Posted by: Blue Lou Logan | July 3, 2012

Lake Union Wooden Boat Festival 2012


The Lavengro says, “Welcome back.”

Day One, Saturday, 6/30:  My Happy Place.  It all feels comfortable and familiar.  Eldon walks around and officiates as always, and Aislinn gives me a big hug as I check in.  As Pirate Lou starts making the rounds, it’s as much about saying “Good to see you again” with the coffee drinkers aboard the Orion as it is about hooking kids for story time.  I’m convinced by Dan the man that the One Reel relationship may not be so bad.  If it means not only more people knowing about (and donating to) the CWB but also a possible vision for the 4th of July that completely encircles Lake Union, how can one argue?  Even the boats are old friends:  Adventuress is the biggest, Opus is the cutest, and Silva Bans is the one I want to commandeer.  At noon, I maintain my rep for being first patron at the beer garden, the manager from Jillian’s grinning and saying, “Back again so soon?”

Silva Bans, David Smith’s 35′ gaff sloop

Story time kicks off well.  My “first mate” is a boy pressed from a table by the food vendors wielding a plastic katana.  Next in command is a girl from the Silva Bans, I think the daughter of the owner/captain.  I don’t have to use my notebook all the way through Blackbeard and Bonny and Read.  A question from a parent about privateers leads me into John Paul Jones, and I finally have to look something up.  Then the threatening clouds finally do their worst.  As kids and adults alike run for cover, I swiftly wrap up.  Afterwards, back at the beer garden, a short pint turns into a long chat with a couple originally from the Sunset District of San Francisco.  They had seen my show the year before and told me I was very good at “my craft.”  The Bay Area connection leads me to tell of my long, strange trip from Berkeley to Seattle via Fairbanks and Grover Beach.  Maritime history feels more and more like a path, not just a trip.  Or is the trip the path?

hazy morning

Day Two, Sunday, 7/1:  Gentle Acceleration.  The clouds out the window at home do not look encouraging…and then it starts to rain.  By the time I get to the CWB, it’s eased off to mist, but Gas Works on the other end of the lake is little more than grey haze.  Yet the weather makes for a gentle, quiet morning.  After a cup of coffee, I start roaming. I run into Joe Follansbee.  Many of the visiting boats are slow to wake, and when the crews come up eyes are rubbed and groans are uttered.  The mist lets up, the people come, and I gain my audience.  The manager of the beer garden, after a long chat about local breweries, agrees they need a darker ale.

why, yes, they are

The second-day groove is good for story time.  I’m running smoother.  The crowd is larger and more enthusiastic.  The only problem is that damned John Paul Jones.  One, when one of the parents asks about privateering during the Revolutionary War, how can I not go there?  But, curse yer hide Cap’n Jones, my third story is inevitably the max of the kids’ attention span, and so I still don’t get to my carefully prepared presentation on the Lafittes in commemoration of the War of 1812.  Two, did my brain actually fail me, so that I had to open up the notebook just to say, “I have not yet begun to fight!”…which Jones probably never even said?!

pretend fish in a real boat

I did get out on the water.  Zanne had left me a voicemail saying that Cap’n Dan and his daughter Beatrice were on their way.  I caught up with them near the model boat pond, and although they came into story time about half way through Bonny and Read, not only was Beatrice’s energy flagging but also I was still too much of a photo op to be a good tour guide.  So I retired to the beer garden and ran into Tim, in charge of the Admirable for the day and with whom I’d crewed on that boat before.  I got the invitation, dropped (most of) my weapons in the Boat House, and went aboard.  The problem with ‘nicer’ weather:  less wind.  Tim kept track of all the shifts and said by the time we were done that we’d had wind out of all four cardinal directions in a single, short cruise.  Nevertheless, between Tim and myself, we had a nice and very kid-friendly sail.  He had the boys take turns on the tiller and also had a small net that the kids could let out over the side as if they were gillnetting salmon like in the boat’s olden days a century ago on Bristol Bay.  I had a few turns on the sheet, wisecracked, and looked…picturesque.  A fine day.

Admirable downwinds

Day Three, Monday, 7/2:  Kids’ Day.  The weekend has passed.  There are fewer people but proportionally more kids.  Grandparents have taken their watch in the early days of summer vacation.  A whole troop of green sweatshirts from a daycare place have invaded.  So when I have barely arrived at the CWB, eight kids come screaming over a low knoll at me like some Highland charge.  Even the girl from the Silva Bans is on the run.  So many potential conscripts.  And so it is.  I’m not the only loud one as I take the model boat tent, and my pied-pirate train as I make my way towards the Foss stretches way back.  There are perhaps fifty children on the deck when I start, plus parents; people have to squeeze in.  The stories roll.  Attention spans may run short–another tale, another third gone–but I have the necessary fan girl.  AND when I put it to a vote, the hardcore audience chooses Lafitte over Jones!  Then, up above, the last moment isn’t mine:  A girl ends the show singing the pirate song she’d memorized for a play at school.  Cool.

Meanwhile…  One, there’s a taco bar at HQ for the volunteers.  Two, the Festival gets some unexpected publicity when a Honey Bucket truck ignores the signs, drives onto the sidewalk fountain, falls through the paving tiles, and makes matters worse by trying to back up.  About noon, just as the crowd builds, the truck is hoisted up and out by a giant crane.  Up to the great dump in the sky.

still life for pirate

Back to the beer garden.  The guy selling the tickets chats homebrewing. In spite of a slow afternoon, the manager–Tom–remains perpetually upbeat.  I achieve a moment of true chill:  no prep, no chat, no rain.  Then Tim comes to the pub again.  We drink together before he goes out yet again on the Admirable.  I am scheduled on my dear Betsy D fifteen minutes later, not as crew but simply to ride.  The kids are too excited to have a pirate aboard, so I can’t help but perform.  The skipper is more than happy to chase the heavier, less maneuverable Admirable.  Tim and I exchange insults, but they bear off.  A few minutes later, we come up on their starboard quarter, and they are at first totally unaware.  I creep to the bow, crouch low, put my left arm on the gunwale, and aim my Murdoch pistol at Tim’s back.  He has no idea, but his mate does.  “We surrender the booty!” he yells.  They come around and the mate tosses across maybe ten yards of water their Ziplock full of candy, which I catch effortlessly as I holster my pistol.  “I have satisfaction.  Fare thee well, then!” I call back.  The kids cheer, and I have a watermelon Jolly Rancher.  Piracy on a public sail!!  Then the wind fails.  The skipper calls “Out sweeps,” and we put in our oars just to try to make it back to the dock.  The kids help.  This is possibly my favorite hour at the CWB ever.

oars on starboard

oars on port

Three days of joy thus far.  Tomorrow I must earn my regular wage, even as the Festival goes on.  But on Wednesday…

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