Greg King & Company
Windermere Real Estate


Island Style

Many island residents yearn for a simpler life – one more attuned with the natural world, based on pleasures rather than possessions, guided by needs rather than trends. At the same time, island residents are becoming more aware of the earth’s limited resources, and the necessity of doing more with less. These desires dovetail in a way that allows them to live a life in greater harmony with both themselves and their surroundings.


Style is not only an elusive term to define. It is also one of the most overworked words in the dictionary. Yet, it is still the best way to describe the rare ability to be appropriate and original – the flair those certain warm and welcoming homes always display while reflecting and enhancing the lives of those who live there. High style at low cost is the key to successful, practical remodeling and redecorating. Style has no price and, in fact, a low budget can actually lead to fashionable innovation!

Driftwood mirror

The secret of style is confidence. It is the confidence that people have in their own ideas and the fact that they are not afraid of expressing those ideas in their own homes. That is the secret of style and the reason it is not dependent on money. Devise a style of your own, whether you are short of money or time, or both.


Although it is more than just style, this return to nature doesn’t sacrifice aesthetic standards. Instead, it suggests new ones: seeing the beauty in the textures and subtle shading of natural materials, appreciating the serenity of a sparely furnished room. It suggests a way of life that is at once simple, beautiful, and environmentally sound. It is bending an existing space to meet the vision of where you want to live your daily life.


The Pearl Between the Shells

A favorite shorebird in the islandoystercatcher Januarys this time of year is the black oystercatcher. They walk with such a deliberate and dignified stride, run with considerable speed, and their flight is swift, yet graceful. Their song is both distinctive and memorable.


Feeding almost exclusively on oysters, clams, mussels, and various shellfish, they can often be sited along the edge of sand or mud flats or along rocky shoreline. They locate food visually, then force the shells apart with their bright red, strong, wedge-shaped, and razor sharp bills. A fascinating site, to be sure.


While it is obvious this charming shorebird is definitely partial to oysters, it would appear that categorically there are those who simply hate oysters and won’t eat them in any form, those who will eat oysters only if cooked, and then there are those who enjoy ousters on the half shell or really any way they can get them.


For the true oyster lover – the purists, if you will – just thinking of eating oysters can induce instant recall of the cucumber-fresh, sweet, briny meat – smacking of the sea and tangy minerals. Coppery, tinny, clean, intense, soft, melon-like – all are favorable descriptions and a matter of strong personal preference of the oyster devotee.


More than 90% of all West Coast oysters are grown in Washington State. While there are any number of public beaches from which to gather oysters year-round, San Juan Island is fortunate to have its very own exceptional shellfish aquaculture farm – Westcott Bay Shellfish Co. Open from Memorial Day to Labor Day, located on the shore of Westcott Bay with adjoining Garrison Bay forming a unique estuary system enriched by the clean, cold waters of the Straits, this extraordinary sea farm sells to restaurants, however oysters are also available for sale on site of, for a real treat, indulge yourself in their scheduled U-Pick Specials – personally pluck these little gems from their beaches for a very reasonable price. Affordable splendor!








Holiday Memories

Season Lights in Friday Harbor

Season Lights in Friday Harbor

The holidays are upon us and you can feel it in the air in the San Juan Islands. Slowly, surely, the season’s magical spell takes hold with the enchanting small town celebrations and remarkable sense of community. Actively emerging in early December, a spirited and creative time of year, with an abundance of family and friends, it is a precious time when memory and other strands of our lives can come together in powerful and fun ways.


The holidays are a time of sentimental triggers. Holiday memories – we carry them with us all our lives. While other memories may blur and fade, one can almost always recall where one was for holidays past. This seems especially true in the islands. The holidays in the islands are truly remarkable – indescribable really – for young and old alike.


December’s gifts – custom, ceremony, celebration, consecration – come to us wrapped up, not in tissue and ribbon, but in cherished memories. No matter where you live or how old you may be, holidays from your childhood have a special glow about them.


In this society of ours, which often seems broadly skeptical about the value of tradition, it is a wonderful thing for families warmly embracing the positive benefits tradition can actually carry. This extends uniquely to holiday celebrations.


