BY: JESSI MARKOWITZ
Port Townsend, Olympic Peninsula
It was 7:30 pm in Port Townsend, Washington, the first stop after our starting point in Seattle. Port Townsend sits on the eastern side of the Olympic Peninsula. Beautiful victorian buildings line the coast while art galleries, bead shops, and coffee houses fill the mile long main street. We fell in love with PT immediately but that didn't distract us from reality.
We had no place to sleep and we were hungry. Free camping spots were few and far between on the OP and all the campgrounds were full by the time we arrived. The idea of squeezing four people into the back of the jeep, named Michael Scott, sounded impossible, but was becoming our only option as the sun disappeared. We walked into Waterfront pizza for a quick slice. Waiting in line, we talked about going door to door and asking to pitch our tent on someone- anyones lawn. I placed my order and went outside to a bench where a small straggly dog was tied. It was asking to be pet with wide eyes and what seemed like a smile. You could tell it was well cared for not by it’s appearance, but it’s personality. “Her name’s Lola” I quickly looked up to see Lola’s owner, “She’s friendly," he said with a smile. Vic ended up being pretty friendly too. I took an immediate liking to him- his shaggy white hair, worn in jeans, and ungroomed mustache. He was in town for a wooden boat festival that had wrapped up the previous weekend, but stuck around for a few days to enjoy the magic of Port Townsend. A Washington native, Vic grew up on the other side of the Puget Sound in Bellingham. Ten years ago he traded a traditional life for a wooden sailboat, a companion named Lola, and the freedom of being off the grid. He spends his time sailing between Washington and Southeast Alaska’s inside passage. It wasn’t long before realizing we knew some of the same people from the small town I work in during the summer.
He hinted that we spend the night on his boat if we hadn't already figured out where to stay. He probably didn't think we would take up his offer, but we did. We bought him a beer as a gesture of gratitude at a local pourhouse. Feeling as if a single beer wasn't enough, we offered him the six leftover PBR’s that had been marinating in our cooler for a few days- they were politely declined. Vic shuttled us in a small zodiac from the Port Townsend dock to his wooden yacht anchored a few hundred feet off shore. He showed us where we would sleep- in the wheelhouse above the main cabin he calls home, and then invited us inside. We entered Vic and Lola's world, and I could tell we were the first visitors in years. It smelled of coffee and wood. A couch, love seat and kitchen fit into fifty square feet. Different coffee mugs from all the places he had been hung on hooks below the kitchen cabinets. There was room for two of us to sit and two to stand while he showed us the wooden masks he carves. He explained how to go to the bathroom using the rusty coffee can that sat in the corner. Go in the can, throw the contents overboard. This was the only other option to hanging your bare butt off the side of the boat, clutching onto the railing for dear life. We conversed about politics and the wonders of modern day technology. After awhile we began to fade and said goodnight.
Making our way up to the wheelhouse, I thought about the meaning of home. It isn't a house, a boat, or any particular place. I think it’s a feeling you get when you're surrounded by the right people. That night, Vic’s boat felt like home. We had each other and a new friend who openly welcomed us. Up in the wheelhouse we each cracked a warm PBR, cheersed to Vic, finding a place to sleep, and to Lola who started it all.