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Friday, July 14, 2017

Surprised in Port Angeles

Port Angeles, Washington. Dungeness crabs, just caught by our friendly neighbors Kurt and Donna at Boat Haven Marina.
Shaken and stirred from the square current vs wind waves from San Juan Island to Port Angeles, docking took us two shaky passes into Port Angeles' Boat Haven Marina. "Take whichever slip looks better, P29 or 31, then let me know where you land" Jerry told us when we called in.  We bailed on our first choice slip because we couldn't tell if there was sufficient room to share the slip with the decrepit pilot house fishing boat, as its tarp cover ballooned in size with a fluttering gray.  On our second try, Serendipity's bow tapped the pilot house boat's dinghy, protruding off the adjacent dock finger. 


Kurt agrees to pose to show off part of his catch.  Boat Haven, Port Angeles, Washington.
On this cool gray morning, we looked up at a row of corrugated of boat garages, a patchwork of jagged metal, fraying fiberglass and unfinished wood.  Clearly not on the guest dock, we wondered just what kind of place we'd arrived at.  A few minutes later we noticed a couple peering into our boat.  Admittedly at that moment I was not feeling particularly friendly, but their curiosity overcame my crankiness.

Thus began a series of correcting my mis-perceptions about the denizens of Port Angeles Boat Haven.
Kurt and Donna, just part of the incredible boating community at Port Angeles Boat Haven Marina.
First there was Kurt and Donna -- the curious couple.  They moved up to the area after retirement from Salinas, exchanging their California home for a home, a boat, a boat house (water garage for a boat) and a big truck.  Their boat house was a stone's throw from our slip and a cousin to their trawler.  We invited them aboard to scope it out -- boat owners like checking out boats similar to their own in almost the same way same species dogs give each other's butts a friendly tip-to-tail whiff.

From there Kurt and Donna gave me a lift to the distant marina office for a gate key, a quick tour of the town in their truck, plopped a quarter into my hand for the shower and offered to take us crabbing the next day.  We already had plans to join friends Robyn and Marc, cruisers who chase perennial summer by bouncing between Whangarei New Zealand and property in Squim Washington USA.  We last Robyn and Marc them about nine months prior in New Caledonia.
Cal, a live-aboard on a sailboat next door to "our" slip at Boat Haven Marina.
"No need to plan dinner!" was the cheery text subject line accompanied by a gorgeous Dungeness crab picture.  Clearly, Donna and Kurt scored, as there were several takers for their crab catch before we were in line for one.  In fact, they landed 9 crabs, each as beautiful as the next.  We read their text whilst chomping down on a generous brunch at the equally friendly Empossible Eden Cafe, heartily recommended by Kurt and Donna.  One of the waitresses raced out into the cafe parking lot as Wayne nearly pulled away without his hat.

"Err, we don't have anything big enough to boil them in," we lamely confessed, when Kurt proffered us some of their beautiful freshly-caught crabs.  We're still in the process of setting up our galley, and planned to wait until we arrived in Portland to complete the process.  

While Donna scrambled for a large enough boiling pot, Kurt tracked down a two live-aboards -- spry 93-year-old Elmer and his fishing buddy Cal.   Cal set us up his crab boiler - on the spot.  That way we didn't need to make arrangements return Donna's pot after they headed home.

Meanwhile, Kurt grabbed his bucket of crabs, home-made mallet, knife and cooler and set off to the dock's fish cleaning station.  
JulieAnne, from Forks, crabs she caught skittering in her kayak.  She and her brother visit her Gram at Boat Haven.  
There, we chatted with JulieAnne, the adorable and fish-savvy grand-daughter of marina resident Julie.  JulieAnn alternated from the docks to her kayak, netting minnows for crabs, catching crabs for the feeding herself or some of the marina's other non-human locals.

Meanwhile, quick as a wink,  Kurt got to work -- all 9 crabs were split with a mallet, rinsed, stripped of their carapace, gills, tails and "butter" and rinsed again.  Kurt gave us two crabs.  
Cal's crab cooker set-up.  Boat Have Marina, Port Townsend.
Cal's propane tank and stand with huge seawater-filled pot atop it was boiling for us when we returned.  

