The salmon are running, the Ferry isn’t

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.

Reefnetters watching for salmon

Reefnetters watching for salmon

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.

reeling in the net

reeling in the net


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.

remains of the old cannery

remains of the old cannery

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 Whatcom Chief

The Whatcom Chief

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.

the ferry line the day before dry dock

the ferry line the day before dry dock

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?

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18 Responses to The salmon are running, the Ferry isn’t

  1. Marja-Leena says:

    Ah, Island Life in the Pacific Northwest! Thanks for the lesson on reefnetting, I didn’t know of it though I imagine it is, or was, also done further north in our common Salish Sea. Your description of Alaska summers remind me on our years living in northwest BC, even Winnipeg, with all those mosquitoes! Isn’t it nice to not have many of them here? Enjoy the quiet and the parties!

  2. Jan says:

    Anne, this is simply beautiful. You make me want to visit your island during the transition from summer to fall.

    Growing up in Texas, there was never much in the way of seasons – it is hot 8 months of the year, not so hot 3 months, and a bit chilly for one (January). There’s a great deal I don’t like about northeast Ohio, but the change of seasons is not one of them. It is endlessly fascinating to me, this gradual change from one season to the next.

  3. wisewebwoman says:

    Oh Anne:
    You remind me so much of life here. People so in tune with the seasons and the sea. Trouting (never call it ‘fishing’!)is happening here until Sept 15 and the berry season nearly over. I’m thinking of making my rose-hip jam again this year, huge pile of hips the sides of the roads.
    Reefnetting – that’s a new one on me.
    We are so blessed!

  4. dale says:

    🙂 Lovely. A little inconvenience can be a glorious thing: it makes me wonder why Americans are so desperate to avoid it!

  5. Celeste Maia says:

    I have always, always wanted to come to your part of the world. One of these years I will. And now I know if I ever come it will be during dry dock. I did not know about reefnetting, I wonder if they do it off the cost in Portugal? I will have to find out.
    It sounds charming there.
    I also wanted to tell you that there is a prize for you in my blog. I hope you will enjoy it. Celeste

  6. Annie says:

    Love your title today!

    Isn’t September wonderful? It’s great here too. Thanks for the photos and description of reefnetting, new to me too!

  7. Old Woman says:

    Thanks to all for your interest. I have added a link on reefnetting that I meant to include but forgot. It shows Riley Stark, our local innkeeper, out reefnetting.

    Celeste, I hereby invite you (as well as my other blog friends) to visit. I have a comfortable (not fancy) little guest apartment where you are most welcome to stay. I would love to see you!

  8. Hattie says:

    I know what you mean about all the strategies for getting by on an island. We have no ferry service to and from the Big Island of Hawaii but are dependent on air travel. Why this has happened to us is a long story! One good side of this is that we do socialize quite a bit with our neighbors. And we depend a lot on local events for our entertainment.
    However, here I am in Seattle, experiencing the changeable seasonal transition weather and nursing a flu bug which I caught on the plane!
    I love your writing and the nice pix!

  9. Dick says:

    Fascinating, Anne. How various are the different places from which we blog.

  10. hhb says:

    Thankyou for this. I think I would like the 3 weeks without the car ferry. I would enjoy making sure I had all I required for a peaceful three weeks. Meeting friends on the foot ferry sounds perfect.

  11. Mage B says:

    What a wonderously adventurous life you lead. It’s all in the viewing, and I find ferry’s wonderful things. Thank you so much for this.

  12. rosie says:

    yep, sometimes it is exciting being cut off. I would feel better about it if I knew it was just for three weeks…

  13. Taina says:

    I have been catching up with your posts and I have to say, I love the way you write down your world! Your ability to take those 26 letters of the English language and make magic from them is unique! Your honesty and willingness to lay yourself bare to the world is refreshing. And it’s done with such a warm gentle intimacy, none of that superficial reality show navel-gazing baring of one’s self that fills much of tv-land and the blogosphere. I love your photos. Your life couldn’t be more idyllic…nor different than mine in many ways. Your part of the world looks like a small haven tucked away. Your daily routine sounds heavenly! Much blessings to you.

  14. This reminds me of the Queen Charlotte Islands (Haida Gwaii) where I visited with my family a couple of years ago. We have good friends there. I wish it wasn’t so far. I especially like the photo of the old cannery with the bush growing up around it.

  15. Pondside says:

    Thank you for your visit this morning. Curiousity, of course, got the better of me and I’ve spent the last hour reading your posts. What a treat!
    I wish all our ferries would go into drydock up here. It would be nice to count on a period of enforced quiet – separateness – to spend more time where we live, on quiet roads, in less-crowded restaurants. The tourists are a constant and necessary part of life here, but for a couple of weeks we could do without them and then be ready to welcome them back.

  16. Darlene says:

    Somehow the blues in your photos are bluer than in any one elses. I think it might be the lack of pollution, or else you have an excellent camera. They are great pics and I have a better understanding of your neck of the woods from seeing them.

    Your lifestyle sounds so relaxed and enjoyable. I think we could all use some island living once in awhile.

    I wonder what replaced the canneries. They are gone from John Steinbeck’s “Cannery Row” in Monterrey, California. They are now office complexes.

  17. Sophia says:

    What a wonderful insight into the island lifestyle. We take so many things for granted, and you have shown how what some may perceive as an inconvenience can also be a blessing. Great post.

  18. annie says:

    Oh, it sounds like such a wonderful pace for life. I would like that.

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