Safety, Sanity, and Salvation

During these insane times, we all have to find our own personal balance between safety and sanity. It can sometimes be a delicate balance. Too much safety, and we start to feel like the walls are closing in on us. But let go to preserve our sanity, and it’s easy to let down our guard in protecting ourselves from the risk of COVID 19 exposure. We have to each find that tipping point to know we did our best at staying healthy without completely stripping all joy out of our lives….because joy is as much an asset to our health as worry is a detriment.

Certain bits of news cause us to feel more bereft than others, often times when we are not even directly impacted. For example, that news came in the form of an email last April that Port Townsend’s beloved Wooden Boat Festival was canceled for the first time in forty-four years. When I first saw the notice, I thought “Too soon!  Too overly cautious!”  Now after five long months of this, I admire their defining the essence of the festival in saying, “The love we feel for our festival family is ultimately why we choose to stay apart.”

Even though I am halfway across the continent from Port Townsend this summer, it still has a strong hold on my heart. I have found days of pleasure attending the three day festival, first back in 2016 and again in 2019. It’s not only educational, but loads of fun at the same time. And a chance to live vicariously through those who not only live to sail boats, but are passionate enough about the craft to build them.

The good news, if there are any “armchair sailors” out there, for the first time ever due to COVID cancellations, the festival will be virtual this year. Next Saturday, September 12th, you can participate online by clicking this link to register.  It’s only twenty bucks.  Not only will you be helping support the endangered art of wooden boat building, but you will also be helping the small community of Port Townsend who prides itself on independent shops and non-chain restaurants, many whose livelihood depends so heavily on this annual festival.  And if you can’t make it on Saturday, the online content will be available afterward.

Can you spot the Winnie just to the left of center? This was my parking place this time last year.

This was my view out the back window of the Winnie, overlooking Point Hudson Marina with the Northwest Maritime Center in the background, and a row of beautiful fall color to match the NWC paint job.

The 1913 schooner, The Adventuress, always shows up as a regular at Port Townsend Wooden Boat Festival.

I tried not to take my time for granted while spending autumn in “PT.” Looking back from where we are now, that time seems even more precious.

I miss the daily beach walks along the Sound.

This van comes with a disclaimer printed on the side not to be used as an actual map source. haha!

One of my favorite stories from PT. I joined the Jefferson County FB group just to follow what was going on in town. Someone complained of a dog that was running off leash through Fort Worden. A guy responded saying “That’s why I prefer goats.” I thought he was just being a smarty pants, but I’ll be darned if I didn’t run into him the next weekend, walking his goats!

The Wooden Boat Festival is not the only COVID casualty where Port Townsend is concerned, however. This town likes to have fun more than any community I have ever visited. Each month, there is some crazy festival taking place. I spent most of the fall season there last year, and had the opportunity to participate in two of their most fun events, both following on the heels of the Wooden Boat Festival. I got behind on the blog last year, and never got the photos and story posted. So here is a little retro update from Port Townsend Bay Kinetic Sculpture Race from last October.

The Kinetic Sculpture Race is a chance for all the locals and local-wannabes to demonstrate their amphibious creativity by building a human-powered craft that must ply the bay waters, plow the mud wallows of the fairgrounds, and slog through the sand dunes at Fort Worden and all the streets in between. The winner of the race is judged on mediocracy, therefore the challenge is to finish dead-middle of the race. On the final day, the participants take over the American Legion Hall for a giant party, the “Koronation Kostume Ball” where they crown the “Rose Hip Kween.”  While I did not attend the “kostume ball,” I could hear the laughter a block away in the marina!

Sadly, what was to have been the 38th Annual race is cancelled this year due to the COVID. Let’s all hope this extra 12 month delay will allow the creators to use this off time to dream up new inventions to stay afloat and unstuck where “slow and steady” really does win the race!

Port Townsend has just enough quirkiness to bring out most of the town for this annual human-powered race.

What makes this race particularly interesting is the course, which is on pavement, water, mud and sand, and all special terrain equipment must be on board the sculpture at all times. Note here, they have their “mud tracks” strapped across the front.

Volunteers serve as “Kinetic Kops” to make sure all entrants comply with safety requirements. (Love the rubber chicken mufflers!)

