Monday, November 23, 2009

A fond farewell to our friend and good neighbor Ib Werner Christensen

We said goodbye to an old friend on Saturday. Ib Christensen has been gone since September and we all in our own way have said goodbye to him but had not gotten together as a group till now. The gathering was hosted by Peter McDonald, one of Ib’s long time friends. Ib was a proud and independent man and did not want to be a burden to anyone. He allowed only a select few to help him during his loosing battle with cancer, Peter was one, and we all thank him for it. It was a great party and just the kind of event Ib would have enjoyed.

I met Ib 20 years ago after buying into the community of Salmon Beach. His one story cabin was the first place to the north of mine, so close that our roofs actually were connected at the trail end over our boat decks. Over the years as tends to happen in such a close community, Ib became a part of our family. His advice and generosity towards me and my family was the kind that I had been use to getting from my mom’s dad. Even though Ib was the kind of man that enjoyed his privacy, he rarely turned down an invitation to dinner and for a few years running accepted an invite to Mom an Dad’s Christmas Eve dinner at their place on Fox Island. He only stopped coming when he felt to unsteady on his feet to make the steep stairs to the second floor of the barn where we gather each year.

In the beginning our interactions were limited to beach business since our place had to be rented out full time. When our first renters had to move and we ended up renting to collage students from University of Puget Sound, we had the summers to do our cleanups and repairs and also got a better opportunity to get to know our neighbors, and for them to get to know us. Some of the best times were when in the afternoon, after his mid day nap, Ib would sit out on the little strip of deck next to the boat ramp on the south side of his cabin. This was the perfect spot to catch the afternoon sun and he would sit there smoking his pipe and enjoy a glass of wine. He wouldn’t say anything but you knew he was there. The complex aromas of salt air, fresh cut fire wood, and pipe smoke will always remind me of Ib (although I think that the pipe smoke would probably do it by itself). If Ib felt like visiting he would call over to me that I was working to hard and should sit with him for a little while and “swap lies”. Always a good invitation to accept. He was always good about reminding me and Rhonda that there was a time to work and a time to appreciate living at Salmon Beach. If he was out on his deck for the sunset and could tell that we were going to miss a good one we would here him calling “Scott, is time for the sunset” so Rhonda and I would stop what we were doing and come out to the front deck and quietly, with Ib on his deck and me and Rhonda on ours, we would watch the sun go down over the harbor. We all need to slow down at least once a day to appreciate life, and a few minutes to watch a sunset seems like a worthwhile use of time. Thanks Ib.

In December of 1996, the beach had lost power from an ice and snow storm. Ib was starting his dinner on a camp stove he had set up in the kitchen and the hose connecting the stove to a five gallon propane tank was old and apparently cracked. By the time the neighbors saw the smoke and came to Ib’s assistance the fire had gotten into the old dry wood of Ib’s kitchen walls and there was no stopping it. When I got home from work a little before five, Rhonda was on the front porch telling me that the neighbors had called to tell us that Ib’s place had caught on fire. I jumped back in the car and at the blazing pace of about 20 mph (the winter sun had gone down and refroze the streets) I drove across town towards the beach the whole time wondering how bad it might be and that we might have to put him up in our place next door since it was not being rented at the time. I arrived to a parking lot full of fire trucks and I made my way down the trail. It didn’t help my anxiety when I had to climb over a land slide that was the trail behind cabin #39(the beach was not having a very good day). As I got closer I began to realize how bad of a day it was. My thoughts turned from putting Ib up in our place to, did we even have a place. The smoke coming from #54 was so thick that I could not even see the second floor #56. After a few tries I found a fire fighter that would lead me through the smoke and rubble and hoses to the other side where our house stood, Intact, charred but intact. Luckily the burn damage was limited to the exterior on the north side. The inside was water and smoke damaged. Ib’s was however a total loss. The shared experience of the fire cemented our friendship and linked us forever in Salmon Beach history .I always looked at it as an opportunity to make some needed improvements to our place and for Ib’s part he could have taken the insurance money and let some one else deal with the hassle of rebuilding but Ib had a vision. His hope was to build a place laid out in such a way that it would be a place for the community to gather with a resident caretaker on the upper floor. The location being almost smack dab in the middle of Salmon Beach was perfect. It was the only time I ever saw him really spend his money but now that I think about it he probably looked at it like it was the insurance company’s money and that made it easier. The second part of his vision was to see that the community would take over the ownership of what he dubbed the Longhouse. He offered to sell the longhouse to the Salmon Beach Improvement Club and he swore me to secrecy at the time but it can be told now and everyone should know. His intentions were to gift the Longhouse to the beach if we would agree to buy it. His offer was more generous than anyone ever knew. How in a place as precarious as Salmon Beach where if the storms and landslides don’t get you, the City of Tacoma or Washington State Fisheries will. How we could turn into such a bunch of wimpy worry warts afraid of liability and responsibility I will never understand. We were lucky though that Ib allowed some of his beach friends to hold some special events there and until he finally sold it, in the last few years people were willing to ask to use it for its designed purpose as long as it was Ib takeing the risk, not us…go figure.

A few years ago he gave us his boat, he said he was getting to old and we need it more than he did. The only catch (it seems with Ib there was always some strings attached) was that when we were done with it we had to gift it to another “boat needy” Salmon Beacher. I still have the hand written note with my conditions of ownership .I will cherish it and probably copy it word for word when it is my turn to find a worthy caretaker for Ib’s Salmon Beach boat. Not long after that he offered to sell us the boat ramp that separated our two places. It was one of the few parts of his orignal place that survived the fire since it was high tide at the time and covered with water. We agreed on a price and payment plan and his only complaint was that the contract was too long and he didn’t think that he would live long enough to see it paid off. I joked with him that I though that I knew him well enough to know that he would find a way to make it till he got paid in full…and you know what, he did.