Be it the tree lighting ceremonies, the lighted boat parades, the numerous art festivals and crafts fairs, or the wonderful concerts, there is a calming stability in island holiday celebrations and rituals; both the preparation and celebrations create memories that last a lifetime. Traditions can be sacred or silly, but they become a strong source of bonding, love, and security. The magic, mystery, decorations, presents, singing, laughter, and special food of the island holiday season are all part of the traditions lovingly handed down from generation to generation. Even for those who shun tradition and ritual the rest of the year, the holidays are a time we often return to the security of their fold. Holiday traditions resonate with the imprimatur of time; they become our identity, writing our history, and reflecting cultural heritage.


We think traditions are carved in stone, but really they adapt beautifully to new circumstances if we let them. Introducing new festive rituals each year as our lives change is how we continually open ourselves to wonder, ensuring that our future memories of holidays past bring contentment and renewal. As we seek to put our own stamp on tradition and imbue celebrations with our own sense of style, we discover the irresistible variety of both.


The holidays in the islands are memorable, to be sure…




Local Knowledge

Real estate in the San Juan Islands is, quite simply, extraordinary. In some respects, the island follows mainland trends, but there are definitely some distinct differences.


For a realtor to effectively represent island properties requires extraordinary resources, unlimited access, and uncommon knowledge.  Yes, island properties can attract interest far beyond the local market. The appeal of an island property can extend to a cosmopolitan audience of discerning buyers via today’s sophisticated technology.


However, real estate transactions include a multitude of processes, procedures, and deadlines. To move a transaction efficiently to closing, focused on savvy buyer and seller solutions, it is imperative that the realtor possess not only powerful networking skills, but superior local knowledge.


Local knowledge is the knowledge that people in a given community have developed over time and continue to develop. It is based on experience held by individuals, often tested over centuries of use, passed down from generation to generation adapted to the local culture and environment, embedded in community practices, institutions, and rituals. It is dynamic and ever changing.


Local knowledge goes a long way when it comes to real estate. Island realtors intimately know the community and the lifestyle, can help to narrow criteria, and define goals. They understand the islands’ resources and amenities. They are familiar with and stay current on laws, zoning regulations, easements, covenants, shoreline master programs, land division ordinances, land use by-laws, and building codes to include structural, electrical, and public health. They understand septic and well systems. Local brokers essentially know who to call and when.


Living on an island can be both idyllic and challenging. Local realtors understand that. Buyers typically are not obligated to buy, move, or invest here. They make a conscious choice to become part of the community, but many buyers may only be here for a limited amount of time. Local realtors can show a property on relatively short notice.


This time of year we are reminded of the importance to shop locally. To understand the link between healthy communities and healthy businesses is to understand that this extends to real estate on so many levels.


The islands have an independent economy. Money spent in the islands stays in the islands. For the islands to flourish economically, it is critical that residents contribute by shopping locally. Working with a local realtor keeps the money circulating closer to where it is being spent. Quite simply, it keeps the money in the community, creating a ripple effect where those realtors and their brokerages spend your money locally, potentially supporting a local merchant, helping to pay local wages, support local public services, put food on local tables, and pay local rent and mortgages. Ultimately, it funnels through to the many non-profits by generous donations from local residents and businesses. Money spent in the islands strengthens the islands. It is a commitment to the community.


From the larger islands to private islands, opportunities abound in a real estate market unlike anywhere else in the world. The key is access and expertise. And, local knowledge…



Opening Day!

IMG_8633_4_5_6_7_8mlsA widely celebrated Spring rite is the official opening day of the boating season. Typically held the first weekend in May, yacht clubs everywhere participate in this annual event. Here in the islands, San Juan Island Yacht Club, Orcas Island Yacht Club, and Lopez Island Yacht Club sponsor parades, picnics, dock parties, boat tours, and sometimes even sailboat races.

San Juan Island Yacht Club has chosen “A Community Afloat” as the theme for this year’s festivities. Held Saturday, the first of May at 1415 hours, boats will pass by Spring Street Landing and the Port Marina creatively decorated per the theme or with a maritime display. There will also be classic wooden boats as well as commercial vessels. Parade entrants receive a free night of moorage at Friday Harbor Port Marina. The parade proper is followed by an awards ceremony with a steak and prawn dinner for parade participants, skippers, and crew.

There is nothing quite like Opening Day. The boats, the people, the blue blazer, the crew uniforms, the color, the activity, the fanfare – the order of it all! The tradition.

In this society of ours, which often seems broadly skeptical about the value of tradition, it is a wonderful thing for families now in their third and even fourth generations warmly embracing the positive benefits tradition can actually carry, especially within the yachting community. The wide range of ages, from the young to the not so young, further illustrates the axiomatic: all these people, in one way or another, love the sea.


