30 June 2014

Adventure on the High Seas

Ian and I towed our boat up to Orcas Island last Friday to moor it at West Sound Marina for the summer (note: the cost of the ferry for us and boat and trailer was about $240, or $50 more than the last time.).

The boat had been stored at Mom and Marsh's in the barn, where Marsh carefully packs it away in a corner so it's not in danger of being sideswiped by his gentleman farmer's activities. He has been known to scrape the rust off the brakes on the trailer, and always brings the boat out of storage when I ask for it, and then spends time helping me get it ready to go. I found a small hole in the fiberglass of the boat keel a week ago, and Marsh bought a fiberglass repair kit and fixed the hole to professional standards. This is a particularly fine storage facility.

This year, we were not putting our boat back into the water in Seattle, and it didn't occur to me we would have to have it de-winterized, as it hadn't needed that before. Ever (well, maybe the first year, but that's ancient history by now).

When we bought the boat, we knew that we were going to be using it in salt water, and so we had an after-market radiator system installed that would keep us from running the corrosive waters of Puget Sound through the delicate interstices of our old-timey carburetor engine to cool it down.

Because of that, we've always had the boat returned to a drive-ready state after the winterization and service, and have not really had to de-winterize, meaning, put all sorts of drain plugs back in the engine, as well as the plug for the boat itself.

When I went out to clean the bottom of the boat from last year's lake sludge (rolling around under it on a dolly Marsh made, covered with Simple Green suds, cold water, and reconstituted lake slime, the keel inches from my nose) and take stock of things, I found the main plug, as well as two shiny-new blue wingbolts, in a Ziploc baggy tied to the steering wheel.

I screwed in the main plug, looked bemusedly at the others, came back into town. Last Thursday, 26 June, Mom's birthday, Ian and I went out in early afternoon planning to take Mom out for a birthday spin on Lake Sammammish in Issaquah, just to make sure everything was ready for launching off Orcas the next day.

In the interests of leaving no question unasked, I spent some time talking on the phone to Julia in the service department at Sea Ray, because one doesn't want open holes into the water when one launches a boat. At first it seemed that those two new plugs must go in the engine somewhere, but we couldn't see where, even hanging upside down into the engine compartment, even just feeling around. I brought a mirror from the house and Ian managed to locate three holes in the engine that already had blue plugs in them, and could not find any empty holes anywhere. There were suggestions from Julia for how to set up a bucket and turn on the boat with the outdrive in the bucket, to see where water came out of the engine. We didn't have anything immediately to hand out at the farm, though, and I said "Do you have a record of who did the winterization? Maybe that person could help."

"Of course, just a moment," said Julia. "OH! You had an antifreeze winterization! You're all set to go! Those must just be extra plugs! You're sure there's no rust or anything on them?"

Nope, they looked brand new.

"Well, at least you got to know your engine a little!" I laughed too--but I now know that I need to get to know my engine a lot more.

Friday we had a lovely drive up, not too long a wait at the ferry terminal in Anacortes, an easy drive to our land, and quite the breathtaking view of the huge hole our basement has made in our hillside. Saturday evening we launched the boat on the flood tide and it started easily and ran smoothly. I putzed around in West Sound while Ian drove the trailer back to the land and then walked down to the county dock to meet me. It was, of course, a glorious evening of gold-rimmed clouds and blue skies, sparkling rippled water and a fresh breeze. About 20 minutes in, I saw that Ian had finally arrived at the Orcas Island County Dock (No Overnight Moorage) and headed in toward shore.

As I got within earshot, close to the dock, Ian called out "Is your bilge pump on?" A thin blade of terror pierced my heart, and I snapped the switch on.

"Why? Am I low? What's going on?!?" I jumped up, trying to look at the water, keeping my hand on the wheel.

"Just dock," said Ian calmly.

"But do we need to get the trailer?" I cried "What are we going to do?"

"No trailer," said Ian, more calmly still. "Just dock, and we'll figure it out."