So as I sit here nursing the last of a day long hangover from last nights send off, I feel lucky to have landed in a place where your neighbors become family. Hopefully I can remember what I learned from my good neighbor Ib and carry it forward. Ib loved Salmon Beach and added greatly to it's character. not only are we trying to preserve the history of Salmon Beach by restoring a little wooden boat but by keeping the stories of the people who lived with the boats preserved for the future and in our small way keep Ib’s memory alive.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Check us out in the latest Issue

What a pleasant surprise to open the latest issue of Wooden Boat and find not only a great article on the Center for wooden boats at Cama Beach but also a glowing reports of the efforts of several of our favorite and local maritime organizations . The Port Townsend Maritime Center, Gig Harbor’s Eddon Boat, and the Foss Waterway Seaport here in Tacoma. I just finished going cover to cover and I may need to get a second copy of this November/December issue #211 .This will be the one that will not get tucked away but kept on the table right next to my big red leather chair .Ok none of them get “tucked away” at least for the first year but you know what I mean. Immediately following the Currents article describing the Pacific North West’s abundance of maritime activities is a reoccurring feature called Getting Started in Boats. This one #19 in the series Oars, Oarlocks, and Rowing is almost perfect timing since the length and placement of the oars and oarlocks has been an ongoing topic of discussion during our all too infrequent work sessions at the boat shop. I will not boar you with the complicated mathematical equation like I did to Rhonda but I am surprised that I could get so excited about a little bit of math (not a subject that excited me in school). A little deeper into this issue is an article that is about a 100 year old Norwegian rescue boat (pictured on the cover). Again this well written article is interesting in its timing since we had just a few weeks ago looked at an old US coastguard surf rescue boat built in the 1930s. Is some body trying to tell us something? Maybe my boat “senses” are just more tuned in these days, who knows. Anyway the bimonthly Wooden Boat is a wonderful way to pass the last few wakening minutes of my day and when I can’t keep my eyes open any more I will sit back and picture the issue that someday will have one of our boats inside its cover. Until that happens (and it will) you will just have to settle for the musings and pictures here at the Salmon Beach Rowboat Project. Enjoy.


Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Catching Up

Boy have I been a bad blogger. I have been so busy that I haven’t even stopped long enough to post a simple note to tell you that we didn’t get eaten by bears in the Olympic rain Forrest or that we didn’t drink too many Port Townsend Beers and fall off of the dock at the Wooden Boat Festival. I didn’t even get a chance to brag that I was getting a second opportunity to go the Cape Decision Light house or that we went to look at a 1934 coast guard surf rescue boat that Andrew found on the internet. So I guess it is time to do some catching up.

Since my last posting Rhonda and I had a great hike (about 12 miles) up to a lake above the Sol Duc hot springs. It rained buckets but the scenery was unbelievable and in my opinion the best end to a long hike is to soak in a hot springs at the end of the day and if you can get away with it soak in those same hot springs the whole next day.

After a great seafood dinner at Scooter and Willi's with a great group of people to celebrate Willi's birthday on saturday night, Sunday we went to the wooden boat festival at Port Townsend. The weather was perfect, a nice warm day no clouds and enough wind for the boats that knew what they were doing to sail out of the harbor at the end of the day. What a beautiful sight. Scooter ,Willi, Rhonda and I had a great day together and our only disappointment was that the roasted cashew vendor didn’t show up this year. Mark my words; we will be attending next year’s festival with a boat of our own! The venue just keeps getting better, this year they had the new building open that includes a beautiful boat shop that will only get better when they start working on boats in it.

Next thing you know I am being talked into a second trip to the light house at Cape Decision AK. And even though we had what I thought was an epic journey in June this one was yet another Alaskan adventure that I don’t have the space or time to recount here. Let’s just say that Cape D. in late September is a whole different experience from any of the trips in June or July.

No sooner had I gotten home and muddled thru what was left of that week and our friends from Juno, Steve and Rachel drop into town for one of their whirlwind visits and we ended up at the Harvest Festival at Tahoma Farms on Saturday night around a bonfire listening to a great four piece bluegrass band from Olympia called the Black Berries. The next day we all went over to look at what may be one of our more interesting future projects. A wooden surf rescue boat that had been converted to a fishing boat at some point in its life and is currently resting in a building out in Graham WA., waiting for a troupe of wild eyed wooden boat enthusiasts to bring her back to life and restore her to a more original rescue boat condition. Now that sound like fun doesn’t it?

Another very busy work week and then…whew the weekend and a chance to slow down and take a breath. Well we would have done that but when our neighbor Chris decided we needed to all go to the harbor for breakfast on Saturday morning (it was a nice morning and the water was smooth) Amy , Chuck, Chris , Rhonda and I piled into the boat and off we went. Breakfast was good and we stumbled upon the Gig Harbor Chum festival so we wandered through. You would think that I might have been most interested in the wooden fishing boat that is being restored there at the end of the bay but the display of rocks from the annual Gig Harbor round rock competition was the thing that caught my eye. Anyway we had a nice boat ride and I actually got up to Amber’s house to do a little work before the day was gone. Sunday we drove over to eastern Washington to check out Rhonda’s Dads new place. Couldn’t find any boats over there but did take a spin around the property on the new Quad that they just got.

So here we are burning thru another work week enjoying the fall weather with a fire going in the wood stove Jack curled up and snoozing on the couch and Randie (our cat) looking over my shoulder as I finish this up. The daylight is pretty much gone when I get back to the beach these days and it is not going to get any better for quite a few months but Scooter will be back soon enough and by then I hope to have the other projects in my life to a point that we can take some time to do what we love best and that would be hanging out in the boat shop.

So thanks for your patience with my many distractions, we will get to the Salmon Beach Rowboat some day…I promise.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Ceder log, more wooden boats than you can shake a stick a stick at, and our rain forest

