Monday, April 13, 2020


The virus entered the town on March 12th.  Unseen, unfelt.  Silent circulation within the community was later to send public health officials into dramatic action with dire consequences.  Six days later, on March 18th, the news reported the first confirmed case.  Two days later another one.  The outbreak had begun in the Pacific Northwest bringing widespread panic.

But this isn’t current day nor is this the Covid 19 virus.  This was a known entity and a vaccine had been developed.  Quarantine protocols were known to all.  This is a true story that took place 158 years ago.

1862.  Victoria in what later was to be come British Columbia.  Four years since the gold rush on the Fraser River, Fort Victoria was on the verge of becoming a ‘city’.  A mixture of wild west with a British heritage, Victoria growing and on the move.  Later that same year the ‘Female Emigration Society in London’ was successful in bringing 62 marriageable young women to the predominantly male society aboard the SS Tynemouth. That year also marked the first gas lights on the streets of Victoria as well as first public baths. 

Enlightenment and egalitarianism were not hallmarks of 1862.  Civil war was raging in the US and the prevailing opinion on natives was certainly not one of openness and acceptance.  Wealth created by growth and opportunity in this still young town becoming a city spread unevenly with English bred Caucasians enjoying the center of it while Natives in various encampments around the outskirts of Victoria getting the scraps.  Natives from various tribes and villages up the coast to Juneau had temporary camps around the more prosperous center of town.

The arrival of the steamer ‘Brother Jonathon’ from San Francisco started the outbreak.  Built in 1851, the 220 foot paddle wheel steamer had been owned by Cornelius Vanderbilt, and was presently owned by the California Steam Navigation Company when it steamed into Victoria on March 12, 1862.  This was the same ship that 3 years earlier delivered the news to Portland that President Buchanan had signed the bill officially recognizing Oregon statehood.  But on this day the ship arrived with about 350 passengers, mostly seeking a recently announced gold strike along the Salmon river, along with an invisible, yet far more sinister, cargo.

Smallpox, like the Covid 19 virus, is highly contagious prior to presentation of symptoms.  Completely unaware, a person can go about their normal activities unknowingly infecting their associates, their family and strangers through moisture droplets of breath.  Once the incubation period for smallpox is over, the symptoms arrive suddenly.  Severe chills, high fever, loss of appetite followed by the characteristic lesions which eventually kill the skin.  If the person survives the initial symptoms, they may succumb later to secondary infections. The fatality rate is between 30 and 75%, depending on the strain of the virus and the one introduced into Victoria in 1862 was particularly virulent.

Smallpox was with us as humans for at least the last 2,000 years.  It was a well-known and feared disease.  Between 1796 and the mid 1800’s progress on vaccinations and regulations surrounding their use were steadily advancing.  Between 1843 and 1855 Massachusetts then three other states mandated smallpox vaccination.  While only recently eradicated, the human experience with the virus was well documented by the mid 1800’s.

By 1862, the medical professionals in Victoria knew how to deal with smallpox through vaccination, inoculation or isolation to prevent spread.  Isolation can come in two forms.  Either bring the infected persons together in a state of quarantine and insulate them from the outside population or sequester the healthy population together and expel the infected persons to outlying areas.  Or combinations of those three general techniques.   Which brings us back to what the government faced in 1862.

Predictably fear and panic spread.  Just as now, rumors and misinformation mixed with substantive fact.  The danger was real and newspaper articles of the day fanned the flames of public opinion.  There was some vaccine available, but not at times not enough, so inoculation, the less safe practice of taking virus  from a diseased person and injecting it into the superficial layers of the skin of a healthy person, was more generally used.  Both methods were not 100% effective, and both had risks.

On March 26, just 2 weeks after the arrival of the steamer, the Daily British Colonist advocated for the removal of all natives to protect the health of the colonists and warned of great danger amidst government inaction.    Attitudes along these lines had been prevalent well prior to the arrival of the virus, but the arrival of the virus gave new push to old sentiments.

For the next two weeks, the citizens of Victoria were urged to get vaccinated and by April 1st, roughly half of the residents of Victoria were either vaccinated or inoculated per the Daily British Colonist.

Throughout April of that year, the smallpox virus spread quietly through the Native population around Victoria.  Unseen at first, the toll worsened each week as the government wrestled with what to do, with English whites getting the benefit of vaccination and medical care.  By the end of April, a strident press increased their demands for government action to remove the increasingly sickly and decimated native encampments. 

