The weather finally broke the other day in Western Washington, bringing cool, overcast skies and a smattering of rain. With Harvey and Irma in the news it may be hard to grasp the fact that there’s a serious drought on the West coast. Even worse, with human “help” the dry conditions spawned a tough wildfire season, bringing destruction and death and a haze of sickening smoke and ash. A wet forecast is sweet relief these days and didn’t deter us from heading north to Fidalgo Island on Saturday. Our plan was to explore a small peninsula overlooking the San Juan Islands.

We’re less familiar with this part of the state and we are ever curious, so we kept sharp eyes out for anything unusual as we drove across the island. On the way to the park I glimpsed something beyond unusual. Only briefly visible from the road, the strange sight appeared, then quickly disappeared. I flashed on some elaborate Hollywood film set. Did I really see a huge dark hulk of a wooden ship, with a cargo that appeared to be a forest, looming out of the mist?

Yes, it was an old wooden ship topped with a forest, growing like big hair gone completely wild.


We continued on to Washington Park, agreeing to check out the strange apparition later – I was pretty sure it wasn’t going anywhere. The sky was spitting a thin drizzle when we traced our route back, and I was soaked after our wander in the park, but the rain felt like renewal after two months of dry heat. Past the ferries to Canada and the San Juan islands we went, searching for a way to get closer to the mysterious specter.

We found it – a narrow, gravel road leading down a hill to a shipyard. We thought we might be booted out at any time, but I couldn’t resist the prospect of getting closer to the mystery ship. With growing excitement, we parked next to a couple of junked trucks and jumped out. A narrow, overgrown isthmus led straight to the ship, looming silently overhead.

By that time we had figured out that this wasn’t a shipwreck, but instead, it was a rather unorthodox breakwater for the shipyard and marina.


La Merced looks old because it is – it was built one hundred years ago in California. A four-masted schooner with auxiliary power, it sailed up, down and across the Pacific delivering case oil for Standard Oil and other companies. Four years into service the ship was rammed by another boat while at anchor near Alcatraz. After repairs the ship sailed the Pacific for a few more years, before it became a floating fish cannery working the salmon catch in Alaska. (The link is to an old photo showing La Merced’s four masts behind some cannery buildings).

Meanwhile, an enterprising man from Croatia named Anton Lovric was working as a boat repairman in Anacortes, Washington, 1,572 nautical miles away. Tony Lovric had a colorful life. Born in 1924, he was captured by the Germans during WWII and survived 14 months of hard labor at Dachau. After he was released he studied naval architecture and worked in a Croatian shipyard, leaving for Italy in 1958 becuase he feared reprisal for his outspoken political views. From Italy he emigrated to the US, eventually arriving in Anacortes, a small northwest port town where he had friends. The place suited him. He married, had five children, and with hard work and resourcefulness he turned a former seafood processing business into Lovric’s Sea-Craft, a ship repair yard and marina.


Repurposing was second nature to Tony Lovric. In 1966 he bought the 232-foot ship La Merced, to use as a breakwater for his marina. Stripped of its masts, engines, bowsprit and other accouterments, the old ship was brought to Anacortes to begin another chapter in its long life. Set in place, filled with sand and surrounded with rocks, it remains there today. La Merced has now spent half its life out of the water. Resting on the island’s edge, she’s like a great beached whale, her skin rough with peeling paint instead of barnacles, her rusted hawse holes keeping watch over the shipyard.


I doubt this old pulley was used for the breakwater project but who knows what it lifted into place over the years?  Lovric’s shipyard is still in the family. About ninety percent of their work is done on working boats, not pleasure craft. I like that. On that Saturday afternoon, we saw the bottom of a barge being steam cleaned. There are two rather handsome old wooden buildings for storage and machining, and in the marina you can see boats of every size and shape, with at least one that appears to be a residence.


A tangle of rope, an old winch engine, trucks in various states of disrepair, wild blackberries running through it all…a ladder, a toilet bowl, a volleyball net, a metal wall with a dark opening leading into the overgrown hillside…odd “stuff” is everywhere. Think of all the things you could do with that stuff! Not to mention the history that might be pried out of this site.


We wondered about the lumber used to build La Merced. Maybe loggers felled the timbers back in the early 1900’s in the mountains east of Fidalgo Island, mountains visible from the shipyard on a clear day. The logs could have been shipped to California (as many were) and milled into the long boards needed for the ship. The boards would have been nailed into place, caulked, pitched, painted, and finally, La Merced would float. She would sail the Pacific, awash in the waters of Australia, Hawaii, maybe Polynesia, Alaska…and finally she would come to rest on Fidalgo Island, where her hull full of sand would support the tiny plants that sprouted from seeds blown in or dropped by birds…plants that slowly would become a small forest, which in turn must support more life than I can imagine.

