Wednesday, September 30, 2009


Although I was only offshore for a few days, I still feel wobbly now that I'm back on terra firma. I think I just completed on of the more dangerous things I've ever some in my life by (to somewhat unseasoned people) sailing the treacherous waters of the Cape Flattery at the mouth of the Strait of Juan de Fuca; the tumultuous Washington offshore seas; over the treachey of the Columbia Bar; following the narrow winding Columbia River for 100nm while negotiating the salmon fishermen (with gill nets spanning the entire navigatable channel), huge cargo ships, fog (albeit ony for a very short while), and a shower or two; then the final approach of coming into Porland hoping that the height of your vessel is indeed 66 feet from the water and not from the deck having to clear the 71ft I-5 bridge. You need to hail these bridge operators using specific call letters (which I fortunately found on the software we used to navigate this river - otherwise the briidge tenders will not be that pleasant in acknowledging you. I shouldpost them here in cas anyone searches for this useful information, but right now it's back on the boat a few hundred miles away).

My friend assessed that I ony got three hours of sleep from Saturday morning through Monday night, and all of that was fragmented and from the chilly cockpit. The picture was taken of the Sunday morning sunrise around 7:30am.

At times, I felt like Bilbo Baggins longing to be back at home in the Shire (ie, Belllingham) tending to my garden and wondering what the hell I was doing in this challenging and frequently unpleasant situation. I am glad to settle down foor a winter of relaxation of reading fiction and drinking tea. Until my wanderlust once again overtakes me.

Below is the sunset from Sunday night off shore about thirty miles.

Monday, September 28, 2009


Today was the first time I set foot on land since Friday evening. Days of eating irregularly and napping here and there for fifteen minutes while on watch in the cockpit of the sailboat we took from Orcas Island down to Portland. But the weather has been beautiful with chilly, star-filled nights and wonderful sailing weather. This morning while crossing the Columbia Bar (a tempestous soup of waves, large ships, tides, current and wind) the clouds rolled in for a welcome back to a typical Pacific Northwest Washington fall day.

Just now we fueled up in Astoria, Washington and our destination is anticipated to be Portland this evening. We have roughly 80 more nautical miles to go and then our journey will be complete. Not getting adequate sleep can be trying, but there will be time to sleep later in the week. My summer is pretty much complete and I look forward to fall.

The picture was taken coming out of the Straight of San Juan de Fuca. on Saturday afternoon. We rounded Neah Bay and sailed straght through Sunday and last night and will motor up the Columbia River much of today. Back to Bellingham either tonight or early tomorrow. Although I love sailing, I look forward to sleeping in my own bed, and not waking abruptly from dreams of near misses with cargo ships.

Thursday, September 24, 2009


All of the consonants in Satan are in Sprint.

After dealing with the horrors of Sprint today for (literally) hours - well first Sprint then Boost Mobile, then Sprint, then Boost, then Sprint - my day was completely shot. I am trying to raise a substantial sum of money with a company I am working with, and today's incident with Sprint was by far the more frustrating and blood pressure raising incident of the two.

But eventually I was directed to the mall to pick up another phone, and who'd ever imagine that the Sprint kiosk at this otherwise soulless place, inhabited by the denizens of consumerism, would ever be an oasis of refuge and salvation from the maddening world. After being passed around the various inept Sprint telephone staff all morning - being transferred amongst them (and disconnected on occasion) to locations probably spanning the four corners of the globe, I was directed to the Bellis Fair Mall (just typing those three words is unpleasant to me) and miraculously a young competent kid did everything the right way. Amazing. Imagine if the Son of Man could in actuality be spending his rebirth working at a Sprint kiosk in the mall in Northwestern Washington?

Tomorrow it is off to sea. I am glad the sail to Portland was delayed a day, as I had a ton of things to complete today, and a trickle more tomorrow morning.

I think I need a cigarette after that Sprint incident.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009


I did something yesterday that I haven't done in decades. And that is wear jeans in public. I own a pair to wear when I'm riding my motorbike, but otherwise I've been wearing khakis since the nineties. Jeans are...just uncomfortable. But we had a picture taken with a new piece of equipment that we purchased yesterday for a company that I helped launch.

It's nice to consistently exceed forecast and have things come together beyond expectations. Considering that I spent many years grooming myself for this, it's exciting to finally have the confidence to employ skills that I've refined over time. There's obviously risk, but after chasing conceptual ideas for the past ten years, it's nice to finally be part of a company with seasoned colleagues in an industry that's been around for quite some time. I do not know if my level of stress has abated, or I've just gotten used to it. Either way, the headaches are gone. For now, at least.