"How long do they cook?" we asked Cal, then had a hard time tracking the twelve minutes Cal told us it would take as we were so handily entertained by his feeding pregnant lady Waldo the sea lion and her mate, Archie.  Cal fed them fish scraps, enticing them to first splash-clap for them, then pull them off the dock or from his hand, when he didn't drop them directly in the water.

Lady Waldo the sea lion drops by Cal, who she knows has a soft touch for her and her mate Archie.  Port Angeles, North Puget Sound.
"These will be the best crab you've ever eaten, promised Cal.  We're looking forward to proving him right; even brought along cocktail sauce in the hopes of some crabby serendipity; just didn't expect them and the use of a to boiling pot to be part of our Port Angeles adventure.
Cal explains to Waldo what he expects from her in order to be fed.  
Waldo eyes Cal's fish offering with great interest.  Port Angeles, Washington.
It took far less time for Kurt to clean 9 crabs and Cal to cook them than for us than for this post to be written!

"Are you sure you don't want to just take the next year off?" Wayne asked, plaintively.

Tough call, but we gotta get to work so we can be in a position to pay forward all this incredible kindness.  It's a tough act to follow; we hope we're up to it.

Come to Port Angeles.  For a mere $1/foot, you'll find about the friendliest folks ever and all sorts of delightfully unexpected entertainment.
Waldo agrees to clap (or as Cal calls it - splash) for dinner.  Yes, in case there is any doubt --
both Waldo and Archie got plenty of eats from Cal!
Location Location
We're in Port Angeles, Washington, N48.07.575 W123.27.272.  Tomorrow, all too soon, we plan to head South toward Portland, where we'll dock Serendipity.  We're tentatively planning to start at oh-barely-light-hundred to hug the shore on the way to to our probable next stop, Neah Bay, 50-something miles toward Portland.

Watch for more posts on our short but sweet time in the San Juans as well as more on Serendipity.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Unbelievable Serendipity!

Puget Trawler "Jacari Maru" in British Columbia, owned by Larry and Nancy.  Starboard aft view.  Photo provided by Larry.
Our cruising was done, for now, and it was time to settle down, as "dirt dwellers" in Portland Oregon.  We mollified ourselves with visions of dishwashers amidst full kitchens, cushy recliners, a queen-sized bed, endless hot showers, easy-streaming wifi... basically, the life most of my friends, family and colleagues take for granted.  

Yet for most of the last 5 years, we gave up these mainstream modern conveniences in exchange for our nomadic life, ultimately traveling halfway around the world via a small sailboat.  Our living space was about 150 square feet.  We got rid of nearly everything when we left, except for a few boxes, mostly photographs.

Yet Portland's giddy real estate market left us feeling a bit shell-shocked, with a month-to-month rental starting point of $1,500+/month for a 2-bedroom apartment in a crummy neighborhood.  That's twice what it was when left the area in 2010.

And then... in came a most unexpected message from some friends....


Pacific Northwest Cruising friends, Larry and Nancy.  Photo provided by Larry.
We met about 6 years ago when the fellow I crewed for some pre-cruising experience dropped anchor a bit near to the only other boat in "our" anchorage in British Columbia. The anchorage was particularly deep, with few spots shallow enough to for even somewhat ample anchor chain to comfortably reach.   After much heated back-and-forth discussion between the two captains over the VHF radio, we reached anchoring detente; both boats stayed put.  

As is oft the case, we were on a similar cruising track, and the other boaters, Larry and Nancy on the Puget Trawler Jacari Maru, came by to break bread; initiating our friendship.  In the several days that followed, we continued to meet.  When I asked Larry and Nancy how they met, their long, entertaining answer spanned two days.  They were very supportive of Wayne's and my plans to sail the South Pacific. They too planned some adventurous sailing, though enough years had passed they contented themselves with cruising the Pacific Northwest.