Throughout this the tribes local to Victoria and the Puget Sound area appeared to receive vaccinations.  The tribes from the north camped around Victoria did not.  Encampments from at least 5 Northern tribes were suffering horribly at the end of April and the government actions lead to the inescapable conclusion there was far more concern with the risk to the white population and little if any regard for the welfare of the natives.

With Natives dying at an accelerating rate, authorities began expelling Natives, first with demands, then finally, on June 11th, at gunpoint.  The gunboat ‘Forward’ took a 15 day trip up to Fort Rupert with 26 canoes in two from various tribes.  What was left of the native population was expelled north.  Along with the smallpox virus.  The suffering and devastation that followed was horrific.

Robert T Boyd, in his work The Coming of the Spirit of Pestilence: Introduced Infectious Diseases and Population Decline among Northwest Coast Indians, 1774-1874, estimated that some 30,000 aboriginal peoples lived between Victoria and Juneau in 1862.  Over the course of that winter, 1862/63, roughly half would perish to the ravages of smallpox.  The rate varied amongst the tribes with some populations being cut by two thirds. 

I’ve read of other accounts with much higher death rates.  What is known is clear.  The virus was introduced to Victoria.  This was a known virus with known remedies.  Infected natives from a variety of tribes were removed at gunpoint with predictable end result.

There are vast differences between smallpox and COVID-19, but similarities as well.   Ultimately history will judge how we dealt with this new virus and the values we employed to fight it.  History will judge our collective actions, whether on the front line as health workers, people getting needed product to market, or those of us sheltering in place.  History will have the final word.  The cautionary tale of history should trigger thoughtfulness and long range thinking in how to deal with this new virus.

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

January Kayak to Blake

We had originally planned to take ‘Cambria’ over to Blake.  42 feet long, two staterooms, two heads, a large salon with a Dickerson Antarctic diesel heater that bathes the entire boat with delicious heat.  Between that and a covered cockpit, Cambria is made for winter cruising.  Perfect for the 5th annual Sloop Tavern Yacht Club January Blake island cruise. 

Except for the pesky raw water pump which had been ordered, but hadn’t yet arrived.  Cambria was disabled until it was replaced.  

Leigh and I both independently came up with the idea to kayak over.   The party was too good to miss.  Great people, great location and that party seems to kick off the cruising year for us.    The tandem is a virtual station wagon and the weather looked ok for paddling Saturday and Sunday with a wind event sandwiched between the paddling times. 

Steady rain and steady wind would have deterred us, but we could deal with a mix of weather and as it turned out, the weather as a bit better than our expectations.

What’s so special about this particular cruise?  The people.  This isn’t your fair weather cruise crowd.  Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but this particular group of people year after year are experienced, interesting, and the conversations around the fire are entertaining and illuminating.

Saturday morning was a case in point.  Over coffee an interesting discussion revolved around war movies, world war I and II.  A few of us had seen ‘1917’ and the  movies touched discussed were Gallipoli, They shall not grow old,  Dunkirk, Midway, among others.  Informed views discussed over coffee and a fire.  Guys and gals, and a mix of generations contributed to what I found was a fascinating discussion.  The weekend was full of discussions, reacquainting with old friends, making new acquaintances, just a wonderful time.

Overall the kayak camping worked well.  The only real failure came in the morning after we had gone to the shelter to make a fire and crank up coffee.  Wind gusts increased and finally the tent partially collapsed.  Had that happened at night with the rain, it would have been a different story. 

Our learning with the kayak continues and I need to give thought to a navigation set up so I can better compensate for leeway.  


Thursday, December 19, 2019


We applied to Seventy48. Within a few minutes were approved to race.  The race is a human powered, non-supported race from Tacoma to Port Townsend.  The race website, with all the details, is here.

We have a plan heavily influenced by my experience at last year’s finish line.  I didn’t see the first ones to finish, but watched from around 8am Saturday morning on.  What I saw that morning were heroic efforts, pained faces, and variants of “I’ll never do that again” (many of whom, according to family and friends, said exactly the same thing after they finished last year).  As they day wore on, the smiles increased.  Laughter.  Clearly the later arrivals had more fun than the earlier arrivals.

We won’t finish first. We won’t finish in the top half of finishers.   We’ll finish Sunday mid morning, weather willing.  Just in time for the ruckus.  But if smiles are on our faces, it’ll be a personal victory.

Our boat is a Pygmy Osprey Double.  Wooden, stitch and glue, built by a craftsman in Portland who really knew what he was doing.  It was, and is, a well loved boat.

Training will commence shortly.

