Creative photos and essays from the San Juan Islands

Welcome to Jim Morrison's Island Photo Prose

"In the San Juans the right island convert will conquer enough of his problems to have a good life; but he will not be vainglorious about it. With his partial conquest there will come the realization that the islands have conquered and absorbed him. He will find himself living at half speed and enjoying life at least twice as much as he did before, in a region where people have overthrown the monstrous fiction that time is of the essence. He will find his humor growing saltier and perhaps his English suffering a little around the edges as it expresses more meaningful ideas." Archie Binns from "Sea in the Forest", 1953


SAM_2748Here are two of my girls.   Jamie was visiting here for a week from her home in Telluride, Colorado with her son Liam, and Ariel is my newly-wed bride!    I’ve been away from blogging for over a year, but couldn’t resist starting to post again, what with my stimulating new life as a husband and best friend to Ariel.  Two beautiful ladies, if you ask me!

Ariel and I met in the Barbershop singing group on the island, the Chordsmen Plus.   The Plus stands for the women participants, for most barbershop groups don’t have women present with the men; the groups are either all women, or all men.    Our mixed group is catching on, and we hear that there are a number of others starting up, it’s a matter of voice sound rather than on of exclusive gender.

Ariel and I are well matched, having a huge cache of common interests, and our adventures together have been varied and fulfilling.   For instance, we’re going out this evening to celebrate the anniversary of a dear couple we’ve been paling around with, the McDonalds.   Steve McDonald also sings with us in the Chordsmen and coincidentally has the same birthday as my best friend when growing up in my hometown of Portland, Oregon.

I also have to add how much I enjoyed my grandson Liam while he was here.   We spent time together while his mother was visiting other friends on the island, and had a blast!    He is intelligent, funny, and maturing into a great young man.

Since we’re just going into late Spring, I expect to have a bunch of new photos of the island to share with you, so come back and see what’s new.   Happy Spring!


Save the surface saves all

Save the surface saves all

This free boat and trailer are consuming my time and energy with gusto lately. I have had it parked outside at the San Juan Business Park for months, but never seemed motivated to get any work done on it. Then Terry offered to let me rent an inside spot for $50 a week. How could I resist, what with a concrete floor, heat, electricity, and not far from where I live.

I resurrected the trailer with Ospho, a chemical that converts iron oxide (rust) to iron phosphate, which effectively kills the rust in its tracks, then I bought some reject house paint at Browne Lumber and opted for a semi gloss on the fenders, and presto-chango, I have a new boat trailer.

I originally took on this project because I wanted a Plan B should I ever lose this housing option at the Village at the Harbour. Yes, I was actually going to live on this boat. I LIKE living on small boats. Since I’ve purchased property where I can keep my Tiny House to fill that need, this boat has lost its purpose as a floating liveaboard. However, now that I’ve spruced it up, I have concluded, considering how little cash I have invested, it would make a great garden shed or small storeroom. There are so many boats sitting in driveways around the island, no longer fit for the purpose intended (getting out on the water) that repurposing them makes a ton of sense. That’s especially if one considers how difficult it is to dispose of fiberglass boats. They can be ground up and used as land fill, but that’s about it.

Mine is in good enough condition that I can make it water tight and rodent proof, using the vents it comes with to keep it dry inside. With the paint job on the trailer I don’t have to worry about the neighbors complaining about the junk I have parked in my driveway. I might even buff up the hull to further that image of tidy usefulness. Those neighbors don’t need to know there’s no engine in it.

I’ve a month left of using this indoor space, so I will move the boat out now and replace it with one of my flatbed trailers and start building my Tiny House. I’m cautiously optimistic I can get it framed and roofed in that time allotment. If not, Terry has covered space for me to complete the build out of the rain. What more could one ask, except to be thirty years younger?SAM_1681p>


Old Man’s Transportation

Old Man's Transportation

I could wax poetic about the winds of time buffeting this old man, but let’s just say that a stiff headwind when riding a bicycle is a pain in the legs and back. It’s like trying to push your little brother in a home-made make-believe soap box car while he holds the brakes on lightly. “Push, come-on, put yer back into it!” and you’re thinking “man, this turkey has either gained weight or I’m way outta shape.”

I’ve recently hung the trailer from a hook on the ceiling for easy access when I need it for hauling something bulky. It takes about ten seconds to hook it securely to the bike. Being narrow and light-weight, the trailer follows along behind like it isn’t even there.

I contemplated buying a new Pedego electric bike, but even with a discount, I decided I couldn’t really spend that much, around $1,950, on a labor saving device.

So I now have three bicycles at the Village: The new electric mountain bike, which I’m calling my “country bike” for I’ll likely use it most for trips to the property about four miles out of town; the Novara bike from REI aptly named the “city bike” for short trips around town; and my new Sonoma chainless bike that I’m keeping in case I move to a flatland location. It’s only a three speed (to save about $150 off the seven speed model) and works best where there are no hills. I really like the smooth, quiet ride with no derailer and chain on this Sonoma, so I’ll hang on to it. Like I said, one never knows when one’s destiny lies in some flat, dusty town in the high basin where the Ponderosa pine trees and red volcanic dust predominate.

Speaking of destiny, there are less than three months left of Island Photo Prose. I got my bill for the hosting service and decided I didn’t want to spend the money when it’s up on the 22nd of May. I’m getting ready to build my tiny house which I know from working on the Reinell boat is going to take a huge chunk of my time, so there won’t be many “posts” on this site from now on anyway. It’s been a fun run of creativity, but I’m ready for something different. Odd to think that all the work invested will evaporate into nothing. Maybe there’s a service that will print the over 150 posts in book form for posterity.


