First Impressions

10/14/2011

Gig Harbor is a very popular boating destination. The fog rolled in almost every morning we were there and it just added to beauty of the harbor.

By Lisa Targal Favors

One of the things Jim and I like to do, as boaters, is join a few boat clubs – ones that pertain to the kind of boating we do. Before we left on our first Great Loop boat trip we joined America’s Great Loop Cruisers’ Association (AGLCA). When we were spending the summer in the Chesapeake Bay area and cruising the ICW quite a bit, we joined Marine Trawler Owner’s Association (MTOA) and more recently when we bought a Ranger Tug, we became “Tugnuts.” What do all of these organizations have in common? They all have a get together called a rendezvous – it may be just a yearly event, depending on the size of the organization – a bigger group may have several events during the year, sometimes in multiple locations, all for the benefit of the type of boating their members pursue.

Soon after we made the decision to buy a Ranger Tug we started making trip plans to the Pacific Northwest, Oregon, California, Utah and Alabama. Jim noticed that the Pacific Northwest Chapter of MTOA was having their annual rendezvous in Gig Harbor very close to the date we were planning on arriving in Seattle to take possession of our new Kismet. So, we decided to leave home a few days earlier than planned and we proceeded to send in our reservation to attend the PNW MTOA Rendezvous in Gig Harbor, Washington.

We’ve only been to one other MTOA event, the Fall Rendezvous in Crisfield, Maryland in 2009. MTOA is a national boating organization with approximately 2000 active members representing over 1000 boats, home ported in 40 different states and several foreign countries. The group is run entirely by members who volunteer. The east coast rendezvous are big productions and can have as many as 200 members in attendance. The PNW group is smaller, but it’s a growing membership. While we thoroughly enjoyed the gathering in Crisfield and felt the electrically charged atmosphere of a large group, there’s a lot to say about the more intimate experience we enjoyed with the PNW chapter while we were in Gig Harbor.

That’s Mount Rainier in the background of this group shot taken during the rendezvous.

The PNW group started in 2002 by transplants that relocated to this area from the east coast, they met at Skyline Marina in Anacortes and formed the PNW MTOA chapter. The group has been slowly growing ever since – at last count approximately 48 members are currently active in this area (this amount represents mostly couples, so we might double that amount). They hale mostly from Washington State with a few from Oregon, they’ve also had members in British Columbia and Alaska. Most of the new members have come to the group through word of mouth or through Bob Smith’s Trawlerfest courses where it’s told he “brow beats” his students into joining.

This PNW chapter hosts four regular events per year. The Summer Rendezvous we attended is the main event. Octoberfest is a smaller gathering in Edmonds; members will attend either by boat or by car. There is another get-together in January when they meet for dinner – this event is very popular among the members. In the spring they have another rendezvous that usually corresponds with Trawlerfest, where Bob Smith attends and gives his always-educational two-hour Diesel Class.

 

Bruce and Sue, on Meridian Star, were already familiar with, and regular readers of, our Boat U.S. Cruising Logs.

Our first solo day on the boat took us a short ride across the lower Puget Sound to Arabella’s Landing Marina in Gig Harbor. As we pulled into the marina we were greeted by host, Bill Stultz and given instructions on where to dock. No sooner had we docked, the festivities began. Bill informed us that everyone was meeting for cocktails and potluck hor’douvers up at the marina boater’s lounge area at 5:00. We had only about 45 minutes to get organized, freshened up and to make drinks, so we had to hustle. We still hadn’t had much time to stow stuff or become very familiar with our new boat and with the busy rendezvous schedule and people to meet soon after, a visiting friend and family member, we really wouldn’t have time until we left Gig Harbor six days later.

One of my very first impressions of this boating group was how warm and friendly everyone was. When we arrived to the designated happy hour spot on shore, we were immediately welcomed by several members sitting together at a table near the entrance. No more than sixty seconds passed, introductions were made and before we knew it two chairs opened up and we found ourselves in the midst of some very friendly boaters. Bruce and Sue Trzcinski, on Meridian Star, said that they felt like they already knew us since they are regular readers of our Boat U.S. Cruising Logs. It truly is a small world.

