All Ashore At Whidbey Island

Oak Harbor is not the county seat but it is the largest town on the island with 22,000 people, nearly a third of the total island residents. Whidbey is also the largest island in Washington State. Though Norwegians, Irish & other nationalities settled here first, it was the Dutch that put a cultural stamp on this area. There are other structures in town that emphasize this culture. The town takes its name from the Garry Oak (called the White Oak elsewhere).

Through out the entire coastal Northwest, oysters are a big business. Penn Cove is famous for its shellfish. They farm or store 27 different varieties of oysters as well as clams and mussels. This crew is harvesting "bags" or racks of oysters.

Mount Baker again but my eye was as much on the P-3 Orion overhead. This aircraft, along with "Prowlers" & "Growlers" and others are based at the Whidbey Island Naval Air Station. Until our son-in-law became posted to a small craft detail near the base, we knew little of this place.

The EA-6B "Prowler" & EA-18G "Growler" aircraft are medium range, carrier based, electronic warfare jets. Whidbey NAS is home to 17 active duty squadrons, search and rescue (both military and civilian) and a whole host of subcommands. Also included is a former pontoon seaplane base (PBY aircraft) several miles away where much of the ground has reconfigured to house the Navy's PX and supply buildings.

The military does not forget its own. 

What IS this? Seen along the road from Coupeville to Oak Harbor.

It is one man's idea of a privacy fence.




An island almost always implies a view, be it water or land. Whidbey Island has that in spades.  It is a bit of a lesser known archipelago in the San Juan Island region of Washington. It can be a destination all its own if you only have time for a short exploration of the area. Closer to Seattle by ferry or car than the rest of its neighboring islands it is big enough for a long weekend's exploration. The view east above of some of the Northern Cascade Range is from near the little town of San deFuca. The tallest is probably Glacier Peak.

Looking southwest out over Oak Harbor, the Olympics seem close but between them and the rest of Whidbey Island (in the midground) is one of the Nation's busiest shipping routes - The Strait of San Juan de Fuca. Not including pleasure craft, almost 5,000 cargo ships a year use the channel.

Mount Baker is the behemoth above, just shy of 11,000 feet. Third highest summit in Washington, this peak saw its first successful climber in 1868. The view from Oak Harbor is to the northwest. Whidbey Island is in the rain shadow of the Olympic and Vancouver Island's mountains. Whidbey gets only 20 inches of rain and very little snow annually. 



I Say Madrone

If you are Canadian, you say Arbutus, if in the US, it's a Madrone tree. Either way it is a tree with a strange beauty. Both cultures also call this the Strawberry Tree after the look of the berries that come in the fall. What looks like damage is actually the result of scarring from where branches once were.

When mature, the bark peels away to reveal a smooth sensual exterior. Madrone trees grow best in the wild for some reason and the berries can be eaten but are more commonly used to make a cider. 




Why would a polar bear to need an EMT on standby?

 Everybody needs an EMT on standby when they tackle a New Year's Polar Bear Swim. 

This guy looks like he's going to need one. It was a quick dip for most. Location was Freeland Beach, Washington.

 Very few bathers became swimmers but these two did. Thought sunny, the air temperature was 37 degrees and the water was 41. 
The participants I talked to said the air temp AFTER the swim felt warm.



Carson Mansion

Eureka, California has bragging rights on one of the West's most stunning Victorian structures. Built by lumber baron William Carson in 1884, it took a visit to Wikipedia to learn that the style of this mansion is more than just simple Victorian: It is " Eastlake, Italianate, Queen Anne (primary), and Stick, depending on the expert." Who knew. The mansion is now a private club.



Little & Big

Though we don't enjoy the waiting, we do enjoy seeing new airports. The smallish Jacksonville, Florida airport has space to spare and an exhibit that tends to put a smile on. The airport is served by 6 airlines at 20 gates.

Newark, at the other end of the spectrum offers a visual of another sort - too much information and too many people. Handling 7 times the number of passengers than its Florida cousin, the airport has 59 gates for 24 carriers.

However guess what the larger airport has that the smaller doesn't?

Yup! Looks like a stick up in progress doesn't it? Prices reflect that too. 



Full Stop

After seeing so many beautiful homes over the last few weeks, I thought I'd be rather blasé over another raft of them on Amalie Island. 
Not so. This small town had quite the collection of very well maintained classics.

Another stunner - Queen Ann style.
One of the reasons that there are over 400 historically significant buildings is that the first cross-Florida railroad began here and then Fernandina beach became an important shipping terminal to the rest of the world.

Gingerbread detail from one of the smaller cottages. 

Appropriately, this is known as the Tabby House for the type of concrete used in the structure. I've come to the conclusion that as much as I love concrete as a building material, tabby concrete doesn't always please my eye especially when incorporated into some architectural designs.

The Bailey Mansion was, up until recently, a B & B but tightening building safety requirements forced the owners to sell.

This home typlifies what I think of as Southern style of architecture with wide two story verandas, storm shutters and lap siding. The flowering shrub in the foreground is called a shrimp flower plant. Camellias bloom at the edge of the picture.

Though our two week cruise has stretched into a two month travelog, things are far from over. Over the next few months the blog will focus on the sights closer to home, or at least the West. Stay tuned and thanks for traveling in the passenger seat. If you have comments you can leave them at the blogsite ( Emails are always appreciated but if you are a subscriber do not reply to the blog post directly as it is a "no-reply" type of email; drop me a note directly (billatferry360dotcom).