Percival Landing

Olympia Harbor Days

Labor Day Weekend in Olympia was dominated by a colorful harbor scene at the 49th Annual Harbor Days Festival  presented by the South Sound Maritime Heritage Association, boasting 250 things to do and see! The sketcher in me translated that to – 250 things to sketch!  Starting with the tugboats, which are a thing here with lots of history in the Puget Sound.

The historic roots of tugboat racing stemmed from the last half of the 1800s, when sailing ships arrived in the Sound from ports throughout the world.  Because of the lack of wind on the inland waters, steam-powered tugboats were required to tow them to the docks for cargo unloading.   By tradition, the first of the tugs that raced out to meet the arriving ships got the towing work.


fountain pen and watercolor in Hahnemuhle ZigZag book

Some of the tugboats I saw on the dock last weekend were hardly the working kind however. Like Tugzilla here, with its owners chillin’ on deck and answering questions from the appreciative crowd of onlookers. On Sunday there were tug boat races in the harbor and you could book passage on an historic boat to be able to view them out in the Sound.

The festival was crowded enough that finding a place to sit and sketch was problematic. I found this little bit of dock alongside the colorful Tugzilla and got set up to sketch, only to discover that the crowds of enthusiasts were finding their way down the boardwalk in my direction and creating a wave motion on the floating boardwalk, disrupting pen and my sense of equilibrium! 

So I adjourned and met up with Ineke, and we both decided to tackle the busy scene above while standing at a railing (color and details added later at home!) The big crane in the background is an ever visible reminder of the Port of Olympia activity and the lumber yard. The historical underpinnings of this city on the Puget Sound, its roots in native tribal life, white settlement, and  the role of commerce in expansion and development are abundantly visible to this day. 

Stay tuned for more sketches from Harbor Days!


Percival Landing: Sand Man

fountain pen and watercolor in Travelogue w/c sketchbook 8 X 8″

Boats have an anatomy just like humans and birds and if I would apply myself to sketching them every day. That wouldn’t be hard here in Olympia, where there’s several marinas and frequent sailing regattas and classes going on, all in the harbor downtown.

For this sketch I walked out on a pier down on water level where I could sit by myself and concentrate. It was sunny but the cold wind whipped up and the palette went flying and the water reflections and even colors changed every five minutes. Gotta love it!

Being a rank newcomer to town I didn’t realize that the Sand Man , a tugboat built in 1910, is the official City of Olympia historic vessel, offering free on-board tours of the tug in return for docking fees: which proves once again, that one of the most efficient ways to learn your way around a new home city is to get out and sketch!  And even better to have the South Sound Urban Sketchers to go out with!