Tag Archives: Roche Harbor

Trouble in Paradise

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photo credit: Paul Mayer

BY KIMBERLY MAYER

You have to know, the island is my peaceful place, and Roche Harbor, my happy place on island. We found it first by boat, and later, we picked up our lives in the city and moved there.

Waiters informed us Roche Harbor had a microclimate of its own where the sun shines nearly every day, and now we know that to be true. It’s where everyone looks good in that light. Where children don’t whine, and babies don’t cry. Where children are capable kayakers or driving around in dinghies. And young ones are entertained with a net and a bucket on the docks until bedtime. A life jacket over their pajamas, rather than a computer in hand.

Where the Our Lady of Good Voyage chapel rings out beloved songs in bells. It’s where a parade of pets goes by daily: Goldens and Golden Doodles, Spaniels, Pugs and Poodles. A dog on nearly every boat, and the dogs look good in the light too. Hell, it looks like a Ralph Lauren ad.

We purchased a home to be near that light. And every day we circle through Roche Harbor in the course of our walks to pick up our mail, get groceries, stroll through the gardens, and generally enjoy the facilities, a cup of coffee or a bite to eat.

All that shattered for us last week at the dog park in Roche Harbor. How often it’s empty, I notice every time I cut through the woods. Normally we’d have no use for it, but our daughter was visiting and her Brittany pup needs to run and knows no bounds—so we chose the safety of a dog park. In we went accompanied with our other daughter’s Yellow Lab and our dog “Coco,” a small American Eskimo/poodle mix. The Brittany and Yellow Lab were fetching balls while Coco stood around not knowing what to do with herself, when the gate swung open and in walked a woman with a 90lb steel gray pit bull, off-leash. Her dog didn’t hesitate to lunge toward Coco. It was clearly in kill mode.

It is difficult to recount all that happened in the space of 15 or 20 endless seconds. The pit bull lunging, singularly focused. Coco yelping and leaping about to save herself, finally landing in my husband’s arms. Him covered with her blood. It took two people to hold back the pit bull. The mouthful of Coco’s fur in his jaws. Meanwhile in the woman’s automobile, another large aggressive dog, going nuts.

“Coco’s a lucky dog,” our vet said, pointing out punctures near her lungs. Any deeper… Incisor marks all over her left foreleg, right rear leg, belly, and rear end. They are called “weeping wounds.” Bandaged initially, uncovered now for better healing.  Coco sat still all day, with little thirst or hunger, having to be carried outside to a patch of grass for the first few days. Attended day and night by four people and two gentle, caring dogs, the Yellow Lab and Brittany who watched over her.

My question is: why would anyone have such aggressive animals? And why do they bring them around? It’s hard to believe this woman lives here, on island, near Roche Harbor as do I. She obviously doesn’t see things in the same light. The light that looks good on everyone and everything, the waiters, the food, children, babies, kayaks, dinghies, boats, and dogs. She can’t possibly see it.

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Oh, Canada!

Grand Waltz at Homfray Lodge

By KIMBERLY MAYER

As I write, we have gone to sea. All our cares stay on land when we go. It works every time. The sea is its own reality. This summer has been characterized by inordinate heat, drought, and wildfires in the Pacific Northwest. Living on a boat surrounded by water has a calming effect.

We are retracing much of last year’s voyage to Desolation Sound with my sister and brother-in- law.

At 6am sharp, we shoved off from Roche Harbor, Washington. Cleared customs on South Pender Island, never knowing what fruit they are going to confiscate, this time it was eggs. Twenty eggs. We could stay and hard boil them and take them with us, but we wanted to make it in time for passing through Dodd Narrows during slack tide. No time to boil eggs.

In Nanaimo the first night, a busted water hose was discovered and repaired. But when we reached Lund, the last stop before Desolation Sound, something really went wrong. This has happened before on other extended boating trips, so we knew what it was: a migraine. I had O.D.’ed on light in BC Canada yet again.

It was a day I have nearly lost recollection of, but lying in the darkened bunk I had nothing but empathy for my father who at 92 has undergone more medical procedures than humanly possible. I felt inside his body. And the hauntingly beautiful sound of the bagpiper who plays an ode to every sunset at Lund, bringing the sun down with her pipes. That mournful sound became a part of me. But when I heard my brother-in-law’s voice on deck, outside my bunk–clearly it was another South African– “You’ve come,” I cried. “You found us!”