The sailing has been pushed back a day, so we depart early Saturday morning just before high tide.

"In the night you hide from the madman you're longin' to be
But it all comes out on the inside eventually.
Knock twice, rap with your cane

Feels nice, you're out of the rain
We got your skinny girl
Here at the Western World
- Steely Dan

Oddly enough, I do not have this Steely Dan song on album and it kept repeating in my head all night. I was quite happy to hear it on Pandora just now. Time to sleep.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009


Today is a day I almost wrote nothing. Getting lost in Everett by the Everett Mall was enough to ruin anyone's day. What unfortunate evolution has spoiled a once beautiful place - vast vistas of the Cascades - into endless sprawl of strip malls and Generica. I do not like malls and congestion. I find them both to be mentally irritating and wonder why mainstream suburban society subjects themslves to such unpleasantries.

But I was glad to get on the interstate and head back north to humble Bellingham, where I could return the rental car and climb aboard my bike. I've found that I'm wound much more tighly wound with four wheels on the ground versus two. And possibly on Thurday, three, as I might get picked up at BLI, Skagit or Anacortes airport to fly over to Orcas; or take the ferry instead. Either way suits me fine. From there, we leave for Portland under sail, with possibly a stop in Everett (of all places).

The picture is from my tent during sunrise in the mountains.

Monday, September 21, 2009


Here's a picture of the Assumption Church a few blocks from my house looking west taken a week or two back.

It looks like we're heading to sea this weekend, delivering my friend's boat down to Portland from the San Juans. Crossing the bar entering into the Columbia River is supposedly treacherous on an ebb tide (the current opposes the tide and can create some gnarly seas) so we need to plan our entry across the bar right at low tide when the flood tide begins. That's my logic, at least. So reading the tide charts for getting out on Friday and getting in on Sunday. Although I've spent many long nights under sail, this will be my first ever sail through the night.

My estimate is eight hours to round the peninsula (Neah Bay), and from there, roughly 175 nautical miles to the inlet (or 36 hours), and another eight up the Columbia River.Two days under sail, pretty much.

Time to sleep and dream about the sea.

Sunday, September 20, 2009


Here's a picture that I took a a few days back of the Whatcom County Museum near my home. I've never been there, but I heard it's pretty cool. This building is widely photographed and very unique as a symbol of Bellingham.

Today I didn't leave the yard, come to think of it. A combination of taxes (ugh), finishing a yard project (which will allow me to finish another yard project, tinkering with the Vee-Dub (I removed the carpet, which covered the linoleum, which covered the original floor - a thin vinyl with a layer of particleboard over wood). This uncovered some rust (and two or three tiny holes) in the floorboards. Nothing catastrophic, I hope. I am glad that I have a hobby in my life again that I pursue with vigor and enthusiasm. I think this is my eighth VW that I've owned in my life.

Oh, and one of the chickens laid their first egg. Smaller than I thought, but the hens are long. Maybe they will get bigger as we add oyster shells to their diet or as they mature further.

A fragmented post for a fragmented Sunday.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

SR 542

Today I rode my motorbike up into the mountains. With the combination of the chill increasing with the elevation, and then the rain, and then missing the last gas station in Glacier, then being able to see your breath, and the general realization that summer on the run and fall's coming on. I logged fewer miles on my BMW R60/6 this year versus last year, but that's alright. I have no desire to own any other motorcycle than this one, so averaging less than a thousand miles a year will preserve its fabulous condition.

Later I became trapped in the garage starting the many projects on the VW Bus. The more I look at it, the more pleased I am with its condition. Many original parts, down to the AM radio, interior paneling, hardware, etc. I hope to keep it as original as possible. Even the battery has a full charge. But the list of items it needs has begun and continues to grow.

More tomorrow.

Thursday, September 17, 2009


Here is a picture from my campsite last Friday. Or close to it.

An interesting thing that I like about Bellingham is when most people meet you, few ask what you do for a living. Back East it was usually the second question that introductions elicit - maybe to compartmentalize or evaluate your role in society and the world - but up here in the PNW I have many friends and we rarely discuss work, and I do not even know what many of them do, beyond a vague notion. At any rate, that struck me as odd. Much like the more European cultures, so I've read and experienced (albeit quite minimally).

