The emotional return to these waters was enhanced by Amelie and her crew tearing into Admiralty Inlet at 12kts with the wind and tide in our favour.
Kristian had organised an alongside berth which aided easy docking after such an arduous passage. The people of the boatyard and town have been friendly, welcoming, helpful and humoured by our accents and quirky sense of humour. We bumped into two characters who we had briefly encountered in Nuku Hiva, obviously Stephen’s (Mr. BBC) fan base is worldwide.
Joe, John and Ann, neighbouring cruisers have been enormously kind, answering many of our questions and giving sound advice. Joe has introduced us to some amazing Oregon Pinot Noirs.
We have met a wonderful couple, Chase and John and I’m sure we will spend many more lovely times with them.
“Old” friends and acquaintances appeared in Port Townsend in July. Starting with the Conklin family who we met in Mexico. We excitedly talked through 24 hours, managing to have supper and breakfast together and then they kindly took us to the Olympic Mountains for a short hike amongst patches of snow. Idyllic and memories were made that day.
A last minute plan to travel to Port Orchard to visit Eve at her cousins, Steven and Linda. We were welcomed at the bus terminal in true Eve style,brandishing Champagne. This continued throughout the weekend, the warm welcome was overwhelming, cooking together in their amazing kitchen overlooking the inlet, Linda making her master Margaritas under the inspecting eye of Eve, chilling in the hot tub watching the moon come up and so many stories and laughter.
Julie and Curtis (Manna) and Isabel and Mark (Jolly Dogs) arrived on Amelie late July, amongst the boat work mayhem, on the same day. Manna sailed from the Marshall Islands and Jolly Dogs, started off in French Polynesia but then after a spell in Hawaii, had an eventful trip to PT. True to the sailing fraternity, there were many boat stories and health discussions, swished down with Champagne and Malbec.
The weather has been unseasonal during our stay - warm, sunny, mainly dry and calm but we encountered fog regularly for the first time in years.
Instantly the diversity of wildlife made itself known to us. The first evening, exhausted and celebrating reaching land, we were glared at by a huge Sea Otter from the pontoon. Its expression said “what the hell are you doing in my favourite fishing spot?”. We were warned to reduce the amount of mooring ropes left on the pontoon as the otters use it as toilet paper after taking a pooh.
A comedic Harbour Seal performed aqua aerobics close by and sunbathed on the exposed rocks at low tide, keeping Debbie amused.
Great motionless Blue Herons and massive noisy gulls sat atop the breakwater, spying their prey. A beautiful Belted Kingfisher used booms, spreaders and pontoon piles as fishing lookouts. This bird was extremely successful in its fishing exploits.
Black Crows cawed loudly often leaving their visiting card on our windows and GRP. Strutting along the rocky areas of the intertidal zone like a bent old man, the Black Oystercatcher with its black body, bright orange beak and pink legs, nervously avoided anything that moved.
We were delighted to see a hovering Hummingbird close up. We had forgotten that we had seen many of these during our previous spell in this region. Again we were delighted to see these busy birds in Port Orchard. They are territorial and it is claimed that they can be quite aggressive. Debbie was dive bombed by one whilst minding her own business, reclining in the morning sun with a glass of champagne!
Deer were everywhere, munching away in well tended gardens, ambling along the roads, wandering amongst the boats in the boatyard and wading in the shallows of the inlet. They appear to be ambivalent towards humans and vehicles. It is fawn season and we often see a Doe with her fawn, white spotted offspring trotting along the foreshore or foraging in the hedgerows or cantering up the bluff. The funniest sight was a young doe performing dressage through the boatyard. There was obviously a buck around although we couldn't see him, maybe the bizarre behaviour scared him off or maybe the doe was practising for the Tokyo Olympics? By July we were coming across a few young bucks with their perfectly formed small antlers, covered in velvet down. Even at this young age, they are a proud, regal looking creatures.
Stephen declared our first day on dry land as an Amelie Bank Holiday. We walked into downtown Port Townsend, along the main high street until we reached Port Hudson, the site of the Native American’s winter fishing camp. The colonial Victorian buildings are impressive, a hint that Port Townsend’s faded past was steeped in wealth, opulence and optimism. We celebrated our arrival and achievement with a fabulous seafood meal in the famous Doc’s Grill Bar, washed down with a smooth, rich Californian Pinot Noir. We passed on the coffee as on the whole, the coffee is watery, weak and hardly an espresso in sight.