In my delirium I lost a whole day. And wound up that night in the ER for dehydration. Luckily we were near Powell River where there is a hospital, before we had slipped into Desolation Sound where there would be none.

That night, a young physician and nurse were on duty. Both were refugees from the exorbitant cost of living in Vancouver and had come to Powell River to live. Arriving just two months ago, the nurse has already purchased a home she adores, just steps from the beach, “a house for $250,000 that would have cost 4 million in Vancouever.” The physician, a waterfront lot upon which he will build. She’s got her kayak coming and is looking to add a small sailboat to her fleet, “just to explore around.” The physician loves to fish. They will do fine.

With each sweet drip of saline solution in my arm, I was coming alive and began recommending books to the nurse. Books with a sense of place to her new homeland: A Tale for the Time Being, by Ruth Ozeki and The Curve of Time, by Muriel Wylie Blanchet. She wrote them both down and promised to read them. And I promised to wear darker sunglasses. Stay under the Tilley’s hat my sister gave me, and not substitute it for a straw hat no matter how warm. Stay beneath the bimini on the boat, and drink water water water from dawn to dusk.

Map of Desolation

Now onward and upward to Desolation Sound

Canadians know this well, we move through people’s lives and can act pleasant and say thanks where thanks is due. It was the physician, the nurse and taxi cab driver that night for me. But when we can recommend books that we think will mean as much to them, we have really given them something. Reading by the fire in the darkness of her house in the woods at night, she will look up and thank me. I just know it. Readers are a tribe; we recognize each other.

The physician? Naw, he’s a fisherman

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Roche Harbor, Roche Harbor

It had to have been a dark day in January when a “Save the Date” card arrived for the Grand Banks Rendezvous, May 10-13, at Roche Harbor Marina on San Juan Island in the Puget Sound. I’m sure I looked at the photograph like I was looking at another life, long ago and far away. Nevertheless I posted the card on the kitchen wall, and last week we packed up, grabbed a good friend and our dog and headed out.

First I should explain that my husband has had two expressions of mid-life crisis that I know of, one is a silver Boxster Porsche, and the other, a 36’ Grand Banks trawler. One is speedy and the other, slow. Boating has so capsized our world, we are beginning to dream of living on the boat in all the summer months of our retirement. Cares are left on land and water becomes an elixir. But that’s another story. The one I want to tell now is of the annual Grand Banks Rendezvous, which is fast becoming more fun than college reunions. More fun than anything.

People from all over–Aspen, Philadelphia, and somewhere in Texas, as well as some of our own neighbors in Seattle— keep their boats in the Puget Sound. Grand Banks owners tend to be former sailors who have moved onto something that is a little less work. This sets everyone apart from other stinkpot owners, or so we like to think. Grand Banks slip in and out as quietly as kayaks. And while many other boats are designed to be condos at sea, there is something so outdoorsy and friendly about the Grand Banks. Like a row of front porches tied up to the dock.

That’s the nostalgic quality of both the boat and Roche Harbor, which has to be one of my favorite spots on planet earth. For me Roche Harbor is reminiscent of The Bandbox, a big music hall on a small lake in my childhood in Connecticut. For my husband, it’s the Catalina Casino building, where he summered. Everyone has someplace. It’s sunny, people look healthy, and I think it’s the light. Have I mentioned the whole subculture of children and dogs? Papa may be in an engine class, mama busy mastering navigation, but children are endlessly entertained with a simple fishing pole or just a bucket and a net. In all my times out there, I have yet to hear a baby cry, a child whine, or an adult have a cross word. Everyone is away from cell phones, ipads and computers, and our dogs get a taste of life off-leash.

All my bright colored clothes come out here, I stow them on the boat, all the reds, whites and blues–saving the khakis, blacks, browns, and grays for Seattle. But that down pouring of light, nostalgia, and particular patriotism—with a call to colors at every sunset, saluting the British, Canadian, and American flags and proudly playing all anthems. Here it feels almost like international waters, and it’s rather fun for an old counter-culture girl like me.

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