Creative photos and essays from the San Juan Islands


Must be Monday

Must be Monday

Our local volunteer fire department, a common yet vital organization in our state, sets aside Mondays for fire drills. Many’s the time I’ve seen the trucks roll out around 6pm for systems checks. The volunteers, perhaps fresh from a quick dinner (supper for you others), pulling on their gear, hooking up fire hoses, or driving to an empty grocery store lot to practice backing up the big rig.

I was out riding my bicycle on a sunny MLK Jr. holiday when I spied this event at the south end of Friday Harbor harbor (it can be confusing when the town and the body of water cozied up against it have the same name!) Makes sense that the fireboat crew would be out practicing their skills and testing equipment. My first thought was a famous vessel must be in the harbor, for fireboats and their arching plume of spray are often used for such announcements, then it clicked what they were up to and what day it was.

This vessel, named “Confidence,” a second generation town fireboat, was built ten years ago, and can travel at speeds of up to 32 knots with its two Evinrude outboard engines. Besides fighting fires, the fireboat can also be used to pump out sinking vessels. No fires aboard and water always on the outside of our boats is a good thing! Thanks to this boat crew for helping with that. And remember that with waterfront homes and their tiny driveways, sometimes the best way to fight a house fire is from the water.

The Confidence replaced the “Lucy T,” which was built by the Whittier Boat Yard in Friday Harbor, then donated to the Fire Department. The late Paul Whittier, one our local philanthropists, had his own small shipyard on his estate at the south end of the harbor where a number of quality small boats were constructed. I used to own one of them, a 21ft. diesel launch built for the Friday Harbor Labs. I had to sell it in my effort to simplify my life, but I miss the little boat. It was the second unique boat I’ve owned in the 40 plus years I’ve lived here built by local ‘big $’, that is, built with extraordinary care and quality, no matter the cost. I’ve also owned boats on the other end of that spectrum, so I can tell, and appreciate, the difference.

Thanks to all the volunteer firefighters in the islands for their hours of effort on our behalf.


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