I will not be posting this for at least a few days but I thought that as long as I was stuck in a hotel room on my own for a few nights this week (out of town work related) that I would spend my time more wisely than I usually do under these circumstances and get caught up with you all out in wooden rowboat land. So if you were wondering how things are progressing on our little Whitehall, I have very little to report although last weekend I did spend the majority of the day on Saturday with my neighbor Ralph cutting into the big cedar log that we brought in last winter. With summer coming to a close we start to look around at what is on the beach that can possibly do damage in that first storm that we all know is coming sooner or later. A giant log can be a blessing and a curse. The log has been getting smaller over the last month with large chunks harvested for a few wood carving projects and now the last 17 feet is being squared off. We will be pulling it up on the boat deck so that it can start to dry out. I still believe that there is a row boat inside of that log just waiting to be cut and shaved and bent and sanded into shape. I did bring home with me a “scrap “to make some more floor board slats for the Whitehall. Meanwhile I have a few interesting weekend adventures to look forward to even though, again, the boats sit and wait. September 12th we will be making our yearly pilgrimage to Wooden Boat Festival - Port Townsend, WA to drool over the boats big and small, eat some fresh corn on the cob, fresh steamed oysters, hot roasted cashews ,drink some of Port Townsend Brewery’s fine Scotch Ale (one of my favorites) and listen to some music while planning to bring one of our restoration projects up in the future to inspire others and give us a great reason to spend more than one day.
Before that while Amber is down at the beach keeping Captain Jack company, feeding the cat, and keeping an eye on the boats Rhonda and I will be exploring Washington’s very own temperate rain forest. By the sounds of the whether reports we will not only get to experience the majesty of the ancient trees but the reason that it is called a “rain forest”. It’s ok though I think that one should see a rain forest in the rain, I think that it looses something with out it don’t you think? At any rate I will report back on that one.
One more thing, I would like to say welcome home to my parents who have been in China for most of the summer working with a volunteer group teaching English to Chinese students and more importantly building relationships with these student that I am sure will advance understanding between our two cultures. The West couldn’t have two better people to represent the best that our society has to offer. The kindness, generosity, love of life and for each other, can not help but show even to some one that has had just a short encounter with them…I think even in the short class room setting that they just worked in. It sounds like, by their descriptions that some of the students formed a lasting bond with Mom or Dad or both. It makes me proud to tell people about their recent travels.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Hot summer nights

It is just after sunset and Rhonda and I minutes ago put our 1948 Willits canoe up for the night. Tonight was the second time this week and the third time this summer that we have had our 60 year old Tacoma classic in the water. The vast majority of these beautiful wooden craft never see the water anymore, mostly, for the privately owned ones, because of there value. The rest are either hanging in museums, or restaurants. Rhonda and I both coveted these boats from childhood to the present and a few years ago ran across an opportunity to acquire the one we have now and jumped on it. We both agreed that in spite of its value and almost perfect condition that if done properly and on the best of days that the boat should be used. So with the record breaking heat of this last week it seemed like the only logical thing to do was get out on the water . with the Salmon Beach rowboat on the deck waiting for it’s turn in the shop (soon, very soon) the Whitehall hopefully in it’s final stages, and our work boat sadly waiting for me in my garage in town, the only boat left is old number 735.If the Whitehall or the S.B. rowboat look and handle half as good as our canoe does I will be very happy indeed.
Yesterday while my friend Scott was down the beach at his place studying celestial navigation, I was making sawdust and wood shavings. Along with making a mess, I was actually making slats for the floor boards in the Whitehall from some cedar that I got out of a stump down at the end of the beach. A very satisfying days work to have made something not only useful but beautiful from something that to some one passing by in a boat would look like a bleached out stump not even worthy of a beach fire. I hope to soon be making from the same stockpile of wood some quarter sawn boards for the stern seat. It does seem to be coming together I just need to keep plugging away at it , quite a trick with so many other things that I “should” be doing and another week of spectacular weather coming. Scott has one more week of his navigation class and then can have his evenings and weekends back and I will hopefully have made enough of the pieces ready for us to make some serious progress. I promise to get some good pictures of that for my next post. Till then, we will see you on the trail.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Progress? It depends on how you look at it.

We have been home for almost a month now from our big adventure to Alaska and as always it has taken quite a while to get back onto the swing of things even though “things” will not let us stop to long to reflect or even take a breath. It seems that the 4th of July and all of the craziness that comes with Salmon Beaches biggest holiday was upon us the day after we got back. In reality it was about three weeks of trying to catch up with a very neglected yard in town, work (of course) seeing Mom and Dad off to China and finally getting our trusty Salmon Beach work boat off to the Bates welding school for some well deserved rehab. Our good old welded aluminum work boat (built at Bates in 1980) has lived a productive life in the service of its original owner Ib Christensen (a long time resident of Salmon Beach) and then me and Rhonda for the past few years. It has been thru storms and sun, earthquakes and fires, a couple of sinking’s and yes, a few trips to the Tides Tavern in nearby Gig Harbor. So when the floor boards started to flop around this spring I got this great idea that I could make arrangements to take the boat out to Bates to get “a few things done” while we were in Alaska. So in the midst of getting ourselves ready for our trip I spent way to much time striping the boat down to the bare hull so that it would be ready to drop off just before our departure. Upon our return I would simply pick up the boat slap the motor back on and be ready for the 4th. Well that kind of project coordination only happens in my dreams and as we all know real life takes its own path. So hopefully this week I will get the boat back to the beach so that I can start doing a slightly modified version of the rehab that I had in mind myself …for you see keeping a boat, even a welded aluminum boat in the harsh environment at Salmon Beach has taken its toll on the even a tough boat like the Salmon Beach work boat and the instructor at Bates did not think that any of his student would be capable of taking on a project like the one we had in mind with the aluminum in the poor condition that it is in. So on to plan “B” (I haven’t yet given up on my plans to make the needed repairs and improvements) to install new non skid aluminum floor boards on a slightly thicker foam floatation floor and new grab rails on both sides all bolted in place instead of welded. So life goes on and even though we aren’t currently working on the wooden row boat that is the purpose of this blog , we are at least working on a boat …and after all isn’t that what it’s all about? Let me know what you think, If I don’t hear from you here, I will see you on the trail.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Work is not work, when it's something that you want to do