Recently, much as Larry and Nancy loved their 1978 40' Puget Trawler, they decided after 10 years of cruising Jacari Maru through the Pacific Northwest, and even into Alaska, it was time to downsize.  They purchased an almost-new 2015 trailer-able 27' Ranger Tug.  Meanwhile, the monthly La Conner marina (about a 4 hour drive North of Portland) and insurance payments for their now unused 40' Puget Trawler continued.

Larry saw this post and with Nancy's blessing, decided to make an incredible offer....


Puget Trawler "Jacari Maru" bow view in British Columbia, owned by Larry and Nancy.  Photo provided by Larry.
"Would you like our Puget Trawler as a live-aboard?" asked Larry.  "We can sign the title over to you if you're interested."

I was flabbergasted by the sheer generosity of their offer.  So was Wayne.  At the same time, we were keenly interested. At the same time, while one adage advises to "never look a gift horse in the mouth" another describes boats as "large holes to throw money into."

Wayne and I looked into Portland marinas where live-aboards were allowed and were pleasantly surprised to discover there was ample slip availability.  Covered slips with extra live-aboard fees would run a little over $600; far less than an unfurnished apartment and in a far safer neighborhood.  Besides, unlike apartments, live-aboard boats do not need furniture; it's already all built in.

We still needed to make sure the boat would work for us as a live-aboard if Wayne was working a swing-shift and I was aboard when he was trying to sleep.  When we had a similar scenario aboard our sailboat Journey in Jacksonville, Florida. We were not at our finest.  Every time I stepped aboard or tried to cook, I woke Wayne up.  We needed to take a good look at Puget Trawler together, and assess its suitability for us.

We hopped into the car we bought the day before to pick up a few items for our trip North, and discovered one of our car cylinders was shot.  We limped the car back to Wayne's parent's place, who kindly loaned us their truck for the weekend.  Of we went. 


Port view of Jacari Maru, Puget Trawler in British Columbia.  Photo provided by Larry.
Fortunately, the Puget Trawler had a very different layout from our former sailboat, an extra bedroom (cabin / stateroom), an extra bathroom (head) and easily 2-3 times the interior living space.  Unlike Journey, where the entire boat living areas were all on the same level, the staterooms  and bathrooms were all a half-level lower than the kitchen / living / dining room area.  Not only were the staterooms nicely separated from the main living area, Wayne could at long last reclaim his "man cave!"  Watch for interior photos in a future post.

We decided to take Larry and Nancy up on their incredibly generous offer.

We spent two nights aboard and did some preliminary provisioning.  Larry spent hours walking us through the boat's particulars and followed up with many emails.  

Wayne and I made up lots of to-do lists and did some preliminary boat provisioning, including buying 2 knives, forks, spoons, bowls, and plates Goodwill while we had a vehicle by the boat.  We plan to take the train up to the boat in a few days, to avoid the complications of having to retrieve the car later after bringing the boat back to Portland.  

Wayne and I contacted our insurance agent - coincidentally the same company that Larry used -- for a boat insurance quote.  ""Do something big for the 4th of July," encouraged Walter, our agent.  "Oh, wait a minute - you already are!" he added.

We met again with Larry and Nancy and signed the title agreement.  When the time comes for us to sell the boat, we'll give the proceeds less expenses to Larry and Nancy.  It's only right.

"Our new boat is Jacari Maru," Larry said.  "We're keeping the name, so you're going to have to re-name the boat.  I already even stripped the name off the Puget Trawler."   With Journey, the prior owner named the boat, and we kept the name. 

Sure, we figured eventually we'd get a boat again.  Never in our wildest dreams did we expect it to happen this soon or in this way.  Given the nature of how the boat came to us, we've decided to re-name the boat Serendipity.  Thank you Larry and Nancy for this incredible, unexpected and wonderful opportunity!
Serendipity's current home.  We'll relocate her to Portland Oregon soon.  Image pilfered from La Conner Marina's website.

Location Location
At the moment, we're back in Portland Oregon wrapping up a few loose ends before we return to Serendipity in La Conner (N48.23.47 W122.29.48) this Thursday or Friday, July 6th or 7th.  The plan is to get us and Serendipity ready as quickly as possible for a brief cruise in the stone's-throw-from-La Conner San Juans before bringing her down to Portland.