Doing time

Despite 24 days quarantine spent in hotel rooms, the last three months has gone quicker than a line of coke up John Belushi’s nostrils.

Maria and I are at the tail end of another isolation period, this time in a Basingstoke hotel where we, too, are sticking things up our nostrils after flying home for a while from Seattle. To get our freedom back, we had to take covid tests on days two and eight. The first was negative, and we are waiting for the outcome of the second. A negative result will free us from our hotel room on midnight 4th April. I hope that’s the case: we want to see our new grandson and the rest of our family – and we have eye tests and Covid jabs booked for next week.

After our first quarantine in a hotel just outside Seattle, we made a break for freedom and jumped on the light railway to Seattle. I had been there a couple of times for work, but this was the first time for Maria. It’s a very different place than a few year’s ago: Covid has made sure of that. But, the Space Needle was still open. And, despite the city authorities’ efforts to clean the place up, the bubblegum wall below Pike Place Market is back with a vengeance.

Anacortes – it’s a bit deer

This is the sight that greeted us on arrival at our Airbnb in Anacortes:

Well, the tan's gone

Deer in the headlights

According to the neighbour across the road from our rented cottage, deer wander into the street at around the same time each night, expecting to be fed apples by here.  And that proved to be true. Each night, between four and six of them wandered into the street, heading over to her house expecting a Granny Smith or two. 

It’s more countrified than we expected given that it’s a maritime city. On one of our walks in the area around the cottage, we came stumbled into woods, more deer, and a gang of young fellas racing their remote control trucks. Maria and I struck up a conversation with a couple of these guys and found that they each make their trucks, install the remote control bits and spend time enhancing them for their next outing. I thought it was brilliant – better that than spending all their time on Facebook / Insta / Fortnite or whatever. Despite Anacortes being so far up north, they even had a bit of a tan.

For a place that’s more north than the southern tip of Canada, Anacortes is surprisingly warm in February. I don’t mean the strip down to your Y-fronts and jump in the sea warm; body parts would snap off doing that, but it was warm enough to eat out for lunch one day. 

Lugging our luggage

A few days after arriving at the cottage, we received an email telling us that our bags had arrived from Tahiti. So, we drove back to Seattle, stopped to pick up the paperwork from the agent we engaged in helping us out, and took that to the United Cargo office to pick up our stuff. All the luggage just about squeezed into our RAV hire car. 

Then the hard work started.

Meeting Soteria Jamala

Pacific Marine, where our new boat is stored on the hard, is only a mile or so away from the cottage. So, we did what any self-respecting local would do: got in the car and drove there. 

The fact that we handed over a wheelbarrow full of cash to buy sight unseen might lead to judging us as barmy as a pair of bog snorkelers. But, to support our decision, we had two engine surveys, oil analysis of both engines, a rigging survey, a hull survey, and commentary on 800 photographs of any bits with the potential to go wrong. And we knew people who knew the boat when it was in French Polynesia. So, we felt reasonably sure we wouldn’t be confronted by Captain Ron’s Wanderer when we got to the boatyard.

Even so, we felt some trepidation as we trundled along the gravel towards where she is parked. But when we saw her, we weren’t at all disappointed. 

She is in super condition, spectacularly clean, and the interior is as dry as the Atacama desert, thanks to the dehumidifier left humming away in the saloon. And the interior of the boat smells more bouquet than bilge. Credit to the previous owners, they have looked after her. 

And the name… There was nothing wrong with the existing one: Soteria is the goddess of safety and salvation, deliverance, and preservation from harm. Not bad that. But, when pronounced with even a mildly Wirral / Liverpool / Chester accent, it has the same effect on the senses as fingernails scratching down a blackboard.  

We debated a new name for weeks and decided on one created from the first two letters of each of our names and our daughters’ names (fortunately, they share the same first two letters.) The result of that exercise was Jamala, which, serendipitously, also has a meaning – in Swahili: Courtesy, kindness, good manners and beauty. Also, not bad. 

Sleeves up – overalls on

There’s always something to do on a boat, no matter how well-maintained. Our priority was to work through all the surveyors’ recommendations and those of the consultant we engaged in helping us buy the boat.

