Feb 252010

Hat Island


Some people have self-sufficiency forced on them. Some apparently choose it.

Hat Island, aka Gedney Island, is located between Everett and Whidbey. Back in the fifties our church group used to make an annual pilgrimage to the Hat. We walked completely around the island, our chaperones trying to keep us out of trouble. Wasn’t much there in the fifties. In the sixties development started. Now, from my mom’s house in Everett I can see many homes on Hat. My mother likes to take a ride down to the waterfront and on summer weekends the Hat Island Express, their 90 person passenger ferry, loads up the weekenders. Those folks have walk-on ferry travel down to an art. They have dollies that hold up to four coolers, big luggage boxes on wheels and golf bags galore. Yes, Hat Island has a golf course. It’s a nine holer but they are quite proud of it and in these difficult financial times are trying to turn it into a profit center by allowing groups of up to forty to come over on Wednesdays for tournaments. They also lease their passenger ferry for party cruises and try to make it a profit center as well.

Hat Island also is fortunate enough to have a marina which they are about to expand. In addition to the passenger ferry they own a WWII vintage landing craft, a dump truck and a backhoe. They have a reverse osmosis water treatment plant.

They don’t have to deal much with the county except to get permits because the owners of Hat Island have to pay for everything themselves. They have to pay for the ferry, the landing craft, the dump truck, the golf course, the marina, the RO treatment plant, the island office, a couple of employees and the roads. It’s all on them. Plus, lots of people put in beaucoup volunteer time.
Is it all happy time on Hat Island? Nope. It’s just like any other place. You’ve got your gruntled and your disgruntled. (To gruntle is to utter little grunts of satisfaction). You’ve got your liberals and conservatives. You’ve got your yin and your yang.
There is a board of directors who tries to muddle through. Some like what they do; others don’t.

From the 2010 Hat Island survey:

“I am tired of you all ruling the island for your own benefit.  It is obvious and disgusting.  Back off and let private property rights abide with Washington State rules.”

“The board is doing an excellent job especially in the current conditions.  Just maintaining afloat today can be a difficult task.  Security, safety and the preservation of our environment and wildlife are most important in my opinion.”

Hat Island isn’t a perfect case study for Lummi Island because there are many differences. It’s smaller, no significant number of full timers, no work commuters. But it’s an interesting case study because it shows that it’s possible for people to live on an island without the support of government. It’s painful, but they pay for all of it themselves.

Somehow, even as part-timers they’ve managed, except for food production, to create a very self-sufficient island.

Their monthly newsletters make for interesting reading.
Here’s January’s.


There are 960 platted lots on Hat Island; about 600 are really buildable
There are 268 homes
They have 520 owners (one individual owns 285 lots, some own 5 or 6; most own one)
There are about 45 full time year round residents.
About 50% of the owners are local (Snohomish, Pierce, King Counties) and weekend on Hat The other 50% are snowbirds to either AZ or HI


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