Seasons change slowly here in the Pacific Northwest.
Not like in Alaska where it’s hot and never dark in summer. There flowers erupt sequentially in frantic bursts: wild irises, bluebells, wild roses, delphiniums and finally fireweed, together with sudden swarms of monarch butterflies and dragonflies. And always, always mosquitoes constantly pursued by darting iridescent swallows. The fireweed turns orange and red and fall lasts a few days. Then, lickety-split, it’s winter; it’s cold and white and always dark.
Here on the island day by day there is a gradual change. Days get shorter, cooler, it rains a little more often, birds, except for jays, are quieter, blackberries ripen and fall, rose hips turn from yellow to red and the flowers make seeds by the thousands.
The reefnetters are still fishing. Out in Legoe Bay their long boats are lined up facing the incoming tide flow, buoys stretching the long nets between them. The fishermen stand watch on tall platforms waiting to see schools of migrating salmon swim into the artificial reef. This way of fishing is derived from an ancient native practice, in which the boats and nets were made of cedar. Lummi Island is one of the few places where reefnetting is still done.
Reefnetting is said to result in fish of higher quality because there is less trauma incurred in catching them, and thus less of the bitter tasting lactic acid released into their muscle. In addition, protected or unwanted species can be separated and released without harm, so it is considered to be an ecologically sound method.
Reefnetting is all that is left of commercial fishing here on the island. At the turn of the 20th century there were two busy canneries, and the population of the island was about 2000. The canneries are gone.
Summer may be slipping away slowly, but not so the ferry. A ten minute walk from Legoe Bay, where we can watch the fishermen, is the ferry dock. All of a sudden, tomorrow, our faithful car ferry, the Whatcom Chief, will chug off to Seattle for her annual overhaul, and we will have only a passenger ferry for the next 3 weeks.
Dry dock is a special time on the island. The tourists vanish. There is hardly any traffic. That’s because there’s no place to go. Jerry and I are lucky to live within walking distance of the ferry dock, so we won’t have to hunt for a parking place there. Parking near the ferry dock on the mainland is at a premium now. Everyone who needs to go to town during the next 3 weeks keeps a car in the parking lot on the mainland.
The last days before dry dock are a rush of getting all the heavy stuff one needs for 3 weeks stored up. Delivery trucks are all over the place, and the construction people frantically lay in supplies. And we all plan the best time to get a car on the other side. There are always those who wait till the last minute, and they are sorry.
This is how the ferry line looked at noon today when the ferry crew were having lunch.
We like drydock. We have parties. We meet neighbors we haven’t seen for ages on the foot ferry. Everything slows down.
Last year when the ferry came back the trim was painted black and yellow. The big question is: what color will they paint it this year?