Inns You Can Paddle and Sail to (and from) Hotel Review: Friday Harbor House Inn, Friday Harbor Washington USA
Recently we've been exploring the San Juan islands. Located in America's Pacific Northwest, these islands form an archipelago that stretches from Washington across the border into Canada. It's a popular place for kayakers & boaters and we're planning to bring the club to the islands this summer and paddle a multi-day adventure.
Our launch point will likely be Friday Harbor, a quaint little village on the second biggest island, San Juan Island. We're gonna leave our car on the mainland and travel here by boat (with all of our gear & kayaks in packs). Instead of arriving & paddling the start of our journey on the same day, we plan to stay over night our first night on the island.
The hotel that we finally decide to paddle from has to be close enough to the ferry terminal and also close enough to the launch point so we can leave from here on day 2. We started our hotel/inn research by spending a night at the Friday Harbor House, located just blocks from the water & ferry terminal in Friday Harbor.
Friday Harbor House sits on a small bluff overlooking Friday Harbor. The ferry terminal (catch a ride back to the mainland) & marina are just blocks away. Also close are restaurants & shopping, plus many opportunities for kayaking, boat tours, and more (link to island activities). Our room had great views of the terminal, marina, & the San Juan Channel. On a clear day some rooms even give great views of Mt. Constitution on nearby Orcas Island.
The room we stayed in was one of 23 guest suites. They all include a gas fireplace, a jetted bathtub (ours had a shower also), TV, coffee maker & fridge, & complementary wifi. The bed was comfy, the tub nice, & the fireplace great.
From our experience, local NW Inn wifi can be unreliable (a.k.a. works/doesn't work, slow, etc) - The Harbor House wifi worked like normal (bloggers exhale). An iPod dock clock radio was a nice touch and the walls seemed thick enough - we didn't hear our neighbors one bit.
The view from our room was gorgeous. Also, for when the sun finally does return, they have a nice ground level outdoor front lawn/seating area - the terrace - it totally makes up for the lack of balcony in your room. The coffee maker was a Keurig (boo-yah) with plenty of flavor options.
The Inn has a big comfy area for events and the hotel staff made us feel right at home.
Don't miss the complimentary gourmet continental breakfast, served-up every morning in the Bluff Restaurant on the ground floor. It has lots of local handmade yummies like a daily made frittata, house made granola, house made salmon spread, coffee from a local roaster, and more. We also ate dinner at the restaurant - nothing special here. It might just be 'cause we've been spoiled with amazing Northwest food on our travels & because my wife is quite the chef (even on the boat), but for the price the restaurant was average. The staff, however, were excellent - super friendly, funny, and helpful. Seriously: don't miss the breakfast.
Stuff to do.
During our stay we drove around the island and explored the restaurants & shopping just blocks from the Inn. Our four favorite restaurants/coffee shops in town are pictured below. Crows Nest makes a super-great cup of Joe. Cask & Schooner has an excellent menu, especially for a pub (chic pea & kale sauté anyone?), and great cocktails too. The Market Chef was our favorite eatery in town - such great staff and amazing food & coffee. Finally, there's the World's Skinniest Latte Shop…I mean, it's really skinny - the place is as wide as a door.
Down the bluff from the Friday Harbor House is the marina - our potential launching point this coming summer. The marina is a cool place to walk around, make sure to look [carefully] into water and check out the sea life. We found kayak launch slips here, $5 and you're good to go. We hope to check out some other Island Inns before the summer - we'll let you know how it goes - adventure awaits!
~Paul & Amber ETC
The Friday Harbor House reviewed by Everyone's Travel Club on 1/5/13
Inns You Can Paddle and Sail to (and from) Hotel Review - The Resort at Port Ludlow, Port Ludlow Washington USA
Every once in a while the skies part here in the Pacific Northwest and we have the best, most Northwest-y day ever imaginable. For whatever reason this seems to happen every time we sail, kayak, or drive over to the Resort at Port Ludlow, Washington.
Is it the Olympic Mountain rain shadow? Luck? Fate? What ever it is, they've got it. Marina - got it. A great restaurant with local brewed beer & seafood - got it. View of the Olympic mountains and the water - check. A great Inn? Totally.
We could most definitely live here...For this review we stayed in a one bed/one bath room with a big tub and a balcony facing the marina. It was the perfect size for two with awesome views, a bathroom with jacuzzi-tub that was well stocked with local bath products and wifi available - albeit a little inconsistent at times. Our room had a coffee pot (mmmm...we like coffee), fridge, and a TV that we didn't even turn on (I'm sure it was great and all but the outdoors were calling!). Trails leave from the property and meander all around the beach and beautiful Port Ludlow Bay. Sailing, kayaking, fishing, birdwatching, and hiking are everywhere - boats to rent, charter, or bring your own. It's gorgeous.