Thursday is usually my long day. I sit here at my moonlighting gig selling tobacco, alcohol and processed food to college kids on their parents' dwindling dimes and credit. But I am working with launching another company based upon a rather stable biz model. So far things are forging ahead favorably. Soon you will see a picture with a big new piece of equipment that we are picking up tomorrow.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009


Here's my newly acwuired Volkswagen that I got for a song. Yes, it looks rather weathered (the person I bought it from said they - her family and neighbors - were going to to miss watching the moss grow on it parked in front of their home). At any rate, it's been sitting for many years and consequently, there is minimal rust underneath and many of the parts are original, including the AM radio. As VWs are usually named, I feel compelled to call her Mossy.

I ususally don't post multiple pictures, but here is a better idea of its condition:

(Click on any of these pictures to enlarge.)

Interior with refrigerator and fold down table. Fold out bed aft. The wheel wells are virtually rust free. The third is from the back looking forward. Two things I was looking for include a walk-through (split seat) versus a bench seat, and jalousie windows on the side. A hard top was also preferred, as these buses have little storage, so a roof rack would be mandatory. Also, I find the the canvas and leaking and noise and extra weight of the pop-tops to be undesirable.

Here is the worst rust located on the driver's floorboard. Fortunately, these metal pieces are plentiful, cheap, and easy to replace. So far, that's the only serious rust I've come across. And yes, the seats will all need to be reupholstered. Maybe stock material, but maybe something a bit more funky. And the last picture shows some damage to the roof above the passenger front seat. Some fat hippie must have fallen from the sky and landed there.

Not to bad for a vehicle that's almost forty years old. the odometer says around 69k, but I do not know how many times that it has been turned over. I am sure I'll be posting its progress here periodically.

It's six p.m. and I am down in Mt. Vernon tonight meeting with some colleagues. I am fighting some flu-like symptoms and making oinking noises. I wonder what that could be?

Tuesday, September 15, 2009


Here is a video of a marmot evidently warning others that the are a bunch of fat humans coming their way wanting to put in roads and dream houses with grand views. The shrill whistle and echo off the surrounding rocks resounding (literally) remarkably.

This past weekend is so distant in my memory already. I had to drive down past Seattle today and think I am getting too settled in to the Bellingham groove to appreciate the hustle and bustle of the City. I've lived in Philly, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, and spent enough time in places like Reno, Cleveland, New York City, Vancouver, San Diego and San Francisco and can say that cities no longer captivate me the way they once did.

"I guess I need that city life
It sure has lots of style
But pretty soon it wears me out
And I have to think to smile."
-N. Young

Or maybe I'm just getting old.

But Seattle is indeed a beautiful city as far as cities go, but I'm glad to be back home tonight. And I'm even more glad to return the rental car and be able to free myself of that burden and walk home in the evening Bellingham breeze. The 1972 VW I recently acquired, and, like my old BMW motorbike, will just be a hobby to putz around Bellingham and its environs and someday (on either) make a cross country trip, preferrably in the bus.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Type II

Here is a picture taken last week of the Bellingham City Building.

Today I picked up my lightly used but worn Volkswagen Type II Bus. I am lucky to live in a place where old vehicles do not succumb to the elements like back east or down south. I'll put some pictures at some point soon. I am quite pleased with the minimal rust on a vehicle pushing forty years of age, and my hope is to get it on the road by next summer. First the mechanics (including swapping out a four-speed transaxle - giving it to the previous owner was the clincher that enabled to to buy it for a hundred bucks) and then the cosmetics and body work can come second. I don't want it pristine, I just want it functional.

I hope to resucitate this camper, and its days of being exposed to the rain might be behind it for awhile, as it's found a new home in my garage. Fortunately Bellingham is full of VW enthusiasts, and already I'm quickly being given numbers of people that do work on or are knowledgeable with air-cooled vee-dubs. And the pains of my weekend hike have returned after trying to push the Weekender into the garage.

Off to bed to dream about VWs. I guess I'm still a kid afterall. Just sitting in the driver's seat, memories of 1988 come flooding back.

Sunday, September 13, 2009


Here's a picture of yesterday's campsite close to one of the tarns - literally a foot or two away from the water's edge. I slept restlessly during the night (not used to sleeping on rocky soil) and heard an animal come to drink from the pool - not like a dog that comes and slurps up some water and leaves, realizing that it can return at its leisure - but a more lengthy visit where the animal drank, paused, drank more, paused, et cetera; very early in the morning, I also heard a person come to fill a container with water.

