Sunday Sailing with Bill Smith Willowood Farm Takes To The Sea - By David Stern

Bill Smith on his 45' sailboat, Culmination. He's owned the boat for 30 years.

After a long week of dealing with the loss of the historic Smith Barn, the Willowood Farm crew was invited out on Bill Smith's 45' sailboat for some R&R and most importantly, a distraction from the emotional toll of the past 6 days. I think it is important to share these photos because if we did not stop to enjoy life and have fun with one another, then what is the point of all of the hard work.

Heading down the dock to board the sailboat
"You know how I gauge a good sailing trip? If I drink more wine than the boat drinks diesel, it was a good trip. This was a good trip"
Historic Coupeville Waterfront

We set sail from the Coupeville Wharf and headed deeper into Penn Cove to harvest oysters from Bill Smith's personal shellfish farm. This was a new experience for me and inspired me to one day have my own secret stash of yummy shellfish waiting for me in the ocean. Within minutes we had 30 fresh oysters ready to be eaten gratefully. Once lunch was on board we opened up the snacks everyone had brought, made some coffee, popped the red wine, and began roasting the oysters in the galley. Sitting around a table covered in food, with friends who have all been through this experience of loss together and being able to laugh and love is a reminder of everything we still have.

Lunch fresh from Penn Cove

The trip was not without it's hiccups. The wind picked up between Penn Cove and Oak Harbor and the wave action made for a rough ride. A few of us without our sea legs thought we might see our lunch again, but fortunately the wind subsided once we were safely protected behind Camano Island.

Strong Winds and Wavy Seas

Now it was time to fly the jib. Until now we only had the mainsail up and were cruising on computer assist. With the jib flying and speed picking up, Bill asked me to take the wheel and aim towards Penn Cove. He went down below to pour more wine for himself as I got my wish of piloting a beautiful sailboat through Saratoga Passage back into our home port of Penn Cove. My wife Madisun stayed with me on deck riding out whitecaps and light rain. Both of us with smiles glued to our faces.

Rounding the point into Oak Harbor
Dinghy ashore at the secret oyster spot
Weathered bell
Bill Smith raising the mainsail
Cliffside near Oak Harbor
Hundreds of ducks in Penn Cove
Bill Smith setting a fishing line.

Having sailed a handful of times before in my life it quickly came back to me and after a few harrowing moments of the boat pitching sideways at a sharp angle I began to feel more safe and in control. Turning the wheel slightly upwind allowed me to level the boat out and slow down. Downwind and we went sideways while moving along at a good clip. Even when I thought I might be doing something incorrectly, I'd look down in the cabin and see Bill was happily sipping his wine and eating some cake. Life was good for us all at this time.

Mel watches the sails while Madisun and Alanah try to stay warm on deck
Captain Bill and his mermaids

About an hour later we pulled back into Penn Cove and docked at the buoy where the boat is moored and the dinghy is kept. Bill came up from the galley and said "You know how I gauge a good sailing trip? If I drink more wine than the boat drinks diesel, it was a good trip." It was inspiring being out on the water with a man who just 6 days previous had lost everything he had built, along with all of his tools and family business. Now, sitting amongst friends, Bill was smiling and joking and talking about plans for the future of Willowood Farm.

Bill Smith rowing to pick up Mel and Alanah to bring them ashore.
Happiness all around as the day wraps up
The last step before the drive home
Thank you Bill Smith.

Special thank you to Bill Smith whose positive attitude and sense of humor in the face of such a hardship can be an inspiration to us all.

Copyright 2017. David Stern - Whidbey Custom Photography.

No commercial use with permission and credit. Please share with proper credit.

Created By
David Stern


Cover photo by Madisun Elizabeth Dinghy photos by Milady Belle

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