The Fireside restaurant is a cozy casual-nice eatery with patio seating overlooking the nearby bay, marina, forest, and Olympic mountains. Inside sports a giant fireplace (eh hem, fireside). Larger banquet halls run adjacent to the main indoor seating. The menu has Northwest infused entrees, beer, and cocktails. Save room for dessert - like tons of room - the ice-cream cake and creme brûlée were huge!
Stuff to do.
As you can see, here at the club we kinda have a thing for sailing and kayaking. Chartered sails and sailboats are available next door at the marina (some on a historic Washington schooner) - so are kayak rentals. We highly recommend trying out both. The marina store had locally sourced ice cream, lots of gifts and snacks, ice, and even a few quick lunch items.
As you've probably also noticed, we take our kayaks with us on adventures. The dock closest to the Inn has a great (green turf carpeted) kayak put-in. The best part about it? No one even batted an eye when I marched my backpack full of paddling gear from the hotel over there, put everything together, and started off. Exploring the bay is great (especially at low tide) and a nice 1/2 day trip to Colvos Rocks is fun too (check the wind/currents/tides before you go and be careful out there - that water is cold all year round).
Beach walking is another fun thing to do here - a loop trail takes you around the Inn grounds - especially fun at low tide with plenty of marine life to explore. A few hikes are nearby and 'town' isn't too far away.
Super quaint. We've sailed and stayed at the marina twice now and loved it. There always seems to be some sort of gathering when we go - a yacht club or a fun same-boat-party-event. The people are friendly and most importantly the staff is even friendlier. We usually call ahead and get a spot reserved and check in when we get there. Give them a jingle on VHF channel 68 when you get close to confirm your parking space for the night.
So there you have it - a magical place with great views, great food, friendly staff, a comfortable marina, a beautiful beach, trails, and for us - sun...every time (sun not guaranteed, it is the Pacific Northwest after all:).
~Paul & Amber ETC
The Resort at Port Ludlow
Reviewed by Everyone's Travel Club 6/17/12
Helios II (double)
Ahhh, my Helios II. The workhorse of the Club. I've paddled her for almost 3 years now in warm and cold waters, I've taken her on planes (in the overhead), backpacks (this double kayak only weighs 33 lbs) - she's great. There you go, review = done.
Alright, just kidding, let's hear why she's so great...and I'll even try to uncover a few cons if possible (more cons for me with the Helios I - see below).
In my Safari inflatable kayak review I talked about how I discovered Innova kayaks, basically through the crew at R.E.I., I did my research online and decided that an Innova Helios II would be perfect for me - covered storage, non self-bailing (a.k.a. no little holes in the bottom to let water out), can be paddled as a single or double, and still packs up small and light for travel.
Well, many trips later she is still my go-to inflatable. Paddling by myself, she tracks well without a skeg or rudder (this is also nice for paddling in shallow water). When I add a kayak sail or paddle it as a double it's really nice to use the optional/additional foot operated rudder. I highly recommend using the rudder when paddling with two - it's a little tricky to get used to the straps on your feet, but after a little practice it's like riding a bike. The rudder steering is also helpful when you are sneaking up on wildlife (to photograph) and you don't want to put your paddle in the water and ruin the shot. For kayak sailing it allows you to use your hands rigging the sail just right while you steer with your feet.
Another reason I like using the double is that it has enough room to store all of your gear. Pump, bag, camera stuff, food and water, extra clothes, dry bags, etc. I prefer to keep this stuff with me during a trip - some folks might leave it back in the car at the launch site - but I'd rather keep it aboard just in case I need stop kayaking for whatever reason and take to the land.
The Helios is durable. Scratch, scratch, and more scratch to the bottom over the years hasn't resulted in any holes what-so-ever - which is most people's fear when paddling an inflatable. The weight limit is around 400 lbs - perfect for two and some gear.
One of my favorite parts about paddling inflatables is that they are super comfy to sit in. The Helios II has inflated back rests that make sitting for long trips really pleasant. Some other reviews I had read online said that you get wet when paddling the Helios due to the fact that you're sitting on the floor. Over lots of trips, my share of big waves, and paddling I've never had a problem with this. I stay as dry as can be. It must be something with my paddling technique because lots of my friends that use the kayak report a wet seat...hmmm.
Helios I (single)
I was fortunate enough to borrow a brand new Helios I kayak to complete this review of the Helios line. I longed for a Helios I, mainly because I often paddle alone (in a double kayak), isn't that extra space slowing me down?
In the end I am happy with my Helios II for a couple of reasons. The Helios I being a shorter boat makes tracking a little more challenging. I took her out on a pretty still day at slack tide and had to add quite a few paddles to correct the direction I was trying to go. This could be remedied with the addition of the additional rudder I mentioned earlier, however, this brings up issue number 2.
