It Takes a Village


Tucker House Inn Friday Harbor

The New Clean-Out

Being stewards of these 100 year old buildings is a challenge. We have similar troubleshooting procedures in place to a technical help line. Our guests or housekeepers alert us to a problem. Our innkeepers are the first line of defense. They know the idiosyncrasies of each unit and can fix a tripped GFI, change out a light bulb, reset the thermostat on a hot tub, or plunge a toilet.

If all else fails, we call Dave. Usually with volt meter or hammer in hand, he can coax the dishwasher back to life or switch out a faulty breaker. When we exhaust Dave’s expertise and ingenuity, we call Brett. He is on speed dial and is usually at our door anytime of the day or night before we even hang up the phone.

These calls usually have to do with the scary stuff – the sump pump that fails to turn on during a driving rain causing overflow capacity in the drainage pond and threatens to flood out the lower Tucker House; or the roof that lost a patch of shingles in a wind storm and has begun to leak, or the water heater seal that failed causing a leak to the ceiling below.

A few weeks ago we had a clogged main sewer  line. We called Brett as soon as we discovered it. Brett quickly ran to get the rental snake as the shop was closing for the night. Unfortunately, it was a temporary fix. Brett wasn’t able to attack the problem the next morning as he had to report for jury duty. We had an inn full of guests arriving. In desperation, I called Terry, the contractor who is renovating our house. He graciously stopped work on another project to meet us at the Inn to see how he could help. The Town of Friday Harbor even sent one of their crew equipped with a camera so we could see what was going on inside the line as there was a chance it was on the Town’s side.

As fate would have it, the clog was on our side of the line. Snaking wasn’t an option. The line needed to be replaced. Terry and his crew, hand dug so they could carefully insert the new pipe with as little damage to the building or surrounding earth as possible. They were minutes away from reattaching the new pipe moments before check-in when the old pipe collapsed. Terry and his crew were demoralized. Luckily for us the guests that were arriving were on the late boat. So with a bit more digging, they found a place to splice the new pipe into the existing line. Terry and his crew finished just in time to welcome our guests. Terry proactively installed a shiny new clean out in the event of any future problems.

Who would have thought that two weeks later that clean out would have saved the historic Tucker House? The Town of Friday Harbor was working on a sewer replacement project on the main line that the Tucker House feeds into. On Friday morning of Memorial Day weekend, their project ran into some unforeseen problems that caused a major back-up. Yes Houston we had a big problem on our hands. And without all the gory details, I share with you the silver lining:

Thanks to the guests that were staying in the cottage that alerted us to the problem.

….and thanks to Dave’s quick thinking to use the new clean out to release the building pressure.

…and thanks to the Town of Friday Harbor crews who did yeoman’s work to quickly restore our property.

…and thanks to Terry’s forethought for installing the clean out.

….and thanks to our housekeepers and innkeepers for getting the suites and cottages ready for our guests.

Yes it takes a village.

Despite our vigilance and proactive maintenance, with the 22 bathrooms, 12 kitchens, and four laundry rooms housed in these four 100 year old structures, something is bound to fail and fail it does. We are extremely grateful to everyone who assists us in the stewardship of these buildings. Each day the curtain lifts at 4 p.m. for check-in. We greet our guests to the Tucker House Inn and Harrison House Suites with a smile as if nothing unusual happened prior to their arrival.

Rhubarb Citrus Sorbet

Rhubarb Sorbet_fixed

Rhubarb Sorbet Spinning










1 # rhubarb, coarsely chopped
½ c orange juice
½ c honey
¼ c water
2 tsp. orange zest, finely grated

1. Simmer ingredients together until rhubarb is tender.
2. Cool and strain. Reserve rhubarb.
3. Spin in an ice cream maker.

Note: Wenda’s rhubarb sorbet has been a real favorite with our guests this spring. We have had a couple of warm days and the sorbet has been a refreshing end to a hearty breakfast. Wenda uses the left over strained rhubarb for fruit crisps, fillings for napoleons or for a savory chutney. Enjoy!

Rhubarb Sorbet_fixed

Ferry Reservations Coming Soon!

San Juan Island Ferry

Washington State Ferry












Many of you ask about making a reservation for the ferry. Currently the Anacortes – Friday Harbor ferry is first come first served. Only the international crossing to Sidney accepts reservations. But that is going to change late this year, December 28th to be exact! Reservations will be available for the east and westward crossing for all of our guests traveling to and from Friday Harbor This new system will revolutionize the current system where you have to queue up sometimes several hours prior to the ferry’s departure. The system is in the final design and testing stage. We will update you once all the details are in place with all the particulars.

