Chris’ Story – Part 1 – How It Started, The Sea Muse
This post describes my early childhood and how it led to my passion to live in the San Juan Islands
The Early Years
My first trip to the San Juan Islands was when I was seven years old. My Aunt and Uncle lived in Bellingham and they had convinced my father to haul my family up for a trip to Sucia Island. Over the course of several days the beauty of that island was seared into my little brain. I walked the beach each morning with a bucket and picked up dungeness and red rock crab stuck in the tide pools. I hiked and played in the caves during the afternoons. In the evening I’d gaze in wonder at the bioluminescence in the water after roasting marshmallows over the fire. I was hooked. Why would anyone want to live anywhere else?
The desire to live in the San Juan Islands stayed with me through my life. Throughout the next two decades, I always made sure that I spent at least a week in the Islands during the summer.
I have always lived close to nature. When I was twelve I built an eight foot by ten foot log cabin in the woods near my house. I cut down all the trees and cut off all the bark with a draw knife. When I had enough logs cut, my father helped me assemble the walls and build a roof. I chinked the cracks with mud and straw. Inside, I built a bed frame out of logs and wove a rope mattress through it. An old camping stove provided heat and a Coleman lantern provided light.
At the same time, I was an early and hard core computer geek. I can still remember the pride I felt in seventh grade when the school principal bestowed her credit card to me to sign the school up for America Online. If I wasn’t in the woods, I was in front of my computer. After high school, I went to Oregon State and obtained a degree in Electrical Engineering.
I have always been comfortable with the seeming dichotomy between technology and nature. I have always viewed technology as a way to make our lives more sustainable – and thus have viewed it as a way to become closer to nature. This is what ultimately lead to my contributions to the Free Charge Controller Project.
The Sea Muse
In 2008 I was laid off and spent the vast majority of 2009 unemployed. To make extra money, I began building and selling electric bicycles. One day, I saw a sailboat on craigslist for about the same price I was selling a bike for. I contacted the owner to see if he’d be interested in a trade; turned out he was. The boat was called the Sea Muse and it was a US 25 ‘Buccaneer’.It was all downhill from there. I was hooked. The freedom of sailing, the beauty of the being on the water, and the flavor of the fresh fish and crab I caught on that boat was like crack to a fiend. I couldn’t get enough. I couldn’t spend enough time on my boat. Every Friday, I couldn’t get out of town and down to my boat fast enough.
At the time, my wife and I lived downtown Seattle and we kept the boat in Everett (about an hour away). We were tired of living the city life and the old sirens call of the San Juans was as strong as ever. In an idealic fit of unsatisfaction with our city life, we decided to pack up and move to Orcas Island. We had enough savings to last 6 months. It was the San Juans or bust!
It turned out to be a bust. To anyone familiar with Orcas, it’s little surprise that we couldn’t find any work in the winter of 2009, during the bottom of the recession. Watching our saving melt away and coming to terms with my idealism was one of the most painful experiences of my life. But the six months I spent on Orcas was also one of the most enjoyable of my life.
Ultimately, I was not yet San Juan Sufficient. The San Juan Islands routinly chew up and spit out ideallic nature lovers like me. Flinging caution to the wind, they are forced to retreate back to the mainland when their money runs out and tourism jobs dry up in the fall.
But my passion for living in the San Juan Islands never wavered…. Continued in Part 2