Sep 222012

During dry dock on Lummi Island we get our annual chance to experience life on an island with limited access. Some love it; others hate it.  Everyone, however, does some planning for the event, even if it is to leave. Leaving is an important “tell.” It probably means you really don’t like living on an island and the inconvenience that island living entails. Leaving is a valid strategy.

If one is staying, there’s a big shopping run and gas cans are filled. Decisions have to be made about transportation. Park a car on the other side? Share a car on the mainland? Put a car at the marina in Bellingham or Blaine? Take the bus? Or, perhaps plan to hunker down for the three weeks that the car ferry is getting her annual once over and paint job.

Utility companies station a rig on this side: a PSE truck in case of power outages, Century Link for the phones, the cable company to keep TV and internet going, a garbage truck and a sheriff’s car. The county makes plans for a passenger ferry and passenger docks on both sides. During the three weeks of dry dock we prove every year that it is possible to live with limited access. There’s a shuttle bus, there’s ride sharing. There’s car sharing on the other side. There are more people taking the bus.

We always stay here for the three weeks. It is pleasant bordering on idyllic. The weather is good, the traffic is light, there’s lots of biking and walking. This year we tried a run in the boat to Fairhaven to drop a couple people off. I was thankful that it was a beautiful day with calm water because certain people have made me extremely fearful of that stretch between Portage Island and Eliza Island at the entrance to Bellingham Bay. I have yet to see it at it’s worst but am convinced that it can resemble the Bermuda Triangle where boats of all size disappear never to be seen again. We were lucky and survived our passage. Made it from Isle Aire Beach to the visitor dock in Fairhaven in slightly under 40 minutes, dropped our passengers and their stuff and returned in the same amount of time.

This was my first trip by water from Bellingham to the Island. I was struck by the beauty of the route with the mountain dead ahead and wild Portage Island on the right (or starboard, if you will).

Lummi is quite the impressive island when you approach along the length of it with a notable wilderness on the south end, the jarring gash in the landscape that is the quarry, then interesting homes along the water as the island levels out and seems to become civilized.

Feng shui, according to Wikipedia translates as “wind-water” and is a short hand translation of this longer quote: “Qi rides the wind and scatters, but is retained when encountering water.”

I’m not sure that feng shui can be applied to approaching a location like an island but I think I will try to do it anyway by suggesting that the feng shui of the approach via the Rez and Gooseberry Pt. is not as satisfying as the approach from Bellingham via water.

It is entirely possible that at some point in the future we may not be able to enjoy the virtual bridge to the mainland that we do now with car ferry service every thirty minutes all day long. There are many things that could impact ferry service, the economy, County finances, more difficulties with the Lummis, and gasoline prices to name but a few. It is conceivable to me that we could end up in a permanent condition resembling dry dock with passenger ferry service and limited car ferry service. Very few people want to concede that this could happen. Yet it could. Without regular car ferry service we could face a life without petroleum fueled automobiles or, more likely, limited use of petro-fueled equipment.

Interesting that many communities have decided to go without cars now even though fuel is still readily available. In the next couple of blog posts I will try to imagine what a gasoline fueled car free island might look like, what the pluses and minuses might be and how we could manage the change.


  14 Responses to “Drydock”

  1. Can’t wait for the next blog. Really want to hear your take on it. Although I don’t need to I am looking for ways to go without petroleum. I have manage to cut down but not completely. I always loved dry dock. It was like an announcement that fall was here. Like wise the reef net rigs that seemed to appear overnight in the water practically in my back yard. It made me feel like summer was officially here. I don’t think I would have much of a problem being island bound other than the occasional trip for some supplies or doctors appointments. But people with kids have different needs. I feel the “inconvenience” caused by a lack of a virtual bridge to the mainland would open other opportunities for businesses on the island and a closer knit community.

  2. I vacationed once on a car-less island in Indonesia that had a population of about 400. Foot paths only and a once-a-day foot ferry to the mainland. Life seemed very normal, life was several speeds slower and there was more face-time interaction with people.

    For our island, I’d bet there would naturally be more development of gathering places within a 20 minute walk of population areas. On the north of the island I know several people who regularly walk to the Taproot or BSC to meet with friends.

  3. This dry dock has been a very different but very enjoyable one for me. Not wanting to take up a parking spot on Gooseberry Point, Paul stayed in Redmond for the duration. I am REALLY looking forward to seeing him this Thursday! I took one trip off island for my uncle’s 90th birthday party; using a combination of island shuttle, foot ferry, WTA bus, and Amtrak to get down to Seattle and back. It was easier than I thought it would be; though it took all day. There was a time in my life (not that long ago) that I would not have been willing to spend a whole day traveling just to get from Lummi to Seattle – I was in too big a rush. I am glad to be at a slower point in my life now.