I'm not a huge dude...OK, I have slightly larger feet than I should for my height...My size 12 (US/mens) feet were a little cramped in the Helios I. This isn't a big deal if you have smaller feet but for me, adding the Helios rudder with the foot pedals would make the situation even trickier. As you can see in the picture, I took off my shoes for a little more space and comfort. Which got me thinking, if you were in warm water all of the time in bare feet this might not be an issue at all...but the slight tracking issues would still remain without a rudder.
Luckily Innova sells a skeg addition that you could add under the boat - I highly recommend this addition. Everything else about the Helios I is Innova-esque: well made, tough, packs really small and light, & easy and quick to assemble. The covered under deck storage is similar to the Helios II but it actually seems like there is even more storage in the single.
So, overall, way more pros than cons...great boats. Even with Innova's new designs and all of the other brands out there the Helios I and II are still relevant. These boats have proved themselves on paddling trips and exhibitions around the world and continue to be some of Innova's top sellers.
The Innova Helios I (single) and Helios II (double), reviewed by Everyone's Travel Club on June 6th, 2012. Click the links below to head on over to the Innova site to read more and check out these new kayaks.
Here at the club we've been using Innova inflatable kayaks for years. We've paddled them in all types of water and traveled with them to various locales in the U.S. and abroad. It's safe to say that we love them. We love that they pack up small and light (compared to other boats on the market), are durable (especially useful when 'the scoot' is applied, you know, when you sit down and the water is too shallow so you scoot your way to deeper water...avoid if possible), they set up quick (5 minutes when you get the hang of it), and they get you to where you are going fast (you'll want to race hard-shells).
In comes two new inflatable kayaks from Innova - the Swing Single and the Swing Double. Do they live up to what we have come to love about Innova kayaks? Are they better? Find out in our ETC review!
She looks good.
She's green (we'll explain)
She handles nicely
I originally wasn't sold on the black hull but after paddling her around Seattle's Ship Canal and Lake Whatcom, and receiving a few complements while I put her together in about 5 minutes, I decided she had a James Bond quality that suited her. I'm serious about the 5 minute set-up, I timed it.
Rather than having three chambers and an inflatable seat and footrest to pump up like other Innova boats, the Swing sticks with just the three main "tubeless" chambers. The valves work like the clicker on a ballpoint pen - press one way to inflate, the other to deflate. What Innova has added to widen the kayak (like the inflatable seat and footrest does in other models) are two aluminum bars that fit just in front and behind the seat. Zippers open up the fore and aft parts of the boat for storage.
The Swing is green - completely free of PVC and made in the Czech Republic. It's light - it weighs just 22 pounds and packs small. It handles well due to design, the plastic fin on the bottom, and the rigid shape helped by the new cross bars and a higher pressure (3 psi). The Swing is a great addition to the Innova family. It has a lot going for it with few faults depending on how you use the boat (we explain below).
She's green too
She handles nicely...too
She's light...just 26 lbs
No need for foot pedals & a rudder to steer
The three pictures above highlight three important parts of the Swing Double (and the Swing Single except it only has two bars). Seasoned Innova paddlers will like the slightly different "bayonet" valves (push in, push out - no twisting) and the urethane-coated decks that shed water in a jiffy. Having a quick-to-add fin on the bottom (pictured below) is nice and relieves you of adding a pedal-rudder system to help with steering.
I mentioned before a possible fault - not really a fault - just something to know about these new models. The added bars help make this kayak what it is - faster assembly and disassembly and a stiffer boat with great handling. The sacrifice is the size after packing the boat up. Leaving the bars in while rolling the deflated kayak make the whole thing way bigger than some of Innova's other models I'm used to (like the Helios II). Taking the bars out after paddling adds a little time to setup and take-down. If you pride yourself on packing your Innova kayak in an airline carry-on you may have some difficulty with the bars depending on bag size and carry-on size restrictions of your airline.
The reason the bars aren't really a fault, or why you may not even notice, are that a packed up Swing Single or Double with the bars in is still waaay smaller and lighter than competitor boats or hard-shells, the time to take the bars out and put them in only add a few minutes to your launch, and the truth is that your oar (even a 4-part) won't fit in a carry-on airline bag anyway. You'll have to check another bag so the cross bars will just go in it along with your PFDs, pump etc. I once tried to take the two pole parts of my oar as my "personal item" on a US flight...they didn't like it so much.
So what we've got here is what I can't say enough - the Swing Single and Double are great additions to the Innova family. The valves are better, the handling is better, the air release valve is a nice touch (avoids overpressure), a place for an optional spray skirt is a plus, the colors are smooth, PVC free is a good thing, and the quality is what we've come to expect from a great inflatable kayak company.
The Innova Swing Single and Swing Double, reviewed by Everyone's Travel Club on January 20th, 2012. Click the links below to head on over to the Innova site to read more and check out these new kayaks!
Innova Swing Single
Innova Swing Double
~Paul, John ETC
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