Boats, Books, and Brews!

I always manage to find something I love in every town I visit, which is why my friends have often told me before, “You should write travel brochures, because you always make me want to go there.”    But in all the places I have visited, I can’t recall ever being in a town where I have found so many of my passions all in one place as Port Townsend.  I am falling for this little town, and falling fast…

Mural named "Tree of Heaven."  On the commemorative plaque, someone crossed out "of" and wrote "Tree in Heaven."

Mural named “Tree of Heaven.” On the commemorative plaque, someone crossed out “of” and wrote “Tree in Heaven.”

An entire store dedicated to wooden boats.

An entire store dedicated to wooden boats.

I love my charts like I love my maps!

I love my charts like I love my maps!

IMG_0226 IMG_0225First thing I notice while parked in the little Point Harbor Marina is these aren’t just your basic fiberglass sailboats around me.  The majority of them are finely crafted wooden boats.  And in fact, the Wooden Boat Foundation is in the building right behind me, with boat building, restoration, and repair taking place all around me. DSC_0286

Wooden ship masts are hollowed wood.

Wooden ship masts are hollowed wood.


A gray-ponytailed, weathered man works meticulously on a hand carved wooden mast.   Prep is taking place in the Northwest Maritime Center for upcoming classes on wooden boat building.   I learn that Port Townsend is the location for many wooden boat builders, from the sleekest of kayaks, to large, seaworthy ships.   They even host a Wooden Boat Festival every September, which is billed as “most educational and inspiring wooden boat event in the world!”. DSC_0287 DSC_0298 DSC_0322

The graceful lines, the skill and patience required to replicate the symmetry, and the layer upon flawless layer of varnish to leave the wood impenetrable to the elements are just a few things to appreciate about the wooden boat.  There is romance in the life story of any boat, but a sailing vessel made of wood, painstakingly crafted from natural resources of the earth, used to harness the power of the wind to see faraway lands?  Well, I am hopelessly in love…

A kayak in the process of being constructed.

A kayak in the process of being constructed.



So do I love to sail because I am drawn to boats?   Or does my love of boats make me long to be a skillful sailor?   I could ask the same question about books.  Am I so drawn to bookstores because I love to write?  Or do I love to write because I have always enjoyed perusing the aisles of bookstores?   Am I attracted to skinny men because I want to be…..well….you get the idea…

Such is a rare find today as a local bookstore…and Port Townsend has not one, but three of them…four if you count the Metaphysical shop.    I always stop to pause outside a bookstore to do some prep work…sharpen my senses…cleanse my olfactory palate, if you will, before I walk in.  I want to be fully focused and completely cognizant of that first whiff of the musty smell of a room full of well seasoned books.   I love touching them, smelling them, running my hands across the linen covers and embossed gold titles.IMG_0238 IMG_0209

But one Port Townsend bookstore took me to a whole new level.  It wasn’t only a bookstore with over 5,000 books in stock.  It was also headquarters for the Writers’ Workshoppe.    Everyone who knows me knows I have been a frustrated writer for at least the past twenty years.   I have an entire “Totes” box full of hand-written journals with fancy covers.   If the storage shed was on fire, that is the box I would grab first.  So imagine the stone cold paralysis that hit me when I read the mission for the little Imprint Books and Writers’ Workshoppes:

“This shop is for anyone who wants to write, has to write, aches to write, can’t write, wishes they could write, is scared to write. It’s for those who don’t know where to start. Or where to end. It’s for anyone interested in developing the craft of writing.”

I would grow roots in this town for that statement alone.

In the back of Imprint Books is a wall of motivation, so to speak.  A cork board full of “Writing Tips,” handwritten notes of encouragement to frustrated writers just like me.   So there I stood, looking like a tourist, Nikon around my neck, welling up with emotion, wondering how I can ever leave such a place…IMG_0239IMG_0241

Who can't be happy writing with a crayon?  Problem solved.

Who can’t be happy writing with a crayon? Problem solved.

And then there were the Brews, Baby!  My first introduction to the Port Townsend Brewery came to sound of bagpipes across the boatyard.   I was out for a sunset stroll, cruising the wooden boats when I hear Celtic music, so I follow the sound of the bagpipes like the Pied Piper until I come upon the lovely outdoor beer garden full of Blarney Tales and Pale Ales.DSC_0293 DSC_0294 DSC_0292

My second brew stop, The Pourhouse, came on recommendation from the waitress at Sea J’s Café, the seafood shack voted “Port Townsend’s Best Fish & Chips 10 years in a row.”  She must have seen the look of disappointment on my face when she broke the news that they had no liquor license, and therefore I would not be chasing down my fried Cod with a cold one.   “Why don’t I just pack it up for you to go, and you can take it two doors down to the PourHouse, and enjoy it with your beverage of choice on the picnic tables out back.”    Now that’s service!

But I think of all the unique “brews,” the one I enjoyed the most was of the bean variety.  The Point Harbor Marina was just a half a block from the Velocity Coffee Shop, located inside the Northwest Maritime Center.   I don’t typically venture too far from the rig on a work day.  Perceptual narrowing.  But something about the lure of those boats had me packing up the Thinkpad every morning, and taking the short walk over to work in the vibrant energy and aromas of the roasting beans while looking out over Puget Sound.