The Western Bluebird


Driving the island roads at this time of year can be so pleasantly distracting. – delightful, really. Everything is in bloom, lush green everywhere, bright blue skies, abundant sunshine, and often a rainbow in the distance. And, then a bluebird will fly by making its way to the nesting box in the nearby field.

Up until the 1930’s, Western Bluebirds were considered to be common in the islands, however, due to a lack of appropriate nesting sites, the population has dwindled dramatically. Apparently, the bluebirds could not compete with the starlings, swallows, and sparrows for natural nesting locations. They were overwhelmed and simply faded away.

Recently, a partnership consisting of the San Juan Preservation Trust, San Juan Islands Audubon Society, American Bird Conservancy, Ecostudies Institute, and partially funded by the Disney Wildlife Conservation Fund, has been working diligently and successfully to re-establish a breeding population for this native songbird. This is a good thing!

The Western Bluebird is known for its bright colors and cheerful warbling. Adult males are bright blue on top and on the throat with an orange breast and sides, a brownish patch on the back, and a grey belly. The adult females sport a duller blue body, wings, and tail, a grey throat and belly, and a dull orange breast – a bit more muted, if you will. Immature bluebirds can be identified by the spots on their chest.

Look for these adorable creatures in open fields and at the edge of woodlands. Stocky with thin, straight bills, and fairly short tails, these small thrushes appear dumpy and round-shouldered, but typically perch upright. Highly social, they usually feed in flocks during the non-breeding season. They can be seen hunting for insects by dropping to the ground from a low perch – be it a tree, fence, or utility line. They also feed on tree berries.

With Spring, San Juan Island is once again seeing nesting bluebirds all over the island. Our sincere thanks to those who work to make this possible.


Blakely Island Rediscovered

downloadIn a sense, the island paradise known as Blakely Island was rediscovered in the early 1050’s. Floyd Johnson, a sales rep for a Cessna dealership in Portland and also president of a recreational flying club, searched the west coast from Canada to Mexico for a piece of property that could be developed as a private fly-in resort or second home location for friends in the aviation community. After some serious and creative negotiating, as well as financial sacrifice, Johnson bought the entire island for $60,000.

Business partners came and went, but in spite of it all, Johnson went on to clear and plat the northwest end of the island. Power was provided and water was brought down from Horseshoe Lake in the middle of the island via three miles of pipeline. Loggers hacked out a crude airstrip. A labor intensive basic marina was constructed. A handful of pilots believed in the project and built the first homes in the development.

Realizing the development was place for prospective buyers to both stay and eat, Blakely House Restaurant and a handsome Panabode structure called Skytel were built. The latter consisted of six large rooms with fireplaces. Quickly gaining popularity with visiting pilots, potential lot owners, and friends, this definitely put change in motion for Blakely Island.

The following is from a tourist guide published in the early 1960’s:


A privately owned island community commonly called “The Paradise Isle of the San Juans”. Deluxe motel accommodations, excellent restaurant with marine view, complete marina with facilities, groceries, tackle, boats, laundry, showers, etc. Also has unusual real estate homesite program with 200 sites in the San Juan Aviation and Yachting Estates. Fine air strip and daily scheduled air service,

The first class airstrip is now surfaced and lighted. It is private, for the exclusive use of property owners. The marina is now extraordinary, the store still exists, but the resort is no longer a part of the Blakely community. A very special place, Blakely Island continues to flourish in its own exclusive way.



Blakely Island

New Image

To the east of Cypress Island, nestled between Decatur Island and Obstruction Island, is Blakely Island. At 4700 acres, it is the largest of the non-ferry serviced islands in the San Juan archipelago.

Originally discovered by Jose Navarez in 1791, but in 1792 William Broughton and Archibald Menzies of the Vancouver Expedition examined the channels around Blakely with the following comments: “the land rose rugged and hilly to a moderate height, and was composed of mossy solid rocks covered with a thin layer of blackish mould which afforded nourishment to a straddling forest of small stinted pines. The shores were almost everywhere steep, rugged and cliffy.”

In 1841, the Wilkes Expedition christened Blakely Island in honor of Johnston Blakely, commander of the sloop-o-war Wasp during the War of 1812. After numerous daring exploits, Blakely was awarded a gold medal by Congress, only to have his ship and crew mysteriously vanish at sea.

