San Juan Island Update - serving San Juan Island, Friday Harbor, and Roche Harbor

July 30, 2008

Tim Gambrell and Merri Ann Simonson celebrated Merri Ann’s 50th birthday by sharing their wedding vows on July 6, 2008. Gary and Pat Vannest hosted a catered dinner for friends and family including Tim’s daughter Karen at the Garrison Bay Beach Club. The ceremony was performed by Merri Ann’s sister, Dr. Carin’ Bocskay.

Music on the Lawn on Wednesday - it's Kate & Keith!
Local singer Kate Schuman (right) teams up with local musician Keith Busha tonight at 6:30pm for a delightful evening of entertainment crossing the music spectrum with jazz, blues and country favorites. A sweet summer evening is in store for you! (You can hear samples from her album on her website - check it out!)

Fire Department receives cash to help educate folks....
According to the website, yesterday the Friday Harbor Fire Department received $13,296 for education's more on their website.

Minke superstar takes the stage....
Odds are if you see something in the press (or National Geographic) about minke whales, it'll say "and Jonathan Stern says....." The cool thing is that Jon is speaking at the Whale Museum tonight - here's more from Cindy Hanson:

The Whale Museum’s 2008 lecture series continues with an informal reception at 6:30 pm, followed by a talk by Jonathan Stern, PhD., at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, July 30th.  After the talk, Jonathan will be available to sign copies of his book “Minke Whales”, available at The Whale Museum.  Dr. Stern will discuss “Minke Whales: The Writing is on the Wall”.

His talk will focus on the ecology, life history and current status of minke whales, with particular emphasis on the local Salish Sea population. Jonathan Stern has been an integral part of the Northeast Pacific Minke Whale Project since 1980, joining first as a volunteer and quickly growing into the role of co-investigator.  He collects data on the foraging behavior of Minkes, both here in the San Juans and in California.  Jonathan is also an instructor in the Biology Department at San Francisco State University. The July 23 lecture is free and open to the public, although donations are appreciated.  For more information, call (360) 378-4710 ext. 23.  The Whale Museum is located in Friday Harbor at 62 First St. N.

What's happening on the island!
click for more info:

Minkes get gas, too....
Here's a picture of a minke farting. Really.

More whale news....
A nice place to get info about how the whales are faring around here is Tom Averna's Deer Harbor Charters''s his laatest entry for his Notes from the Field: 

Whale sightings have been very consistent for the month of June and also for the first half of July. For three weeks in a row the whales would move out of our area on Friday and return on Sunday. Happily, the orca decided to stay around so far this weekend.
I'm getting conflicting reports about the abundance of salmon this year. I have heard it will be a dismal year and also heard it will be a decent year for chinook (kings). There was a fishing derby last weekend at Deer Harbor that brought in quite a few chinook as large as 28 lbs. Most of the fish were caught on the east side of Orcas so I suspect the fish are hatchery fish from Cypress Island or a Frasier River run of Chinook.
Most of the whale sightings have been in Rosario Strait, Strait of Georgia and the east side of Orcas, right where the largest number of salmon are. The researchers at Lime Kiln Lighthouse (Whale Watch Park) on the west side of San Juan Island report a 50% decline in sightings.
This past week we had the resident orca in the morning around Sucia and Patos Island and down around the southwest tip of Lopez in the afternoon.
There appears to be two whales from K pod, Cappuccino, K-21 (born 1986) and Lummi, K-7 (born 1910) that have not been seen as yet this season. Since we've been seeing the whales traveling in sub groups and K pod has been gone more than they've been around the islands,  the possibility exists that these two whales are still alive and mixed in another sub group or pod. It would be particularly hard for me if Lummi is gone. She is one of the oldest whales in the pods (98 years old!). I have had some really nice encounters watching her with her extended family for many years.
I'll keep you updated on the latest news regarding the whales and wildlife.

Help for folks with Centennial Projects....
I hear the Community Foundation is supporting the Town's 100th birthday next month - here's more:

Islanders will celebrate our unique history and the San Juan Island Community Foundation is poised to support this historical event!  The Foundation’s  Board of Directors has created a designated Centennial Fund to support local non-profits working on projects and events related to the anticipated Town of Friday Harbor centennial celebration in 2009.  The Centennial Fund will help focus donors on ways they can support this community-wide historic milestone.

