by boatbuilder Chet North and Averil North,
Deer Harbor, WA. 1953
Photo courtesy of L. W. North.
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, son of Chet and Averil North.
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.