This “Kinetic kop” is armed with a whistle, and she’s not afraid to use it!

The race starts out with a “Safety test” where participants must come to a complete stop at the bottom of the giant hill that is Water Street. Believe it or not, there is actually a safety inspection, as all entries must have safety equipment such as brakes, horn, life preservers, and an oar or paddle.

This “pilot” looks more like my brother Don than Don does himself. 😉

These guys are embracing their equipment challenges…”Screws Loose.”

This poor woman had a catastrophic design flaw. Her “paddle wheels” were not longer than her flotation pontoons were deep. She ended up needing a rescue.

The craziness goes beyond the race participants. People-watching among the crowd is almost as interesting as the race participants themselves.

Once the sculptures have proven they can safely stop, it’s off to the water where they barrel down the boat ramp, full speed to launch.

These entrants had a problem with their bike chain. It was interesting to watch the woman on back dismount the bike, walk back on the pontoon and repair the chain, get back on and complete the water course.

The Pt Jeff Fire Rescue team gets in on the action, diving off the boat to rescue a disabled participant.

I think this photo is quintessential Port Townsend, with a kinetic sculpture in the foreground, a sailboat in the middle, and the PT-Coupeville Ferry in the background.

One of the rules is “No ‘Flintstoning,” which means you can’t propel your craft forward using your feet. The Vikings had a broken wheel rim, and had no choice but to “Flintstone” to shore to the jeers of the crowd.

The Mermaids seemed to have all categories mastered.

Lastly, the third event to fall to COVID is the 21th Annual Port Townsend Film Festival. Last fall, I participated in the 20th Annual PTFF as a volunteer. Given that this venue can get a bit pricey for someone who enjoys going to the movie theater as much as I do, I signed up to volunteer for the festival. In exchange for three hours (one shift behind the bar pouring wine, and two as theater usher, taking tickets at the door and sweeping popcorn off the floor) I got a nice ball cap, commemorative pin, pass to four movies, membership to the PTFF including access to over 1,000 DVDs, and discounts at several local restaurants.

I loved all the movies I saw during the Port Townsend Film Festival, as well as the many films I saw at the Rose Theater, on average of two a week. But there were two that really stood out. One of my favorites was If You Could Read My Mind, a documentary about Gordon Lightfoot. I never was that much of a fan in my youth, associating him primarily with “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.” But I enjoyed the movie so much, I bought several of his works on itunes, and realized he wrote many more favorites than I thought. He was such a great poetic lyricist, and also influential for many of my favorite artists back in the day. Google for an increduble “whos who” of artists who have recorded is songs. As Wikipedia states, “he is credited with helping to define the folk-pop sound of the 1960s and 1970s.”

My second favorite was The Weight of Water, documentary about Erik Weihenmayer, an extraordinary athlete and adventurer who just happens to be blind. Weihenmayer is the first person without sight to summit Mt Everest, but in this documentary he rafts the most challenging rapids of the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon. Initially, I could not imagine the attraction of watching a blind man struggle through some of the toughest rapids in the USA, but following his journey heightened all my senses to the point that I could feel the rapids in my gut. Drones are not allowed in the National Park, so they sent a camera down the river on a 30 ft crane to film this intense action-packed ride down the river. It was a viscerally stimulating, visually stunning, inspiring film.

I look forward to seeing some of the feature films this coming year, as for the first time, the PTFF will also be virtual! Check out the offerings via this link where you can read a synopsis, watch the trailer, and buy a pass for this first ever, virtual PT Film Festival.

Volunteering for the 20th Annual Port Townsend Film Festival got me nice cap, commemorative pin, and a pass to four movies. The Volunteer caps used to be red, but they changed this year so as not to look like a MAGA cap. LOL!

The festival takes up many venues in town, with eight theaters and participating bars and restaurants.

Golf cart “shuttles” are available if you don’t want to walk from theater to theater.

The PTFF is a big deal on the peninsula. “Sorry, all passes are SOLD OUT.”

New Vineyard tasting room gets in the festival mood.

They close down the entire street for the “Family Friendly Feature,” Bring a lawn chair if you don’t want to sit on a hay bale.

