Orcas Island of WA State Welcomes Me Home

August 19th (one Month ago I landed on Orcas Island and I’m finally home!)

Buoys... These simplest of foam, line and paint can help fishermen find their crab sets & fish nets; they also help with flotation markers to boundary lines... but most of all they're an indicator I’ve arrived home safely after 13,550+ miles running around too far off reaches of this hemisphere. Orcas has had a graceful hold on my heart since I first came to visit for a weekend in Spring of 89’, shortly thereafter I made the official move out to Orcas in June 89’ to begin the adventure of travel and new experiences in my mid-twenties..

More than a few decades have past, a few miles have ticked away and a few of those close to me have gone…. Throughout it all, Orcas has remained consistent, not in occupants, not in ease of getting here but in a welcoming to those who call her home. A fickle rock for sure, as she can make or break a person, she can welcome with a hug or spit you out like a bad oyster. The island doesn’t play favorites as the islanders will range from the homesteader families that have been here four generations to the newest big money type that find her charming enough to buy up a parcel here and there, and over there. Orcas welcomed me in 89-93’ back again in 04-06’ and now again…. This time with such a different level of appreciation and love for what the island is that the smile on my face rarely stops..  So nice to be home amongst people I’ve known for more that awhile… history and new adventures… Did I mention… I was Home..

Mariachi? Bands of the Islands Music scene are aplenty, perhaps not the Spanish flavor as much as the Indie / Folk / Festival scene. Though this band member was not to be missed as I boarded the ferry for the first time in 12 years… The ferry line itself is a menagerie of people, all clamoring, stressing and impatiently waiting to get on a ferry boat… to go out and CHILL for 4.5 days on the islands…. The anxiousness, the impatience, the hustling for positioning to reach a calming place… is truly beyond me. Perhaps it’s the shift of ‘Quality over Quantity’ path I’m on. Perhaps it’s the perspective of ‘No tomorrows ever promised’ path I’m on…. Perhaps it’s a different ‘pill of common sense’ I’ve swallowed that causes me to look differently upon certain things, but there has been a shift over these 120 days (+/-) of travel that seems to fit my world so much better than the previous path I was on… Ok, that was a digression if ever there was one… Music…. Yeah, that’s what I was writing about.. (more on that later)

Minions? I think when driving as much as I have, the subconscious mind begins to play tricks and presents a normal, very routine scene, in an entirely different perspective. Jus saying…. Minions and road crews…. Do you ever see them in the same spot at the same time…? ;-)

Buck Bay Shellfish Farm is where I landed by happenstance, truly. I was slated to arrive and stay with another friend, though a last minute family / life moment caused that door to be gently closed. The welcoming I received on July 22nd. hasn’t waned one bit. The farm is very much a working farm, the crop is seafood and the volume that swims (see what I did there… lol) through this business is amazing. We raise clams and oysters, and when I say raise…. Seedlings of each arrive, millions of small, very little pebble sized crustaceans, that are then planted in the bay, nurtured, rotated, sorted, harvested, sorted again, brought to market… all over the course of 12-24 months before that seedling is presentable. Who knew right? The bay / farm has been in the family four generations and has provided a home / and business for each generation to one level or another over the decades.

Approximately 10 years ago, Ms. Toni came into Mark’s life and the two partnered on making this world of shellfish / seafood a flourishing business. When you speak of a conjoined couple, focused on business and growing a relationship, these two epitomize the model of power couple. Where the other MIGHT falter in one aspect, the other fills in and together it’s a symphonic dance of both possessing braun, business brilliance and family unlike anything I’ve ever witnessed. Ms. Toni’s motherly love for all who cross over the little bay leading into the farm is simple…’no one is special, you all just belong’…. While Mark’s physical stature is only matched by his tireless work ethic, the union has made this BBSF the success that it is.

When you search Buck Bay Shellfish Farm  you’ll see that Yelp BBSF and Trip Advisor BBSF  love this place almost as much as those of us who work here. It’s constantly #1 & #2 spots of ‘things to do’ on this archipelago oasis. Add into the shellfish from our bay, the freshness of seafood continues with; Dungeness Crab, Spot Prawns, King Salmon from regional waters and Cook Inlet Sockeye Salmon, Halibut from Alaskan fisheries. We also have Maine Lobster, Viet Nam Tiger Prawns, Scallops and King Crab as well….. Did I mention I’m loving the seafood fare on my plate at the end of most nights… the commute out to the fishing grounds is always a great boat ride, riddled with sunsets and eagles. This particular shot, you’ll see the totes behind me, 1200 lbs of fresh / live Dungeness crabs.

The farmhands / store front staff are as diverse as the island allows…. Cavan, a red headed character if ever there was one, (seen in the group pic with Toni, Mark & I) a musician / vocalist in the band Ridge Summit is by far one of the most colorful farmhands onsite. Nomadic like me, only to a fine art of seasonal oasis, Vale / Hidden Valley during the months that end in ‘R’, for some epic snow days and the coastal scene during the Spring / Summer seasons. Doing everything from processing fish here to maintenance / cook on the mountain, working for those days to enjoy the local activities and chasing smiles, which for him, come very easily.