“There are a growing number of projects and grant requests being brought to the Community Foundation related to the Centennial.  We decided to create this Fund to emphasize and coordinate the need for philanthropic support,” said Barbara von Gehr, Foundation Board Treasurer and SJICF Coordinator for Arts & Culture.

A wide variety of activities are being planned and include a birthday celebration for the Town’s 100th birthday on February 9, 2009.  Other programs and events are being developed by the Town Centennial Commission, the Community Theater, the Town Historical Preservation Review Board, the San Juan Island Library, the San Juan Historical Museum and Skagit Valley College.  Plans call for everything from a permanent town mural to one of the largest Lummi Tribal gatherings ever seen in the Northwest in recent years.

“These projects will have a lasting impact on our community by creating and documenting a historical context upon which we can define our future.  Our stories, our history are the basis of our culture.  This is a great opportunity to recognize that value and support these diverse programs,” said Charles Anderson, Foundation Chair.

The San Juan Island Community Foundation serves as a non-profit, philanthropic umbrella organization helping donors, non-profits and public organizations to achieve their goals through direct grants, organizational assistance and philanthropic resource management.

To learn more and/or to contribute to the Centennial Fund, please call 378-1001 or stop by the Community Foundation office located in the Technology Center, Mullis Street, Friday Harbor.

Fair peace becomes men; ferocious anger belongs to beasts.

July 29, 2008

Music tonight at the Community Theatre....
Jan at the SJCT says this is gonna be a great show (oh, yeah - the inside scoop: islander & slide guitar player Ian Gatley (no relation) is gonna sit in on a few songs tonight):

Be prepared for an uplifting and soulful night of American roots music THIS coming Tuesday, July 29 when Rani Arbo & daisy mayhem grace the Whittier stage at 8:00 p.m.

Rani (pronounced Ron-ee) is a wicked fiddler and talented alto lead singer joined by a trio of instrumental wizards that even use cat food tins as instruments. The Northeast quartet shares a jubilant mix of traditional, original and contemporary sounds. Andrew Kinsey has been Rani’s singing partner for more than 15 years, as well as the band’s bass player. Scott Kessel pilots the unforgettable “Drumship Enterprise,” a recycled drum kit comprising a cardboard box, cat food tins, a Danish butter cookie tin and a suitcase. The band is rounded out by Anand Nayak on guitar whose style draws from a century’s worth of jazz, funk, blues and folk masters.

Describing the impact of her concerts, Rani says the best way is to quote one of her fans who told her: “Whenever I see you guys play, I leave feeling like my life is pretty good.”

Check out more about the group at

Tickets are $20 for adults; $10 for student reserved, with $5 student RUSH available at the door. A private donor has made provision for free tickets to anyone needing financial assistance to attend a Theatre event.

Still working during the summer....
I dropped by the high school yesterday & found the school district's IT guy Steve Smith (right) hard at work...he works all summer to replace servers (that's this summer), set up computers for the fall for kids & teachers (over 400 of 'em in our 900-kid school district), and make sure it's all ready for the first day of school.

If you see him this summer, tell him thanks for making it all work so well.

Moves to Roche Harbor.....
You know The Tempest moves to Roche Harbor this weekend, beginning with this Thursday's show? Got it? See ya there.

What's happening at waterworks.....
Ruth over at waterworks says there's a new show opening this weekend:

Michael Dickter & David Eisenhour
Mixed media paintings & Bronze sculpture
August 2 – 24th

The gallery’s August show will feature the mixed media paintings of Michael Dickter (right) and the sculptures of David Eisenhour. Michael’s’ paintings area synthesis of layers, creating a rich textural surface on which he integrates fragments of identifiable forms. David’s bronze and unique sculptures beautifully reperent the simplicity and the complexity of the natural world: a bio-narrative story.

Founded in 1985, waterworks has grown over the years to represent an eclectic blend of artists from the Pacific Northwest, including, Oregon, Washington and British Columbia.
Hours: Monday ~ Saturday, 10.00 to 6.00 and Sunday 11.00 to 4.00.