Looking for Cedar

Looking for Cedar

With everything so expensive these days, I doubt my dream will be fulfilled, but I’m looking for some skinny cedar logs, like these on Shaw Island, for building a log cabin on my flatbed trailer. Something in the neighborhood of ten inch diameter would be perfect. I considered 4×4 milled cedar, a compromise in size, but I thought I’d start small just so I wouldn’t croak from sticker shock. I asked at Browne Lumber about 4×4’s which the clerk snorted out the price of $6.19 a foot! I say ‘snorted’ because he was as aghast at the high price as I was!

The light weight, rot resistance, and easy working characteristics I desire are the same traits the Native Americans and First Nations cultures in Canada looked for from the cedar tree in the Northwest. My wish is to carry on that tradition in, no doubt at my age, my last new home I’m building. It has to go on a trailer because my new parcel of land is too narrow to build on, what with offsets and easements. Fortunately, I already have a heavy-duty trailer that I restored two summers ago.

I’m putting the word out in search of these rare trees. It’s not something found in everyone’s back yard, so wish me luck.


Deep Freeze

Deep Freeze

The Port of Friday Harbor usually turns off the pump on this pond-waterfall-pond set up they have in the Fairweather Park on the waterfront, but this year didn’t, and a cold blast out of Canada (that country has been very generous with its cold air this winter for 80% of the U.S.) created this ice sculpture.


Dory Story Time

Dory Story Time

Geoff, a friend of mine, has a large boat on a new trailer. He’s named the boat #44, and recently I asked him why, to which he replied, “It’s the 44th boat I’ve owned.” Makes sense, but it frustrated me because, while I’ve owned a number of boats, that number is unknown!

My brother used to keep a list of all the cars and trucks he’s owned. I asked him recently if he has kept the list current, and he said no, there were just too many to keep track.

I envied Geoff in a way, because he could recount the genealogy of his boat family (and to boaters they ARE family) and by doing that, had a chronology of his nautical interests and affairs. After all, they call boats ‘she’ for a reason.

So this dory caught my eye one day at the Port of Friday Harbor. It had a fresh coat of paint and a clever engine well and smooth transom that appealed to me. The most intriguing part was the for sale sign inside.

I’d never met Bill, the owner, but found him a fascinating character, gentle spoken, wildly experienced in life, with a nautical grey beard and wild but tidy wind-swept hair, the caricature of a seaman. I met him at the coffee shop to discuss the sale/purchase of his creation, and immediately felt cozy, tucked into his gentle manner.

I offered him $225, and his first reaction was a crooked smile and the simple question, “Why that specific figure?” but he was a pleasure to dicker with, compared to some horse-traders who feel that dickering is an act of war. If you watch “American Pickers” on the History channel, you have seen a few of which I speak. Both types.

I bought the dory (for $225!) and put an electric outboard on it. Oh, such a pleasure is an electric outboard. This one, a salt water MinnKota I bought online from a doctor on Cape Cod, was so quiet and easy to operate, compared to most cantankerous gas motors.

My favorite voyage with this boat went like this: My wife and I had taken our 40 ft. motorsailer to Blind Bay on Shaw Island. My favorite island anchorage, good holding ground (for the anchor), and a lovely setting sun to garnish the experience.

BUT, we wanted to go to Friday Harbor to attend a talk at the Grange of some residents of Easter Island, who were touring the west coast. Well, we purred (there’s not “Putting” with an electric motor) up Blind Bay at dusk to the ferry landing, getting easily heard compliments from fellow boaters we passed (and that’s always gratifying for a small boat owner with a pretty, classic style boat), then caught the inter-island ferry boat to town, had a blast at the lecture, hopped the ferry back to Shaw Island, then, by starlight, found our way down the bay to our floating home on a glass-smooth sea, the stars over head and mirrored in the water.

Ah, life is good in paradise!
IMG_0064 Blind Bay sunset.


Windy Day Recreation

Windy Day Recreation

Where were these toys when I was young enough to use them? This kite-boarder (I’m assuming that’s a viable term, since I’ve never seen these before) was really scooting across Jones Lagoon adjacent to Jackson’s Beach on Thursday, January 9th. This photo appears to catch him hanging from a cloud, while in reality, he was completing a sky hop, letting the kite yank him at least 50 feet into the air above the lagoon. Like a whip’s tip, it snapped him into the air, and I could almost vicariously experience the thrill of flying with him as he soared, then fell like a stone back into the water. He had to be quick on his feet (board?) because the kite was still sailing and ready to pull him out of the water, a maneuver he accomplished at least six times while I watched and photographed him.

I find it an affirmation of life, that people keep coming up with new means of entertainment, healing, growing food, creating energy, all with the grey-matter we were given (and often a magical dose of inspiration), so that decade after decade, generation after generation, men and women turn the simple word “create” into the masterful genesis of a new concept.

Digital technology is one of those ideas, and is great sometimes, and troublesome other times. In this situation, I couldn’t get the auto-focus to find something to focus on as he sailed through the air, so by the time the camera had made up its mind, the jump was completed, and I was left wishing I had my trusty old Nikon F3 without auto-focus!

The photo below simulates the speed this boarder was able to attain. He passed me where I stood watching, traveling at 25 or 30 miles per hour, but only ten feet from me. Being that close magnified the impression of speed, augmented with the ‘whoosh’ of the water in his smooth wake.


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