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Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Celebrate Independence Day aboard historic tug Comanche

Oh, if only Comanche could talk, I thought to myself. On June 6, 2009 I climbed aboard the old tug where she was docked outside Tacoma's Working Waterfront Museum, for a tour and the opportunity to sense the spirit of this historically important vessel. Her sides show rust and evidence all around that the restoration of this WWII oceangoing tug is "a work in progress." My hands felt the gripping texture of decorative and carefully braided fine rope that covered the handrails on the ship's ladders and also enclosed posts. Sailors from long ago, now old men if they still live, conquered boredom and tried to beautify their shipboard home with this ancient maritime handiwork, now covered with paint.

Comanche started life in Port Arthur, Texas as a Sotoyomo class auxiliary ocean tug, ATA-202, launched in October 1944 and commissioned in December that same year. She served our country well in the Pacific in WWII and saved many lives, towing damaged vessels out of the chaos of battle to safety and repair at U.S. facilities. She was awarded a battle star. Comanche's long life story includes being given different names over the years and service in many different places, under both the Navy and Coast Guard and as a privately owned commercial tug. Now she belongs to the non-profit Comanche 202 Foundation run by President Joe Peterson, M.A. She's old and not so pretty any more, but everyone involved with saving this historic vessel loves her like Joe does. Comanche needs more people to care. If people don't come forward to save this floating museum she'll end up being one more tragic loss of our maritime history, like the schooner Wawona, gone forever. There are still WWII veterans alive who would not be, except for her and the old tug reminds us to never forget those who fought for the nation and freedoms we now enjoy.

Comanche needs our help. She needs funds for repairs, and even for fuel. Most of all she needs a permanent home. "That's our biggest concern right now," Joe told me. The Olympian newspaper story by reporter John Dodge, June 9, 2009, says it all. (click here for link) This morning Joe sent out an email about how people can help the cause and have fun doing so:

EXCITING OPPORTUNITY FOR Comanche crew, supporters and visitors:
We have had a great time in Tacoma at the Foss Waterway Seaport Museum. Comanche has been invited to be
the point boat for the 4th of July Air Show and Fireworks Show. It will be the best seat in the house! We are now signing up volunteer crew and guests. Non-crew guest can come for a $100 or more donation for the Air Show or the Fireworks show. ($100 donation or more for either.) Comanche will be at anchor during the shows until Sunday morning. Crew and guests will be shuttled to and from the Comanche in our vintage historic shore boat the Mimesis (see photo below.) Air show is 1:30 to 3:30. We will head for anchor about 9:30 am but if you are coming and would rather get picked up at the Museum dock at noon we can do that, too. Fire works is at 10:00 pm and we'll start picking people up for that around 8:30 pm. Dress accordingly for whatever the weather might be.

We will have a 4th of July BBQ on the Comanche, bring your own food/meat to BBQ and something for a salad. BYOB drinks. Comanche has steel folding chairs only so you may want to bring a nice comfortable folding lawn chair. There are a limited number of USCG approved life jackets so if you have those bring them along. If not please let me know you need one. Comanche has a working restroom, lights and plenty of deck space to enjoy the shows. And you'll get a special tour of the ship, too! Bring your camera! These will be the choice seats for both shows! We will limit on board crew and visitors to 25.
Comanche will remain at anchor Saturday night but all guests and any crew who need to leave will be brought back to the dock at the Foss Waterway Seaport Museum after the air show and after the fire works. If you want to spend the night aboard at anchor let me know.
Email me for details. Limited number of people can come along so let me know soon! (253) 227-9678.

VOLUNTEERS Work party this Thursday, Friday and Saturday June 18-20 11 am to late afternoon on board Comanche at the south end of the Museum dock (can't see the ship from the road but park on the street north of the Foss Waterway Seaport Museum, 705 Dock St., Tacoma and take the bay side walk and you'll see Comanche at the dock.) Come for one all days this weekend for how ever long you can. Mostly cleaning and painting. Bring a lunch and drink.
Work party June 26 & 27th as well. Same place same time same work, same party!. Please r.s.v.p. if you think you can make any of those work days. If you want to spend the night(s) on board you may do so but let me know that is your intention.
And we need to sign up crew for the 4th of July weekend.

Please consider Joe Peterson's offer of a great way to celebrate Independence Day. Nothing could be more patriotic.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Walking the Beaches of Home

This photo is my keepsake from a day when the world felt backward. When I look at it I can hear the surf and the hiss of that thin front edge of foam as it rushes over wet sand. I love its luminosity and colors. I remember the cold water around my ankles and the spray on my face. But at the time it all felt backward. On that day I learned this lesson: it’s true that “we are where we come from.” Like salmon, we instinctively know that certain place. It imprints itself on our hearts and minds forever.

I come from the northern corner of America’s west coast, land of tall evergreens and snowy mountains and beyond them the mighty Pacific Ocean. I’ve been at its shores when the sun came up in the morning over the silhouetted hills to the east and slowly lit a pastel world of water, sand and fog. I’ve been at its shores in the evening when the sun set in the west, the blazing ball of fire’s descent into darkening water marked by a bridge of gold, a billion dancing angles of light reflected on the waves. I’ve stood there many times in my life while the last hot crescent hung on the horizon’s edge, and then was gone. And I knew where I belonged.

On the east side of a road that runs north and south on Vashon Island stands the house where I was born. For my first eighteen years I could sit on the front porch on a summer evening and look beyond the lawn and across the road to the strawberry fields in the west and know, like I know my own name, that north was to my right and south to my left. The next house where I spent many years sat the same way. Once I lived with the orientation reserved and never could get over the feeling that things were backward. Looking for a new home here in Tacoma, the house that felt “just right” again sat on the east side of a road running north and south, my internal compass satisfied.

What about love and friendship? Do we subconsciously recognize the ones who understand us, who know where we come from, share our sense of habitat, our soul’s native tongue? We may travel the world, find adventure, be enchanted by another place, fall in love with someone whose sense of direction is foreign to ours, and live happily ever after. But they can never truly know what makes our secret inner gyroscope spin.

If you’re trying to guess where on the coast of Washington State this photo was taken, you’re already wrong. It depicts a magical June evening on Okracoke Island, part of North Carolina’s Outer Banks, only something is missing: the setting sun. I loved it there, but when the sun set over the land to my back, instead of the sea it felt all wrong.

I could learn to live on our eastern coast. My ancestors came from Maine. I’ve eaten lobster on the waterfront there, gotten a sense of the place. I could learn to love the Atlantic’s different smell and feel and appreciate its charms. In life we end up walking many beaches, but in our hearts we know which ones are ours. I could be happy and so could you, but I would still miss watching the sun set where it “should,” over the ocean, with the person who knows me best at my side. I would miss the instinctive “rightness” of it all and revisit it in my dreams, knowing how much of who we really are is the place we call home.