My two favorite places in the San Juans are Roche Harbor and Doe Bay. One is a resort built around a historic hotel and world-class marina, the legacy of John S McMillin, a Tacoma lawyer and friend of President Teddy Roosevelt who made a fortune mining the richest and largest deposit of lime in the Northwest. The other is an "alternative" retreat center with on-site organic garden and yoga studio, whose emphasis is on ethical treatment of guests, staff and the land. Funny that they are so different. What does that say about my contradictory nature?
Roche Harbor has grown quite a bit since the last time I was there. An entirely new building, Quarryman Hall, has sprung up next to the Hotel de Haro. It houses the new Afterglow Spa and Dominique's House, a high-end home furnishings store. The million-dollar cottages on the hill are finished and work has begun on construction of entirely new neighborhoods around the resort.
Walking around the marina is an experience in itself. It’s a grand promenade. Tourists stroll and gawk at the massive power yachts, Italian runabouts with fine leather interiors, high tech racing sloops, and even a classic wooden schooner here and there. Owners with long-term moorage have their names posted on plaques by their slips. Dock attendants help boaters cart their luggage and groceries, and even walk their dogs. Other marinas usually have a “pump-out” dock where one ties up to empty the head’s holding tank. But in Roche Harbor, the pump-out station comes to you: the M.V. Phecal Phreak will empty your tank while you rest easy in your teak deck chair. No need to worry – the dock hands take care of everything!
If you are in the market for a yacht there are some nice boats for sale there. One of the most unique is Plum Duff, a cold-molded wooden yacht custom designed and built in Port Townsend. Several Native American masks carved in the traditional Pacific Coast style decorate the pilot house.
I wonder what it must feel like to spend a couple million on a very fine power yacht only to have a bigger, better, and newer one pull up next to yours?
In the morning the carillon of bells of the Chapel of Our Lady of Good Voyage, the only privately owned Catholic chapel in the United States, rings out Broadway tunes. Later in the day you can usually find a wedding party gathered in the immaculate garden in front of the hotel. Every evening at sunset a team performs the famous Roche Harbor “Colors Ceremony”, retiring the British, Canadian, and American flags for the night while playing the national anthems of each country as well as Colonel Bogey’s March. At the end a cannon fires and the sun sets, like clockwork.
Roche Harbor is a revealing slice of America: it's indulgent, opulent and grand, a celebration of the wealth and industry of our forefathers. In Disneyesque fashion, it recreates Mainstreet USA with brand new nineteenth century townhouses complete with broadband internet. Sure, anyone is free to park their boat in guest moorage, stroll the docks and outdoor market, and enjoy the Colors Ceremony. But the true owners of this world are the few members of the Old-Boy Skull-and-Bones network, those who are privy to the arcane Masonic symbolism and inscriptions on the McMillin Mausoleum:
JOHN STAFFORD. MCMILLIN A.B. A.M.
A 32 MASON
NOBLE OF MYSTIC SHRINE
OCT 28, 1855 – NOV 3, 1936
I wonder if this nostalgia for late nineteenth century America extends beyond the period’s furnishings and architectural style to its pre-New Deal socioeconomic structure as well.