Sunday, 6/14/2009 - Our day started earlier this morning than we have been use to since changing our routine from boat to lighthouse. Our departure from the lighthouse by float plane at approximately 9:00 am had me tossing and turning from about 4:00 am this morning, when it got light, till the alarm went off at about 7:00. A shower and quick breakfast before one more look around, then I hauled our now slightly used waterproof backpacks down across the rocks to the boat so that we would be ready to jump in as soon as we saw the plane. Right on schedule at 8:30, the plane carrying our neighbors from the beach, Ralph Harrison and his son Christopher, buzzed the lighthouse and circled around the cape to find a smooth piece of water to land on. Fortunately, just around the east side of the point that blocks the ocean swells, he found a nice spot and soon we were tossing their luggage into the boat and ours into the plane. Pretty smooth till we discovered Ralph’s fly rod case in the luggage area of the plane when we unloaded up in Sitka. Oh well, they will have plenty to do and Rhonda and I are taking it back to beach with us. We walked over to Alaska Airlines to check on our flight for this evening and decided to forgo the quick tourist version of Sitka-in-a-day and took the next flight. We only had to wait for about a half hour for a flight that will have us home by dinnertime.
We had such a nice trip up to Cape Decision by boat. Rhonda was telling me this morning as we were standing outside the copula on top of the lighthouse tower, that she would do that trip again at the drop of a hat if invited. It was such a great experience and we feel that we have made a new friend and anytime Jack needs some help getting his boat to or from Alaska, all he has to do is give us a call and we will be there.
As we expected, the work really got started from the moment Karen met up with us at the back of Port MacArthur on the Log Dog. After a short side trip to shore to check out what turned out to be the decaying carcass of a whale, we got all of our gear and supplies transferred over to the Log Dog and went on ahead to the lighthouse in Helga (the 16’ skiff that belongs to the lighthouse society)to get the hoist set up .About the time we finished setting up, the Log Dog had made it to a good location just behind the protection of the point. Chris and Karen then started to ferry full boatloads of freight in where Rhonda and I would raise it up in the cargo net and unload it onto the dock, then move it towards the light house to make room for the next load. This went on for a solid 4hrs and when the last load came up, hanging off of the side of the net was a freshly caught salmon that made for a great dinner for the whole crew that evening

The next day (Wednesday) was spent setting up the water system and organizing the stuff that had been brought ashore the day before. By afternoon, we were starting to get into the projects that we had come out to do. Chris was focusing on removing the old floor tiles, starting in the bedrooms, then installing a new epoxy flooring material . My focus was to finish the roof of the outdoor composting toilet building (affectionately dubbed the “Turtle Head” for its shape and purpose).
The next couple of days fell into a routine of getting up, making coffee/tea, then starting our projects with a break for breakfast, a late lunch, then dinner when we were having trouble seeing outside because of the dark. At that latitude it stays light pretty late so our dinnertime and bedtime were one right after the other.
On Saturday, our last full day, we stepped back from our projects long enough to go for a boat ride to look for a few things on some nearby beaches. We needed a few pieces of “art wood” for the Turtle Head and some cedar, and for our row boat project back at home, a nice piece of Sitka Spruce. We found the art wood and cedar but didn’t find any suitable Spruce till we got back to the lighthouse and remembered a downed tree on the property that would be perfect. Alas we had chainsaw problems so our beautiful hand carved Sitka Spruce oars will have to wait another year. It does give us a wonderful excuse to go back next year. Untill then we will just have to pass the time messing around with the boat projects that we left behind at Salmon Beach...I don't know about you but I'm kind of looking forward to it. See you on the trail.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Ketchikan and beyond . . .

Monday, 6/8/2009 - 11:00 PM. The last couple of days have been busy so I have fallen behind on my updates. Let’s get caught up. We apparently had an uneventful Friday because I can’t seem to recall anything to report about it, just more cloudless skies and beautiful Canadian shoreline. Saturday we crossed back into American waters and Alaska. We finally had our first whale sighting .First a single Humpback not more than 150 feet in front of our boat crossing from port to starboard, sounding right in front of us with a show of his tail as if to say “welcome to Alaska”. Within an hour we also saw a small pod of Orca. I am not sure we would have gotten this great show if the weather wouldn’t have been so nice because it all happens so fast and if you were inside taking a nap (like Chris and Rhonda are now) or had your nose buried in a computer (like I am now) we would have missed it. We stopped at Ketchikan for the night, cleared U.S. Customs and had a late dinner at a restaurant called the Landing - about a 10 minute walk from Bar Harbor Marina. After dinner Chris, Rhonda, and I decided to find the Ketchikan night life but turned around a few blocks before a tunnel that separates the old town part of Ketchikan (and I assume the Saturday night nightlife) from the north end of town. We were a bit disappointed and walked back to the boat but a least got a nice walk and were chipper and rested (instead of hung over) on Sunday morning. The plan had been to take care of some last minute shopping at the Safeway get a shower and head out but when Jack was listening to the weather report he decided to stay another night and get an early start this morning. So with the shopping done and after fueling up the boat before noon, Chris , Rhonda and I, along with a better understanding of the lay of the land, made our way back downtown and were greeted by an old town business district bustling with three cruse ships of tourists. Chris thought that he had only packed one pare of work pants so we stopped at a big outdoor sports shop right next to the cruse ship dock and he bought a shinny new pare of Carharts and a new set of suspenders. I found, in the same store, a memory card for the camera that I borrowed from my friend Don.
By the way, I would like to thank my friend Don for trusting me with one of his nice Digital SLR cameras. I have taken some, what I think are, pretty nice pictures that would have been impossible to get with the little Sony pocket camera that I have had with me on my last two trips to the lighthouse. I did not want to take this once in a lifetime trip up the inside passage and not have a decent camera with me. It would have driven me crazy. Don is a great friend and great photographer and if you need a picture of your boat worth framing look Don up @ Don Jutte Photography on the World Wide Web and tell him Scot sent you.
Anyway, back to our big day of being tourists. After stopping at Ace Hardware, Murray Pacific, and the down town sports and outdoor gear store, we walked over to Creek Street (felt right at home on the board walks and houses on pilings) then off to try to find the Totem Park. We did end up at a nice looking Totem museum but decided not to spend the 10 bucks per person to go inside. Instead we walked past the fish hatchery and followed the river back around to Creek Street via a wonderful path thru the woods called Married Man’s Trail. The first building that we got to on Creek Street marked #1 and #2, we all immediately fell in love with. In need of repair (like most of the things that I am attracted to, Boats, etc.). We will have to look into that later. We next found the library that had a third order Fresnel lens from the Tree Point Light House in a window facing the street. We decided to go in to see if we could get the current Alaska fishing regulations from the internet and print off a copy for Jack. Chris accomplished the task in a few minutes and we were off to find a bar that Jack had told us about that had a picture of his Halibut boat the Grant on the wall. A few blocks away we found the Sourdough, a Ketchikan version of the Pioneer Bar in Sitka, where we found the picture and Jack sitting at the end of the bar watching the Mariners game on TV. The bar was thinly populated with locals as all of the tourists had been called back to the cruse ships by a blast of the horn about a half hour before. So we had a few Alaska Oatmeal stouts (yum), looked at all of the boat pictures on the walls, and had a nice conversation with the nice woman tending bar after Jack left to start dinner back on the boat. We hiked back to the marina and Rhonda volunteered to do a load of laundry while Chris and I were getting showers. Everyone was clean and hungry at 7:00 when Jack served up some baked king salmon boiled potatoes and green salad. Unfortunately, we were all too stuffed to have any of the apple pie we had warmed up for desert but it made a great and easy breakfast this morning. After dinner Jack walked over to visit with an old friend that was moored in the same marina and after doing the dishes Chris offered to walk over to the Landing with me so that I could use the free wireless to post to the blog. I was happy to have the company and tech support, it defiantly would have taken more than the hour that it did.
So, we are on our final leg of the journey to the Cape Decision Lighthouse. The plan is to meet up with Karen and the boat that she shanghaied called the ”Log Dog“. We will probably spend the night anchored out in a bay on the east side of the cape called Port MacArther. It’s not like the intimate little harbors that we have been staying in up to this point. It is a wide, long bay of a harbor and, depending on the wind direction, we’ll snuggle up to one side or the other. Hopefully, the west side near a beach that has been dubbed Wolf Beach (by the Cape Decision Lighthouse Society beach naming committee because wolf tracks are found in the sand every time we visit the beach). This spot is a couple of miles closer to the lighthouse in case we need to unload from there due to bad weather.
It is about 4:30 and Jack is in his bunk taking a well deserved break while Chris takes us up to Pt Baker where we hope to raise Steve and the Kirsten Ann on the radio as we make our turn west and into Sumner straight. Rhonda is up topside on wale watch and I think that I will go join her.
7:45, just dropped anchor in the back of Port MacArthur bay in about 8 to 12 fathoms. As we were slowly moving into position Chris and I both spotted something on the beach that the crows and eagles are eating. We both agree that is going to need to be explored sooner than later. In the meantime, our dinner fixing instructions from Jack are to stay out of his way so Chris is breaking into the Alaskan Smokey Porter and Rhonda is holding her position topside where she has been all afternoon.
Dinner was great, as always -smoked black cod, rice, and veggies. I think that it is the best tasting fish I have ever had. A round of beers on the upper deck and in the still of the night at the very end of the bay we can hear a waterfall in the forest. Time for bed; tomorrow is moving day and it promises to be a long one. We heard from Karen on the Log Dog and they are staying in Cape Pole tonight. They will meet up with us first thing in the morning.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Notes from the boat

