During the many years we have wandered the globe, we’ve acquired a long list of favorite destinations, favorite anchorages. When we’re asked to name them it is usually the beauty of the surroundings which makes certain places jump into our minds. Larry always starts his list with Gouvia, the almost perfect anchorage just a few miles from the main town on the Greek Island of Corfu where we drifted in just as dark fell, lowered our anchor into a nice sandy bottom where we knew it would hold well, then as I started dinner we could hear the music from a tavern ashore and a firefly landed in Larry’s hair and blinked happily away while he savored a glass of red wine. I usually start my list by saying, “I’ll never forget reaching into the anchorage at Fernando do Noronha after 14 days of beating north from Rio. Ah, the bliss of being upright and still, then the fun of having the peace and quiet shattered within minutes by a whole pod of dolphin frolicking around us.” But, if you tighten the parameters and the question is narrowed to favorite towns, places where we felt like we could fit in and stay for a good long while, the list grows far shorter; Falmouth in Cornwall UK, Annapolis Maryland, Knysna South Africa, Fremantle in western Australia and definitely Port Townsend Washington. What got me thinking about this list was the last named town.
We’d been invited to take part in the Port Townsend Wooden Boat Festival which takes place the first weekend in September. Since we wanted to spend a few months in the Western US, in part as an excuse to run away from the wet and wind of the New Zealand winter, another visit to this great gathering was right up our alley. We’d been guests and speakers five other times during the 37 years the festival has been going. Four of those times we sailed in, twice with Seraffyn, then twice more with Taleisin. During each visit we’d stayed a few days extra to have quiet times with the local folks who are definitely too busy during the festival for more than a hello, a hug and a shared coffee or wine. So this year we decided to arrive three weeks early and get a real feel for this small town at the entrance to the Puget Sound. For once we had time to share meals, walks, picnics with the interesting friends we’d made on previous visits. We had time to share the music and plays that draw very appreciative crowds in smaller centers like Port Townsend. The twice weekly farmers market, book shops and library all added to my days. A wonderful treat was to going sailing withseveral times with three different friends. Sometimes we drifted, sometimes we stormed along the handsome waterfront of this Victorian town that was once slated to be the Capital and main business hub of Washington State. Fortunately for the folks that now call it home, Seattle took over when the railroad magnates decided not to proceed up the Olympia peninsula and almost turned Port Townsend into a ghost town. In the 70’s it was discovered by several young craftsmen and boatbuilders. They banded together and came up with the idea of the Wooden Boat Festival which attracted a disproportionate number of craftspeople to settle in this special gem of a town.
Being in Port Townsend to experience the actual build up to the festival let me see how much community effort goes in to providing a spectacle for 50,000 visitors over four days. I learned that more than 400 volunteers pitch in to make things happen, all because they either love boats or just love being part of what is really a great big party. For us, the arrival of the guest speakers was a like a special reunion. Steve Callahan with his wife Kathy Messimini arrived a few days early so we had some quiet time to catch up before he presented his seminars about the lessons he learned from being adrift for 74 days after his boat sank in the Atlantic and his more recent work as a movie consultant for two movies, The Life of Pi and also Heart of the Sea www.stevecallahan.net We caught up with New Zealander boat designer and wooden boat building instructor John Wellsford www.jwboatdesigns.co.nz who is wild about small boats. Darrell Nicholson who cruised for years before returning home to take on a real job as a magazine editor www.practical-sailor.com/authors/1.html showed up early enough so we could have a quiet dinner together before the crush of crowds made it almost impossible to get into a café. The list would take a whole page but can’t resist adding the most special treat. Richard Blagbourne, who Larry has known since his school days, arrived to spend time with us. He sailed in on his 26 footer, Marie Rose a sweet looking woody designed by Canadian Stan Huntingford. Though we all had some quiet time together before the festivities started, it wasn’t until the final day that Larry got his very first sail on Marie Rose, the boat built by Frank Pardey – Larry’s father. Then there were what Larry calls, the friends we hadn’t met yet – what a far ranging group they were. Folks from all corners of the continent and at least half a dozen countries came by to say hello, talk about their plans. We were both amazed at how many young couples came by to tell us of their plans to set sail on simple boats. A favorite was a young couple who have spent the last year sprucing up a 48 year old 34 footer they bought for less than $5,000. They have invested a further $10,000 and spent the past three months cruising the Gulf Islands. Good to know that with hard work and a firm plan, the dream is still attainable.
When we were on the plane flying home to New Zealand where our own Taleisin lay waiting I finally had the quiet time to reflect on what each of my favorite towns had in common. Sure they are all situated on the edge of the water, but so are lots of towns. What Port Townsend has in common with places like Fremantle, Knysna, Annapolis and Falmouth is a warm welcome for visiting sailors, anchorages or berths for visiting yachts, easy places to come ashore and secure a dinghy, affordable cafes or small sailing clubs where it’s easy to meet local sailors, easy walking to everything a sailor wants or needs, good libraries and book stores, a sense of small townness created by being geographically isolated from bit cities, a long history of small boat sailing, local people who actually get out on the water and sail their boats, women who encourage other women to come out onto the water (not being sexist here, just saying it is great to see more women owning their own boats and enjoying sailing), skilled local marine trades people who are passionate about their work and finally, a beautiful setting.
May the equinox gales blow from a direction that doesn’t ruffle your feathers,
Lin and Larry Pardey
P.S. A few folks were wondering what Landyachts looked like – here are photos of two different different classes which had large fleets at the International Landyachting Championships we attended in Nevada. (See last months cruising newsletter.)