By Celine Wright
Special to the Journal
After 21 days of harbor hopping up the coast from Santa Cruz, we arrived in Friday Harbor in early September, just in time for the Friday Harbor Sailing Club’s monthly potluck dinner at the Grange Hall. We had just enough time to tie up the Blue Bossa, our Northeast 400, and get over to the Grange to meet our new neighbors and fellow sailors.
The club, formed in 1979 by Cindy Hallmark and others, brings together sailors and powerboat enthusiasts from all backgrounds, each with their own story and approach to enjoying one of the most beautiful and unique archipelagos on the North American west coast. The group is well-rounded with room for young people, age 12 and above, to the young at heart of any age.
Interesting folks make for an interesting club, like a commodore who appears in the local community theater, a world-traveled sailor who plays a mean accordion, a jazz pianist, a retired economics professor who volunteers for hospice, artists, realtors, ex-pats from other states and homegrown islanders as well. These are only some of the people who make up the friendliest group of folks with whom you’d ever want to share a story, a smile and a bottle of wine.
Here are some of the people you might meet:
Jo King has sailed a 27-foot sloop single-handedly (that means solo) for 20-plus years. She loves the freedom to go where she pleases on the water and the camaraderie and support that the club provides. She raised three children, in Idaho, then moved to L.A. for graduate school at USC, and then to the Pacific Northwest to teach economics. An opportunity came along to move to Friday Harbor, boat in tow, so she seized it. Now, she’s living the dream that comes from hard work, being true to one’s self and from the dedication to the art of sailing.
Then there’s John and Gloria Bentzen. They first met when Gloria was 13, and John was one of the guys who helped fish her and several of her friends out of the water after their boat capsized. Gloria didn’t realize the connection until the two met years later. She told him the story. He surprised Gloria by telling her that he was the young man that helped get her safely to the shore. They’ve
been sailing together ever since.
Torry and Joyce Johnson are retired educators who get tremendous enjoyment from the club’s many social events. The Johnsons don’t have a boat in the water right now, but they know they’re always welcome to join other members for a cruise or an outing.
They host an almost annual gathering at a piece of property whose beauty is unsurpassed and, coming from a family whose legacy on the island dates back to the 1950s, they have a long-held, special love for the San Juans.
And then there’s my husband, Howard Wright, a fourth-generation sailor who’s twice sailed across the Atlantic and came to Friday Harbor by way of his brother, professor Bill. Bill introduced Howard to some local musicians when he wintered at the port a couple years back. He got to play some tasty jazz with those new-found friends and a dream was borne. My husband, now retired, is living the dream. And, I’m living that dream, too.
For more about Friday Harbor Sailing Club, contact Commodore Don Hendrix, 378-4590, or visit, fridayharborsailing.com
— Editor’s note: Former Santa Cruz, Calif., resident Celine and Howard Wright relocated to San Juan Island a year ago in July. They joined FHSC in October and can be found on stage playing at the Rumor Mill, as Skylark Musica, the name of their band.
— Journal editor Scott Rasmussen contributed to the above article.