Our next plan was to explore San Juan Island, where we were going to eat, sleep and enjoy life on a boat in Friday Harbor. We had just experienced the quiet, quaint and peaceful life on Orcas Island. The euphoria we experienced there wasn’t due to our planning, it just happened. And, likewise, we certainly didn’t expect the comic calamity which was about to come on San Juan.
While enjoying our last organic breakfast at the Kangaroo House on Orcas Island, we reviewed the San Juan Island ferry schedule. We could leave at noon or 5 p.m. for the short trip over to Friday Harbor. Excited, we chose noon. Little did I anticipate what a different experience it was going to be and the change we were rushing toward.
Welcome to Friday Harbor
That afternoon, instead of exploring the one small area of Orcas that we did not see, we sailed into Friday Harbor. I couldn’t believe my eyes. Unlike Orcas Island, there were blocks of tourist shops, fast and unhealthy food choices, crowds, and genuine chaos. Everything Orcas wasn’t. We also got the first look at our Bed and Breakfast.
Last April, when I was making reservations, there was not much to choose from. I could pick the historic Hotel de Haro. It has been hosting guests since 1886. There you get a room, and share a bathroom at the end of the hall. My PSA score is way too high for that to work all night.
The Wharfside Bed and Breakfast
Another choice I found was the Wharfside B&B. We could Risk Blossoming. We could stretch and experience life on the docks and sleep on a private boat.
The back quarters, the master bedroom, was available. It was disclosed that you had to go down three narrow steps when entering. We had owned a boat with four small steps down to the lower cabin. It didn’t seem like a big deal. I thought it would add to our Risk Blossoming adventure!!
Just when I’m looking at Wharfside’s website on the internet, Deborah walks by. I casually say, “You want to stay on a boat at Friday Harbor?” I love Deborah because she is such a positive and open person. “Yeah, go for it!” she replies, not bothering to check out the pictures. Big Mistake.
Welcome to the Pirate Boat
Arriving at Friday Harbor, we drive off the ferry and immediately meet Laura, Wharfside’s current owner. She directs us where to park and tells us to bring our bags. The dock was full of tourists who were slowly strolling and ogling at the impressive collection large, shiny boats.
My fantasy of living the life on one of these boats, as I pulled our suitcases down the dock, quickly vaporized when Laura lifted her arm, pointed and declared “we’re the pirate boat with the flags — over there!”
We approached the boat and our minds froze as we began to recognize reality and what was before us. Climbing aboard, Laura insisted we go into the lone, small structure above the deck. It served as both the navigation platform and the kitchen galley. It was part of the common space of this B&B.
Laura proved to be a storyteller and her stories were detailed. The boat, she told us, was homemade in San Francisco in the early 70’s. It has a concrete hull below the waterline. The finishing wood on the inside was pine. There was no mahogany to polish or teak to oil, on this vessel. The builder was also the owner and skipper with a wife and three boys. For 15-years, they sailed, full time, up and down the West coast of both North and South America. They explored from Alaska to Chile. His wife home schooled the boys and all of them were his crew.
Below deck in the front was a nice size grand room for the entire family and a bedroom for the boys. In the back, blocked from the front by engine and storage areas, and accessible only from the outside deck, was Mom and Pops very private bedroom area. The mast was not aluminum with rails and pulleys to run up the sails. It was a wooden telephone pole that had to be climbed. This was adventure. The ultimate “tune in and drop out” trip of that era. They certainly lived their own Risk Blossoming life.
I thought that was the conclusion of Laura’s story. But soon found out that Laura was just warming up. At this point, I’m kind of mindlessly looking at the different aspects of the amateurish craftsmanship while listening. She truly had a wonderful passion for this boat.
She detailed how she and her husband had spent a romantic weekend on the boat early in its B&B days. She then progressed through twenty years, and a group of weird events ending in her ownership of the business.
I politely interrupted, trying to speed things up. Not to be detoured, Laura changed course to her interpretation of how the original builder must have loved his wife so much. She admitted she never met them, but she conjectured that the curves he put at the top of the homemade windows was a surely an expression of his love for her. OK.