Monday, 6/1/2009 - We have come to the end of our first day of the boat ride to Cape Decision in a beautiful Canadian harbor, our bellies full of home made split pea soup and apple crisp thanks to our captain, Jack Knutson. The day started early after a long day on Sunday of last minute shopping and loading the boat that had us unwinding with our beverages of choice till just past midnight. I don’t think that anybody slept very well (I know I was too wound up to sleep) so when the captain cranked up the engine around 4:30, we were all dressed and waiting for our instructions in minutes. With no reason to hang around and a long day ahead, we headed for the locks - a new experience for me, Rhonda, and Chris - and we were in the Sound between 5:00 and 5:30 watching Seattle disappear behind us as a beautiful sunny day developed ahead. We settled into our routine pretty quickly after Jack gave us all a quick lesson on how the auto-pilot worked and, the day just got nicer and nicer. I found that my new favorite place (I suppose as long as the good weather holds out) is on the flying bridge, and by late afternoon we were all enjoying the breeze and an incredible view. Every once in awhile I would go down to check the charts with Jack so I could get my bearings, and every once in awhile Jack would come up to visit and catch some fresh air. We checked in with Canadian customs without incident and then made our way to this quiet harbor for a great dinner and one of those picture postcard sunsets. Now apparently Montague Bay is a favorite place to anchor in this part of the Canadian San Juans for our Captain, and for me . . . a trip down memory lane. The last time I was here was with my grandparents on the Lady Carroll - about 40 years ago. Things, as they tend to do over 40 years, have changed. Now there are homes and cabins lining the rocky shoreline and a small marina with a gas dock where, before, there was none. Things that haven’t changed . . . there were over 50 boats anchored in the harbor on a Monday the first day of June. Captain Jack wants to start around 4:30 AM again tomorrow so that we can make it thru a narrow channel at slack tide. If we miss it, we will need to go a longer way, adding to our already long trip north. I did not nap today like Rhonda and Chris did so I am hoping that I will sleep better tonight.

Tuesday, 6/2/2009 - I am felling very fortunate this evening. For a second day the weather and boating has turned out to be as near prefect as the first one. Again the captain needed to get an early start to get thru some narrow passes at slack tide so when he started up the engine at a little after 4:00 AM I thought that I might take him up on last nights offer to” go ahead and stay in the sack as long we liked” that he could easily get us under way on his own. Well Rhonda jumped up, I heard Chris go to the wheel house, and when I heard the anchor chain dropping into the chain locker, I had to get up. I couldn’t miss seeing Montague Harbor one last time as we pulled out in the breaking light with our wake the only thing disturbing the glassy smooth water. Coffee was passed around soon after as we turned the boat northwest skirting behind the islands that separated us from the Georgia Straight. Soon Chris was “volunteered” to get breakfast together. “Eggs in a window “or “Spit in the eye” - depends what part of the country you grow up in - but breakfast was good and filling and, after the dishes were washed and put away, people started dropping like flies. At 10:15 Jack asked if I wouldn’t mind taking the helm for a few hours and I gladly stepped in for about a two hour watch. Rhonda came up and hung out with me and for awhile; it was just the two of us motoring to Alaska on a beautiful wooden fishing boat on a calm sunny day. Around noon Chris was back with us and, when it was time to change course, we called Jack up to the wheel house and it was Chris’s turn at the wheel. We made Dodd Narrows right on time for slack tide and after Jack took us thru, decided to give reading and napping another couple of hours. Almost two hours later the bilge water alarm had Jack out of his bunk for the final time and, after that excitement, he took back the helm so Rhonda, Chris, and I went up to the flying bridge to enjoy the hot sunshine and warm breeze .A few minuets before we entered the opening to Seymour Narrows Jack came up to warn us to hold on because he expected it to be “squirrelly” in there. As usual he was right and a whirl pool laid us way over on the port side. Jack told Chris later that even though our top speed is 8 knots with the outgoing tide pushing us, we were traveling through the Narrows at about 15 knots. It didn’t take us long to get to our idyllic little harbor that we are all alone in, and between Jack Chris and I , we had another mouth watering dinner ready in less than an hour. Baked Halibut and a big salad, and we all cleaned our plates. We made quick work of the dishes so that we could have after dinner drinks up topside and watch the sun go down and the sky turn all of the sunset colors. Like I said , I am feeling very fortunate.