The others can fill out a full demographic gamut; Charlie, a 17 yr. old with a business mind and athleticism that will serve her quite well in the forward looking years. Tree, another young mind that will one day control board rooms or lobby for change amongst this next generations diverse population. Will & Leah, make up a wonderful married duo that work harder than any of us and it shows in their results, Leah being a dependable front of the house staffer and Will a constant workhorse in the processing of the little fishies… Julie, who just left & Ashley are two of Ms. Toni’s friends here for a short spell that brighten the days with sarcasm and niceties given to the rest of us as if siblings separated at birth. JJ is a chef that lends her talents and wit to any day. And other would be staffers, including myself, all double as prep chefs, making fresh Halibut Ceviche’, Red Wine and Citrus Mignonette, slicing lemons, shucking oysters and slinging cleaned crabs all day.

Show up on any given Sunday, with a local’s invitation and the gathering of islanders is once again as welcoming as a weekly family reunion. Whether the fare consists of seafood linguini, sliced meats and cheeses or just a cold beer or glass of wine, the authenticity of these people is a benchmark that I now get to use as a scale of quality mixed with humility going forward in my world.

Mermaids & Flora & Fauna…. Need I say more? Everywhere I turn the flora & fauna give way to another smile factor on this island… no busy freeways, no construction delays, no high-rises obstructing the views, no locking of cars or staying out certain neighborhoods… idyllic doesn’t come close to filling in the adjectives for Orcas…  

Friends & Family, as I mentioned before, the welcoming I’ve received since being back has been so warming, so authentic causing me to count each day as blessed to be encircled with people I’ve known for 25+ years. Old friends / brothers from another mother, as well as their kids that I once played favorite uncle to their 3, 4, 5 year old naiveté and now on their own, successfully navigating lives that would make any uncle be proud.. To see Tod and reconnect there as well as Ursula (Tod’s Youngest) and Corrine (the daughter of Stuart, another Brother from another mother) has truly filled my heart with people I love.

Ms. Susie is another of those amazing hearted people that I’m blessed to call a friend. An artisan from 25 years back, her works travel the creative routes of dancing in a true belly dance styling,  intricate wood carvings and detailed painting of art pieces for high-end clientele and extend to her true love and vocational passion; Island Bound Books. Her mastery of leather and handmade buttons create heirloom pieces that I’ve owned for 13 years and turn to regularly. Her scratch crushed almond pancakes aggressively surrounded by fresh raspberries will definitely get a few ‘to-do’ items accomplished for a dear friend. Once again, I’m blessed…

LOOOOOK!!!!! A unicorn… (made you look?)

The island does have multiple bays, inlets, vistas and elevations. None more beautiful than any other; From an Artsy Crescent Beach just outside of town, littered with driftwood and sea-kayaks to the high summit views of Mt. Constitution topping off at only 2400’ she does bring a surrounding view of this archipelago. A great meeting space for other travels and trekkers as my day off trip around the island met up with varied travelers from far off places, all eager to enjoy all that Orcas has to offer. One of my favorite pics was with a group of Young bicyclists who were nice enough to pose with this traveler and sharing a glimpse of the tomorrow’s leaders and great minds.

All this traveling and traipsing does make me hungry, although it maybe the hardest days of work I’ve experienced in decades. So the end of any day is capped around 8pm with a meal that was made for a king. Fresh? Smoked? Grilled? No need to predict the next days meal, as each night is impromptu and open to all who are within an ear’s shot of the dinner bell.

Uni….. Unnnnicorn….. IT’S A UNICORN AGAIN… ;-}

Not more flora? Hopefully no one minds….

The island & I have history for sure, from the hosting of family over the years, visiting and touring the islands’ view spots, like where Mom, Dad & I (now both gone) sat out at West Beach to watch the ebb & flow together. So I needed, dare I say, I wanted to re-live that moment, leaving space on the bench for Dad’s longing gaze out onto the waters horizon and Momma’s sun-drenched smile, never to be duplicated. Miss them both….

Another moment I get to hold near & dear is the day I spent with a few of my younger brother’s kids, spreading his ashes over the edge of that beautiful wooden bridge aka Doug's Bridge, on Cascade lake in Moran St. Park on the island. Those sorrowful moments are now replaced with the opportunity to live each day fuller than the previous, knowing once again…    ‘No tomorrow’s ever promised’

My theoretical rolodex is getting fuller by the week, as this island, shellfish farm and my travels have pleasantly stumbled across many quality people now Friends from Near & Far... Malibu Canyon calls out for a visit, the attractive chaos of LA, the coastal beaches of Brazil even the niche neighborhoods of Seattle all call for a visit that will be placed on the ‘must visit’ list.

North / South / East or West….. wherever it is…. I’ll now take me with me and there I’ll be.   A bit more comfortable in that thought than I was on May 1st when I let loose a traveling bug…

BTW…. Attended the 10th annual Doe Bay & Festivals of Music... Saw some AMAZING artists, with some truly amazing people along my side, far too in-depth of an outing to try to relay here, just do yourself a favor and listen to the intimacies of music from Kaylee Cole & Joshiah Johnson & Sassy Black and to those who were there, thank you for sharing the evening…

Ciao for now…