Where the wild things are

January 31, 2010

Still anchored in Andrews Bay on Lake Washington, 72 hours and 1 minute since the hook was set in the mud, down below in the cabin, the day slowly sliding over like the east-bound blanket of Pacific stratus overhead, I feel the Bruja rock in a way that is uncharacteristic of a passing wake or a gust of wind. I perk up, the motion stops as fast as it started, I dismiss it, and then return to the important business of being. Seconds later it happens again, the rocking- a nudge?
-knock knock knock!- It was the sound of solid, confident knuckles on the 3/8″ thick glass-reinforced laminate cabin top.


The voice was capitalized and the exclamation mark was clearly before the question mark in the manner of only one branch of government, the authorities. Climbing up into the cockpit I see the black shoes squarely planted on my starboard deck and the blue uniform of the officer pan slowly down as I rose to meet him face to face. The police boat was perpendicular to mine, the big aluminum-framed box mounted on it’s bow with the thick rubber bumper kissing my starboard rail.

“You know you can only be anchored here for 72 hours.”

His voice was kind, informative, lacking a puffed-chest intensity. He was smiling. I think it was because my hair was messy.

“Oh… ok, I was wondering about that. I didn’t see anything in the Wagonner Cruising Guide about stay limits here. Good to know.”

I said, speaking truth to power, sort of.

“One of the local residents called us in. They were worried because you’ve been here for a while. Last year someone was anchored here for days and days in the winter and it turns out they were dead.”


I imagined how the Bruja Dulce must have looked from the front yard of a Seward Park waterfront residence: anchored in the weekend-mariner bay beginning on a Sunday evening, all alone, three-quarters covered in canvas- like a pitched tent, a tapered hoop-house, ready to bob out the winter in boat-hobo-style.

Bruja at Seward Park from shore

The Bruja off the Seward Park shore

“Well…. I’m still alive. I left my slip in Leschi three days ago. I’m moving to Vashon Island. Is it ok if I leave tomorrow? I need to find another crew member to get me through the locks.”
“Yea that’s ok. Tomorrow…”

He wrote down my name and my newly planned departure date. I had been hoping to return to Vashon soon anyway. The impermanence of my time on the lake was making me feel uneasy. I wanted to feel at home again. However, the notion of running the gauntlet of Seattle’s waterways, motoring out and down the Sound on a Thursday in mid-January on such short notice, and hopefully, making some meaningful stops along the way struck me as …. a little wild.

To be clear- by wild I do not mean: baseless, hazardous, crazy, raving mad, godforsaken, or rampant. These definitions must be stripped from your mind as best they can for the remainder of this story. Only one definition fits just right: wild: in a natural state.

And so it was- two hours after the most beautiful sunrise I have ever seen over Lake Washington with wild-embracing and precious crew safe onboard, the anchor was weighed.


Pilings & log boom, floating bridge, and purple pool at sunrise Jan. 7th, 2010

Departed: Jan 7th 2010, 09:30 – Andrews Bay/Seward Park, Lake Washington, Seattle WA

Stops: Blake Island State Park, Port Orchard Marina

Arrived: Jan 10th 2010, 14:30 – Dockton Marine Park, Quarter Master Harbor, Vashon/Maury Island

Crew: Karisa and I

Point: Head “home” to Dockton, glimpse the Pacific Northwest in the wild

point of sail- where the wild

Seward to Dockton - Where the wild things were

Saying goodbye to the lake for possibly the last time by water, we had a chance to extend a warm yet securely-distant welcome to Bill Gates as he was arriving home on his seaplane. I’m not sure the actual rockstar of the techno-group “Your Operating System” was inside the plane himself, but there was a good-sized crew on the dock waiting to greet the plane as it pulled up.

Hi Bill!

The Gates' residence- someone arriving at the "back door"

ballard bridge

The Ballard bridge giving way

The Montlake, University, Fremont, and Ballard bridges gave way as they usually do- requested by one long and one short blast from my bicycle pump-fillable air horn. The small lock drained it’s fresh water quickly, lowering us down, accompanied by the friendly banter of the Army Corps of Engineer’s attendants into the colder, salty, greener sea, slipping away nearly unnoticed from the vivacious but pained hum of the city and into the open Sound.

So as you can see from the chart we made it to Dockton after a stint at the Port Orchard marina. This was cool because their showers are hot and pressurized like a fire hydrant, and a good fraction of the US Navy was docked one half of a mile across the water in Bremerton- which wasn’t so much cool or hot as it was baffling in it’s wild expression of power, fear/bravery, technology, and insane numerology- my estimates and guesses:

Bremerton Naval Base

Naval Base Kitsap - photos courtesy of G. Alfaro - Chilean counter-intelligence agent

5 aircraft carriers, 15 destroyers and other ships, 20 submarines, 10,000 workers, 100,000,000,000, dollars spent and spending- right there, much of it merely a deterrent force, rendering it some of the most advanced and expensive exercise equipment in the world. Karisa had the clarity to question how all this might be used for positive development or regeneration, turning over the vast and steamy economic pile I was wallowing in like she does Hazel the cow’s manure: in meditative composting fashion. I have always thought that exercise equipment should be used to generate something- positive charge, positive change…..either, both, whatever.

