International Roaming Charges: Canada is Nearby
Quite a number of people who have visited the San Juan Islands will have a horror story about unexpected bills when they arrive home in the states. Some of the cellular phone bills can be over $400.
Those who are used to using their cell phones for everything will have to be very careful here. Cell phone towers in the San Juan Islands are not very large, and usually don't stick up very far. There just aren't enough full time residents of the islands to justify a huge expense.
This is not the case a few miles west in Victoria, Sidney and the greater Victoria area. Here, buildings and hills are tall, cell phone towers reach far, and when you arrive in certain places in the San Juan Islands you will find your phone is actually sending and receiving voice and data from Rogers Communications. You are now on international roaming, and unless your phone plan provides otherwise you will now be billed a large amount of money for voice and data.
My solution is that my current cell phone provider has a way of making my phone not recognize cell phone towers outside the USA. Doing so I was able to pick up the weaker signals from the towers in the San Juan Islands just fine in almost all locations.
However, this may not be the best solution for you, as if you need to make an emergency call you don't care what the call costs.
However, just be aware that cell phone coverage may be very expensive here. Usually you do get a warning saying "Welcome to Canada" on your phone, but sometimes this does not happen, as you may find by looking at the many, many people who have run up very large phone bills without realizing what was going on until they came back and opened their bill.
Due to their proximity to the Canadian border, it's really easy to enter Canadian waters without knowing it. If you accidently swim into Canadian waters and are stopped by the Coast Guard, without the propper documents, you could have some serrious problems. It is advised that you use a map, GPS, or any other reliable navigation equiptment. Some islands are only a mile from the Canadian border, so it's very easy to cross over without even knowing it.
- Sailing and Boating
Be extremely careful where you go kayaking. If you don't have a lot of experience, it is advised that you take one of the kayak tours, or check with some local kayakers for the safest spots. Because of their location, there are several strong converging currents in several parts of the islands. When kayaking it is advised that you avoid the passes, and trying to kayak from island to island. Deception Pass between Whidbey and Fidalgo Island is said to be the most dangarous. Some of these areas have even been known to sweep away small boats. Several kayakers have been swept out by the currents. If you do decide to go kayaking, wear a life jacket, and a wetsuit if you're planning a longer trip.