Work on Amelie quickly commenced with her being hauled out onto the hard within the first week and chocked up close to Port Townsend Shipwrights Co-Op (PTSW co-op) workshops and offices. The history behind this wonderful organisation started in 1981, when a band of Shipwrights pooled their money to buy a ship saw in a fire sale in Tacoma. “They wanted to be in charge of their destiny”, reported one of the recent shareholders. The men then built a timber building over the saw and created space to work on different types of boat. This building, allegedly still exists, incorporated within the main building and the boardroom sits on the level above. It's roots were in the commercial fishing industry, looking after 50% of the wooden Alaskan fishing fleet. Over four decades this business has expanded and is renowned for their traditional and modern methods of boat building and maintenance, covering each marine trade. Today, there are hundreds of people working in the PTSW co-op, probably the biggest employer in Port Townsend. The PTSW co-op logo is a gigantic bandsaw, in commemoration of that first purchase. The original saw was used to build a huge Douglas Fir sardine seiner, “Western Flyer”. This vessel was chartered and made famous by John Steinbeck and marine biologist Ed Ricketts, during their six weeks in the Sea of Cortez gathering marine specimens in 1940. We covered this in our Mexican blog and we recommend reading Steinbeck’s novels in particular, “Of Mice and Men”, “The Grapes of Wrath”, “Cannery Row” and regarding the Western Flyer, “The Log from the Sea of Cortez”. This seiner spent 40 years fishing in the northern Pacific, sank several times, re-floated but badly neglected. In recent years an individual has spent a vast amount of money on restoring the boat, here in the boatyard, replacing between 90-95% of its timber. The plan is to sail her back to her home port in Monterey and she will be used for sailing, scientific and educational expeditions.
History lesson over, we return to the work on Amelie. Matt Henderson is our project manager and we feel as if we've fallen on our feet. He is organised, proactive, helpful, easy to talk to and has a dry sense of humour with an infectious chuckle. Matt introduced us to many specialists associated with our work list and work started promptly.
The boatyard is not all marine and despite our disparaging remarks on the coffee here, we discovered on site a roasting coffee house, where we can buy coffee to go or purchase ground coffee beans. The Amelie Coffee shop is still the best in our books but we have run out of FPI coffee. Only metres from Amelie is a well stocked fishmongers/butcher with a small deli and an exceptional cafe called the Blue Moose. Their chowders, soups and salads are to die for and the owner has an interesting take on interior decor! Their breakfasts are what made them famous and they are stupendous and beautifully presented. You need to be on an empty tank to eat here as the portions are huge. Sea J’s is on the edge of the boatyard and once again cooks up massive breakfasts. Both cafes cook to order, using local products.
Whilst Amelie is out on the hard, we have been staying in a tired yet clean room in a hotel that is in the process of being renovated. We are very close to the waterfront, so most Happy Hours are taken sitting on the steps or on our veranda watching the local kids zooming around in their sailing dinghies, watching the ferry constantly coming and going but ultimately we are rediscovering the delights of the wildlife here. Allegedly there are rooms here that were used in the filming of the 1982 film “An Officer and a Gentleman”.
We decided that purchasing bikes was high on our list and several people recommended that we visited “ReCyclery”, a non-profit making organisation providing education programmes and bicycle recycling services. We now have wheels and enjoying the exercising on most days.
Halfway between our hotel and the boatyard is the best bakery for miles called Pain d’Amore. They bake for restaurants and markets but are open to the public from 11am, selling fantastic bread, pastries and cookies.
A pet hate reared its ugly head……getting connected to the WIFI. Stephen spent six hours, eventually successful, to get some form of contract that gave us freedom to communicate with the UK and all the reasons for having internet. The shop did not provide seats for their patrons and the overall service was quite frankly, indigestible. Without a US security number and a US bank account, we faced all sorts of challenges and lots of time wasted by Verizon trying to sell us contracts we couldn’t complete without the ‘magic’ identification. Trying to order spares online Stephen then spends best part of his day on the ‘phone trying to pay without the benefit of a US credit card. Luckily the PTSW co-op and John have helped us order marine items through their business.