What they're saying about us in Washington....THAT Washington....
It's the usual tourist copy - the Washington Post has a little writeup about how cool it is to visit here - check it out (and thanks to Sandy Buckley for sending it along!)

After 25 years....
Cindy at the Whale Museum says they're going to go retro & review the past quarter century of research at Lime's more:

The Whale Museum is celebrating 25 years of research at
the Lime Kiln Point Lighthouse. Please join us for a research seminar at the museum on Friday, August 1st from 5:30 pm to 8:30 pm. Included in the evening’s events will be presentations about past, present and future research projects by noted scientists who will discuss the following:

• Rich Osborne, former director of The Whale Museum: Historical research
• Bob Otis of Ripon College: Ongoing Killer Whale behavioral studies
• Val Veirs of Colorado College: Past and present acoustic research
• Jason Wood of The Whale Museum: Future directions

Everything is changing. People are taking their comedians seriously and the politicians as a joke.
Will Rogers

July 28, 2008

Just heard that Monika Weiland has started a new blog with her thoughts and pictures about wildlife around'll remember she put out that wonderful (like, I bought it, and you did too!) book of orca photos, called "Orca Encounters: Images of Southern Resident Killer Whales." If you liked that, you'll dig her blog. Check it out.

More cool photos....
I found this local blog with some cool underwater photos - check it out! (It also has some footage added from the Music at the Port - a nice surprise).

Carol Capps tells me her mom passed away on the 12th at the age of 97...they were close, and it was great that Nadine passed the last part of her life here on the island. Here's more, from Carol:

Nadine S. Wells (January 8, 1911 – July 12, 2008): Long time Island resident, Nadine Wells, died on Saturday, July 12th.   She is remembered as the instant Grandma to anyone who visited her home in Gull Cove where an open-armed welcome and cookies were always available.  The neighborhood animals also loved her because of the pet treats she passed out on her daily walks.   She shared her home with her husband of 51 years, Bill Wells, until his death in 1993.

Nadine was born in South Dakota in 1911 where she grew up, taught in rural elementary and high schools, and captured Bill’s heart.  The middle third of Nadine’s life started in 1942 when she followed Bill to Los Angeles and they were married. 

Bill’s career in aerospace took off and Nadine raised two daughters, Jean and Carol. After decades of PTA, Girl Scouting, and Southern California living, Nadine and Bill fell in love again, this time with San Juan Island.  They moved here in 1974 and never considered any other place home after that.  For the last seven years, Nadine’s daughters have been close by. 

They are now both Island residents, too. Besides her daughters, Nadine’s greatest joy was her grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Many are Northwest residents and all were frequent visitors.

Nadine’s independence over the last fifteen years was greatly facilitated by the support of the Mullis Senior Center and its volunteers.  She would like to be remembered through donations in her name to the Transportation Program, San Juan Senior Services, PO Box 951, Friday Harbor, WA 98250.

Graveside services will be held at the San Juan Valley Cemetery, Saturday, August 2nd at 2:00pm.  All of Nadine’s friends are welcome.

The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.
Eleanor Roosevelt

Did you know about the Tribal Journey? Some of them are at Roche Harbor (right, in this picture by Jayne Hemmerich). Tribes from as far away as Oregon and Alaska have canoed down and up the coasts in traditional canoes to meet in
Cowhichan four days from now. Here's more.

July 25, 2008

A return to the roots.....
Liz Illg tells me this is something you don't want to miss....

There was some great chanting and drumming at Roche Harbor last night. The Canoe Families will be here for another day of stories, canoe paddling and talking about why they are making the journey.

These are the folks whose ancestors paddled our Senic Byway a long time ago, they are recreating history and sharing their knowledge with anyone who wants to drop by. If you feel shy, just bring a plate of cookies and say "thanks for coming". They leave Saturday morning after a cultural protocol which I understand shouldn't be missed.

BTW, there were some locals who were honored with a circle around the harbor. Stephanie Buffum and Brent Snow were instrumental in making this a successful event for everyone. Here's more.

Relay for Life - it's tonight!
The 2008 Relay for Life gets underway at the high school tonight at 5:30pm...drop by & visit when you get a chance - they're going all night till 11am tomorrow. To how you how much fun it can be, here are some photos from the last two that I took:

2006 | 2007

New owner down at Cannery Landing....
I hear Kurt & Robin VanHyning bought Dockside Treasures about three weeks ago...Valerie & her daughters Elizabeth & Ally have left him a heck of a deal with the good job they've done with the store for years. Way to go!