One of my absolute favorite things to do while in Port Townsend is visit The Rose, conglomerate of three theater venues to include the Rose, the Rosebud, and the glamorous Starlight Theater. They feature not only first run films, but also lots of indie and foreign films and many interesting documentaries, many featuring musical artists like Linda Rondstat and David Crosby.

But the Rose is in trouble. It’s been in operation since 1907, but has had to close due to the pandemic with no opening date in site. I can’t imagine what little Port Townsend would be without this cultural hub. The owner applied for many grants (While companies such as Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse and the famous ShakeShack received funding from the PPP loans, the Rose application was denied.) So the owner, Rocky has had to start a GoFundMe campaign. If you love the arts, particularly small intimate historic theaters, and marvel that someone still uses REAL BUTTER on their popcorn, please consider throwing a little love their way. Save the Rose.

If you are like me, and have a little left over in the discretionary income budget these days due to all the lock downs and closures, please consider supporting the venues you love. The support you offer may just be the salvation they need to stay afloat.

“Old theatres are irreplaceable…I think a town’s old theatres are the sanctuary of its dreams.” – Roger Ebert

10 thoughts on “Safety, Sanity, and Salvation

  1. There are many, many people here in San Miguel whose second home is Port Townsend. I always wondered why. NOW I totally understand! Thanks for sharing your thoughts and photos.

    Believe it or not there has NOT been one festival, parade or even fireworks here since March! I know that is shocking as it used to seem that it was something every day. Even the El Grito will only be virtual next week. GIFF, the film festival will be virtual with no celebs or theaters showing unique films and it even looks like Day Of The Dead will not happen!

    I never thought in my life I would write the above words. What am I doing? Staying home and enjoying other things – cooking, reading, watching Netflix and gardening. This too shall pass some day.

  2. Now this is my kind of festival! Not to discount the wooden ships, but I would love the kinetic sculpture race. I think the “Screws Loose” is my favorite. It brought back memories of the Lawnchair marching group in the Greenville Ave St. Patrick’s day parade (before the hoodrats took over & it’s not safe to go anymore). Boy that was a hoot! And to think, I was disappointed the Possum Kingdom PossumFest has been cancelled this year. Yours actually looks “funner”. 🙂
    We saw Gordon Lightfoot about 3 years ago (I was never a huge fan, but now I like him a lot more!) He was 78 I believe and his voice was unbelievable how crystal clear it was. He was moving pretty slow but was joking about it so I guess he wasn’t too bothered by it.
    I’m going to have to search for both of those movies!

  3. Port Townsend looks like my kind of town. My only memory of it is sleeping in my friend’s MG in line for the ferry back in 1972 on my way to Canada. I think the people are my tribe. 🙂

  4. I enjoyed this post so much! I’ve been thinking about the boat festival this week and loved seeing your photos…such great memories of my time there 2 years ago. Maybe in 2021! Thank you for the links to the boat and film festival’s virtual events and to the GoFundMe for the Rose. These are some things I can really feel good about supporting.

  5. As always, lovely photos and enlightening writing. “If You Could Read My Mind” is one of my favorite songs of all time…a beautiful melody with haunting lyrics. I can imagine being immersed in Lightfoot’s story whilst enveloped in the luxury of the Rose…that must have been a magical day for you.

  6. Port Townsend is a wonderful place to visit. I have done a couple of Habitat builds there. I was planning to attending the wooden boat festival for the first time. Thanks for the link to the virtual boat show.

  7. Next time you’re in PT you simply must go to Sirens Pub on Water St. for their jambalaya. I can’t tell you what I’d do for their recipe – I’ll dream about it to my dying day.

    Oh my yes. Gotta save The Rose – thanks for the heads up on that!

  8. “Canadian Railroad Trilogy” is one of the great train songs. I think I heard it was a commission from the Canadian Pacific railroad to commemorate some anniversary. If so, they got their money’s worth.

    • Hi, Creigh. Thanks for the comments. Last fall, just a month after I saw the Gordon Lightfoot documentary, I celebrated my birthday with a train ride across Canada. I downloaded this trilogy before I left for the trip, and played it over and over while on the train. I fell behind on the blog and never got the photos posted, but I plan to get them up on the blog soon! It was a great soundtrack to the trip.

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