Stephen is adept at calling quits to work and giving us days off from the boat. Debbie needs this as she would just continue to power through. We have experienced some spells of being a tourist, associated with food predominantly, but also exploring the area.
The Saturday Farmers’ market in Uptown is a Port Townsend tradition, set in the quiet, residential neighbourhood with some beautiful properties. Sorry to say that the market was a bit of a disappointment to us, mainly because we've been spoilt by the likes of Borough and Covent Garden in London and some of the UK Christmas markets. However, the site of the original Port Townsend market nearby, Aldrich’s, is fantastic with masses of choice of international foods, beverages, wines, gifts and many other stimulating ideas. We managed to find “real” mint jelly here rather than the alien green stuff that is sold in most supermarkets. We later found out that our friend Holly is one of the buyers for this store and was responsible for getting it on the shelves. A Welsh lady makes pork pies for the store and they are delicious. Artistically crimped by hand and using a traditional recipe.
During the dry, sunny weather we took the opportunity to explore using the bikes. The cycle trails here are well thought out and plentiful, lucky us. One of our favourites was a stretch of the Larry Scott’s memorial trail which is part of the Olympia trail. We travelled alongside the water for a while until we reached the Zellerbach paper mill (more about this business later), then a short incline took us into the forest near to farmland and a winery. Everyone is so polite out here including alerting and passing you on a bicycle. Our picnic was taken overlooking the inlet on our return, noticing at midday that the fog was still hanging close to the water. The Cascade Mountain summits (over on the mainland, beyond Seattle) erupting out of the gloom, suggested that the weather was improving. We watched the gulls pluck clams from the wet sand and fly up high over the rocky shore where they dumped them, presumably to crack open the shell so they could feast. We were mesmerised by frequent powerful squirts of seawater ejecting from beneath the sand. The action could have been set to music.
Each time we go out on the bikes, we discover new areas of beauty very close to the town centre. This particular one involved a steep incline but worth the effort. We ended up at Chetzemoka Park which was in full blossom. We walked through the park down to the beach and shoved the bikes over the low tide shore to Point Hudson, sussing out where the Thai restaurants were located.
One weekend we followed a cycle trail over to North Beach Park, watching boats come to a standstill in the Juan de Fuca Strait courtesy of the strong current. We followed the route towards Ford Worden and then down to Point Wilson Lighthouse. These state parks are slowly opening up and what a place to take your tent or RV, totally magical, a mixture of being very close to the beach and the inlet with a back drop of sand dunes and foliage. Fort Worden maintains the original buildings and parade ground with various buildings used for museums, administration, small businesses, a few cafes and a store for the campers. As mentioned earlier, this area was used for the film “An Officer and a Gentleman” and some of the areas reminded Debbie of watching that film, many years ago.
Eating out is always a treat for us and we were recommended to try “Sirens”, a gastropub style place. Oh dear, what a mediocre experience with our main arriving soon after we received our starter. Although we didn't complain we did ask what the reason for this was and the chef was blamed! The bill was offered even though we had half a bottle of wine to enjoy - not the best of experiences for a couple who like to cook, enjoy good food and wine without being rushed.
A local bar situated on the edge of the boatyard overlooking the inlet is one of our favourite drinking holes, the Pourhouse. Many people bring their dogs and the management allow customers to bring their own food whilst enjoying one of the craft beers on tap or a choice of good wines. On Sundays, the local Thai restaurant pulls a floral decorated cart into the yard, selling fresh DimSum.
The beauty of cycle rides is that we've rediscovered picnics and what a joy it is to put together some tasty morsels to fuel us for the next part of our journey.
Fully vaccinated against Covid-19 was easily organised and it was free! An added bonus was we received 10% off vouchers for food shopping in Safeways. These type of incentives to encourage the population to get vaccinated have kept us amused. Free pints of beer, ice cream for the youngsters, a chance to win one year tuition fees at college and a lottery for $1,000,000. Marijuana is legal in some states and “Pot” houses are encouraging people to get vaccinated and the bonus is a free hit! USA are aiming to get 70% of their population vaccinated by the 4th of July, very unlikely.
