Roche Harbor
            Cenent Company

Roche Harbor Cement Company, since 1870s

Cast Off    Friday Harbor   Rosario   Sucia Island   Fairhaven

Touring Roche Harbor

After a good night’s sleep in the hotel, the group pulled themselves out of their beds and began to shower, shave, and do whatever it takes to pull them together for the second day of the tour. If we weren’t fully awake when we left the hotel, the invigorating downhill walk to the dock finished the job. We arrived on the dock hungry and ready for that first cup of scalding hot coffee (or second cup for those who make coffee in their rooms).

Victoria greeted us aboard with pots of hot, fresh coffee. Before 8:30, our scheduled departure time, we were all aboard, so we left early. As you know, in Mature Friends, if you’re not 10 minutes early, you’re late. Soon Torque and Victoria brought out a sumptuous and satisifying breakfast of scrambled eggs, fresh fruit, croissants, and muffins.

Before we’d finished eating, the boat was sailing north in San Juan channel around the island toward our first stop of the day. Along the way, we watched a pod of resident killer whales or orcas swimming along at a safe distance. Victoria told us about two different species of orcas found in the Salish Sea, resident and transient orca whales. The residents are on the endangered species list. Why? Because they eat only salmon. As the salmon population diminishes, so does the number of resident orcas. The transients, on the other hand, are not on the list because they eat sea mammals  mainly seals and sea lions, which are plentiful. I don’t have any pictures of the whales because they were too far away from the boat.

As we cruised along after breakfast, we took turns sitting on the padded bench behind Captain Dale as he steered the boat through the channel. Our first stop was at the Roche Harbor Resort. You can find Roche Harbor Resort on the northwestern tip of San Juan Island. By car, you can drive northwest from Friday Harbor through the San Juan vineyards on one of the Washington State Scenic Byways.

Lime Works

Roche Harbor was established in 1886 as the company town of the Roche Harbor Lime Works. we toured the ruins of the old lime works, which the British originally built in the 1870s. Built to last, the large lime kilns and chimneys that still stand today. Later the Moran family took over from the British and built a cement factory. Processed lime is one of the key ingredients in cement. Not surprisingly, the old cement company’s building stood nearby (see the picture at the top of this page).

Lime Works

Captain Dale Explaining the History of the Limeworks

Roche Harbor had long been noted for its lime works. Limestone was quarried nearby and transported to the kilns where it was burned down into industrial lime, used in the production of steel, plaster, cement, and paper. In its heyday, Roche Harbor produced the largest amount of lime west of the Mississippi. To produce the high heat (2000 degrees Fahrenheit) necessary to covert the limestone, workers needed to burn large amounts dry wood every day. As a result, the forests on San Juan Island and nearby islands were extensively logged to supply the wood. You can still see remnants of these kilns today.

Next to the kilns we found the the classic Hotel de Haro, which is still open today and is now listed on the National Historic Register. John S. McMillan, who ran the Roche Harbor Lime and Cement Company until his death in 1936 built the hotel in 1886. The lobby of the hotel contains many old photos depicting the lime works and the history of Roche Harbor. On the second floor in the women’s bathroom, you will find a custom bathtub built for John Wayne, a frequent visitor.

McMillan Mausoleum

For the rest of our stay in Roche Harbor, some took it easy and wandered around while the more adventurous followed Captain Dale on a climb up to the McMillan Mausoleum. Just past the airport the path wound through a wooded area, heading uphill all the while, past gravesites of regular workers from the lime works and cement company. After what seemed like an endless uphill climb, we came out onto a road that lead directly into the mausoleum entrance.

Once through the entrance, we came to the stairway up to the graveyard surrounded by Doric pillars all linked together with a scalloped crown. Although you may think the pillar on the far left is broken, it stands incomplete to symbolize that a life’s work is always left incomplete. Embraced by the pillars, we found a cement table and chairs with the names of each late family member carved on a chair. Here you see a close-up of John McMillan’s chair, showing he was a Mason and member of the Knights Templar, a noble of the Mystic Shrine, a Methodist, and a Republican.

After a quick visit to pay respects to the McMillan family, we headed back to the dock. We realized that the road leading to the entrance of the mausoleum was probably the same one we left at the airport to weave our way through the forest path to the mausoleum. So, we took the road, which was a lot easier to negotiate and got us back to the harbor quickly. As we all know, Mature Friends travel on their stomachs, so we were more than ready for lunch.

Cracked Crab Lunch

Back aboard the boat, a fine feast awaited us — a hearty cracked crab lunch! We had all the crab we could possibly eat, barbecue chicken pieces, a pasta salad, and on the far right a vegetable salad. Through the window of the sideboard, you can see an open bottle of wine and a jug of hot coffee to complete the meal. So, while we sailed along to Rosario, our next stop, we enjoyed this sumptuous food, and try as we might, we could not finish all the crab.

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