In which we take (metaphoric) coals to Newcastle by boat and barge

"Ha-LAR-ious" is one of my friend Erica's best words.
And when I hang out with her, I see fun in many things.


Erica is a cheerful morning person. 
Santa Jim isn't...but you will notice that he smiles when she is near.


When Erica's call went out a few months ago asking for the loan of a pickup truck to move a piano, I stuck up my hand and volunteered.  Even moving can be fun if it's with Erica.

And besides: Erica and Michael aren't just moving across town.  They are moving back to Waldron Island, the tiny remote island in the San Juan archipelago where Michael grew up and where they both lived many years in a house they built themselves.  The house is warm and pretty and cheerful, but they get water from a hand-dug well, and get electricity from solar panels. 

I read about life on Waldron many years before I met Erica, and was excited to visit there in person.  One of the nicknames for the place is "Piano Island" because the wintertime census for the entire island is about 60 people, and the unofficial count of in-tune pianos on the island last winter was 58. 

This piano would bring the count up to 59.


June Burn's memoir described many high and glorious adventures,
including homesteading on several of our islands. Waldron was one of her favorites.

The logistics of moving a piano (even a small piano) and a truckload of other assorted household stuff from a house in suburban Seattle to a small island not served by the state ferry system should not be underestimated.  Endurance riders will recognize the strategy of breaking down an event into smaller, more achievable legs of a journey.

Leg #1:  Seattle to Arlington

These guys make it look easy.  It isn't.


Friday morning, piano movers were hired to get the piano out of the basement of the Seattle house, and up onto the bed of our blue truck.


They rolled it onto the lift-gate of the moving truck, and then...


...buddied the blue truck next to the lift, and bridged the gap with a ramp

We packed the piano in with household goods as stuffing, and headed home with the load.
Jim added tarps because we had rain overnight.

Leg #2:  Arlington to Anacortes

Early (EARLY!!!!) Saturday morning, we headed to the ferry dock in Anacortes, where we sat in the line and tried to drink enough tea to face the day. 

Erica shot this picture of our truck on the freeway from the passenger side of their car


We had reservations for the 7:30am (!!!!) ferry to Orcas Island, one of the largest and most populated island in the San Juans.


Leg #3:  Anacortes to Orcas Island

We loaded onto MV Hyak, a dear old state ferry I remember from my childhood. 

Hyak was launched in 1967 and has been in service ever since.

The interior decor has never changed aboard Hyak. 
It looks as it always has: a little dingy, but sturdy and hard-working.

Once docked at Orcas Island, the scurry began. 


Google told us:  "From ferry dock, proceed forward onto Orcas Island"

We needed to meet the barge Henry Island at Deer Harbor at 9am. 



Overcast skies at home, but blue skies over the islands.  It is often thus.

Leg #4:  Orcas Island to Waldron Island


Here comes the barge!

Jim backed the laden truck onto the barge, and Michael pulled another wagon of stuff aboard.
Moments later, were were underway.


I'd never been on a barge before.  Thrilling!  My face hurt from grinning so much.

View from the deck of the barge

Captain Marty does all the work from high up in the pilot house

This sign is posted prominently on the stairway to the top of the wheelhouse.
Apparently the former master of the boat was a big fan of duct tape.  The current captain, not so much.

There's a telescope hanging overhead, and a laptop computer with livetime marine charts beside him.
Mostly, the captain just looks out the windows to see stuff.

The view from up high.



Waldron Island off the starboard bow

Ahead:  the dock at Waldron.  We did not tie up there.

Beaching the barge at Waldron


They dragged conveyor belt mats off the barge and onto the beach,
and Jim drove the truck across the shingle up onto the road!

Leg #5:  beach to Erica and Michael's house

Erica had described the difficulties of navigating on Waldron, but it really needs to be experienced.  The main road is graded, the rest are maintained (or not) by the property owners. 

Jim and I calculated that it would take about a day to entirely clear the route we took, given 2 trucks, a crew of 4-6 people, and some chainsaws, loppers, and bladed weed whackers. 

But it is not our road.

2013 photo by Erica of their house--we were in such a hurry that I forgot to shoot this!

We had to really scurry at this point, because the meter was ticking--the barge waiting back on the beach was not waiting for free.


Offload the stuffing around the piano


Heave the piano off the truck and onto the porch and into the house!

We scurried, and less than an hour after pulling onto Waldron's beach, we were back on the barge and pulling away.


From here on out we did all the travel backwards:

On the barge again, headed back to Orcas Island

Back on Orcas Island, Jim and I took the rest of the day to wander around and enjoy the sights.


Lions Club salmon bake fundraiser.  Amazing food.

Huge chunk of salmon, baked potato, roll, and slaw


Orcas W.I.L.D. Museum

Please note that "orcas" = more than one of the black-and-white toothed whales.

By contrast, "Orcas" = a shortened version of the proper name Horcasitas, a former Viceroy of Mexico who sent explorers here in 1791. 

The words do not sound the same.  When you visit, learn to pronounce them both.


Farmer's Market, Eastsound Orcas Island


They were selling dragons at the Farmer's Market.

Inside the Orcas Island Historical Museum in Eastsound. 
The boat up in the rafters was the commuter vehicle for the region's first superintendent of schools. 
He reckoned that he rowed about 10,000 miles in it.


Our purchase:  Andrew Henry's Meadow by Doris Burn, who was "other mother"
to Michael, and who allowed him to watch her work on the illustrations
 if he remained silent.  He was 10 years old.

Art is everywhere.  This driftwood sculpture was outside a coffeeshop.


Santa Jim was a charming date for the day, even though both of us still had
that crummy cold virus and had to work not to sneeze all over people.




We were on an island, so we hung out on a beach for a while.



The library was closed for the evening, but the park was beautiful.



We wanted to order glasses of hard cider at the Boat House Cider Works,
but owner/proprietor Libby said "sing with me first!"  So we did.  



View from our dinner table at the Orcas Hotel, near the ferry dock. 
The ferry below is inter-island only, so we let it come and go without us.



Here , at last, is our ferry back to the mainland:  my old friend the Hyak again.



Wake of the Hyak


We essentially fell over the finish line:  I opened the gate, Jim drove the truck in.  We scrambled to do the last of the chores...


Esmeralda was waiting inside the gate, tapping her watch to remind us that we had been gone
long past curfew.  The Dragon was asleep, but I woke her up to say goodnight.

...stuffed our cheeks full of cold meds, and fell asleep.

And in the morning, we got this video via Facebook:  Michael playing the first tune on the piano.





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