Sunday, October 20, 2019

T@B Trailer Weekend

The rain turned steady beating on the roof as I glanced at the cards in my hand.  I had played a two eyed jack scoring one sequence, Leigh was on the verge of tying up the game but I had just drawn a one eye jack allowing me to ruin her moment and win the game.  Though she protested otherwise, had the tables been turned, Leigh would have done the same thing.

The sound of the Skagit river flowing 70 feet away slowly gave way to the drum beat of rain.  Here we were on a dark and damp mid October night playing a game of cards in complete comfort in our rented T@B trailer.  The furnace kept the trailer toasty and we had just heated up curry chicken on the stove, sipping a nice napa cab while playing cards.

For those unfamiliar with T@B trailers, they are a teardrop shaped 2 wheeled trailer.  Small by trailer standards, but large by tear drop standards they offer comforts well above a tent, but well shy of larger home like trailers.  You are reminded you are still camping, but fairly comfortably.  The model we had rented had an inside galley consisting of a sink, running water (cold only, no hot water) and a 2 burner stove.  No oven, no microwave.  The dinette folds down to make a large (huge) bed.   It sleeps only 2, although 4 extraordinary friendly people could probably sleep on what amounts to a huge king bed.

Two people can stand in the galley, but if they move around a bit, bumping into each other ensues.  It’s a small, tight space.  Adequate, but marginally so by modern standards.

Neither Leigh nor I have a history of camping with a trailer.  This was a first for both of us and an experiment.  Would we like it?

Leigh had found the trailer on ‘RV share’, an RV rental site.  With the recent addition of a chevy Tahoe, we had the tow vehicle equation covered.

Checkout for the trailer was simple – drive to the owners house, get checkout on the systems, (it doesn’t have many), hook up and drive away.  The Tahoe is capable of towing a much larger trailer – when driving you can barely sense you are towing something, but prudence dictates a more conservative approach to following distances and driving style.

Leigh had scoped out several different locations which roughly mimicked the compass – North, South, East or West and we landed on the North Cascades highway pretty much at the last minute, driving away with the trailer. 

About 2 hours after leaving the Seattle area, we drove through an RV camp.  No trees, lots of big RV’s, hookups at every site and a nice camp guest ready to check us in.  The vibe just wasn’t our style.  Smiling, but departing quickly, we drove east on the North Cascades Highway.  About 25 minutes later, we drove through a camp ground where we had tent camped before. The Goodell camp ground off the Skagit river.   Open year around and at this time of the year, free.  Water had been turned off and there were no electrical hook ups.  Perfect. 

It was Saturday afternoon and the campground was nearly full, but there was a small site right on the river that hadn’t been taken.  With the small trailer, backing in was a breeze. 

As we settled in, Leigh’s nose would occasionally wrinkle as she occasionally got a whiff of ‘something dead’.   A quick sniff test around the camp site wasn’t conclusive and we went about the quick task of leveling the trailer and getting a happy hour ready.  A little over a year ago on a late summer’s eve we had dragged our chairs to the rivers edge watching a few swallows dart and weave above the water.  More and more swallows appeared as night approached until we realized they weren’t swallows. The air was thick with bats.

Our happy hour view - no one around
On this evening we didn’t see any bats, but as we dragged our chairs down the water I was looking for a larger mammal I had seen as I was getting water about an hour earlier.   A bear.  And that dead smell Leigh had caught a whiff of at our campsite?   Much stronger to the point of occasionally overpowering at the river’s edge.  Dead salmon.  Hundreds of them.  Spawning season on the Skagit.

We had happy hour on the banks of the Skagit, quietly reflecting on the salmon.  Some were still alive, giving it their last, a few more were jumping, but scores and scores lined the shore slowly decaying and offering themselves as food source the gulls, crows and perhaps some unseen bears.   Sad, sobering and majestic.  A life cycle I’ve read about since I was a kid, and have seen in more urban settings, but never in the wild.  This was about as close to seeing this annual ritual in the wild as I’ve ever witnessed.

The following morning, we were up for a hike.  Leigh had read about the Diablo Lake trail,  which required driving over the Diablo lake Dam.  Water level to the right, a nearly 400 foot drop on the left.  Single track.  Not much traffic, but if 2 cars meet, one is going to have to back up. 

Our trip across was mercifully uneventful. 

Fall colors abound as the Diablo Lake Trail began.  We walked by the impressive North Cascades Learning Center.  A place to check out occasionally as they offer interesting classes.  The architecture was impressive and it looked both expensive and temporarily abandoned.  It was, after all, the end of the season.

Gaining elevation the vegetation slowly changed from lowland coastal to approaching alpine.  Up up up.  Easy on this day for Leigh, I was struggling a little trying to keep up.