As always Debbie likes to read up about the history of a place and its people, Port Townsend was a dream, plenty of available literature and we haven't visited any of the museums yet.
Port Townsend is located on the Quimper Peninsula in the north west of the Olympic Peninsula.
The town site including Point Hudson is built on the winter campgrounds of the Klallam tribe and they called it Kah Tai. Their cedar planked and poled homes were built along the shoreline with a chief running the show. Similar to the First Nation people of British Columbia they were decimated by European diseases in the late eighteenth century brought by the non-Indian settlers and mariners.
Port Townsend (or Townshend) was named by the British Captain George Vancouver in 1792. The first non-Indian settlers arrived in 1851 and due to the port’s location it became the headquarters of maritime customs in the north west. The optimists of the time called Port Townsend the “Key City of Puget Sound” or “New York of the West”. The first seventy-five years of Port Townsend’s history was a “roller coaster of high hopes, big gambles, bad breaks and deep disappointments”.
The first territorial governor, Issac Ingalls Stevens cleared the land of the indigenous inhabitants and in 1855 the Treaty of Point No Point encouraged the Klallam, Chimakum and Skokomish tribes to give up most of their land rights. The Klallam tribe were loathed to move and remained in place. Chiefs S’Hai-ak (King George) and Chetzemoka (Duke of York) attempted to maintain friendly relationships with the settlers but by 1871, the tribe’s beach homes were burnt to the ground and their canoes were towed away. The Klallam tribe returned again but this time settled on Indian Island across from the town.
The area of Point Hudson in 1855 was the site of a marine hospital which provided care for mariners and quarantine facilities for persons with contagious diseases.
The roller coaster of ups and downs began with the town thriving after the civil war only for its dreams of being the major port in the NW being crushed by advancing technology. Sailing ships were being made redundant by steam vessels, many of which bypassed the port as they didn't need to rely on wind power and the Puget Sound was easier to navigate without having to consider the natural elements. The expectation of a railroad being built to link the Olympic Peninsula with the rest of the country, using Port Townsend as the hub, became a lost dream after Tacoma was chosen as the ideal spot. Together with the national financial crisis of 1893, Port Townsend’s population, businesses and wealth diminished radically. This was further compounded by Seattle being designated as the headquarters of Customs in 1911.
Port Townsend’s soul resembles the legendary Phoenix, as once again, the town’s resilience won the day. Glen Cove along from the town was an ideal spot to build a paper mill (1929) which required vast amounts of fresh water from the Big and Little Quilcene Rivers. This created many jobs for local people in construction, giving long term employment working at the plant and the opportunity to rebuild the city’s aged and deteriorating drinking water system. Supporting industries arrived allowing Port Townsend to remain prosperous throughout the Great Depression and gave a long period of economic stability. This paper mill continues to function today by turning industrial throwaways i.e. sawmill scraps and old corrugated cardboard into daily useful products such as paper grocery bags and sandwich wrappers.
The town further prospered during World War II and the Korean War, when the military were based in the three forts (Forts Worden, Flagler and Casey) spending their leave time and money in town. The forts are now state parks bringing enjoyment to the local families and tourists. Fort Worden was used as a location for “An Officer and a Gentleman”(1982), starring Richard Gere and Debra
The forts were originally built between 1898-1920 as a coastal defence system to defend the Puget Sound from ocean invaders. They were known as the “Triangle of Fire” but their huge guns never fired a hostile shot. Fort Worden was used as an army training base between 1902-1953 and then from 1957-1971, a juvenile detention facility. In 1973 the area became a historical state park.
Today, Port Townsend is a popular tourist destination with its many preserved period buildings and mansions. In 1977, the first Wooden Boat Festival was hosted here and annually this brings thousands of people to the area in September. A wooden boat foundation was an offshoot of this and in 2008 the North West marine centre was established, displaying and teaching wooden boat building and maintenance skills. Normally the centre is open to the public but during Covid times the public view the work from outside looking through the windows. Luckily the boat industry here has survived and is busier than ever, which suits us fine.
The last weekend in May was a holiday in the USA, very much like the UK. We spent time working on boat projects.