Apart from anchor chain replacement and strengthening the forward locker floors, most things on our to-do list were either preventative or cosmetic: replacing all the brass light fittings with shiny new stainless steel ones and changing out all the mirrors that looked a little rough around the edges. I replaced most of the jubilee clips on the engine hoses and treated any areas of corrosion or potential corrosion. We also need to get around to replacing the upholstery at some point. But the thief of time was the detailed recording of where everything is stored on the boat.

We know from experience onboard Lady Jane that if you don’t note where things are, they immediately go missing. So, given the huge amount of storage space on an Amel Super Maramu, we knew we had to get an early grip on where things are. Using an app – Home Contents – we carefully catalogued the location of everything we found on the boat and everything we brought onboard. This entailed grubbing around in every locker and box of bits to see what was there. By the time we left to fly back to the UK, we had stored 1,445 items catalogued in 116 locations. And that’s just the start. We haven’t started provisioning yet.

Well, the tan's gone

Large isn’t so large when it’s US large

Well, the tan's gone

Poking around the port cockpit locker

Help from experience

We are very grateful for the help received from some of our fellow Amel Super Maramu owners. We received very some useful hints and tips from some very friendly folks all over the world. More locally, Steve and Liz on their fine boat, Aloha, invited us to Port Townsend to look at how they have arranged their interior. With so much storage space onboard, we have the opposite problem to that on Lady Jane – we can’t decide where to put things. So that visit – and the lunch – was very much appreciated. 

And Port Townsend is a lovely place to visit. It’s a pleasant trip by ferry from Oak Harbor, and on arrival, you will find a small historic town, pretty waterside, and it isn’t a bad place to park your boat.

Break for the border

Anacortes is only 70 miles away from the Canadian border, so we decided to drive up there to take a look. It wasn’t possible to enter Canada because of the Covid-19 restrictions in place, but we could step over the International Boundary between Washington and British Columbia. On this boundary sits the Peace Arch, created in 1921 to commemorate the signing of the Treaty of Ghent in 1814 – the peace treaty that ended the War of 1812 between the United States and the United Kingdom.

Judging by the racket created by a woman on the US side yelling abuse to one of the park employees, however, you’d be right to think the war was still on. “There’s no such thing as a Covid epidemic, you f***ing p**sy!” she yelled through her face mask. After she cleared off, we asked the park employee what that was about. Apparently, she is rather upset about not being allowed into Canada, has been arrested twice, and is usually armed with a loudhailer. I suggest she doesn’t need one. Trinity House has quieter foghorns.

Still, it was a beautiful, almost warm, clear day and great to take a break from cataloguing boat equipment.

Well, the tan's gone

Nutter in the middle

Well, the tan's gone

Peace arch from the US side

A day trip to Bellingham

This didn’t start as a sightseeing trip. We needed to get some new hoses for the boat, and the only place that had it in stock was West Marine in Bellingham. 

This is probably a good time to mention something about the people we have met in this part of the world, as our West Marine experience is a good exemplar of the local attitude. We told the store manager that the Anacortes branch had phoned yesterday about some hose he had in stock, he went to get it, asked how much we wanted, cut it, and gave it to us. No charge. Nada. Nothing. We have experienced nothing but friendliness here – and these folks have a sense of humour. It’s been a home from home, and we can understand why people live with the Pacific weather’s idiosyncrasies to live here.

After completing our boat spares shopping at LFS Marine (where we did need to pay), we walked around Bellingham’s waterfront area. It’s a work in progress, but it is well done. The street art is stunning, and they have created art installations from the old paper mill machinery here. 

Well, the tan's gone

Moggy mural

Well, the tan's gone

Out to the sound with kayakers in the distance

Well, the tan's gone

New and old paper mill equipment

Well, the tan's gone

Old paper mill art

Tulip Festival

Skagit (the county in which Anacortes is located) is home to a large tulip festival in April. Maria and I hoped that the tulips might arrive in time before we had to leave for Seattle to catch our flights to England. But it didn’t happen. The daffodils were out in abundance, though. The photograph below is of one of several fields like this near La Conner.

Well, the tan's gone

Wordsworth would be proud.

La Conner is a beautiful town, and one of the most noticeable building is Nasty Jacks antiques. That’s a fun place to escape from the cold. There’s something for everyone there. We passed on the commode chair and bought some very non-antique tea towels.

And that’s it. We are still waiting for that second Covid test result to see if we can escape the hotel at midnight tonight. Our comedy timing is that it’s Easter weekend, so there’s a chance that the test is stuck in the post. We shall see.