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Flying a Kenmore Air Seaplane to the San Juans

AirlineReporter.com correspondant Colin Cook prepares for his Kenmore Air seaplane ride. Image by Colin Cook.

AirlineReporter.com correspondent Colin Cook prepares for his Kenmore Air seaplane ride in a de Havilland Canada DHC-2 Beaver. Image by Colin Cook.

This story was written by AirlineReporter.com correspondent Colin Cook:

A few months back, Kenmore Air announced via their Facebook page a competition to select a destination in the San Juan Islands for a special fare. The contest allowed fans of their page to vote on whether to offer the special $69 fare to Orcas Island, San Juan Island, or Lopez Island. Having never been to any of the islands personally, I was quite interested. At the end of the week, they announced Orcas Island as the winner and I quickly began planning my trip. Having flown Kenmore previously, I know that flying with them is just such a treat (note: Colin paid for his own trip out of pocket).

One of the benefits of flying Kenmore Air -- you can sit in the co-pilot seat. Image by Colin Cook.

One of the benefits of flying Kenmore Air — you can sit in the co-pilot seat. Image by Colin Cook.

When traveling through traditional airlines, we all know the hassle the airport and the TSA regulations can be. Well with Kenmore, you don’t have to deal with any of that. The only caveat being, there is a 25 pound weight limit on luggage to ensure the plane can lift off the water, so one needs to pack on the lighter side. I showed up about 30 minutes before my flight and it couldn’t have been easier. No security. No long lines. They even allow regular size liquid containers. It is such an enjoyable contrast to the type of travel I’m used to.

Depart: Kenmore Air Harbor (KEH) to Rosario Resort (RSJ)
via stops at Lake Union (LKE) and Friday Harbor (FBS)
Equipment: de Havilland Canada DHC-2 Beaver
Date: Friday 9/28/12; Depart 3pm, arrive 4:45pm (15 mins late)

You can't get views of Seattle like this on just any airline. Image by Colin Cook.

You can’t get views of Seattle like this on just any airline. Image by Colin Cook.

On my journey to Rosario, I got the unique pleasure of stopping at Lake Union to pick up some additional passengers. Typically, it would be a drag to have to make multiple stops en route to our destination, but that is not the case on a sea plane. Not to mention, that it was so cool to get to take off and land multiple times along the way. It was awesome to see the downtown Seattle skyline as I approached and landed to the south on Lake Union. After picking up the other passengers, we all continued our journey north to the San Juan’s.

BONUS VIDEO: Landing in Lake Union in a Kenmore Air Seaplane

The flight from Lake Union to Rosario was roughly 40 minutes. I was extremely lucky in that I was able to ride up front next to the pilot, which provided for great views (not only of the scenery, but also the controls of the plane). The Beaver traveled roughly 100-120 MPH ground speed, cruising at 1500 feet for most of the journey. While our pilot looked quite young, you could tell he was experienced as our take-offs and landings were as smooth as water (pardon the pun).

City views are pretty nice, but San Juan Island views are even better. Image by Colin Cook.

City views are pretty nice, but San Juan Island views are even better. Image by Colin Cook.

For anyone that’s been up to the San Juans, I don’t have to tell you how amazing it is up there. To say that it’s gorgeous is an absolute understatement. The panoramic views of the water with shimmering reflections of the sun, stately green trees, and multiple islands of various sizes are spectacular. We arrived at Friday Harbor to drop off a few passengers and then continued our short remaining journey to Rosario. Once we arrived, we checked into the resort and took a moment to learn about some of the history.

Part of the Rosario resort taken from the seaplane. Image by Colin Cook.

Part of the Rosario resort taken from the seaplane. Image by Colin Cook.

One thing I would definitely recommend to anyone staying at Rosario Resort is the Saturday afternoon session with the assistant manager, Christopher Peacock. During that event, Peacock plays the pipe organ and piano while showing some historic photos and telling guests about the history of the resort. The resort was the one time home of Robert Moran who made his fortune as a shipbuilder in Seattle, in addition to serving as Mayor of Seattle from 1888-1890.Mr. Moran retired at Rosario when he was given two years to live due to a heart condition.

The house was constructed with the same meticulous attention to detail as the ship building, and the stained glass window & chandelier are beautiful period accents. He moved there in 1905 and lived there for the majority of his life before passing away in 1943. Apparently getting out of the city life and away from work-related stress really does wonders for the human soul.

While visiting the island, I was able to check out some other areas as well, but using a rental car service. I drove through Moran State Park and went up to the observation tower on top of Mount Constitution. The view from the summit was quite impressive as you could see Mount Rainier, Mount Baker, Victoria, and Vancouver in the distance. The panoramic views were definitely worth the drive up and cost of the rental.

After the drive, it was time to leave and the float plane was there waiting for my journey back home.

And lift off. Kenmore Air seaplane takes off from the water. Image by Colin Cook.

And lift off. Kenmore Air de Havilland Canada DHC-2 Beaver seaplane takes off from the water. Image by Colin Cook.

Depart: Rosario Resort (RSJ) to Kenmore Air Harbor (KEH)
via stops at Friday Harbor (FBS) and Lake Union (LKE)
Equipment: de Havilland Canada DHC-2 Beaver
Date: Sunday 9/30/12; Depart 4:30pm, arrive 5:50pm (10 mins early)

During the return trip, the weather was absolutely phenomenal. Very sunny and the visibility was quite good. It was interesting for me to use my iPhone to see exactly where we were traveling as we flew. As long as it is okay with the pilot, passengers are allowed to use any electronic device and since we were flying low, I had signal over populated islands. (If using my phone on a small plane like a Beaver doesn’t impact the instruments, how would using it on a large jet impact things? Just asking).

Flying over Gasworks park in Seattle. Image by Colin Cook.

Flying over Gasworks park in Seattle. Image by Colin Cook.

The return journey went quite quickly and we stopped both at Friday Harbor and Lake Union again. This time on approach to Lake Union, we flew over downtown Seattle and landed to the north, which was pretty sweet. It is a unique experience to fly over buildings that I recognized only from the ground. w

Soon after, we were back in Kenmore and my trip was over. It was an awesome trip and I’m glad I got to see Orcas Island and flying on a Kenmore Air seaplane.  If you live in the Seattle area and haven’t experienced it or plan to make a trip in the future, I would highly recommend making this trip!

ADDITIONAL KENMORE AIR TRIP PHOTOS: