Sea Food

Dinner in the bay

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

A couple of years ago, my manfriend and I spent the Fourth of July aboard our friend’s boat at Squalicum Harbor dining on pulled pork sandwiches and a plethora of side dishes while watching the fireworks light up the night sky. And even though we didn’t motor into Bellingham Bay to watch the action—the skipper wanted to avoid the hassle of docking the boat after dark amid the rowdy crowd of seafaring celebrants—just being on the water while the explosive action was happening was a whole lot of fun.

Our buddies don’t own their boat anymore, so the numerous picnics we enjoyed with them both on the bay and docked in the marina are a thing of the past. Luckily, the arrival of summertime means it’s time to once again revisit the numerous opportunities to combine food and drink with seasonal excursions in the Salish Sea. If you don’t have a friend with a boat but long for an afternoon or evening at sea, you’ll want to pay attention.

For example, a look at the Schooner Zodiac’s ( roster of day sails departing from the Bellingham Cruise Terminal reveals a list of outings combining some of the best parts of living in the Pacific Northwest. Ales & Sails excursions feature staff from local breweries sharing their liquid libations while also schooling attendees on what’s behind the brewing process and what the inspiration was behind each of the recipes. The next one happens Thurs., June 20 with Chuckanut Brewery at the helm, and includes a delicious dinner that complements the craft beers. But that’s just the beginning. The 160-foot vessel also plays host to a July 4th Fireworks Dinner Sail—this one promises to actually leave its slip at the dock—as well as Friday Salmon Dinner Sails, Sunday Brunches on the Bay, and Afternoon Adventure Sails. If they care to, passengers can also work up an appetite on these outings by helping the crew raise the Zodiac’s four sails—including her 4,000-square-foot mainsail, which is apparently the largest on the West Coast.

San Juan Cruises ( will also have their four vessels in the water for the 4th of July, serving up cracked crab and baked chicken dinners aboard the Victoria Star 2, Salish Express, Chinook, and Salish Sea. After cruising through Chuckanut and Bellingham bays, the boats will return to Squalicum Harbor for a primo fireworks-viewing experience.

If you don’t make a reservation in time, don’t fret. I can attest their Chuckanut Cracked Crab Dinner Cruises and BREWers on the Bay offerings happening through the summer months are well worth the time and money, and I’m guessing their Unwined on the Bay wine-tasting cruises and Brunches on the Bay are hits, as well. Additionally, the boating behemoth offers a Sucia Island Picnic Cruise option, and on Sunday afternoons in July and August will head south for Skagit History Cruises ( departing from the dock at La Conner Channel Lodge. Picnic lunches will be allowed, so stock up on tasty vittles and settle in while tour guides Carl Molesworth and Jesse Kennedy fill you in on the history of the area while motoring through the Swinomish Channel and beyond.

Although it’s not billed as a food-focused fete, passengers aboard Whatcom Museum’s annual History Sunset Cruises ( are also encouraged to bring along picnic dinners and are able to purchase beer or wine once they’re aboard.

It’s been a minute since I last boarded the Victoria Star for an in-depth look at Bellingham’s ever-changing waterfront, but the last time I did it was with my dad on a sweltering summer day that became tolerable as the boat caught a maritime breeze. He’s a fan of history, so as we nibbled on roasted chicken and coleslaw, he was rapt as historian Brian Griffin described the changes over the years to the parks, businesses, industries and neighborhoods visible from our covered perch atop the vessel. My dad said it gave him a new understanding of the city he’d been visiting for more than 30 years, and that it made him more aware of big issues such as waterfront redevelopment.

These days, Griffin swaps guide duties with Doug Starcher, and they both tie their knowledge of local goings-on with up-to-date facts about bayside activities. History, trivia, current events and stunning scenery throughout combine to make for a singular experience.

For its 36th season, the Tuesday evening cruises will start a little earlier in the season and go a little longer, with the first one happening June 25 and the last one in early September.

“It feels like summer is coming earlier each year, so we are excited to get outside beginning this June to enjoy the history of this beautiful region while cruising along the bay,” Whatcom Museum Executive Director Patricia Leach says.

Outings later in the summer are known to sell out, so take advantage of the added adventures and secure a spot while you still can. And when you board, don’t forget to bring along your dinner.

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