So in the interim, we share some strategies and tips for effortless ferry travel that we follow as regular commuters. Equipped with these strategies, along with the new Washington State Ferry app called Vessel Watch, you will breeze to and from the main land. I have used Vessel Watch on my last few off-island excursions and it has been a life saver. Vessel watch offers a real time update of how many car spaces are remaining for a scheduled departure. This way you can decide to do one more errand on your way to the ferry or continue straight to the terminal.

In addition to the Washington State Ferry, there are other transportation options to the San Juan Islands with Kenmore Air or Victoria Clipper particularly due to the Tucker House and Harrison House’s ideal locations to downtown. Depending on your travel itinerary and the number in your party, there may be a better option. Ask The Tucker House concierge when making your reservation. We will be happy to help you weigh the best option to get here and make the bookings for you. Remember getting here is half the fun!

Landscape Cycles

San Juan Island Biking

LC_BannerSan Juan Island Biking




is a new start-up in the San Juan Islands this summer. While the company is new, owner Thomas Bennett is not new to guiding small, custom, bicycle trips. Over the past few seasons, we have gotten to know Thomas as he visited each summer guiding multi-day bicycle trips throughout the Puget Sound. Landscape Cycles’ base on San Juan Island will enable guests to take full advantage of Thomas’ technical biking expertise, knowledge of the Island, and the great biking opportunities the island offers. This is a unique way to experience the beauty of the San Juan Island’s on quiet roads with breathtaking water views or through the interior of the island dotted with farms and lakes. Thomas can customize an itinerary for expert cyclists or for those with small children who just want to cruise. Add a hike to gain a land-based perspective or a kayaking leg to take in even more natural splendor on the water. Short on time, not a problem, Thomas can fit a custom trip into just a few hours or fill a couple of days.

Bicycling San Juan IslandExperience the joy of riding a lightweight hybrid bicycles that offers effortless speed, nimble handling and easy climbing. Landscape Cycles tours will depart from Friday Harbor or Roche Harbor. You will bike from the marina, capturing views of harbors, beaches and bays, checkout historic lighthouses and stroll around parks. On your return ride, learn about the “Pig War”, the last land dispute between the United States and England. The tour includes bicycle rental and a delicious picnic lunch. Thomas takes great care of his guests by illustrating the natural ecology and history of the area, using his certified marine naturalist knowledge. This is a wonderful guided tour for groups of all ages. It offers a fun, hands-on experience suitable to couples, families or large groups. For more information or to book a trip during your visit to San Juan Island, please contact our concierge.

Your Next Book Club Pick!


imgresDiane Hammond is a Keiko expert.

You may know Diane Hammond as a popular writer of several successful Pacific-Northwest based books, but I was first introduced to her as Keiko the whale’s press secretary. As a naturalist and orca freak, naturally I worshipped Keiko, the world’s most famous whale, who began as a movie star and ended as proof that captive animals can be successfully rehabilitated to become wild again. I remember hearing and reading Diane’s name several times as I followed Keiko’s story back in the late 90s.

Diane has written several popular books, including Going To Bend, Homesick Creek, and Hannah’s Dream. That last book is a wonderful story about an elephant – interesting, given that elephants and orcas actually have a lot of similar characteristics, not the least of which is their incredibly complex social and family structures.

The sequel to Hannah’s Dream is her newest release, called Friday’s HarborShe shows love to our town with the title, but the name Friday in this story actually refers to the whale it is written about. It is, of course, based on Keiko; but it is fact woven in fiction . Of the book, Diane says she hopes that “while it poses difficult questions about holding animals in captivity, readers will recognize that the book is, at its core, a love story.”

Diane is certainly among those few people in the world who can call themselves familiar with beloved Keiko, as she spent a lot of imgres-1time observing him while he was at the Oregon Coast Aquarium, where she worked during his entire stay. Her husband, Nolan, was in charge of his rehab there. It was an exhausting two years for Diane, being at the center of a constant media whirlwind, and so when it was over she decompressed by doing what came naturally to her – writing about it. What resulted was a series of stories and vignettes that captured Keiko’s character, and eventually became Friday’s Harbor.

I was thrilled to be able to correspond with Diane, and she was nice enough to grant me a short interview about her book and experiences with Keiko. Below is the transcript of that interview. Thank you, Diane, for a fascinating look into the amazing whale that captured so many of our hearts. Friday’s Harbor is available now at and bookstores everywhere.