Debbie’s presentation on cleaning gooey duck was hilarious. She put on an impromptu and very informative demonstration.

The next day Jim got up early to grab coffee and chat with some of the other captains. He had a lot of questions about cruising in the Pacific Northwest and what better place to gather information than from boaters who have spent great lengths of time cruising the PNW waters around their homeports. I got up and started organizing the boat. We had only been on the boat less than a day and in all the rush of putting the boat in the water and cruising to Gig Harbor there really wasn’t any time to stow our belongings or even figure out what should go where. There’s a lot of interest in the “little red tug” and we want her to look good when someone wants to peek inside.

Friday, mid morning, Jim and I met to go for a walking tour of the historic boating town and to get some exercise before the day’s activities began. A heavy fog rolled into the harbor and lingered over the water making the atmosphere of the town even more inviting. At 10 a.m. the seminars began: Fiberglass 101, by Bill Stults, followed by a talk on a head remodel, by Tom Brownlee, and ended with a demonstration of AIS by Mike Fedak. We were on our own for lunch with a little extra time to spend in town or whatever else we wanted to do. Later in the afternoon Cindy Brownlee gave a seminar called, Health Onboard, which was a big draw with standing room only and had both captains and first mates in attendance. Dinner on this night was a big potluck, all cooked on board the little galleys in the marina. It’s amazing what these cooks can turn out, with sometimes-limited ingredients and resources.

Everyone was looking forward to the Chowder Cook-off on Saturday. There were two white chowders and one red. All the chefs took great pride in their entries.

The judges, which included all members in attendance, really got into tasting and voting on each entry. Needless to say today’s lunch was probably the highlight of the rendezvous  

During the potluck we met another couple on Chetco. Debora and George Daly started talking about how they can all sorts of seafood such as tuna and razorback clams, which led to a discussion about cleaning gooey duck. We’d never even heard about something called a gooey duck let alone know the first thing about cleaning one, so, Debora offered to demonstrate if we’d come down to her boat. She explained that she brought some gooey duck for one of the other boaters to make their chowder for the Chowder Cook-off on Saturday and she wanted to clean them for him. Well, before we knew it everyone was down at her boat for the demonstration and it was a hoot. This is the kind of demonstration I like to attend, I guess you could say it was “hands on,” with the photo being self-explanatory.

Day two kicked off in pretty much the same manner for us, but since the opening seminar was earlier this morning we met earlier to take our walk, north of town that day. Jim attended the sessions while I continued to organize the boat. First off, Bill Ray gave a lecture on Interpreting Your Radar. Next, Jeff Humel, from Rose Point Software, gave a talk about Coastal Explorer. Both were interesting topics for boaters.

Now we come to the event the whole group has been in a tizzy about for days – the Chowder Cook-off, hosted by Mike and Debbie Fedak started at noon. Just like chili or barbeque there are different schools of thought on what makes a great seafood chowder and the merits of all the different versions were discussed with zeal over the course of the rendezvous. At lunchtime, here were three pots of seafood chowder in the contest, two white and one red, (and one chicken chowder was added for those who can’t eat seafood). I guess the best part of the whole contest was that we all got to be the judges and in the end Debora’s chowder, made with her razorback clams won the prize.

Debbie’s razorback clam chowder took the prize for tastiest entry in the cook-off.

The blind dinghy race was over quickly, we think some of the participants practiced beforehand and nailed it pretty quickly.

Later in the day a blind dinghy race was held followed by a general meeting held to talk about future events. The last night featured complimentary wine and a catered dinner that was truly amazing, followed by a big cake to honor Debbie and Mike Fedak who are the distinguished recipients of the MTOA Volunteer of the Year award. The party seemed to go on and on into the night. In the end it didn’t matter if you were a long time member, already familiar with the regular attendees or a newbie, like us, because as the night wore on, we all just melded into one big happy group.

We came a long way from home to attend the PNW MTOA 2011 Summer Rendezvous – from the moment we arrived, we felt the warmth and camaraderie of the whole group, we felt like we were in our very own homeport with old friends. Priceless!