  4. Some people plan their longer vacations for dry dock because late summer is a great time to travel, not because they are particularly ‘twitchy’ about being on island for 3 weeks. Of course, that means they miss some great island time. I personally like dry dock ’cause it’s nice and quiet, plus a very great time to finish up painting, harvesting etc end-of-summer chores. Good conversations on the few passenger ferry trips I make are another dry dock benefit.

  5. Sounds like a perfect place to live if one does not have to go back and forth. I, for one, love the thought of hibernation. I also would love to get around only utilizing public transport and bicycling or walking… When one has a lot to do in a limited amount of time (and one needs to wear clothing that is not appropriate for bicycling, and one’s appearance is important) is that realistic? Someday I will do it. Until then, I shall live on this side and use my car…

  6. Renee, check this out: a blog devoted mostly to nicely dressed Danish women on bikes.

  7. Randy, I think your assessment of our ferry future is right on (passenger ferry, limited vehicle service), And I’ve had a similar experience with people not wanting to hear it. Just seems so clear that we’re moving in that direction, though.

  8. First off, I’m so glad you didn’t get swallowed up in the Portage Triangle. I’ve lost too many friends now trying to make that passage in conditions just like this.
    As the site name implies, getting to self sufficiency is a ‘transition’. I’m not sure who will have the greatest impact on availability of fuel supplies within our outpost, but change we will. How we manage that transition is more under our control.
    Starting with golf carts being legal seems like a small step to take. I would encourage everyone here to email Council member Barbara Brenner to move the regulations along that would allow that before Sheriff Elfo withdraws his support. Neighborhood electric cars can follow, which will prompt some wind/solar charging stations to be erected.
    Baby Steps.

  9. My quick response from Barbara.
    1:31 PM (0 minutes ago)

    to FAbart, JRutan, KMcfadde, NHanson, JLouws, BElfo, me, BBrenner
    Frank, Joe, and Kevin,

    Last year I contacted public works and the sheriff’s office to propose a golf cart ordinance for parts of Whatcom County. My recollection is that both public works and the sheriff’s office would get back to me after they had met to discuss the issue.

    I don’t remember hearing back. I know last year got pretty busy and maybe someone did get back to me. I do remember there were some concerns but would like to further discuss this.

    So I am forwarding the e-mail below with a request that we schedule a discussion in the council public works committee regarding a golf cart ordinance.

    I could put something together if you prefer.

    Thank you for any assistance you can provide.

    Barbara Brenner, Whatcom County Council Member

  10. Thanks Mike. We got no response last year as Barbara noted in her reply. I personally talked to Sheriff Elko about this and will discuss this more in the next blog. Lummi is a natural for golf carts and other Neighborhood Electric Vehicles. It’s a good place to start. On Oct 27 my friend Brad Hippert who used to be president of a NEV company will be on the island and will make a presentation to whoever is interested. More details to follow on Brad’s talk.

  11. A solar and wind charging station at the ferry dock would be a great addition and allow for electric vehicles to charge as the drivers are on the mainland during the day. I notice that the charging station near the airport is almost never used. Although it is probably bigger then we would need, I would think it would get more use on the island then over there.

    Nancy, I also agree with Randy on this and am always curious to see how others see the future of our ferry. What are the reasons that you see moving us in the direction of a passenger ferry and limited car ferry service?

  12. I’ve posted a Survey Monkey on Nextdoor Lummi Is. on Golf Cart Zones.
    Go to Nextdoor and follow the link. It should reveal support for the ordinance.

  13. If a solar and wind charging station were installed at the ferry dock (island side) I would think that it would get a lot of use. There is one near the airport that is almost never used. I wonder if it could be moved to the island? Commuters could have their electric vehicles charging while they are at work. If the ferry did eventually go to Fairhaven an EV charging station could be set up there as well and foot passengers could use EV’s on both sides.

    Nancy: I also agree with Randy on this and I am always curious about what people think the future of the ferry will be. What are the reasons that you think the future of the ferry is going in the direction of a passenger ferry and limited car service?

  14. […] Right now the county could designate Lummi Island as a golf cart zone so that street legal golf carts could be driven on our roads. Using golf carts and other neighborhood electric vehicles would be a great start to saving fuel and reducing the number of automobiles on the road. (A couple of us have made repeated requests to the County Council to look at this with no action so far: note in the comments section of this blog the recent back and forth between Mike Skehan and Barbara Brenner. […]

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