is well cared-for and maintained by both Jill and Brent. Brent is the Captain who keeps The Ambition’s many systems purring. We spent some quality time lounging around on the back deck in the sunshine, sipping cold drinks & munching on snacks. Disgusting, huh? From that back deck we could see most of the activity in the harbor. The ferry from Anacortes came in every couple of hours, as did The Victoria Clippers – big, fast ferries who can whisk you over to the Canadian side before you can say “eh?”

In the evenings we’d have a cocktail before dinner, usually in the living quarters below. The Ambition is wonderfully appointed and comfortable… almost roomy! I personally loved being below decks… sleeping on the Ambition was heavenly.







Our first day there, Brent & Jill took us for a “cocktail cruise” on a little motorized party boat. We putted around Friday Harbor and looked at the boats and beautiful homes that sit just above the water’s edge.

Jill and B brought fresh shrimp, salami, cheese and crackers and appropriate libations for the short journey. As you know, I LOVE fresh shrimp, and it was delicious! We had a great little cruise, lots of laughs and a great tour of the harbor.


Our 3rd day there Brent invited me on a trip over to Anacortes on a boat that had been damaged in a recent accident. I think they called it a trawler.

That’s it, the one in the middle. A 2-hour trip each way, easy, great scenery. The trawler did 8 knots, 7 comfortably, I was delighted to go with him, and learned a little about navigating the San Juan Islands. Here is our route, from left to right, both over and back.

Being out there on the water with Brent was such a kick. The smell of the water, the scenery, the easy rhythm of the engine, the song of the bow cutting through the water… Brent has chosen well. He’s a happy guy, he’s living a fantastic life. Look at these pics…


For a sailing experience of a lifetime, go to Brent’s website and check him out. I highly recommend him!






Like I said, the mountains and the water… when you’re a mountain guy, a boat ride of any kind – even a raft or kayak down a river, is always a special treat. For me, the first trip to the San Juan Islands, with someone who really knows them, is….. totally awesome.

Thanks, Brent & Jill, for three days of pure heaven. B & I still feel like we live in the “Real Paradise” in Montana, but the truth is, you’ve planted some serious doubt in our minds…






Steve Hulse

One Reply to “Friday Harbor Heaven”

  1. Steve, this brought back great memories of our father-son San Juan trip back in 2007. Darren has a framed photo in his house of him and his brother, Chef Andrew, standing on the pier at Friday Harbor. This is a wonderful part of the world and I envy your opportunity to sail there. But please be careful…you just might be infected by that sailing bug, and once you’re bitten, you are hooked for life!
    Keep writing and keep sailing!
    P.S. Loved the trailer and can’t wait to see the feature length film!

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