Today was a day of very sore quads and limping around like an old man. Now that it's had a chance to soak in, the memory of this trip is a magical moment to be recollected with fondness. Future hikes too will be less stressful, as I was a little concerned about meandering off into the wilderness without a map or compass. But I studied maps and was told at the rangers' station that the trail was well marked.

What a glorious sojourn into the North Cascades. Weather cooperating, my remaining summer will take me to the mountains again on my old BMW motorbike and a sailing trip to deliver a yacht to Portland before the winter rains. Then time to relax through the lethargy of winter. I hope.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Yellow Aster Butte

Here is a picture of some of the 360 degree panorama from Yellow Aster Butte about fifty miles east of my home. Turn left at MP46.1 off the Mt. Baker Highway and then a few more miles of a dirt road to the trailhead. I hiked in last night, set up camp and had plenty of time to enjoy the sun seting over the rugged North Cascade Highland Forests. The night was chilly, but the days were quite hot. Last night I camped around 6,000 feet (and the sleeping bag performed diligently), from the trailhead around 3,400 feet - a rather strenuous hike by my standards: roughly 700 feet of vertical per mile.

Bike riding all over town does little to prepare one for these climbs. Especially with a full pack (with tent and sleeping bag). I am reminded of an old leg injury that makes for a sore evening here at home with the dog. But I am sure I will get drawn back to these magnficent mountains. It's unfortunate that it took me over three years to get to experience camping up here, in spite of it being in my back yard.

But I was able to camp by a serene glacial lake (called a tarn) and experience the playful and ubiquitous marmots that seemed to enjoy their beautiful surroundings and were not bashiful in scurrying from rocks across your path to another vantage point to either rest or act as look-out. As difficult as it is to get through the heather, the marmots seemed to swim through it with ease. Watching them was entertaining in itself. And the wild blueberries were a nice addition to my morning breakfast on the way down the hill.

And alhough last night's trip up was pretty much empty, throngs of people made the journey up on this wonderful Fall day, I fourtunately was coming down. And after candy bars and fruit (including blueberries, of course) for dinner and breakfast, it was a wonderful americano and scone I had at the Wake 'n Bakery in Glacier. More pictures are sure to follow.

Thursday, September 10, 2009


Bellingham, Washington, City of Subdued Excitement

Tonight was absolutely beautiful. After some reading that turned into a nap, I awoke somewhat rejuvenated, though a bit groggy, and decided I should bike around town and take some pictures. My life is becoming manageable after a vigorous summer of work and play (and not necessarily in that order).

But I am glad that fall is in the air and twilight is upon us earlier and earlier and things slow down a bit. I guess I too am getting restless, as right now there does not seem to be a coffee shop that suits my fancy. So I ended up back at the Stuart's over at the Public Market, a common haunt where I feel comfortable.

And tomorrow I plan to blow out of town and head to the mountains. My anticipated hike is to Yellow Aster Butte about fifty miles east of Bellingham. I hope to hike in alone for the night to gain some solitude and breathtaking views. I finally will set foot in the mountains, and today I splurged for a twenty dollar sleeping bag at Yeagers. I guess I feel better buying a Chinese-made sleeping bag from locally-owned company versus a Chinese-made bag from a national chain. Some day I may become an eco-yuppie and buy a three hundred dollar bag that sings me to sleep at night (Muir and Kerouac would scoff at such frovolity), but right now I will stick to the old-school gear.

More pictures are sure to follow upon my return.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009


Another picture I took from this web site. I need to carry my camera more with me, but working from home eats up an inordinate amount of time and many days I don't get out of the house until noon or later. I don't know why you need to know that fact, but when I do finally make it outside, it's always much nicer than I imagine. And more refreshing.

And there's a good chance I might be acquiring a 1972 VW Weekender in the next weeks or two for practically nothing. Problem is, I need to swap out the transaxle, so that will probably be a $500 fix - for starters. And I am quite sure the problems will hardly be limited to that either. But it will be a winter project, and something that I longed for since I needed to abandon a '67 split window in Savanah, Georgia on my way to a Dead concert in '88, but that's another story. Hopefully this one will rise from the ashes reincarnated. I am sure more will follow on this.