My usual for the week was an “Arancia,” a smooth mocha with a twist of fresh orange peel.  It was the perfect accompaniment to the Morning Glory muffin, filled with enough fruits, nuts and seeds to fool me into thinking it was a healthy choice.IMG_0218

So there’s something evocative here.  I am not sure I can explain it, unless you have felt that same sort of brooding, moody feeling in your gut that makes you want to get to the nearest coffee house and crank out the next Great American Novel.  Or the next chart topper.  Between the wooden boats, the artist vibe, the coffee houses, the Victorian architecture, live music and the aging hippies, it suits my fairytale…  A place deserving of a “Part Three.”  To be continued…

12 thoughts on “Boats, Books, and Brews!

  1. Ok, now that all five of my senses has been poked with your pointy little wooden #2 pencil, I feel like I could/should pack up and move to Port T.. Those kayaks…works of art. I would frame one and hang it on my wall if I could afford it.
    I’ve felt what you felt there in Port T. in Lovely Ouray some 40 years ago…went home, sold the house, quit my job, packed up the old pickup truck, headed west, and never looked back. Sometimes the heart knows what’s best.

  2. So glad you found the annual wood kayak rendezvous while you were in Port Townsend. It never dawned on me to mention it to you. Joe, at Redfish Kayaks that sponsors the event every year is a wonderful guy and a super skilled kayak designer. Two of the kayaks I built were based on his designs.

  3. Hi Suzanne..Reading your blog tonight I noticed a comment from “John”…In case you are not familiar with his travel blog..”Just Finding Our Way” he is an extremely talented shipwright, and has pictures of the wooden crafts he has built or helped others with their dream.
    If you already know..nevermind..but others will enjoy his travels..Hope I’m not speaking out of turn….I tend to talk too much sometimes….

  4. Ahhhh, you felt it too, and for different reasons than I. This is a town that captures one on so many different levels. I think it’s the creative vibe that seems to run through everyone and the presence of nature everywhere, and perhaps the reverence of those things that make this town so special.

  5. We happened upon those wooden kayaks. Definitely pieces of fine art.
    You’re description on Port T makes us want to return, although we’ve been more smitten with Anacortes…

  6. Oh wow. We loved that town too, but only saw about half of what you pictured. If I had known about the wooden boats we would have spent more time there. As it was we had one of the best lunches that we had on that trip. Cannot remember the name of the restaurant but it was on the way into the town and sat right on the shore.
    As an aside you mentioned that you would have loved to have seen the Beatles when they were in Seattle. Deede’s mom was going to surprise her with tickets for the concert, but they all sold out the first day and she didn’t go to the theater until the second day. By the way, the sold out tickets were $5.
    Allen and Deede

  7. Holy COW! I can see why you would not want to leave and hun, this whole blog IS a travel brochure and honestly, you ARE a writer (okay maybe you are frustrated but I sure don’t see that here). The wooden boats are marvelous and I drool over those kayaks but I don’t think I’d have the heart to put them in the water – which would be so wrong. Keep writing and traveling and exploring but most of all – keep sharing!

  8. Oh dear…now you have me pining for Port Townsend…AGAIN! I know you know I feel about this place the same way you do. My FAV town in WA so far. And you even managed to find a bunch of hidden gems I missed. I’m scheming to get back here.


  9. Karen — (neighbor! 😉 It was hard to leave, indeed. I needed a little “attitude adjustment” after I left! haha!

    BC Mark — I have no doubt your cold pressed watercolor pad would have seen some use here!

    Kim — Want to be my agent? Or we could tag-team. You scout the places, I will follow and write the brochures. 😉

    John — I stumbled upon that event at Fort Worden by accident, but I was fascinated by the artistry that went into those kayaks. Now, I am inspired to go back and read about your craftsmanship.

    UpRiverDavid — you never talk too much, as I love the comments! I discovered John’s blog a few months ago, as we were hitting some of the same spots in the PNW. His information has been very helpful to me, but I haven’t yet had time to go back and read about his kayaks. I hope to do so soon, and am looking forward to his upcoming trip on the Green River!

    Lisa — I think you hit on a key word, “reverence.” It was palpable. Maybe we should meet next year for the Wood Boat Festival and Ukelele Fest!

    Gayle — I love Ana too, but have not felt the same sense of “community” here that I felt in PT. So I just brought my own with me. LOL! So much fun seeing you guys!

    Allen — Yes, I think I know the place of which you speak…maybe closer up toward the ferry? And what a heartbreak on the Beatles sell-out! The torn ticket stub alone would have filled Deede’s pockets. I sold a 1977 Led Zeppelin ticket stub on ebay last year for $420!!!

    Dave — And lots of good Ales to go with!

    Sherry — Thanks so much for your kind comments! I guess by “frustrated,” I meant “unpaid.” haha!! But receiving comments such as yours is gratification enough.

    Nina — You need to find a way to hijack that Admiralty Light hosting job! Then it would just be a short walk-on ferry on your days off!

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