Tag Archives: boats

World's Largest Rubber Ducky sketch by Chandler O'Leary

Just ducky

Speaking of nautical things that are here today, gone tomorrow, this big gal was just a brief visitor to my town, but she certainly brightened up an otherwise grey day.

World's Largest Rubber Ducky sketch by Chandler O'Leary

It seems that all of Tacoma shared my feelings on this—it was all anyone could talk about that weekend. It wasn’t just her sheer size (sixty feet tall!)…

World's Largest Rubber Ducky sketch by Chandler O'Leary

…but her cheerful incongruity.

World's Largest Rubber Ducky sketch by Chandler O'Leary

Yet once she was towed out into the bay, suddenly she became the right scale again: a little duck in a really, really big bathtub.

San Juan Island corgi sketch by Chandler O'Leary

Four-legged harbormaster

When I sat on the pier to do this sketch, I only meant to draw the boats—I’m a sucker for bunches of masts and linear elements like tielines. To make sure I could fit the whole mast in the picture plane, I started at the top and worked my way down. It wasn’t until I got to the mass of windows and decks that I noticed the corgi sitting quietly and staring back at me!

This is the perfect example of why I prefer to sketch my surroundings, rather than photograph them. If all I had done was snap a photo of the scene, I never would have noticed that pup in a million years. Instead, I got to have a private little thrill of discovery, like I had just found out a small secret.

Kalakala sketch by Chandler O'Leary

The swan song of the Kalakala

There are restoration success stories like Lucy…and then there are others without the happy ending. In my part of the world right now, a floating rust bucket is the talk of the town. That’s because at long last, an odyssey spanning nearly 90 years, thousands of miles and a whole lot of folly is about to come to an end.

From the 1930s through the 60s, the M.V. Kalakala was a swingin’ Art Deco ferry in Seattle’s Black Ball fleet. Her unusual (and flawed) design made her either a shining star or a laughing stock, depending on whom you asked—but either way, she enjoyed a fair amount of fame. She was the recipient of the first-ever commercial on-board radar system (FCC license #001!), and even made a cameo in the popular “Black Ball Ferry Line” song by Bing Crosby and the Andrews Sisters.

Once she was retired from ferry service, though, she went into a long, slow decline—beached and converted into a cannery in Alaska, then later towed back to Washington as the unfortunate victim of restoration projects that never made it off the ground. I’ll spare you all the twists and turns of the Kalakala story—a quick Google search will give you a whole host of written words, photographs, and even sketches by other folks who can tell the tale better.

Kalakala sketch by Chandler O'Leary

Normally this is just the sort of story that would get me up in arms, ready to send a donation to the save-it fund and spread the word far and wide. But this time, I think I’d prefer to see the Kalakala sail off into the proverbial sunset. She deserves a better end than rusting through and sinking in a swirl of toxic chemicals, in a town that bears no real connection to her history.

Still, I’m glad I’ve had a chance to catch glimpses of her over the years. And I didn’t want to miss the chance to sketch her, even if only from a distance. She’s slated for demolition at the end of this month—I’m glad the weather held out long enough to give me a couple of good views of her.

Wishing you fair winds and following seas, Kalakala.


Seattle houseboat sketch by Chandler O'Leary

Still life with skyline

Last week I was invited to come and sketch the view from one of Seattle’s famous houseboats (best perk of what I do: being invited to sketch interesting, hidden things!). Unlike the biannual houseboat tour, where there’s barely time to jot down a few chicken scratches on the spot before it’s time to move on (I have to finish those sketches after the fact), this time I had all the time in the world to spread out, choose my vantage point, and luxuriate in finishing the drawing then and there.

Since the houseboat was the kind of place that made me want to just plop down and stay forever, the gift of time was even more wonderful than being presented with that stellar view.

Seattle houseboats sketch by Chandler O'Leary

Boat sweet boat

Some cities have inner pockets that feel like worlds unto themselves—little enclaves that are either well-hidden, little-known, or inaccessible to the general public. The perfect example is Seattle’s numerous houseboat communities. I’d been dying to sketch the houseboats ever since I moved here, and on Sunday, I finally got my chance. Every two years the Floating Homes Association organizes a public tour of a handful of properties—but doesn’t exactly broadcast the event. After years of missing it, I finally scored tickets—which, to Mary-Alice and I, felt something like passports to Narnia.

Seattle houseboats sketch by Chandler O'Leary

Not only did we get to see the sights and meet friendly folks—

Seattle houseboats sketch by Chandler O'Leary

—but we also got what felt like a slice of a parallel universe.

San Juan Islands sketch by Chandler O'Leary

On island time

When my best friend Elizabeth came to visit last year, she told me she’d always wanted to visit the San Juan Islands. So we packed every bit of waterproof gear we had and headed north for a girls-only trip.

San Juan Island ferry sketch by Chandler O'Leary

We spent a good chunk of our trip on various boats—

San Juan Islands sketch by Chandler O'Leary

—which, even in spring’s constant cold drizzle, is the best way to see the islands (and their inhabitants!) in all their misty glory.

San Juan Island wildlife sketch by Chandler O'Leary

Still, even though we’d gladly risk pneumonia any day to catch a glimpse of an orca, it was wonderful to have a warm, cozy room to come back to at the end of the day.

We are landlubbers, after all.

Kirk House B&B sketch by Chandler O'Leary