I came in carefully and we tied up the boat, and then I leaped onto the dock all flustered and ruffled like a startled hen. Ian opened the engine cover--engine still running--and we looked into to see our engine compartment sloshing with gallons and gallons of water. Our stern was riding low, and a solid stream of water was shooting out the bilge hole as the pump worked its continuing magic. "Looks like we need those plugs, after all," said Ian, quiet, measured. "There, and there," he added, pointing to where he could see water shooting in.

"Where are they? Do we still have them???" I squawked.

"They're right here," said Ian. "I'm just a little worried because the engine is so hot right now."

I leapt, a mess of flapping feathers, over to the ignition and turned it off, willing the bilge pump to stay on. It did. Ian, standing in, I believe, the engine compartment, stuck his hand in the water, commented that it was very cold and so obviously had not been running through the hot part of the engine, and screwed in the plugs. "What about the other one?" I asked anxiously, having only seen him do one.

"It's already in," he said. "Everything's okay."

A wave of relief--not West Sound salt water--washed over me, and I leapt back into the boat, laughing a trifle hysterically, and flung myself at my (yet again) savior. We tooled around the bay for a short additional time until my feathers and my bokking had returned to normal, and then I brought us into the dock all by myself, and so perfectly at my first try that Ian laughed out loud.

You're really at sea with boats, you know?

24 June 2014

Fundraising Announcement

Hello Readers--

I'm a bit uncomfortable with this post, and I don't expect to ask you to give money for anything else (well, certainly I don't expect to ask you to give money for lots and lots of other things, but one thing maybe--you never know), but this particular cause is close to our hearts (or our hips).

Years ago, when Spackle was less than a year old, he had surgeries on both his hips, to correct what was going to become severe dysplasia and, potentially, severe crippling, later in life--like, age ten or so.

Last year, as a 12-year-old dog who was still remarkably mobile because of his early hip repairs, I noticed him gradually becoming more and more stiff, and less and less active.

In both cases, one of the main answers to helping Spackle regain his structural health and rebuild healthy muscle, was Sheila Wells, and Wellsprings K-9.

Sheila and her associates work primarily in a warm, jetted pool, offering carefully monitored endurance training and lots of in-water massage for animals. She has found the pool to be a comfort for animals other than dogs, including a rabbit she saw for a few visits years ago when Spackle was a pup; a rabbit who could no longer hop on land, but relearned and rebuilt the necessary muscle by being suspended in warm water.

As things go, however, Sheila's been doing this for at least a couple decades, and the building and equipment are needing updates far costlier than she can afford. An unusual, valuable, and useful skill does not always translate into enough money for necessary upgrades.

And so, to find funds, Sheila and her associates have begun a campaign on Indiegogo.

Please consider helping Sheila upgrade her equipment, so that she can continue to serve the canine world in her unique way.

Thank you,
Calin (& Spackle)

20 June 2014

New Beginnings

Yesterday was a long day, tiring and satisfying in equal measures.

I began my morning with my alarm at 4:45am, so that I could hit the road and make the 7:20am ferry from Anacortes to Orcas. Much of the year, most of this early drive would be conducted in darkness, but summer solstice time in the northwest is marked by deliciously lengthy twilights each day.

I felt much the way I do before any big journey when I got out of bed yesterday in the wee sma's: giddily alert after four hours of fitful sleep; bleary-eyed and red-cheeked; thirsty; mildly anxious; mildly nauseated.

Spackle and I had an easy, low-traffic drive, arriving at the terminal in perfect time as the boat was unloading. We had time when we arrived on Orcas to have a (much needed for me by this point) lie-flat, and then around 1:00 pm Burke the Builder and Bart the Excavator arrived, we chatted over first details, and Spackle and I participated in a photo shoot of Digging the First Shovel-Full From Our Front Door (Spackle observed: he only digs when I *don't* want him to). Bart then spent about 30 minutes on his giant machine--not so much digging our plot as scalping it and building a pile of sod to one side, and then Day 1 was done!

Spackle and I caught an evening ferry, drove home through the gloaming, and are quite happy to spend the day today sticking close to the Seattle house.