This post isn’t about a well-loved site like Mount Rainier and the photos may leave something to be desired, given the rain that day.  But what a sight that massive, century-old ship is! Where once four tall masts held sails that caught distant ocean winds, now trees sway in channel breezes. As the wood slowly rots it helps to keep a local business afloat. Those timbers support an ecosystem that’s part of the local flora and fauna, and this living breakwater can now catch the eyes and imagination of any curious passer by, on land or on water, sparking delight. *



Some of these photos are homages of sorts, to blogging friends whose work I admire.  Al at burnt embers often works in film, inspring me to try film effects or film colors (the marina shot and the aqua-shuttered building photo). Linda at Romancing Reality takes masterful photos of dumpster surfaces and she inspired the rusty, scratched metal surface photo.  Louis, who is accomplished at graphic work and often shoots in maritime locations, inspired the rope photo.  Adrian nudges me to make an occasional darker image (like the ladder) and experiment with film effects.  Otto, whose Instagrams also push me to experiment with effects, probably inspired the silhouetted, smudgy pulley photo. Many others I haven’t named this time (Lisa, “Chill” Adrian, Alan, Hedy, Denise, Ken, Jane, Gunta, Uli, Joshi, Pierre, 125tel, Patti, Dina, etc!) are pushing boundaries and perfecting their visions, inspiring me to do the same. And Linda at The Task at Hand, a far better storyteller than I am, inspires me to try weaving a written tale through my photographs, at least once in a while.


  1. You know I had a little pitter pat when I saw “the rusty, scratched metal surface photo.” Your story and links put together with your photographs make for an altogether great post. The photo you chose to lead with is (what’s the feminist version of “masterful”?), but I certainly enjoyed all the rest of them.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Amazing find, Lynn. The first two and last are my favorites because of the subject itself and the way you’ve handled it in all three. I’ll one-up Ken (aka oneowner) though and say the first photo is spectacular 🙂 A real sense of mystery and perhaps even danger.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Just think, if we hadn’t gone down that road, if I’d been looking the other way…and as extraordinary as the ship appears to me, it seems the islanders are totally used to it. Makes sense, since it’s been there for decades, but still. Anyway, I’m glad it’s not become some landmark or tourist sight, that would have ruined it.
      So glad you like those photos. And yes, especially in the rain, there was a wonderful possibility of danger hovering there. (Not to mention that a portion of the port side has collapsed, spilling sandy soil which is now also overgrown, and stopping short of going into the water or onto another boat at anchor. You would NOT want tot try climbing up there. It really looms.


  3. A strange, but beautiful sight Lynn ~ so very cool. You capture the scenes so well, an idyllic sea life and some place I could see myself enjoying so much. You brought out the mood perfectly. And I agree to with the others, your second shot is stunningly perfect in inviting us along with this mystery 🙂


  4. Fascinating story, my friend, you have a way of finding out these things. I’m with ag, I most like the first and last images – the last one is getting over towards the surreal. The mono rope shot also gets to me. And thanks for the plug – thinking of Star Wars … Lynn … come over to the Dark Side … Lynn … 😉


    • This place is easy to love, isn’t it? I went down the internet wormhole looking onto the story of the ship and the man who put it there….hours and hours! I’m – glad you liked it, and I see you found Linda, that’s great. Have a good weekend!


  5. What an interesting piece of history! It definitely makes for a dramatic shot, especially that last one in black and white.

    We also draw inspiration daily from fellow bloggers, and love how community can push us to do more. Great post, Lynn!


    • I’m glad you liked it – that last photo kind of came to life when I fiddled with the processing. Yes, we all inspire one another, for sure. You guys inspire me to be more professional with the blog…ahem…sort of. 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  6. An amazing story Lynn and superb photographs as always. That rain really must have felt good. Lets hope it brings some relief to the firefighters tackling those appalling forest fires. I know that drought has become a very serious issue on the west coast of the USA and with the hurricanes hitting the south. What a crazy situation we now find ourselves in.


    • That rain didn’t amount to much, but we have a few days forecast now, so things are looking up. It’s been a rough fire season, and already a rough hurricane season. Maybe the winter will be calmer, but we won’t bet on it, with warming oceans producing more extremes in our weather everywhere. We’ll adapt for a while, but will get smart and do something about it?


  7. The first thing that came to mind when I saw that first image was the old Blues Image song that contains the repeated line, “Ride, Captain, ride, upon your mystery ship.” When I saw the second photo, I thought, “Well, there’s running aground, and then there’s running aground.” By the time I finished looking at the rest of the images, all I could think was, “I wonder if they need a varnisher up there? I would love to work in that yard.” As you note, this is a place for work boats, not pleasure craft. Still, I see a couple that have wood that would profit by my attentions.

