Creative photos and essays from the San Juan Islands

An old friend at Deer Harbor

An old friend at Deer Harbor

I was on vacation, cruising leisurely in the center of the county in my spacious 40 foot motorsailer when I poked my bow into Deer Harbor on Orcas Island and anchored next to an old boat I used to own. Every boat I’ve belonged to has had a unique personality and this past boat friend was part traditional, part modern and a sight for sore eyes, as the saying goes.IMG_0040

A 26 foot fiberglass sloop is not the ideal liveaboard, but this one was so classy inside that I tolerated the tiny space graciously. There were bronze port lights, (port holes to some,) generous splashes of mahogany trim, and a clever half-dome plexiglass “window” on the overhead for a panoramic view. Actually, this was the only standing headroom in the boat, and for a small boat, the visibility from this port was fantastic!

I find it difficult to describe the ambiance in this compact abode. First off, everything was top-notch, first class quality. No plywood and cheap hardware here, only nautical niceties that were authentically real. There were old brass oil lamp running lights on varnished corner shelves in the bunk area, a nod to the past and fitting nautical decor, a brass hand water pump in the galley was kept shiny with polish, a varnished wood stool swung out from a cabinet on bronze hardware for eating at the tiny swing-out dinette. I installed a Force 10 brass and stainless steel propane heater under the companionway that kept things cozy on chilly days and nights.

Living in this impossibly tiny house was a lesson to me that any space that fed my soul could be habitable, be it a boat or a cave. With this experience under my belt, I feel I could live in the most improbable houses, far from the convention of most Americans.

I bought this folk boat from a friend, Jim Devaney, who went on to live for a couple years in a 14 foot West Wight Potter sailboat he bought new. His clever designs for making such a space not only comfortable but practical were a constant amazement to me. He was my tiny space mentor and I’m glad to have met someone who could put his mind to a project most people would consider insane, and create peace out of chaos.

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