Wednesday, 6/3/2009 - 7:30 AM. It seems that we are in for another unusually nice day. We got under way at out customary time of around 5:00 am and Rhonda had her coffee on the flying bridge as the sun came up and started to highlight the Vancouver Island shoreline. It looks like the more inhabitable side of the channel but we have only seen what looked like a logging camp that was just past a light keeper’s house, and a solitary cabin with a nice gravel beach next to a small river. We had been making 11 knots first thing this morning on the outgoing tide but, by the way, the boat is rocking. I think we are starting to buck the incoming now and that will no doubt slow our progress.
11:50 AM. I just got off of a few hour watch at the wheel. We hit a few rip tides that slowed us to about 7.5 knots but over all we have at or a little above 8 knots. About 40 minutes ago, Chris and I decided to try to set a course change into the autopilot on our own and that went off with out a hitch. The weather continues to be spectacular and Rhonda has spent most of the day up top. Chris just called us for lunch. More later.
5:40 PM. Lunch was good; leftover split pea soup and toasted cheese with tomato slice. Then a nice couple of hours in the sunshine reading and sightseeing. We passed the tallest totem pole in the world and it was visible from about a mile away. Jack came up at about 4:15 and said that the weather report for tomorrow was worse than this evenings for crossing Queen Charlotte Sound so he thought that we should go ahead and cross. Even though it will take about 4hrs to cross and another hour to make it to a harbor (and that last hour will be in the dark). Since then, we have stowed everything that might fall or roll or fly, and Jack put the stabilizer poles out so they would be ready. All of the excitement and activity of getting ready and the thought that we wouldn’t be able to cook any dinner till possibly 10:00 tonight made Chris hungry so he made a peanut butter and banana sandwich. It sounded good so I had one also. We just passed the Pine Island Light house and got a couple of pictures (I have been trying to get a few good pics of every one we pass). They seem to take very good care of the ones we have seen in Canada. All white buildings with red roofs. The water is the roughest that we have seen since leaving Seattle but this is where we expected to find it. Right now the rollers from the ocean are only about 3 ft max with a wind chop in between so we will se what happens. There is still not a cloud in the sky but I can’t imagine that lasting much longer. We will take it however it comes.

Thursday, 6/4/2009 - 7:45 AM. Rhonda is doing the breakfast dishes and Chris is putting a new tube of grease in Jacks grease gun. We have been under way since, I think, 5:00 but I didn’t check the clock. The sun was just coming up as we came out of last night’s anchorage. I was going to sleep in this morning but I could tell that it was going to be clear day with a warm-you-up-as-soon-as-it-hits-you sunrise so, I was up with everybody else. Rhonda, Chris and I watched from topside as we pulled out of a small protected inlet with no beaches, just rock that went pretty much straight down into the water. We had found our spot in the dark last night with the GPS map on the auto pilot, radar, and a depth sounder. After dropping anchor the first time, we noticed an island not much bigger than our boat that was too close for comfort so, on our second try, we were good for the night and had our customary drinks on the flying bridge at around midnight. We are a little ahead of schedule with the late crossing of Queen Charlotte Sound last evening which, by the way, had Chris in his bunk sleeping and me on the aft deck in the fresh air trying to keep my stomach from completely turning against me. Rhonda and, of course, Jack had no problem with the 4hrs of rolling and pitching. So, as soon as everybody had had their first cup of coffee, the light dinner we had last night began to have an effect on our conversation and a plan for breakfast was agreed on. Chris and I set to work and in short order we had a stack of pancakes with strawberries, apples, maple syurap, eggs and juice . The galley is just a narrow passageway between the aft cabin and the space that I call the wheel house. It is really just a small area all the way forward in the cabin big enough for one person to run the controls. In spite of the close quarters, we worked well together. Thank goodness the water was smooth as glass. We have a bit of a breeze now that has raised a light chop on the water and Rhonda has finished the morning dishes and gone topside so I am off to join her . . . more later.
10:12 PM. Captain Jack has turned in for the night after an especially nice evening of drinks and stories at anchor in Bottle Neck Inlet. This is the most incredibly beautiful anchorages I have ever seen and certainly the nicest (so far) on this trip. We stopped at a place called Shearwater today, at about lunch time. It had a laundry mat/shower, a 2 min shower for 1 loony (we are in Canada-eh) so we all got showers and had a nice sit down lunch at the restaurant. We all went away with our bellies full for $45 (Canadian), got a 100 gallons fuel and got under way again. The weather was so spectacularly nice that we (Jack) decided to push passed the place he had originally thought that we would spend the night and come here instead. Good choice! There were three boats in the inlet when we got here at about a half an hour before sunset but, it is just big enough that we all seem to have our own space and we haven’t heard a peep from them. The only thing disturbing the piece and quiet is our laughter and a couple of loons. Rhonda and Jack were still fine from our big lunch so Chris and I tried again to finish off the split pea soup and, again, had to put some away for another day. We almost took some time at Shearwater today to send out some e-mails but the wireless access was ten bucks (again, Canadian) and it didn’t seem worth it, plus, it would have slowed our departure. So, maybe Ketchikan. Chris and Rhonda have both been working on their computers this afternoon and when we got to a spot that had an hour-long stretch of unprotected water and it started to get a little rough. I got in my bunk and actually took a nap. I did learn later when I got up that I should have let Jack know because at one point when he was checking on everybody, he didn’t think to look for me in my bunk and thought I gone overboard. On the last hour of our trip today Rhonda , Chris and I decided to start happy hour before we dropped anchor. The water was smoother than we have seen on the whole trip (I don’t even know how that is possible, but it was) and the air temperature had to have been around 80 degrees. Jack said that he has never had this good of whether for this long on a trip north, and he has been doing it for 50 years. I can hardly wait to see what we have in store for tomorrow. Jack told us before he turn in that we would be leaving a little later in the morning (5:30) so we could time our entrance into a narrow pass for slack tide. Sounds like another great day no matter what the weather is like.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Birthdays and Boatrides (we all must be living right)

