Culinary Cruising

Feasts for the senses

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

When the Whatcom Chief departed the dock at Gooseberry Point last Sunday, I had before me a full single-serving bag of Doritos I’d impulsively purchased at the gas station on our way out of Bellingham.

By the time my significant other and I arrived on Lummi Island approximately six minutes later, the chips were gone and the telltale orange stains on my hands proved I was to blame. When my date balked at the amount of sodium I’d inhaled, I pointed to the intoxicating effects of a warm summer day and the sea breeze created by motoring across the open water for my suddenly insatiable hunger.

I stand behind the claim that food tastes better when it’s eaten outside,  and that being on a boat ups the culinary ante. I’m sure it’s one of the reasons that seasonal cruises involving both food and drink surge at this time of year—when the days are long, the views are epic and being on the water is often preferable to sweltering on dry land.

I’ve been on San Juan Cruises’ Chuckanut Cracked Crab Dinner Cruise (which takes place every Friday, Saturday and Sunday through Sept. 17) and its Bellingham Bay Brewers Cruise (happening Wednesdays through Sept. 13), and can affirm that by pairing sustenance alongside stellar sights, they’ve hit upon a winning combination.

If eating Dungeness crab while checking out the coastlines of Chuckanut Bay, the Viti Rocks National Wildlife Refuge, and Lummi Island is something you’ve already accomplished, the cruising company also offers a July 4 Fireworks/Crab Dinner Cruise,  “unWINEd On the Bay” tours Thursdays from July 6-Sept. 14, and Sucia Island Picnic Cruises Saturdays and Sundays from July 8-Aug. 27.

San Juan Cruises also provides the necessary ambulation for Whatcom Museum’s annual “Summer History Cruises,” which kicks off its 34th tour season Tues., July 11 from the Victoria Star berth at the Bellingham Cruise Terminal.

Through August, the weekly voyage takes residents and visitors alike on a close-up inspection of parks, businesses, industry, neighborhoods and natural wonders from Bellingham Bay, with historians Brian Griffin or Doug Starcher serving as tour guides. Passengers are encouraged to bring picnic dinners along as they learn about local history, trivia and current events affecting our area of the world, but if you don’t bring your supper with you, there’s an onboard snack bar and beer, wine and cocktail sales.

If you’re aboard the 160-foot Schooner Zodiac—a storied sailboat built in 1924 for Johnson & Johnson pharmaceutical heirs for use as a private yacht—the views will be similar, but a twist will be added to the menu of attractions. 

Whether you’re meeting local brewery reps and learning about the brewing process while sampling beers and enjoying dinner on an “Ales and Sails” tour (June 29, July 6 or Aug. 29), booking passage on a July 4 “Fireworks Dinner Sail,” taking a three-hour “Bellingham Bay Salmon Dinner Sail” (June 30, July 7, Aug. 4, 11 and 18, and Sept. 1 and 15), or signing up for “Bellingham Bay Brunch Sails” (July 30,
Aug. 6, or Sept. 24), a bonus is that passengers can also become temporary crew members.

Although there’s no obligation to participate, it’s possible to gain added knowledge about what it takes to propel a sailboat by assisting the crew in the raising of the largest mainsail on the West Coast. Then, when the chef rings the galley bell signaling the meal is ready, your appetite will be up to the challenge.

For more details about these cruises—including prices, times, menus and more—go to,, or

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