The views down are pretty good.  Shy of jaw dropping, but decent.  I’m probably becoming or have become a view snob.  We are so lucky here in the northwest to have great views and they really need to be stunning to set themselves apart from our everyday views – which are usually excellent.

The Diablo ferry was running down on the reservoir some 1500 feet below us and it gave thought to kayaking the lake sometime.  Ross lake is more popular, but Diablo has 3 boat in camping areas and that would be a fun Spring or summer time pursuit.  The water looked amazing.

After the hike we were back at the campsite and uncharacteristically had a fire.  A camp fire is nice, but archaic viewed from a more modern ethic.  We never have fires backpacking.   Camp stove only.  Even at established sites during summer, we generally refrain.  But here we were on a cold October evening.  Rain was threatening and a fire seemed pitch perfect.  It was.

Then the rain started in earnest and we went inside the trailer and turned up the furnace.  And played sequence.  Did I mention at the outset that I won?

Thoughts on a trailer.

We learned a few things.  First, that a trailer is rather fun, especially in the off season.  Summer is for backpacking and getting out there, but getting older, camping in a damp tent in mid October has lost its appeal.  Not that it had much to begin with. 

The trailer makes life comfortable.  At the RV show we saw a variety of levels of comfort.  From ‘better than a tent’ to ‘better than any house I’ve been in’.   It’s all a matter of degrees.  Each added foot in length, each added feature, each added system comes with increased expense, maintenance, complexity, and power requirements.  The list of nooks and crannies you can camp in decreases with each additional foot.  But the comfort!  Each added foot brings creature comforts inviting you to get out more – in terms of getting the trailer out more, but stay in more as in ‘stay in side the trailer’ once you are there.  At what point do you bugger up the word ‘camping’ and have a mobile second home?

We decided we need a few things inside a trailer for primarily shoulder season and winter camping.  An inside galley and an inside bathroom.  You can get smaller T@Bs with both those features and that trailer is fully adequate, but storage and space are just too tight for us. 

There are other trailers.  The ‘E Pro’ caught our attention.   Seemingly well built, light and small but with everything we thought we needed.   Plus a little space for storage.  All within 19 feet.  The interior was functional.  And depressingly devoid of charm.

That’s the thing T@B trailers have.  They are well built and they have charm.  Back in 2017 a new model came out, the T@B 400.  It’s on a larger footprint than the normal T@B’s but retains the shape and ‘cute factor’.  It has a small dinette and separately a full made up bed.  A small on board galley and a bathroom.  With running water.  Big enough to be comfortable and have space for storage.  Small enough to remind you you’re still camping.

I suspect we’ll be hunting for one….  

Monday, August 19, 2019


Last February at the Roanoke I was engaged in a conversation with someone I met more than a half century ago.    A high school friend fondly recalled a canoe trip he took as a teenager around Long Island. I had never heard of that Long Island.   I had only heard of the other Long Island.  The one with lots of people and that distinct accent.   This Long Island was closer and far less inhabited.

He had taken a weeklong trip around Long Island and clearly the trip had been a good one.  Ours would be far less adventurous.  The weekend plans were in a state of flux until Thursday night when we decided to take an inaugural overnighter in our newly acquired double kayak.

The kayak is an Osprey double, designed by John Lockwood, Pygmy kayaks.  It’s a design I’ve seen for many years and the thought of building one often crossed my mind but those ideas always crashed on the reef of reality.  There has never been enough time or space to dedicate to building a 20 foot kayak.

Fast forward to a couple of months ago.  We’re not getting any younger and after Leigh and I went down to the start of seventy48 (the human powered race from Tacoma to Port Townsend), the impetus to get a double kayak ratcheted up.  So I started looking at craigslist.  And after about 6 weeks, I found it in Portland, Oregon.

I corresponded with Kim, the builder and owner of the kayak and it sounded like a good boat and the price was more than fair.  Leigh had plans that weekend, so Friday night we grabbed a dinner together in Renton before a weekend apart.  Unbeknownst to me at the moment, Kim and his wife, Fran, were also having dinner in Portland.  By candlelight with their soon to be departed Osprey Double Kayak.  Beyond building her, they had taken her to the San Juans, outside of Vancouver Island and had paddled up in Haida Gwaii.  They had taken week long trips on her.   Their paddling days were nearing an end and they were having a ceremony to say ‘goodbye’ to the trusted vessel that had taken them to so many places.  One of them, as I was to learn later, was Long Island.

Leigh and I had never paddled a double before.  In singles we’d taken overnight trips to the Gulf Islands, the San Juans, and over to Blake Island, but the tandem kayak would be new experience. 

