A ski to sea saga
Wednesday, November 22, 2017
When I caught wind that an Anacortes-built Viking ship was scheduled to launch at Deception Pass State Park on the same Saturday as Bellingham’s 18th annual Scandinavian Fair, an instinctive yearning to assail both events compelled me to embark on a multistage voyage through formidable pockets of transformative coastal terrain.
Swords and battle-axes weren’t necessary, but I did provision myself with a collapsible rain shield to help beat back aggressive cloudbursts. And just in case the opportunity to venture into the snowy mountains happened to arise at any juncture, I made sure to stow a pair of metal-edged touring skis for rapid deployment.
The saga began in earnest during the convivial but arduous process of securing a coveted package of homemade lefse from the bakery at the Scandinavian Fair, where my fellow attendees and I were forced to wait in line for nearly an hour due to heavy crowds in constrained space at the airport Holiday Inn.
Forced to forgo a sojourn through the “Clothing and Crafts” section due to this unforeseeable time suck, I hastily commenced the maritime heritage leg of my tour without being able to recharge my coffee thermos—a critical deficiency that forced me to pop a number of cough drops just to keep my leaden eyelids from sealing shut.
Although bone-chilling bursts of wintry precipitation marauded the southbound travel corridors once I passed through the Chuckanuts, the prevailing Frost Giants kindly restrained themselves all the way to the mist-shrouded eminence of Fidalgo Island.
The sea was calm but fitful mists were roiling all over when I finally rolled into the half-empty parking area at Bowman Bay boat ramp, and with a little less than an hour to go before scheduled launch time, the S/V Polaris—a 38-foot replica of a salvaged 11th century Norwegian vessel built traditionally with local materials by shipwright Jay Smith—was nowhere in sight.
Striving to secure the most advantageous photographic vantage point available, I pulled onto a low rise that served as a land bridge between two oceanic puddles and busted out a few pickled herring and brown cheese lefse wraps for an exhilarating picnic lunch.
While waiting for the ship to show, my mind began to wander and I found contemplated a scenario that my northern Euorpean forebears had likely found cause to ponder 1,000 years ago: What if this whole event was a ruse by the Anacortes Vikings just to lure me here so they could go berserk and press me—a lone Whatcom Viking—into servitude?
Thankfully, my nostaligic paranoia evaporated once the gleaming wood-planked vessel arrived, hauled on a trailer by a team of Belgian workhorses who clattered through the adoring crowd with regal manes and dignified hooves.
Then, while one group of Vikings started laying a course of logs down the ramp to roll it, another gang lashed stout poles across the gunwales to give it the old heave-ho. I watched in wonder as the boat entered the water, wishing I was aboard.
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