I called the number, got a man with a slight accent on the other end and learned the swan boat was not available for rental anymore. With that dream dashed, we took a quick picture of me by the boat, and headed to town.
We wandered about, did some window shopping and came upon the Back of Beyond store, where we met one of the owners, Janet Nicholson, a petite woman. Like many Bainbridge Islanders, Janet had hair which looked like it was ready to be worn under a bicycle helmet or kayak hat. In her case it was a long tidy braid.
Janet told us the sad story of the swan rentals; how there were once two (Louis and Betsy according to this article) one had been sold and taken far away. The other had an electric motor, making it perfect for a short putter about the harbor. However a vandal had stomped the solar cell, so they'd replaced that with a pedal mechanism. When a second vandal had seen fit to break the pedal mechanism, the swan was put on hiatus, though they still planned to someday install a motor.
|Houses along Puget Sound on Bainbridge Island|
We admired some of the boats they had for sale, including a Maelstrom Vital, and noted that we had its sibling, a Vaag at home. Janet mentioned that her husband, Udo, paddles a Vaag (and I suspect many, many other boats.)
|A houseboat in Blakely Harbor|
There was no paddle for us that night, but the next morning we were back, shortly after 10. Back of Beyond opens at about 11 so it was shut tight. But the rentals start earlier. A tall, bespectacled man with a tidy beard, Udo Wald, came to the door and let us in. In short order we had a fine set of boats to use. I had a Current Designs Gulfstream (the fiberglass version of the Sirocco.)
|Mark in an Isle|
Mark had a Current Designs Isle to test. The Isle has a large capacity, making it great for expeditions; however it was a bit stodgy for day trips. Also the back was too high for the layback rolls.
|Leading the ferry back to Eagle Harbor|
|Mark heading out of Blakely Harbor, Seattle in the distance|
And once again, I have a photo of Mark heading out of a harbor, leading me to wonder: Are there medrona trees on every point? Am I always that far behind? Is there something about land to the left which makes a photo seem better to me?
|Heading back to his boat shelter|
The bits of information that he offered up made me wonder about the many adventures Udo and Janet must have had. Unfortunately he did not have a biography for sale. A quick search online revealed that Udo and Janet have run Back of Beyond Explorations for ten years. Before he was on Bainbridge Island Udo lived in San Diego, and he is originally from Germany. He began paddling canoes, and Janet converted him to kayaks (or perhaps just added kayaks to his interests.) He does amazing things for his town, hosting community paddles on Thursday, taking schoolchildren out to see petroglyphs. I hope they have great success with their businesses and no more troubles with the rental swan or any other vandalism. And maybe someday they'll record some of their adventures to share with others.
|Odd growths on a float|