Monday, September 7, 2009


I still get a kick out of the seaplanes landing so close to boat whether out on the Puget Sound or down on Lake Union. This is the ten fifteen that takes off every day from Deer Harbor. This is the type of weather we had this weekend too. It was supposed to rain all weekend, but we only got a few passing showers. Still, the forecast was reason enough for me to enjoy a generally reclusive weekend, which was much needed.

And I was successful at spending a good chunk of the weekend reading Winesburg, Ohio, and then continuing with diving into Babbitt - both set (arguably, the latter) in the Buckeye State. It's funny how I can easily slump into relaxation mode when the season cools down. Fall is in the air, and fortunately I was able to do some much needed gardening (for my own being, as well as the yard).

I wonder how many more evenings I'll be able to sit here with the fron door open and the sounds of children and laughter and music waft through the wooden screen door.But the hawthorn leaves have taken on a different rustle as they prepare for their departure to the ground. I look forward to the autumn and slumber of winter.

Sunday, September 6, 2009


One or two times a year they have a sidewalk chalk art festival in town. Although thi happened in early August, I thought I'd post a picture I came across from the Bellingham Herald. A slow day of not much happening and I am weary and bored of the Internet and news and information it has to offer. These cycles occur every few months.

But the rain held off so far this weekend, but the wind is quite brisk. Not a good weekend to be on the water - whether sail or power. The winds in the low twenties gusting to 30kts ESE with uncomfortable seas. I guess not too bad. A few weeks out and I'll be making a passage to Portland from the islands. Roughly 150nm once we hit the Pacific.

Hopefully an effort to continue my weekend's relaxation into this evening will prevail. When it's unpleasant outside, I cherish an afternoon of doing nothing.

Done come and gone
My oh my

More tomorrow when I feel like thinking.

Friday, September 4, 2009


My weekend was off to a successful start of doing nothing. A day of work (driving down I-5 in my recently acquired 1985 pick-up amid the rush of B.C. license plates shooting past me in an effort to get to their destination to relax), and starting a book that I'd wanted to read for a bit. It was written while the author lived in Elyria, a town I used to pass through every Friday night on my way to my sailboat on Lake Erie. So the fictional town of Winesburg could possibly be set after Elyria - not really much of a coincidence, I guess.

Monday if the one of the few coinciding holiday for both countries, so the inudation of tourists should be dramatic. But the weekend forecast is rain, so my outdoor plans will need to be scuttled until next week. Yeah I've camped enough in the rain, so given the preference, I'll postpone to another weekend. There are still quite a few good ones ahead of us.

The pic is of a funky piece of glass that my housemate blew catching the morning rays of sunlight from the backyard.

Thursday, September 3, 2009


It will be a rainy weekend. I was planning a trip to Winthrop over the mountains on my old BMW motorbike. But the weather is supposed to be yucky all weekend, so I might just as well spend it doing nothing: A good book (fiction) and listening to Radio2. But I say that every weekend.

An interesting article in today's Independent about a 'giant' oil find in the Gulf of Mexico. So, as per the article, let's estimate that the find is 4 billion barrels. The article states that 10%-20% of the oil is realistically recoverable, so let's aim high and say 30% is recoverable. The world oil consumption for 2007 was 85.5m bbl/d. So this 'giant' find will add 14 days of world supply, if my math is correct. A find like this is a pretty good indication that the days of cheap oil are behind us, although this seems to be of little concern to most people.

The picture above is another flying picture flying over the Sucia Island, where we sailed to and anchored last summer for a few nights.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009


Here is a picture from the flight over to Orcas Island last Friday. Plenty has been going on, but a discombobulated schedule makes for difficulty in finding time to write here. But back to flying, I know some people are terrified of these smaller planes, but I felt much safer in this small Mooney even with the plane crabbing as we approached the runway. This picture here is of Bellingham near the airport. Fortunately our luck in the air was much better than our luck on the sea. A great flight was followed by a bad sail, but that story will be told another day.

Over the summer (or what's left of it) I really like to leave Bellingham for no more than a day, because no matter where I venture off to, after one night away from here - no matter where I am - I find that I'd rather being home in Bellingham. I don't know if I really like spending time around Bellingham, or if I am just turning into a homebody.

But Saturday we flew back here and my friend stayed over and we just relaxed and had a good afternoon and evening of really doing nothing. Boundary Bay for lunch, Boulevard Park to fly a kite, Honeymoon later, finishing up at Uisce. Oops and pancakes at the Horseshoe around midninght. I went to more places in one night with an out-of-towner than I do normally in three months. What fun tho...