The Art of Listening
Through this 45-minute monologue, Deborah just sat there, real quiet. As an extrovert, Deborah can be bubbly and talkative with any stranger, so I could sense that quiet was not good. Still, Laura went on. This was not an interactive conversation.
Next, she went into the history of San Juan Island. Apparently there were both Americans citizens and British loyalist from Canada on the island in 1859. They weren’t real keen on each other and when an American killed a Brit’s pig, they divided into camps and prepared for war to determine which country owned the island.
At this point I decided to just get up and get the bags down into the room so we could get on with the day. Laura quickly jumped between me and the little 3-foot door. She made it clear she would go first and demonstrate the proper descent. She dangled a foot down to the first step and quickly disappeared below. I followed, awkwardly, but without incident. The three little stairs were very little, mounted to the wall on just one side. There was a convoluted placement of various things you could hold onto.
Into the Abyss
Finally, it was Deborah’s turn. I got in a position from below to spot her in case she slipped. This was already the start of a disaster. Ending up at the Island’s urgent care center flashed through my mind. Deborah kind of dangled a foot down in search of a step. It wiggled around a couple of times, touching nothing, and quickly withdrew. This process repeated itself a couple of times before success.
Deborah is a bit claustrophobic. She needs Valium before attempting to enter an MRI chamber. This chamber of a room had the same feeling, minus the constant zooming noises. It was also a bit stuffy. The door was kept closed, Laura said, to keep any wandering sea otters out. Deborah was now down in the room, but white as a ghost. She needed air. Rather than turning to look around, she kept her head facing out, within a foot of the opening which was now at chest level.
Laura sensed the tenseness and apparently thought she could calm things with yet, another story. She tried to sell how much she loves to spend an entire afternoon down here, just relaxing on the bed and watching movies. Deborah was not buying. The small TV was one of those old black-plastic encased tube sets that has a built-in slot for a VHS tape and a handle on top. On the shelf was a row of tapes. Somehow I knew, Pretty Woman and Top Gun would be there, and they were.
The Marine Toilet
Laura’s final instructions explained the operation of the marine toilet. She said, when finished, you close the lid which creates an airtight vacuum. You then push the button on the wall and it goes into a series of regurgitating suction noises to raise the waste up to the dockside sewer lines . Deborah’s head was now out of the opening and she was no longer listening.
We quickly left to go sightseeing. It was real quiet. There was no verbal collaboration. We both knew we would be driving and exploring for as long as possible before facing the inevitable return and an evening in the close-quarters whose amenities included a VHS and marine toilet.
The road led us to Roche Harbor and we needed lunch. Our wait at the hostess stand at the Madrona Bar and Grill was a bit too long before being lead to probably the worst table they had to offer. It was much worse than just being in a corner with no view. From one chair, you could touch the frame of the door to the kitchen. It was also right next to the bus station.
Deborah is always positive to hostesses and normally compliments any table she is given. Today, when the hostess presented the table and said, “Is this ok?” Deborah very politely and slowly asked, “Do you have something all the way IN the kitchen?”
The hostess did not even hesitate as she picked up the menus and led us to the best corner table on the deck. In her normal grateful style, Deborah politely thank the hostess for the beautiful table. It sat against rail high glass wind guards, with a panoramic view of the harbor and its majestic display of private boats and yachts. This was unlike anything on Orcas or even Friday Harbor. This was a BIG show of money.
For a few minutes, we just sat and enjoyed the view and the fresh sea air. We were too stunned to even take pictures. Life had just gone from Eat, Sleep and Slowdown on Orcas to the dungeon on a pirate boat. A boat unlike anything currently on view in this Harbor.
From wonderful, small organic meals to a giant plate of iceberg lettuce with pre-cooked, pre-frozen shrimp and over-saturated with dressing. We couldn’t and didn’t talk.
Flashback to Caddyshack
Fortunately, the table next to us sucked us into their vacuum. The next 30-minutes was like a scene from the movie, Caddyshack. Ty Webb was spewing wild BS to impress Lacey Underall while Spaulding just sat there stuffing his face. Then, Judge Smails stops by to introduce his wife and inflate his own self worth to new victims.