Patagonia Seattle Awards $4,000 to The Whale Museum in their ‘Voice Your
Choice’ Campaign
This is a note I got from Jenny at the Whale Museum:

In an unusual case of allowing corporate giving to be guided by community input, the Seattle store of outdoor clothing manufacturer Patagonia requested that customers visiting the store between June 10th – July 19th to vote for one of five a local environmental organization; the one gathering the most votes to receive a $4,000 grant.

The Whale Museum took a strong lead during their in-store demonstration day, gathering 107 votes in just 4 hours. They sustained their stride ahead of the other groups just enough to be the community’s choice.

The grants reception, during which the Whale Museum was awarded their $4,000 grant, was held at the Patagonia Seattle store on July 20th, 2008. The four other participating groups: Seattle Audubon (, Center for Environmental Law & Policy (CELP) (, Interra (, and Stewardship Partners ( were in attendance to support and congratulate the Whale Museum.

To learn more about this year’s “Voice Your Choice” awardee, the Whale Museum visit the museum in Friday Harbor, WA or the website (

Time to get running.....
Island Rec tells me:

The 31st year of the Friday Harbor 8.8k Loop run takes place Saturday August 16, 2008!  Registration fees received before August 1st is $10 for kids 12 and under and $15 for racers 13 and older and include the race, awards, entry into the fair and a commemorative tee shirt. After August 1st fees increase by $5. Registration forms are available from Island Rec at 580 Guard Street and, San Juan Fitness at 435 Argyle, and      

Runner check-in and day of registrations takes place in the Wells Fargo Parking Lot, located on the corner of Argyle and Spring Street from 7:30-9am.   The race starts promptly at 9:15am in front of Friday Harbor Drug.  

Proceeds from this event benefit Island Rec’s youth scholarship program and San Juan Fitness swim scholarship program.

Call Island Rec at 378-4953 for more information.

July 24, 2008

That's Abby and Cody at last night's Music on the Lawn enjoying Miles from Chicago as the sun went down. They're getting married next year (congrats, you guys!) and had a great time at the music last night.

Even more coffee than you can imagine....
You'll remember yesterday (click here for yesterday, and click here for tomorrow) I remarked that there were more coffee places on the island than we knew what to do with...but I didn't catch them all. From the mailbag:

• Okay...I'm sorry if I'm one of many who told you this. But, how could you forget the best cappucino in town at the Market Chef? And, if you're lucky, they might offer you an affogato! Thanks, Ian!

• Hi Ian: I'm not sure if this counts as a coffee shop, but Cousin Vinnie's has excellent Italian coffee. Of course, I'm biased, being Italian. Ciao! Joy

And, about that naked mermaid.....
You saw the mermaid in yesterday's Update, and I'd like to thank all of you guys who wrote in.

Yes, I DO know her phone number, and I'm not giving it to you.

The Pratt boys on the town....
It was cool to see recently graduated (FHHS '08) Theo Pratt and his bro Elwyn (right) at Music on the Lawn last night - Theo is playing Sebastian in Island Stage Left's The Tempest this year, hence to hair do. I told him I really wanted to see the show this week & planned to come tonight, and Theo graciously told me there was no Thursday show this week. I appreciate him saving me the trip.

$1K....helps the local economy....
I saw the Lottery woman at the Little Store posting a thing that says Robert Sandwith won $1000. Then she offered to sell me a ticket, but I was outa cash. Bad move, probably. Congrats, Mr. Sandwith!

He's back!
Paul Hayden was the pastor at the Presbyterian Church 20 years ago, and he'll be back to preach this Sunday, according to the current pastor, Joe Bettridge. Here's more, from the San Juan Island Community Events Calendar.

Stirring things up....
As you may or may not know, our friends in Victoria release their sewage into the Strait (straight in), where the natural action of decomposing takes care of breaking it all down. They have plans for a billion dollar waste water treatment plant in 2016, but in the meantime the issue is being discussed in the media, including this op-ed piece in the Times Colonist.