Can you tell me what it was like to be so close to Keiko and his story? What were some of the challenges and alternatively, best things about your position as spokesperson for the aquarium, concerning Keiko?

“Until Keiko arrived in Newport, Oregon at the Oregon Coast Aquarium, I hadn’t ever seen a killer whale, not in the wild and not in captivity. I consider myself extremely fortunate in two ways: that I was given Keiko’s story to tell to the world’s media; and that in Keiko’s rehabilitators I also had gifted teachers who taught me both what Keiko needed and how they went about designing a never-before-done program to meet those needs.

Keiko greets his young fans at the Oregon Coast Aquarium.

Keiko greets his young fans at the Oregon Coast Aquarium.

For those two years I was privileged to spend every day, all day at Keiko’s pool, telling his story to journalists from around the world. What writer wouldn’t sell her soul for that opportunity? And here’s what surprised me most in that two years of surprises: that an animal that lived in a different medium than we do and with whom he had no shared language could develop individual, complex and unique relationships with each member of his staff.”

Have you been to San Juan Island to see wild orcas? How did that experience change your view of Keiko, if at all?

“Since the Keiko project ended, I have been to San Juan Island, though I haven’t seen the orcas in the Sound there. I envy those of you who live in the San Juans—especially since for the last three years my husband Nolan Harvey and I have made our home in St. Paul, Minnesota. You can’t get much more landlocked than the Twin Cities! Nolan was the director of Keiko’s rehabilitation, and we still talk about Keiko often, especially now that Friday’s Harbor has been released.”

What role did your husband have in improving Keiko’s condition?

“By the time Nolan joined Keiko’s staff he’d had nearly 25 years of experience working with marine mammals all over the world. His specialty was veterinary care, and he’s an amazing trainer, so his challenge was to design a program that not only restored Keiko to good health, but reversed Keiko’s life experience to prepare him for a return to the wild. Rather than training him to leave the wild behind, learning to eat dead fish and live in a man-made marine environment, Nolan’s job was to re-teach Keiko to catch and eat live fish and live in a wild environment. It had never been done before, and I doubt that it’ll ever be done again. It was killingly expensive, and there’s never been consensus on whether the project was ultimately a success or a failure.”

I read that you wrote the book as fiction to avoid becoming entangled in the Blackfish controversy. Why do you think killer whales are becoming such a hot topic lately, and what can Keiko’s story teach us about them?

“Actually, I didn’t know anything about Blackfish until Friday’s Harbor had not only been written but released. I didn’t want to write about whether or not killer whales should be kept in captivity. I wanted to tell a love story about the extraordinary relationships and bonds that form between killer whales and people. In the end, that was what I took away from the Keiko years, and that was what I felt I could write about most compellingly.”

What was your favorite thing about Keiko and your bond with him, and what do you want the world to remember about him?

“I can’t claim to have had any relationship of my own with Keiko–while I witnessed every step of his rehabilitation while he was in

Keiko in "Free Willy"

Keiko in “Free Willy”

Oregon, I was strictly an observer. But I would hope that people remember him as an incredibly courageous and adaptable animal. Through twenty-plus years of isolation and environmental squalor—poor diet, small pool, warm water—he was able to live as full a life as possible by forging relationships with his human caretakers. If there was an animal that deserved to spend his last seven years living in an increasingly rich environment, it was Keiko.”

Finally, do you have any special Keiko moments you’d like to share?

“We had always been told that in Mexico City, Keiko had “loved children.” We were skeptical, but we put it to the test on Christmas day, 1996—Keiko’s first Christmas in Oregon, and a dull day because the Oregon Coast Aquarium was closed. Nolan and I decided to give Keiko my daughter as a Christmas present. She was six years old, and relatively unimpressed with him, but we put her in rubber boots and gave her a bucket of fish and escorted her to the side of the pool. He joined her immediately, propping his chin on the pool-side and eating fish after fish that she offered him. Then he swam away from her very slowly. With nothing better to do, she  followed him in the wet-walk until he stopped. When she caught up with him, he swam ahead again, and they followed this routine several times more—until, when she stopped, he rolled onto his side, raised his six-foot-long pectoral flipper, and touched her with great delicacy right on the top of her head. He had taught her the game of follow-you-follow-me. He also taught her a game of push-me-push-you that day, lunging into her cupped hands and then letting her “push him” underwater—a feat she could no more have actually accomplished than she could have picked up an elephant with her pinky.”

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275 C Street Friday Harbor WA 98250 | 360.378.2783 or 800.965.0123 © Tucker House Inn | Photography: Michael Bertrand Photographer & Others