“My daughter just graduated from Yale,” he bragged. “She’s with WM working in Venice” he continues. Then looking straight at Spaulding he says, “WM, that’s William Morris, she’s going to be an agent.”
After Judge Smails left, Ty pointed out the Judge’s boat to his other table guests. “See my old boat way over there?” he said as he pointed, “now, look down and it’s three to the right.”
This was so different than Orcas. This was a new wealth harbor. Ivy league shirts with sweaters, tied by their sleeves, around the neck. Trophy wives with the most expensive sunglasses. Half drank vodka and cranberrys littering the table, straws still sticking out. This lunch could fill an entire blog.
Exploring San Juan Island
The island of San Juan is smaller than Orcas. Twilight is not until 10 p.m. We had a plenty of time to cover a lot of territory. We saw the ruins of the 1859 British Camp on the Northwest side and the US Camp on the Southeast side. At those camps, soldiers waited 13-years for orders from either Washington or London to fight. Fortunately, the orders never came. Finally, in 1872, some guy from Germany meditated and determined the San Juan’s belonged to the US.
The British, already having the much larger Vancouver Island, accepted the decision and everybody got together and partied. The pig, by this time, was long forgotten. Fun trumps war every time.
Time for Bed
Back at the boat, we wedged down into our 5-foot tall bedroom. Deborah wanted the door to the deck left open for air. I remembered Laura’s instructions to close it so a sea otter, who might come on deck during the night, wouldn’t join us. I convinced her she would get enough air through the three port holes I had opened, hoping they were smaller than an otter.
Deborah pulled back the covers discovered there were no sheets. Although late, I called Laura and she reported that the sheets were the thin fuzzy things that looked like blankets. With a sick look on her face, Deborah climbed in, not bothering to change out of her day clothes. Needless to say, once in bed, we laid there, wide awake.
After a while, Deborah says, “I feel things crawling on me, do you?” I knew, if I answered “Yea, I do,” we would never sleep.
By Dawn’s Early Light
Sleep finally came, soon followed by the first light of dawn. Deborah has not been up at dawn since we left Phoenix. Today she was. She quickly and quietly slipped into the water closet ,for the first time, to use the marine toilet. Sitting down, she pushed the button on the wall thinking it was the light.
I woke hearing the first regurgitation sound and screamed, ‘UP, UP, GET OFF THE TOILET.” She shot up and literally came down with her pants up and declared “I’M OUTTA HERE.”
She flew up the steps that she could hardly negotiate 6-hours earlier like a Saturn rocket headed for the moon.
When Life Gives You Lemons
I soon joined her on the deck, as dawn turned into a delightful morning. We strolled, at this hour, the tourist-free docks and admired the other boats. They were all sizes, shapes and kinds. The float planes started coming and going, loading less than 50-feet from us.
Float planes coming and going, loading less than 50-feet from us on San Juan Island
Posted by Risk Blossoming on Friday, August 10, 2018
Laura came aboard and fixed a nice breakfast while we sipped coffee. Fortunately, Laura was too busy to talk. Deborah was smiling and enjoying the fresh air and open space. I checked the ferry schedule.
Deborah was in total agreement to try for the first Ferry back to Anacortes, rather than wait for our reserved spot at 6 p.m. There was nothing left to see or do at Friday Harbor and San Juan Island.
There really isn’t much more to say about this adventure. After we left Laura and the Wharfside Bed and Breakfast to explore San Juan Island, I asked Tim, “Did this room meet your expectations?”
Tim’s quick response was an uncertain spoken “Yes.”
I could tell he felt horrible, and there was no reason for me to make him feel any worse. Haven’t all of us felt short-changed, at one time, on an adventure we had planned that did not turn out the way we had envisioned? Tim is the planner for most of our Risk Blossoming Adventures, and he almost always does a spectacular job! One thing about taking ownership and responsibility as the planner … you get the FAME or the BLAME.
I wasn’t sure that Tim meant “Yes,” so I asked again to clarify.
He changed this response to “sort of,” and explained that there had not been many options to choose from. He asked if I wanted him to try to find another room.
I hesitated for a moment. I felt that I had gained control of my initial claustrophobic reaction, and I said, “No, I can do this – it’ll be an adventure.”
And, it was.