First of all, I need to wish somebody special a Happy Birthday. We will be celebrating my father-in-law’s 80th birthday on Sunday the 31st. WOW . . . if you ran into him at one of the many activities that he participates in you would not guess that he is 80 years old. However, if you had the good fortune to sit and visit with him for a while, you would soon learn that he has done so many interesting things that there is no way he could be any younger than 80. Evidence of his skill and craftsmanship as a finish carpenters show in buildings all over western Washington and beyond. If I had a fraction of his hard earned knowledge of woodworking, I could quit my job and repair vintage boats for a living . . .maybe someday. When I met Ross about thirty years ago, he was just another hard working dad who I was sure was nice to me because his youngest daughter asked him to. But as time went along and we got to know each other better, I found that his kindness and generosity were genuine. Some of the stories of when he was a cowboy that he shared with us in those early years were, much to Rhonda’s surprise, stories she had never heard. There would be many more of camping, hiking, mountain climbing, canoeing, fishing, and, the list goes on. Now I imagine that all of this attention is kind of embarrassing Dad a little bit but I didn’t want this important milestone birthday to slip by without saying congratulations and thanks. We look forward to your next milestone birthday. Thank goodness that Sally didn’t plan the party any later than the 31st because Rhonda and I will be on our way north up the inside passage to S.E. Alaska and the Cape Decision Lighthouse as I had mentioned before. We, or at least I, will be on the lookout for old broken down boats, or should I say old wooden boats that have lived a long and interesting life. If I can’t bring back the boats I will at least bring back some pictures and, at some point, share them with you. The other thing that Scooter and I were hoping that I could bring back from S.E. Alaska is some of the beautiful Sitka spruce that litters the beach up there so that we could make some nice oars for the Whitehall. We shall see. Anyway, I will try to send out something when we get there to let you all know how the boat ride went ,or I will no doubt tell you all about it when I see you on the trail.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Moms and Boats

When I started to work on the Whitehall rowboat I though that it would be a great way to honor my dad. It had been one of the projects that he always wanted to do but never got to because of the many, many projects that had to be done first before he could justify spending his time on a frivolous thing like a broken old boat. I am finding out first hand just like my dad, how that works but with the help and encouragement of many friends and the all important support of my wife it will get done. But that’s not what I want to talk about today. Today is about moms. I was thinking just the other day with Mother's Day coming up; how I could show my appreciation for all that she has done for me and continues to do. When you get to be our age, if you are lucky like me, your parents have pretty much everything they need or want so, going out and getting Mom something for Mother's Day has kind of gone by the wayside. I was also thinking that it may very well be that my passion for old wooden boats may have come not from where I had originally thought but could be attributed to my mom. Moms get the final vote on most thing in life so if my mom had thought that it would have been better for us to be at the local swimming pool in the summer instead of splashing around in the freezing waters of the Tacoma Narrows, we would have spent our summers at Titlow Pool. If mom had thought that those same waters were to dangerous to turn her only son loose in an 8’ dingy, she wouldn’t have told me to go rowing every time I complained about being board. I’m pretty sure she didn’t sleep very soundly when my sister and I thought that it would be great to spend the night sleeping aboard the house (more of a shack) that a neighbor and I built on a raft. It turns out that it was great and we did it many times but the point is that because of all of the life experience that my mom encouraged, not discouraged, I am now living a life that I am pretty damn happy with. Again, this summer, Mom is going to teach us how to live life by over coming her dislike for air travel and go to China with Dad. So, even though we are going to be excited to see the finished Whitehall rowboat in the water this summer, the relanching may have to wait till their return in August. Meanwhile we will just have to entertain ourselves with the Salmon Beach Rowboat. For that and everything else, Thanks Mom. And happy Mother's Day

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Coming Distractions

It seems that spring has barely started and already we are planning out our summer. As much as I just want to either, go out to the boat deck and scrape paint off of the rowboat or walk down to the boat shop and work on finishing the Whitehall, the siren call of the north is constantly whizzing around in the back of my mind.
Two years ago in July, I gave into the persistent invitations from my neighbor Chris to go with him out to Cape Decision, Alaska and spend a week volunteering my labor on their efforts to restore to its glory days an almost 80 year old lighthouse. I was bitten, not by the infamously large Alaskan mosquitoes, but by the S.E. Alaska bug. I now have the need to return every summer to get my fix.
Unfortunately my exposure has been limited to the area between the very southern tip of Kuiu Island (the location of the Cape Decision lighthouse) and as far north as Juno. Besides the incredible scenery and abundant wildlife, the experience of getting to stay and work on a historic piece of Alaskan history is quite a treat, not to mention the joy of just getting there.
I have had the quintessential Alaskan seaplane flight from Sitka to the lighthouse. Then, in 2008,the mail flight (by seaplane) from Sitka to Port Alexander (the locals just call it P.A.) followed by 2 hours of the roughest water I have ever experienced (10ft seas with a 3 ft. chop) across Chatham Straight in “Helga”, a 16 ft. skiff.
Now, for what may be the best of all, Rhonda, Chris and I will have the privilege of hitching a ride on a retired and converted fishing boat by the name of Cape Decision with Captain Jack Knutson. The trip is to be approximately 10 days from Fisherman’s Terminal on Lake Union Seattle WA. to the lighthouse at Cape Decision AK. We will spend the rest of our two weeks getting what work we can do done in the short time we have left, then make a mad dash for home and back to the beach where the rest of our distractions await.
The 4th of July, with is annual rowboat race only a couple of weeks from our return, birthdays, and an anniversary in August. The wooden boat festival is in September, and our commitment to each other to get away to do some hiking each month will add to the list.
Our good friend and neighbor Scott will be back from his latest stint on the tugboat he has been working on by early July. Watch for the re-launching party announcement for the Whitehall sometime in the mid-summer.
Meanwhile, we will start cutting into the big cedar log to see if there is any boat lumber inside, fishing season, Tuesday evening concerts at Skanzy Park in Gig Harbor, and great sunsets.
So, you can see that there is no lack of distractions here at the beach and it is a wonder we ever get anything done at all. But, we do stay busy. So don’t forget to keep your eyes peeled for the Salmon Beach Boat House brand and we will see you on the trail.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Not a bad day