    The yard in general, and the surrounding area, certainly profited by your attentions. You have a loving eye, but I still would call this a masterful presentation. Words have meanings, and “masterful” and “loving” aren’t the same. I do love that the blackberry brambles and the toilet bowl made it into the series, as well as all the little details that make this a true boatyard, and not the concreted-over, unbearably uniform regulated boatyards of today.

    I confess I was startled beyond words to see your kind mention at the end — thank you! I’d say your story-telling-with-words is a fine complement to your stories-with-images. Isn’t it wonderful that there are so many options?


    • I remember that song, it’s a fitting one, isn’t it? I love the idea of you coming up to give some attention to the boats that can use it – and you could visit our Center for Wooden Boats. You get this territory, so I’m happy that you enjoyed seeing the oddities around the yard – there are plenty more, it was getting too rainy to stay out there for long taking pictures. Places like this just make you salivate, don’t they? And yes, it’s true that this medium is nice and flexible, allowing us to do our thing and change it up whenever we want to.

      Liked by 1 person

    • You’re right, Ule, the ship especially looks good in that rainy, gray weather. We have plenty of that weather up here, all winter and much of the fall and spring, so it’s time for me to adjust my shooting habits and get used to it again.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. A bit of the mean green envies leaking through here. We have an old derelict ship here in the bay with a story, too. It’s the Mary D. Hume built in 1881. Unfortunately it’s been left sitting in the water and is gradually falling apart. I keep wondering how much longer it’ll remain visible. I taken several shots of it over the years, but wish I could weave a story as well as you do about it’s origins and sad fate. You certainly inspire me to try, but even with the smoke gone life just isn’t allowing much time for the internet. For now, it’s trying to finish painting the exterior before the rains truly set in. The joy of owning a somewhat neglected house… perhaps with echoes of your boat and mine?

    Thank you for the mention. That was sweet! I only wish I could be spending a bit more time posting.


    • I’ve seen old wooden boats like that around from time to time, and it’s so sad to see them disintegrate. I’m sure you could write well about the Mary D Hume – the research leads you to all the good stuff, and it just takes time putting it together coherently. Time that you don’t have right now….you’ll get back to posting soon enough. Just be glad you don’t have a boat to deal with in addition to the house. 😉


    • Well, I had been there before, but I didn’t see the ship until I headed for a park on the western side of the island, a little outside of the town. I’m glad you enjoyed the post, it was really fun finding La Merced, and then learning about it.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. I love the history you already managed to pry from this site. Absolutely fascinating. I enjoyed it as much or more than a post about the beautiful Mt. Rainier. And to think it was all inspired by an unexpected glimpse on a road trip. I recently read a post by writer David Corbett on Writer Unboxed about thinking of story plotting like a road trip. His nugget about the unexpected turns being the most memorable really stuck with me and has helped my writing and renewed inspiration in general day to day. You certainly embrace the unexpected, and it’s part of what makes me keep your post notifications in my email until I can read them – unlike so many others that get deleted for lack of time. Love the boat full of forest! Thanks for stopping and for sharing.


    • Sheri, so nice of you to convey your enthusiasm! I appreciate hearing this from a writer, because I struggle with the writing. As for embracing the unexpected – that, I don’t struggle with! 😉 It’s interesting that being open to the unexpected turned out to be what you needed to hear to get re-inspired with writing – it seems to be a more obvious stragey (to me) for visual arts, like photography.
      Thanks for holding on to the emails – I think many of us are inundated, but often with good stuff.
      BTW, I hope you get up to Anacortes sometime to look for the ship – it can be seen from the road, the shipyard’s on the map. There’s a fabulous bookstore in town – Pelican Bay Books. Great selection, new & used, and a nice little cafe too. Maybe you can do a reading…

      Liked by 1 person

      • Sounds like a getaway to put on my list for sure. I have a friend that it sounds tailor made for as well, so could be a fun day together with her. Yes, I’d always applied that to visual arts, but embracing the departures from the outline as the best part in writing, clarified what to keep and what to toss in my current editing process. It’s been so difficult for me finding an outline necessary because of the length of my series, when I’ve always just been able to write spontaneously. I’ve been so worried the story will become dull. The road trip analogy keeps the sparks on the map and gives me permission to fan the flames of unorthodox or unplanned plot points as long as they enhance the trip. I can feel the flow again, and it’s exciting.


  10. What a fantastic find!!!! Your narrative was great as well – one never knows where the twists and turns of Life’s paths and roads will take us. – Like how your own journey allowed you to reap the benefits of a living sculpture designed by someone born almost 100 years ago – from Croatia, who might have snickered about what others might think long after he had moved on….


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