We're planning to set up a webcam, and maybe also a time-lapse camera, and a Picasa page for house pictures. Yes, we could've done this at any time prior to that first shovel-full of dirt that I dug yesterday, any time during the past few months when we were waiting for the county to issue our permit, but it just didn't seem real until yesterday.  Fancy copper kitchen sink aside, until jumping on that shovel yesterday and chiseling out a laughably tiny bit of thickly thatched grass and roots, this whole process has been largely theoretical.

Not anymore! The choices we make now better be the ones we want to live out our lives with! No pressure there!

Looking east down the hill. That long stick is the "story pole", which delineates where the floors will be--not, I think, what the story of the house will be. That is my responsibility. The top of the story pole is the height of the roofline of the house. The perspective is misleading, however, because the pole is set up downhill from the home site, and so it's longer than it would be where the house actually is, if that makes sense. 

Looking west up the hill toward where the house will be, which is pretty much exactly between the Dacha and that tiny orange tractor in the background. 

This photo, and several other great ones, courtesy of Bart the Excavator (using my camera)

MUCH more effective way to clear the land than that shovel!

End of first day's digging--scalped!

18 June 2014

Groundbreaking News!

For real, Orcas Estate is happening! We break ground tomorrow, 19 June 2014.

Ian, alas, will have to be video-phoned in from The OC, where he is attending a conference for work. I, however, am going to be there.

First thing to be postponed because of new house: my oncologist visit tomorrow. Who wants to sit around talking about cancer when monumental digging is going on???

Such a relief! Such an anxiety! So many hopes! So many fears!


one-fingered on my phone

13 June 2014


I pulled out the vacuum cleaner this morning (oops--4:06 pm is hardly morning) afternoon, and Spackle, as usual, beat a hasty retreat from the kitchen where I was working to curl into an anxious ball on his bed in the living room. I glanced at him as I passed through the hallway on my way to the bedroom, and he was sitting at attention, as he does for his evening peanut butter Kong, but without the vigorously perked ears of joyful anticipation. Instead, Spackle's ears were back and flat against his head, as if someone had given him an ear ponytail. He did not look joyful.

What is it about this home appliance that is so terrifying? Is it the sucking sensation? As far as I know, Spackle has never experienced that first hand. It makes noise, but this sleek new birthday Miele is very quiet, particularly when compared to the ponderous 15-year-old Kenmore that has since been relegated to the basement. Is it somehow the size? Somewhat person-like, but speaking strangely?

It might simply be that nature abhors a vacuum, and Spackle is no exception.

The Subjective Nature of Ownership

Ian and I spent a rich and complex weekend on Orcas last week. As has been our wont of late, we chose to leave Seattle early Saturday morning--i.e. we were on the road to Starbucks on 45th (which opens at 5:00am) by six, and we had arrived in Anacortes by 8:00am for the 10:40 boat to Orcas. We were the 4th car in line for that sailing (note: not the first).

When we arrived on the land we encountered a wide, curving shag-carpet swath of mowed prairie. We conjectured as we followed the road through 4-foot-high banks of swaying grasses: access for West Sound Water? But no, the swath sharpened its curve and curled back toward itself, then suddenly opened into a wide, roughly square clearing. Crop circles? I thought briefly, then I realized that instead of stumbling upon evidence of alien interference we had, essentially, just arrived at home.

Burke had been out on Thursday and Friday with his excavator, getting the lay of the land with an eye to actually commencing building in the foreseeable future (although at an as yet unnamed date), and had realized that, unless all visitors to the site were wearing personal hovercraft, we would not be able to get any sort of perspective on it at all with the lush growth of spring. While setting out the rough outline of your house in the mowed middle of a tall and vast prairie creates a very good idea of where your boundaries are, it also appears that any structure plunked down in that laughably minute clearing will be way too small to live in. Perspective is hard!

Burke met us on our land about an hour after we arrived, and we hauled our 8-foot ladder up the hill and put it in various "rooms", and climbed up and looked at the views we'd have of the north side of the Olympic Mountains, Shaw Island, and the delightfully picturesque and charming village, harbor, and marina of West Sound. I perched at the top of the ladder and gazed out into the future, imagining what I would sew or write in my office, and what I would look up to see while I did it. I imagined what I would look at from my "stage" on the floor below my office, what inspiration my musical improvisation may take from the subtly different view.