Long Island is near the coast tucked into Willapa Bay.  Protected from the ocean, it’s a low lying island surrounded by mudflats.   Getting onto the island without being a muddy mess requires some attention to the tides.  You can launch in anything higher than a plus 2 at the refuge center but landings on the island are better at plus 5 or higher.

Leigh was a little skeptical about the carrying capacity of the double.   While the stern storage area was larger than on our singles, the bow area wasn’t that big.  The ace in the hole, however, was a cavernous region between the cockpits.  While we had struggled a little with putting the gear in our singles, this thing was a snap.  It’s a virtual station wagon.  It holds a ton.

I recall our first experience loading a kayak.  It took a while.  Not this time.  Beyond the carrying capacity of the kayak, we had done this enough to know what to bring and how to stow it.  That and getting one kayak ready to go is faster than getting 2 ready to go.  In any case there wasn’t a whole lot of time between arriving at the Willapa Bay Refuge center and launching the kayak. 

We quickly adapted to paddling the double.  The cockpits are spaced far enough apart that you don’t have to paddle in cadence but doing so is easy, it feels faster and candidly looks better.  This kayak is fast compared to a smaller single.  Leigh has been battling hand pain for a while and we were both worried about her ability to paddle.  It turned out ok.  When she wanted a reprieve, she’d simply stop paddling and I could keep the boat going nicely.  Not quite as fast, but certainly fast enough.  I sometimes rested and she could certainly keep the boat going. 

We both had some trepidation on exactly how the paddling would go and after just a few minutes of paddling, those fears evaporated.  Leveraging two paddlers in a double is, for us, the way to go.

There were a few canoes headed out along with some small sit on top kayaks.   While clearly not a racing kayak, the Osprey could outpace anything we saw on the water without an engine.

There are 5 camping areas on Long Island, each with a varying number of individual campsites.  We chose Pinnacle as it was the closest and we found a great private site with a view. 

Given the tides, we knew the afternoon would be the time to paddle with the morning being the time to hike.   After setting up camp, we took a much lighter kayak for a spin to check out the other campsites.

Kayak camping is an elevated form of camping.  We have a pretty good selection of lightweight backpacking gear (for a recent 3 night, 4 day backpacking trip, Leigh’s pack weight was 24 pounds without water).  All of that fits nicely into a kayak.  Add comfy chairs, a nice fold up table, and a box of wine and you’ve got the recipe for a great experience.

Early on, Willapa bay was called Shoalwater bay and for good reason.  It’s shallow!  To the point where much of the bay disappears at low tide.  In 1788, John Meares traded with first nations peoples in Willapa bay.  Lewis and Clark stayed near there in 1805 when they first got to the pacific coast. 

Willapa bay is now the ‘oyster capital of the world’.   One out of every 6 oysters consumed in the US comes out of Willapa Bay.

Logging started on the island around 1880 and continued until 1986, but within the island is a 119 acres of old growth Cedars.  In the morning, with low tide offering a about a quarter mile between the kayak and waters edge, we decided to go hiking to find the old growth cedars.

Hiking on the island is easy and well-marked.  The strand of old growth is impressive but doesn’t translate well to pictures.  Sobering to think that just a few generations ago the entire Northwest was covered in old growth trees.  After thousands of years what we’ve changed in relative short order boggles the mind. 

After the hike we broke camp down and as the incoming tide erased the quarter mile to the shore line, we shoved off and headed back to the car.

Fun weekend and interesting island.  Some day we’ll need to reprise John’s trip around the entire island.

Monday, July 22, 2019


The pics are dated 7/21, so that must've been the weekend we visited the island.

When whales are out front, it's typical that the first thing you see isn't the whales.  It's the harassment vessels.  Whale watching vessels.  

Monday, July 8, 2019


Seems like summer is for doing things and fall is more about writing about them.  The disadvantage with that approach is much of the real time nuance and context is lost.  Perhaps I'll edit this after Leigh reads it and clarifies my memory.

As I recall it, the original plan was a through hike over on the Olympic Peninsula, but those plans fell through, so we (Leigh) researched several hikes and we landed on the Cispus BasiPn.

The first night was at the bypass trail just shy of the PCT, then two nights in the Cispus basin with day hikes from a fixed base camp.   This turned into a 4 day, 3 night backpacking trip.  Leigh's prewater pack weight was an awesome 24 pounds.  Mine was in the mid 30's.

Perhaps best told in pictures.  Great time over the weekend of the 4th.  Very few man made sounds heard over the 4 days.