Heard that Jimmie Jones passed away earlier this week at 89....if there was anyone who embodied the spirit of the island, it was him. Here's the writeup from the Journal.

All about kayaks....
My friend Charles Richardson says this will be fascinating - next Tuesday at the Labs in this event sponsored by the University of Washington Friday Harbor Labs and San Juan Nature Institute:

Baidarka: The Kayak as a Frame of Mind
Tuesday July 29—7:00 PM
Friday Harbor Labs Commons

The oldest known continuously-inhabited sites in North America are in the Aleutian Islands, where sea mammal hunters have lived for as many as 10,000 years. The Aleut kayak, or baidarka as it was named by the Russians who arrived in the 18th century, was the basis of the near-pelagic adaptation. But the reasons for its evolutionary success are still not entirely understood.

George Dyson will discuss what we know of the Aleut kayak's form and function, its adaptation by Russian-American colonists, and George's own reconstruction of these vessels in modern times.

George Dyson is a historian of technology, author of Baidarka, Project Orion, and Darwin Among the Machines, and the subject of Kenneth Brower's book, The Starship and the Canoe. Dyson was the founder of Dyson, Baidarka & Company, a designer of Aleut-style skin kayaks, and is credited with the revival of the baidarka style of kayak.

Sponsored by
University of Washington Friday Harbor Labs
San Juan Nature Institute

Free and open to the public. Join us!

Mountain climbing - don't miss this!
Laura at Griffin Bay Books tells me this event (at the Library, by the way) is gonna be great:

Griffin Bay Bookstore is delighted to host John Harlin III at the San Juan Public Library on Sunday, July 27 at 7pm.  Harlin is the editor of the American Alpine Journal and contributing editor for Backpacker.  A former cohost of PBS's Anyplace Wild, Harlin is a frequent contributor to numerous publications, including Outside magazine.  Since the publication of his book The Eiger Obsession:  Facing the Mountain that Killed My Father, released with the companion IMAX film The Alps in March 2007, Harlin has traveled the world thrilling audiences with his visual presentation and enthusiasm for his passions of climbing and family.  His book and accompanying DVD will both be available for signing and purchase.

In the 1960s an American named John Harlin II changed the face of Alpine climbing. Gutsy and gorgeous -- he was known as "the blond god" -- Harlin successfully summitted some of the most treacherous mountains in Europe.  But it was the north face of the Eiger that became Harlin's obsession. Living with his wife and two children in Leysin, Switzerland, where the couple founded an international school that is still running, Harlin spent countless hours planning to climb, waiting to climb, and attempting to climb the massive vertical face. It was the Eiger direct -- the direttissima -- with which John Harlin was particularly obsessed. He wanted to be the first to complete it, and everyone in the Alpine world knew it.

John Harlin III was nine years old when his father made another attempt on a direct ascent of the notorious Eiger.  Harlin had put together a terrific team, and, despite unending storms, he was poised for the summit dash. It was the moment he had long waited for. When Harlin's rope broke, 2,000 feet from the summit, he plummeted 4,000 feet to his death. In the shadow of tragedy, young John Harlin III came of age possessed with the very same passion for risk that drove his father.  But he had also promised his mother, a beautiful and brilliant young widow, that he would not be an Alpine climber.

Harlin moved from Europe to America and in the late 1960's and early 1970's Harlin lived on San Juan Island and attended Friday Harbor High School.  He writes fondly of his island experiences in his book.  With an insatiable sense of wanderlust, he reveled in downhill skiing and rock-climbing. For years he successfully denied the clarion call of the mountain that killed his father. But in 2005, John Harlin could resist no longer. With his nine-year-old daughter, Siena -- his very age at the time of his father's death -- and with an IMAX Theatre filmmaking crew watching, Harlin set off to slay the Eiger.  This is an unforgettable story about fathers and sons, climbers and mountains, and dreamers who dare to challenge the earth.

For more information, please call Griffin Bay Bookstore at 378-5511 or log onto  San Juan Public Library is located at 1010 Guard Street.  Griffin Bay Bookstore is located at 155 Spring Street, across the street from King’s Market.