June, July and August disappeared in a heartbeat with steady progress on the various boat projects, the weather ramping up to the point that shorts and flipflops were donned, sometimes too hot to work on the outside. We go back to our upgraded suite in the Tides Inn exhausted each day, awarding ourselves treats on a regular basis. We are taken by Doc’s grill bar and the fabulous Japanese restaurant, Itchikawa. Stephen is a regular at the Elevated Ice-cream parlour and the odd visit to the Pourhouse. Here we met up with Becky, Ian and Honey the dog who were our neighbours in Prince Rupert, way back in 2017. We spent a couple of hours frantically catching up on each other's news, with an understanding that we would meet up in the San Juan Islands once Amelie is on the water again. They live on Henry Island in the San Juans, which is one of the islands off the beaten track, like us busy with extending their traditional A frame house. We've sailed passed but never visited the island, so now we have an added incentive.
We enjoyed a wonderful evening overlooking the countryside close to the North Beach area of Port Townsend. John and Jennifer (arrived on the boat one day to say Hi) were great hosts introducing us to many of their friends, amazing home made burgers (favourite was the lamb and fennel) with lots of tasty salads, followed by a real trifle!
Joe from Portland regularly drives up to his boat striving to restore Celine to her former glory with the dream of sailing away one day. We enjoy his company and he loves good food like us. He is also a generous individual, always arriving with a bottle of Oregon Pinot Noir. Joe is a whizz at cooking wild salmon perfectly on a cedar plank, which is a common way of barbecuing fish in these parts. The wild salmon taste is unlike the pale pink farmed variety and with the cedar smoking, the flavour is delicious. Finally we met his family, Paula, Aden and Simone and had another delightful evening on board the masted Celine.
Matt and his wife Holly invited us to their home for a pizza making party, trying out the local tequila and being introduced to a game of Corn-hole. This game is competitive, without masses of rules and plain fun. Their friends were once again very welcoming, it must be a PT thing and we had a brilliant evening, finished off by meandering down the hill to our room. We repeated this great experience a few weeks later by celebrating Holly’s birthday, dancing in the alley under a warm late August night sky. Thanksgiving was spent with the Hendersons and their family and friends, which was a true Holly fun extravaganza.
Amelie’s progress has been staggering and the jobs are being ticked off after completion. The concerning water ingress was discovered after dismantling the roof and ceiling panels…….a drill hole through the gel coat and thick insulation, possibly made during her construction! Stephen spent sometime dumpster diving after discarding a faulty navigation light with the much needed backing for installing a new one. We have rewired and replaced the lights, switches and secured them in sturdy, metal junction boxes, hopefully rectifying this continuous issue. Our main hatches, main windows and a few side hatches are being removed (not an easy job) to be refurbished or replaced. These are just a few of the projects being done, we still have a long way to go but we believe Amelie will not only look great but be better than when she was new. This major refit will hopefully last our lifetime on board Amelie and the excitement is building to get her ready for her launch late November/early December, so that she will be fit to cruise in British Columbia next spring and summer and beyond. Debbie has spent a number of hours in the upholstery area with Maggie, helping to deconstruct our cushions, plumping up foam and coverings to help to make patterns for the new seating area. Debbie has a new respect for this art/talent. Maggie is meticulous and patient at teaching and if anyone claims that upholstery is easy, then come to PT and see what we are doing. They will look sensational once their finished.
Staying with the sewing theme, Stephen has bought a late birthday present to himself…..a Sailrite sewing machine. Paul from El Mundo got Stephen hooked in Raiatea, so thanks to him, Amelie fabric projects will be flying out of the cabin very soon.
September is proving to be a very busy month, with us sometimes working ten hours a day, trying to complete as many chores on our list. Weekends haven't escaped the workload but mid September we will be “palace sitting” with Eve again, taking off a few days to enjoy her company. The excitement is building with our flights booked for the end of September to return to the UK after a nearly two year absence. Jaz and Liam’s wedding to look forward to and spending some great time with the family and friends, meeting two of the grandchildren for the first time and Oscar’s christening. Lots of missed celebrations to make up for and new ones to make. Seven weeks of fun before returning to Amelie in mid to late November.