I started my day by getting up at 5:00 am (on a Saturday?) and following my neighbor Ralph and his brother-in-law Lincoln. We went south by boat from the beach in pretty lumpy water that would have, on any other day, had me rolling over and going back to sleep. Today however, we had a mission. The tide was going to be its highest between 5:00 and 6:00 am and the huge cedar log that they had found last weekend and prepared for the journey on yesterday afternoon was waiting for us. After about a 45 minute pounding, we arrived to find our giant log pretty much floating and, after tying off to both ends, we managed to get it pulled off to deeper water and catch the outgoing tide towards home. The project was working like clockwork by now so I left the boys from Flapjack Lodge to their towing job and I motored ahead. I stopped by mom and dad's to visit for awhile and let Captain Jack get out and stretch his legs a little. I had a cup of tea with mom and listened to dad talk to his friend in China over the computer while waiting for the guys to catch up. After awhile, going just a little faster than the current right down the middle of the bay with a beam of sunshine highlighting their progress, they passed on by. So after a trip up the stairs to the barn to see the table mom had set for the Chinese dinner party tonight, Jack and I jumped back into the boat and caught up with Ralph and company in time to plan on how to land the beast without taking out any pilings or losing the whole thing in the current that was really ripping by now. After a quick phone call that got our neighbor Chris out of bed to provide an extra hand on shore, we nudged our prize into shore and tied it off. Whew! We all got our boats secured and admired our work for a little while. We then dispersed till the tide went out so we could get more lines on it in preparation for maneuvering it to a good place on evening’s flood tide. In the quiet of the afternoon I found myself hanging around the Salmon Beach rowboat and despite a long list of other things that I should have been doing, I found myself with a scrapper in my hands scrapping away on the bottom of the boat, happily I might add. Much to my delight I found that, as usual, working on anything on or near the trail will prompt a comment from everyone that walks by. Being a decent day, I had both plenty of people and comments. It was great because it gave me a chance to introduce the Salmon Beach Rowboat Project to some neighbors that hadn't heard about it yet. The progress report for today, after not much more than an hour to an hour-and-a-half, is that I have uncovered two more boathouse brands, one on each side of the bow just like the boat at the Seaport Museum. So, with the fire dying down and Captain Jack asleep at my feet, I guess it is my turn to go to bed and dream about all the Salmon Beach rowboats that might possibly be hiding inside that giant cedar log resting peacefully on the beach.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009


Just a quick note to you all to let you know that we didn't fall off the deck and float away. Spring has sprung and there is so much to share that it will take several posts to catch up. I started the spring cleaning here at the beach by getting all of the firewood that was stacked on the boat deck split and stacked in the wood shed. I think that it is the first time we that the woodshed has been full this early in the year. With that done I finally had a place to move the row boat to so that we could start scraping the old paint off. I think that this will be a great place for it for a while, at least till next fall. The boat deck for those of you that haven't been here is right next to the trail that connects all of our cabins to each other and the outside world. A lot of visiting happens out there so it will be easier to share the project with the neighbors. Much more later...see you on the trail

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

To Roger Edwards

I would like to thank Roger Edwards (in the red hat), founder of the Salmon Beach Historical Society, for his help in our efforts. All of the old photos that you will see here are from the vast collection of Roger Cushman Edwards. Roger is, in my opinion, one of our greatest natural resources here at Salmon Beach. He's devoted decades of his life to the gathering of the beach's history in collections of pictures, interviews and, finally, the publishing of a beautifully done book called "Tacoma's Salmon Beach". His efforts in putting together the book have given us all a valuable connection to our past and has made us aware, not only of the value of documenting our time here at the beach, but preserving tidbits of of the past as we stumble upon it. The people that snapped photos of friends and family so that they could show off their tent camps, fish, or boats, had no idea that, in some cases nearly a century later, we would be looking at the same pictures and pointing out both the differences and the similarities. It kind of makes you think. At any rate, if not for the efforts of Roger we would not have the large number of photos to look back on or the stories that go with them. For that I say, thank you Roger.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Do you have a rare Salmon Beach rowboat?

These pictures were taken of the Foss Boat today at the Seaport Museum.

It's Friday the first day of Spring and I am taking a vacation day. So I started the day off by stopping by the Seaport Museum down on Thea Foss waterway to do a little research and hopefully get some good pictures to share with you. Rhonda and I had been talking about it for a long time and as long as I was there today I signed us up for a family membership. So, now we are card carrying members (as soon as we get the cards in the mail). Anyway, I was not disappointed. I spent at least an hour there and had the whole place to myself. I did find what I was looking for and more. First of all the Salmon Beach Boathouse brand that was burned into the wood of each of the rental fleet at the boat house is not only on the Foss boat at the museum but is is on it think in seven different places. I am looking forward to doing a little scraping to see if we have more brands than the two on the outside of the stern. There is also a pretty nice boat shop in the northwest corner of the huge building that they occupy but unfortunately nobody was working this morning. There is so much space and I have high hopes that it will soon be full of boats, big and small. Anyway what I would like you all to do is if you have a wooden rowboat is check the stern , bow, seat, and breasthook to see if you have one of the few rare surviving boats from the Salmon Beach rental fleet. I also have an oar from the boathouse and apparently when they had the brand heated up it was used to mark everything so check your old oars too. So if you happen to have a boat like ours and it happens to have the brand of the Salmon Beach Boathouse let us know. We would love to hear from you (we heard that somone had a 10 foot boat with the salmon brand on it).

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

A Salmon Beach rowboat comes home

I hardly know where to start. My friend Scott (second from the left) and I have been working on the restoration of a 14 ft. Whitehall for the last two years. Our conversations, while either working or admiring our work, always seemed to come around to getting a hold of a set of plans for an original Foss rental rowboat. The shop that we are working in sits literaly a stone's throw from the location of the old Salmon Beach Boathouse where these fine wooden rowboats were rented to the public. Sadly, the boat house was torn down decades ago and the rental fleet scattered to who knows where years before that. So, imagine our surprise and excitement when a neighbor called me on a Thursday night and told me that they had found what appeared to be an original rowboat from that long lost fleet. Well, the picture tells the story. Not even 48 hours later we are bringing our next project "home", past Chloe the mermaid, and what I am sure will turn out to be years of, not only "messing about with boats", but creating some new history and great memories for the new generations of Salmon Beachers.