Tons of stuff happening this weekend!
A good place to start is with the Community Theatre - here's what Jan sent in (including this photo that Susan Mazzarella sent me of Diana Stepita at the 4th of July parade promoting the Community Theatre's production of "The Death and Life of Sneaky Fitch") :

Howdy, there, SJCT Friends!

We got us two nights a coming up that will take you back in time to the good ol’ pioneer days.  One will make you reflect on life during the Civil War and the Island’s Pig War. The other will make you chuckle and laugh at the hilarious antics of the old west.

First, THIS Friday, July 25 at 8:00 p.m., our good friend Mike Vouri returns for his second appearance this season with his popular and longest running SJCT play, The Life and Times of General George E. Pickett.  With music from the legendary Michael Cohen, this one-man drama has charmed audiences here for 13 years. It is also “Encampment” at English Camp, so tickets will move fast. Tickets are $12 for adults, $6 for student reserved, with $5 student RUSH on any available tickets at the door.

Then THIS Saturday, July 26 at 8:00 p.m., it’s a sneak preview of the old west farce The Death and Life of Sneaky Fitch by James L. Rosenberg and directed by Jane Maxwell Campbell. This is one funny old west comedy, complete with lots of gun-slingin’, saloon girls, and crazy characters. We’re recommendin’ this for gals and fellas 8 years and older.  The play opens July 31 and also runs August 1, 2, 3, 7, 8, & 9. Tickets are $15 for adults, $8 for student reserved, with $5 student RUSH an hour before curtain.

The box office is open today through Friday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. and on Saturday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., plus one hour before each show. You may also call 378-3210 during those times to buy your tickets.

See you at the Theatre, pardners!

Firefighter of the Month - it's Tom!
Carolyn sent over this cool interview with this month's featured firefighter - Tom:

Full name: Thomas S. Odegard

Where were you born? Amherst, Mass.

Familial status (married/kids/pets):
Married - daughter - wildlife

Name a favorite food/music/team/show etc.?
Menudo/David Byrne & Prokofiev/Berkeley Poetry Slam/
No TV/ Original Hitchiker's Guide to the Galaxy/ Strangelove/Tampopo/poets: Wallace Stevens, Hart Crane, Shakespeare, John Rowe, Authors: Jeanette Winterson

What kind of hobbies do you have?
Reading - writing and reading prose/poetry - “paying attention”

What is your day job? What is the most interesting job you've held?
Keeping up with the homestead and my wife Connie.
Jack of all trades - building our own house and Firefighting

What brought you to SJI?
A 30' Fisher Sailboat and the will to cruise the NW.

What area do you live in?
Center - North end of the False Bay Watershed - South End of Egg Lake Rd

What do you like about living on SJI?
Having lots to do - sharing love and mutual respect with friends, firefighters and islanders.

What do you find is the hardest part about living on SJI?
Small ponds: literally and figuratively

What comes to mind when you hear “Only on SJI…”?
“That's good for the island.” “under the radar”, and ferry schedules as a reading comprehension test.

What is your position/job within the department?
Capt. Retired - Tender/pump driver operator - Water Boss - Traffic Control

When and why did you join the fire department?
1992 - went in to get a burn permit - to meet people

What do you like best about the department?
“Real” time adventure with real people who unstintingly give 100%

What has been your most exciting event since joining the department?
North Bend with Joaquin Hubbard - Haymakers, Henry Island Wildfire, Town Grocery Fire
What did you find the hardest Firefighting skill to learn?
Balancing incoming supply with multiple out-going hose streams.

Do you have other volunteer activities?
Green Party - Poetry at the Library -

Describe your ideal day off: Staying in bed late, Reading, writing, and talking with time out for cutting and stacking firewood, hot tubbing, sweat lodging or taking a long hot shower.

What are you most proud of? Accepting love and passing it on without strings.

What would you like on your epitaph?
It is about love… meanwhile keep an eye on the light!

Song for the day -
It's the Moody Blues again, with a song that I played a lot when I was dj'ing weddings - "I Know You're Out There Somewhere"...see what you think (It's OK to turn it up & dance):

Ian Byington sings
The information here is simply stuff we here at By Design think is important around Friday Harbor or on San Juan Island.

Some of it is news, some of it is old news, and all are just things we wanted to mention, with most of it about the things that make living here great.

There will be more next week, if anything happens.

Ian Byington

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