It's beginning to feel like a real thing, this future house, instead of the theoretical energy suck it's been for many of the last several months. Not everyone is as excited for us, however.

Moving to a small island with finite resources and a small population of quirky independents, opens one up to a great deal of scrutiny, gossip, commentary, conjecture, advice, and endless iterations of the "joke" that once you're a resident of Orcas, you'll want to keep everyone else out, too, ha ha.

One of our neighbors got up the courage to invite us to look at our place from her deck, and it was eye-opening in a variety of ways. It is very clear that we have, completely inadvertently and completely thoughtlessly, messed up the bucolic, unpeopled view that she had enjoyed for the previous 40 years. She doesn't see the richly saturated emotional and spiritual sides of our little structures. She does not know that our Dacha tells, for us, a story of relationships in our lives, several of which no longer exist. She does not know the depth of our personal investment in Orcas, how much we love--love--to be there, and how staggeringly fortunate we feel to own this land.

We "own" the land, legally, according to the laws and customs of our society. But this neighbor very much "owns" the view up the valley, and we've sort of stolen that from her. "Owning" any part of nature is an illusion, though. Fundamentally, what the title of ownership means is that, as long as we choose to, we have the rights to pay taxes to our government. These taxes are based on an arbitrary cash value assigned to a section of the earth, and we have paid for the right to gain stewardship over this piece.

It's not ours. Someone else will live there after we leave, however we do that, at some unknown future date. The community will evolve, residents will cycle in and out, and we have--we have chosen to take on--a responsibility not just to ourselves and the land in our care, but also to our neighbors and friends.

We believe that being full-time residents will better the situation for everyone involved (ironically, it's easier to be a hermit in a big city). Once we're on Orcas full-time, we will have a better sense of our responsibilities to land and populace; we will have more time to fulfill those responsibilities; and we will be readily available simply to communicate and hash out differences.

We are grateful to this neighbor for telling us her truth, and reminding us that we are not alone in the world; that perspectives are varied, and there is value in the variation.

We are also particularly grateful to have had this awakening just in time to incorporate its significances into the house which, I've just learned since beginning writing this entry,


Theoretical dwelling, community, personal, and stewardship questions all about to manifest!

04 June 2014

Day of Restored Abundance

 Some of this restoration I did myself:

In process: 5-year-old cedar decking, never been sealed, covered with mold and algae and, in typical Seattle weather, slick as snot (as my mother likes to put it), and dangerous for a nonagenarian dog with a limp and severely compromised limbs. He's an amazing dog, is Spackle. What I used to clean the deck: Simple Green (couple tablespoons at a time in a small bucket of water), a stiff-bristled plastic scrub brush, a hose, and elbow grease--my own, probably 6 hours' worth over two days. 


Done! The finish I used seemed to be, essentially, watered-down Elmer's glue. It had a vaguely pumpkiny smell. I used one gallon, down to the last available drop, and I finished 10 minutes before Spackle's appointment, and I was only 3 minutes late to the vet (which is not usually, and wasn't today, late at all at our vet).  

Too bad we won't be able to use this deck EVER AGAIN. All we can do now, until we sell the house, is look at it from the kitchen porch. 

The other two major restorations today had some skilled outside assistance in their rebirths.

My camera came home this afternoon from its lengthy post-Cabo Verde spa vacation, its interstices degritted and its exterstices newly smooth and black again. My phone camera, which took the pictures in this post, will be re-relegated to primarily taking snapshots of Spackle flagrantly flouting city laws, off-leash and swimming at Gas Works park.  

And poor Nublu: freshly fixed up and spa-ed herself after some tipsy bully Acura SUV scraped her side and lamed her, as she rested next to the curb at home. She, at least, is ready to move to the country!

Nice legs! Oh, I mean, look at that filth and those scratches! OUCH!


All better! I was worried, from the way the bed was tilting after that tire came off (!), that serious damage had been done to the drive shaft (is that a thing?) or axle of this brand new (not even 5,000 miles and a first oil change yet), planning-to-have-for-twenty-plus-years, super cute and fun to drive, pick-up truck. But everything checked out, and she was totally fun to drive back home. 

Three big things like new again!