Waterfront Dining

On the bay with San Juan Cruises

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

I have mixed emotions about restrictions relating specifically to the self-serve buffet San Juan Cruises typically sets out every summer for its perennially popular Chuckanut Cracked Crab Dinner Cruise.

On the one hand, it’s a relief to know the crew is following COVID-19 dictates in part by putting the kibosh on the free-for-all feast, instead having staff members dish up each plate with the passenger’s request of what they would like to be served from among the numerous menu items—including plentiful platters of Dungeness crab, Tuscan herbed chicken, and an appetizing array of side dishes and salads (not to mention dessert).

On the other hand, the new rules set in place for the well-being of all passengers will make it impossible to surreptitiously snag an extra quadrant of the succulent crustaceans before everyone onboard has had their turn at the trough—something I’ve been known to do during past tours.

That said, I’d much rather be safe than sorry, and if that means there’s less seafood on my plate than I’d prefer, I can comfort myself with the stellar views of Bellingham and Chuckanut bays to be found beyond the windows of the watercraft, enjoying waterfront dining while secure in the knowledge that the seafaring staff is doing their level best to keep their guests—and their employees—safe.

In addition to the aforementioned changes (RIP, buffet), clear physical barriers have also been put in place throughout the boat and along food service areas, and physical distancing is being implemented for passengers lining up for meal service. Additionally, the crew is wearing masks and gloves during all meal preparation and interactions with passengers, and social distancing is being enforced between tables.

Passengers should also know they must wear masks inside the vessel when not eating or drinking, and outside the vessel when they cannot maintain six feet of distance from other passengers who aren’t in their party.

There’s a silver lining to these restrictions, however. Since San Juan Cruises is following Washington state’s guidance for restaurants during the phased reopening for these kinds of businesses on these cruises, it means occupancy is at 50 percent or less of full capacity—so there’s more room to find a sweet spot to seal-watch and catch the sunset.

It’s a great time, San Juan Cruises says, for locals to take advantage of extra space onboard for a number of trips that are typically overflowing with tourists during the summer months—including daily whale watching excursions, picnic outings to Sucia Island, voyages leaving from La Conner, birdwatching cruises, and beginning this week and continuing through late September, weekly Bellingham Bay Brewers Cruises and wine-tasting tours cheekily dubbed “UnWINED” on the Bay.

Since reopening for service in early July, San Juan Cruises reports the precautions they’ve been taking to continue to allow people to get out on the water and enjoy a meal and a view is paying off.

“By limiting our capacity to well below 50 percent on our tours, putting up clear plastic barriers throughout our vessels, sanitizing commonly touched surfaces, utilizing masks and encouraging social distancing at all times, we are confident that cruising can be both safe and fun despite the challenges we are facing,” they say. “There’s a cruise option for everyone, and we hope to see you aboard this summer.”

For more details about San Juan Cruises’ summer offerings, go to


[Wed., July 29]

SEDRO MARKET: The Sedro-Woolley Farmers Market continues today from 3pm-7pm at Heritage Square. Health and safety protocols are in place in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, but the market is still committed to bringing fresh, local food and products to residents and neighbors Wednesdays through Oct. 14.
For more info:

[Thurs., July 30]

FOOD FOR STUDENTS: Various Western Washington University entities will be offering free food pickup from 12pm-2pm every Thursday through Sept. 24 at Vendors’ Row in the Viking Commons. Wear a face mask and bring your WWU student ID to pick up a bag of nonperishables and a box of farm-fresh organic produce. Walk-through, bike-through and drive-through contactless pickup options are available, as are vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free choices. For any disability or allergy accommodations, contact the email listed below.
For more info: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

[Fri., July 31]

FERNDALE MARKET: The Ferndale Farmers Market continues today from 2pm-6pm in the parking lot next to the Grocery Outlet. If you’re interested in helping them grow, head over—and don’t forget your safety standards.
For more info:

[Sat., Aug. 1]

ANACORTES MARKET: The Anacortes Farmers Market is open from 9am-2pm at the Depot Arts Center, 611 R Ave. Their rules include following and obeying all signs, markers, barriers and instructions from market staff or volunteers.
For more info:

MOUNT VERNON MARKET: The Mount Vernon Farmers Market takes place from 9am-2pm Saturdays through Oct. 20 at Riverwalk Park, 501 Main St. Only 25 customers are allowed in at a time to peruse the goods. Check their website beforehand to find out which farmers will be in attendance each week, then get inspired to make a meal plan.
For more info:

TWIN SISTERS MARKET: The Twin Sisters Market continues its fifth season from 9am-3pm at Nugent’s Corner, and 10am-2pm in Maple Falls at the North Fork Library. In addition to having protocols in place to keep the community healthy, Foothills folks who are accustomed to picking up a diverse array of high-quality produce grown nearby should know they can still expect to find great prices—by taking turns having the farmers staff the market, they’re able to keep prices low for East Whatcom County residents.The markets continue Saturdays through Oct. 23.
For more info

CONCRETE MARKET: The Concrete Saturday Market takes place from 10am-1pm at the Concrete Community Center, 45821 Railroad St. Posted signage will direct shoppers to follow safety guidelines, and, for now, it’s a drive-in, farmers-only market. Artisans and crafters may return when safety restrictions are lifted, so keep an ear open for updates.
For more info:

BELLINGHAM MARKET: Attend the Bellingham Farmers Market from 10am-2pm Saturdays at the Depot Market Square, 1100 Railroad Ave. At the modified market, social distancing is strongly enforced, patrons are not allowed to touch the food, and a limited number of vendors are allowed on site. Entertainment, music and eating areas have been suspended until further notice, and masks are mandatory. Please stay home if you are sick, and be prepared with small bills to offer exact change to vendors when possible.
For more info:

BLAINE MARKET: The annual Blaine Gardeners Market continues from 10am-2pm Saturdays through October at the city’s G Street Plaza. Due to social distancing requirements, vendor booths will be spread out.
For more info:

[Aug. 1-31]

EAT LOCAL MONTH: Sustainable Connections and Eat Local First present the annual Eat Local Month with virtual and in-person events happening Aug. 1-29—a month earlier than is typical, due to COVID-19—throughout Whatcom and Skagit County. Events include Farm Week (Aug. 1-8), Restaurant Week (Aug. 9-15), Market Week (Aug. 16-22), and Seafood Week (Aug. 23-29). A Virtual Whatcom County Farm takes place at 6pm Thurs., Aug. 6. A farm stand loop, monthlong restaurant specials and much more will be part of the food-focused event.
For more info:

[Sun., Aug. 2]

BIRCHWOOD FARMERS MARKET: Find locally grown vegetables, flowers, fruits and other goods from more than 10 growers and producers in Whatcom County at the Birchwood Farmers Market happening from 9am-2pm every Sunday through October at the Park Manor Shopping Center, 1538 Birchwood Ave. The cooperative single-stand market is dedicated to increasing food access in the Birchwood neighborhood by providing fresh, sustainably grown produce at a reduced prices. When attending the market, please wear a face mask and keep social distancing in mind.
For more info:

ALGER MARKET: Kids can vend for free at the Alger Sunday Market taking place from 11am-4pm Sundays through Oct. 11 at Alger Community Hall, 18735 Parkview Lane. The low-key, barter-friendly neighborhood cooperative features produce, plants, artisan crafts and recycled and upcycled items to reuse. Drop-ins are welcome to “sell from your truck and make a buck,” but the number may be limited due to COVID-19 restrictions.
For more info: (360) 724-0340

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