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San Juan Islands, Washington State, United States
A society formed in 2009 for the purpose of collecting, preserving, celebrating, and disseminating the maritime history of the San Juan Islands and northern Puget Sound area. Check this log for tales from out-of-print publications as well as from members and friends. There are circa 500, often long entries, on a broad range of maritime topics; there are search aids at the bottom of the log. Please ask for permission to use any photo posted on this site. Thank you.

13 April 2011

Boats We Knew ❖ ❖ ❖ ❖ WINDENTIDE by L.W. North

WINDENTIDE,
by boatbuilder Chet North and Averil North, 
Deer Harbor, WA. 1953
Photo courtesy of  L. W. North. 
The little boat bucked and plunged, spray flying half it's length, almost to the exposed engine that poured it's heart out -- all four-H.P. At the end of one hundred-feet of line, two sizable logs wallowed. Together, they likely would make one thousand board feet of lumber -- $20 from the sawmill. A good days wages for a working person in that period. The determined skipper crammed into the corner with cold hands on the steering lever to see the lights at home five miles away -- two and a half hours away. Dark was settling in, but the wind was diminishing, tide would be changing soon, so now was the time to practice her role for Thursday night when once more she would be Noble Grand of her lodge and repeat the secret pledges of that organization. As the little engine hammered away in front of her producing some heat and comfort she spoke into the wind as if the audience was before her. When she was finished, she hugged herself to keep warm and thought of the new dress she would sew on Wednesday for the occasion. She never doubted her ability as a seamstress. At sixteen, a perpetual "A" student, she had to quit school to help the family survive the deepening depression. 
       At home her husband Chet, glanced up from his work bench and stared out into the dark. He could hear the laboring of the little engine. He knew she was out there reasonably safe, and he had a good tow. The long desire for both of them stood on its keel behind him, the 39-ft WINDENTIDE, a trawler of their own design, built for the ocean and living aboard. The pair were dedicated to this vessels creation.
      The night calm in the harbor made sliding alongside the dock easy; Chet took care of securing the tow and the boat, while the tugboat captain backed up to the wood stove in the shop and savored the warmth.
      Averil, considered tall in her own family, barely reached 5' 3" and was discouraged if the scales implied that she was over one hundred and twenty pounds. Graceful, warm, and chatty at a ladies tea, clever at handling her boat, just like the guys. Her two favorite tools were a long handled peeve and a ten-ton jack she used to convince logs on a beach that they should return to the sea.
      "Beachcomber" was not a negative term for the people of the islands. There is a little of that in all of us. The islands are located where tide and winds tended to push escaped logs from B.C. around the sound. The logs left to grind on the rocks, clog navigation, or just waste away on a beach; it seems practical that the week-end salvagers have a purpose that often resulted in earning extra money. Most of the early homes were built with saltwater-treated material. Chet and Averil's house was built in 1924 by an old fisherman using fishtrap planks that were discarded at the end of the season and today that part of the house still stands firmly defying nature.
      When the WINDENTIDE was ready to venture forth to the big water, Averil was aboard with her pots, pans, and pie plates at the ready. The crew consisted of Chet, Averil, a Springer Spaniel, and the son she had written every week of the four years he spent away with the US Navy. No one more anxious for the adventure than the lady with the little tugboat.
      Most all sailors eventually succumb to seasickness at one time or another to recover as healthy as before. This was not to be Averil's good fortune. The first wave on the river bar and she was on the bunk in colors that did not match her lipstick. For the twelve to fifteen hours at sea, none of the "proven" remedies were any relief until the boat was back inside the river again. Then she was up fixing a meal and baking a pie for the next day.
      For two days the boat was held up in the river at La Push while a storm built mountains out of waves, but on the third day the water looked better and the fishermen emptied the docks. Just past the outside buoy the WINDENTIDE rose up on a wave, stood still as the wave disappeared under half the hull and dropped more than twelve feet on her port cheek, with an explosion of solid water back to the cabin. The stove oven contained a cherry pie fresh baked. The door came open and the pie took leave of it's confinement and landed on the floor upside-down after circling the cabin for a time. The stalwart mate, too sick to really care, scooped up the mess with the dust pan, turned it over and reentered it in the oven. Fishermen after more than twelve hours at sea will eat anything.
Written by L. Wayne North.

Troller WINDENTIDE with Chet & Averil, lived at the little port of Deer Harbor, Orcas Island, WA. Their vessel is depicted on the 2010 Orcas Historical Museum Maritime Quilt featured here .
Their son L. Wayne North and his wife were the second generation in the same house with those fishtrap planks. In 2013 they sold and moved to Skagit County. 

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