But more to the point in this sail was the intermission and waylay -our catch and release- at the green heart of the Sound.

Blake Chart

Blake Island- Green-hearted, Wild, Lovely


Blake Island trail- Seattle urbanity beaming across the water

Among all the islands I have been to in the Pacific Northwest waters Blake Island offers the most potent shot of wildness in the saltiest urban-rimmed glass. The island is entirely forested, undeveloped, and unoccupied save for a small campground and museum-compound on the northeast tip and a veiny system of trails.

The island can offer a misty, mossy, and quietly growing/rotting mix of bright but unsaturated colors. A typical winter day of slow-moving stratus and drizzle, the natural state for this bioregion, creates a flat mirror skin on the water reflecting a deep wild blue despite the grey sky. The trees struggle to bring richness to the word evergreen, and the fungus among us makes for the brightest and most interesting pallette.

rot moss mold roots

stumped rooted mossed

Another day might offer, in the pouring rain, with one sensibly-booted and one maniacally flip-flopped pair of feet, a monster trek mud bog event- each step a wild Blake smooch thanking these country-loving souls for attending. On a day like this the colors are even more muted by the static of water drops. The views and sounds are as much of your raincoat’s hood as they are of the environment around you. Nevertheless, a day like this is glimpse, a journey, into a natural state of living.

Another day yet might illuminate the hidden spectrum and textures that lie dormant when the North Pacific cloud river is otherwise flowing overhead. A long winter sun break here is an event that penetrates into and reflects on and off of all things. Everything becomes interesting. Everything seems wild.


Unfallen leaves, hollowed by the season- photo courtesy: KLC

Olympic Sunset

Sunset over the Olympics- looking west from Blake

January on Blake is a special time. Even starting at two, you could typically count the number of people with it’s soft earth under foot on the working hand of a drunken sawyer, or Mickey Mouse. There is always one park ranger but other than that, maybe no one. Experiencing such solitude despite a seven mile line of site to a city of 600,000 people, many of whom are plenty adventurous, makes me question if the masses know something I don’t: Is it wrong or foolish to be here? Where is everyone? Is there a big storm coming? Or simply put: that primordial question, the one we can’t live with or live without: should I be afraid?

On this island we are so close to the mainstream but by the virtue of a stalwart vessel have become so deeply deviant. The feeling is far from unfamialiar to me. Not because I live on said vessel and have anchored off this shore before but because the feeling is archetypal- straying, inspired, homing-in, going where the wild things are. Lately I have experienced a deep daily dose of this deviance- following wild genies that conjour crazy dreams for my life, for our society, for the world, feeding a wild creative hunger whose appetite doesn’t discriminate between paid work, valid endeavors, and fruitless concoctions, and more recently, embracing a romanticism whose natural state is startling, mystifying, and sometimes terrifying in it’s intense beauty. All of this takes me to this same remote shore. Such is the deep nature of an island- always connected beneath the surface, only showing up on a chart when it rises high enough to emerge, through fearless unseen forces, to foster a new identity, a new remote shore. It’s hard to tell what will grow and evolve above newly broken shorelines. Precious islands, ideas, and relationships all must bare their raw earth to the elements to find their true nature. Life has it’s way of trusting itself. I find myself seeking that same trust. On this island at least there are no natural predators to me or my companion. If only for that reason alone, although infinite others exist, the answer to my question is “No”, I should not be afraid.

Blake shore and Bruja

Securely anchored off the Blake Island shore

dockton residents

Securely anchored off the Vashon/Maury Island shore. Dockton resident liveaboards, from left to right- Mike, Guy, me, and Jim



  1. So, now you’re back and anchored near Vashon….home again, home again,jiggedy jig! Home, at least for now. I continue to be awed by the strength of your writing. Your descriptions just “take me there”….and the beautiful pictures are breath-taking! What an amazing adventure you’ve invited us all on! Thanks for the ride! Let’s talk soon…..much love…Mom

    • Thankful to be here for a while. This adventure writing takes a lot of time!
      Looking forward to posting some other kinds of things ūüôā
      We’ll talk soon for sure, driving to Skyline Tuesday!

      • Wow – that’s today! I want to go!!! You’re probably already there or soon will be…. We will for sure have to talk in the next couple of days – maybe we can Skype! That would be fun to do with Diane and Teresa there too! You’re have your computer with you right? How long do you get to be there? Oh boy….I’m so glad you got to go. Hope the weather will be mild while you’re there! Have fun! Love you…Mom

  2. Oh My Goodness!!!! Your pictures are beautiful! The water looks so inviting. And, oh Honey, your writing makes me want to cry – it is so beautiful. I just can’t imagine where this is all coming from. Of course, your Mother writes beautifully, too, so I guess that is where it comes from. I feel like I’m with you and I love it!

    Love you, too,

  3. Wow! I feel like I have just finished a yoga session! Your pics are so beautiful and your tales so entertaining, I think I have just watched a documentary on the waterways of Seattle! I mean this in the most complimentary way! Glad you are getting this experience! Also glad that you are sharing it with the rest of us. I agree with your Mom and Grandma — reading your blog is almost like being there! Take care and keep it coming! Love you!

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