On the island’s eastern shore, as well as the beaches both at the north and south ends of what is now the airstrip, were the sites of seasonal tribal villages. In addition to an abundance of fish, shellfish, and seabird eggs, Blakely Island provided hunting grounds, berries, wild celery, and roots to harvest for the Winter. For the smell of the tule reeds which grew on the island and coveted for making baskets, the Native Americans referred to Blakely Hum-Hum-Ilch.


During the territorial period, the mill town of Thatcher was established in Thatcher Bay. Until very recently, the pilings from that could be seen there.

One of the earliest inhabitants on Blakely was in the 1870 census listing Paul K. Hubbs, Jr. and his wife, Sasha, as the sole occupants. The son of a well-born Tennessee attorney, Hobbs, a leading figure in the San Juan “Pig War”, had been granted the exclusive privilege to the island where he grazed 400 sheep.


Ten years later, the census listed Hubbs’ occupation as fishing, but by this time, there were other settlers on the island. E.C. Gillette, a pre Pig War surveyor on San Juan Island for the Americans, went to Blakely in 1874 to raise sheep on the southeast side. He was actually the first San Juan County surveyor and later became a county school superintendent.

Sometimes it is interesting to look back in time…


Crow Moon

Mark Gardner Photography

When you have made a serious error and need to acknowledge it humbly, the best-known traditional expression to describe this in the United States is to “eat crow”. The origin seems fairly obvious: the meat of the crow is presumably rank and extremely distasteful, with the experience equating to the mental anguish of being forced to admit one’s fallibility.

Although most of us may strive for perfection, we sometimes fall short. It is wise to maintain a sense of humor. Humor is the experience of incongruity. In one’s environment the incongruity may be experienced when someone falls down in a situation where they are not expected to fall down. Humor is emotional chaos remembered in tranquility. With distance, we can appreciate the humor and this is especially true in a crisis situation.

Given the challenging weather this Winter not only in the San Juan Islands but, throughout the Pacific Northwest, it would appear that Mother Nature has a sense of humor. But now, here in the islands, all things seem to be stirring. Branches that just days ago were bare, now fairly burst with blossoms and new growth. Daffodils appear out of nowhere — in fields, along roadsides, and really in the most unlikely places. Everything is a wonderful lush green, there is birdsong – a rainbow!

According to Native American legend, when the weather brought long periods of snow, wind, or rain, the animals became worried and sent a messenger to the Great Spirit to beg for a reprieve. The brightly colored Rainbow Crow offered to make the long journey and was rewarded with the gift of fire, which he carried in his beak. Forever after, with blackened feathers showing tiny rainbows of color, his urgent hoarse cry signals the end of Winter. The Native Americans refer to the March full moon as the Crow Moon for that reason.

This alone could inspire a whole new level of respect for the crow…


The Kenmore Beaver


With a fleet of 25 aircraft providing scheduled daily flights to the San Juan Islands (as well as British Columbia) with the option of charter services, connecting to mainland terminals at Kenmore, Lake Union, and Boeing Field, Kenmore Air is a viable, efficient, convenient, and affordable option for trips to and from Seattle. Additionally, many island homeowners opt to have an “island car” in order to commute via Kenmore either on floats or to the various airstrips in the islands.

While the Kenmore fleet consists of five different aircraft, a long time favorite is the de Havillland Beaver — technically known as the piston Beaver. The distinct sound of a Beaver on floats lifting off the water is very common here in the San Juans. In addition to being the mainstay of the Kenmore fleet, there are approximately 60 privately owned Beavers in Washington State. Considered to be one of the most perfectly designed small utility aircraft ever built, the Beaver is a rugged single-engine high wing monoplane with short take-off and landing capability and a range of up to 800 miles.

Production ceased on the Beaver in 1967, but with so many still flying, heavy modifications to adapt to changing technology are provided by our very own Kenmore Air. Indeed, these modifications are so desirable, the aviation community refers to these rebuilt Beavers as “Kenmore Beavers”! To say that Kenmore maintains their planes is an understatement.

With an eclectic mix of piston Beavers as well as turbine Otters and Caravans, Kenmore Air is, without question, among the most respected floatplane operations in the world. Family owned and operated and founded in 1946 with a business philosophy of “do the right thing”, many would agree, the island experience is not complete without a flight on a Kenmore Beaver.