LAST FRIDAY WAS a watershed day for Don and Juanita Campbell — it was the day the couple celebrated getting their boat, a 31-foot-long liner, into the water, ready to set off on their first day of fishing last Saturday.
The boat is named after their daughter, Katy, whose S’Klallam name is Ah-Ah-You.
A college student, Katy was unable to be in town that day because she was completing her last day of student teaching in Port Orchard.
But Don and Juanita didn’t embark on their new endeavor without the blessings of family.
Last Friday at noon, members of their church gathered on the commercial dock behind the Port Townsend Yacht Club to take part in a ceremonial blessing of the boat.
It was a Port Townsend potluck: smudging with burning sage by the organist, Terry Reitz; drumming by Fred Johnson, the former choir director who plays jazz bass; and prayer led the Rev. Wendell Ankeny.
“Great Spirit God, we especially ask for your protection, safety and success as Don, Juanita and Katy fish these ancestral waters of Puget Sound, the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the San Juans,” Ankeny said.
Ankeny is the minister of Trinity United Methodist Church, a 155-year-old congregation in uptown Port Townsend.
Juanita, who is a member of the S’Klallam tribe, grew up in Discovery Bay.
Don, who was born in Hawaii, has lived in Port Townsend since he was 4 years old.
Both graduated from Port Townsend High School in the ’70s and knew each other but didn’t start dating until later.
A former commercial fisherman, Don is a heating contractor, sings in the church choir and is a lay leader and speaker.
But the Campbells didn’t attend Trinity until seven years ago, when a fortuitous circumstance brought Don to its door: He was the low bidder on a heating system for the church building.
With the housing industry cooling off, Don was forced to find another way to support his family.
Although he knew the ropes, investing in a fishing boat was a huge step, one that was eased by the gathering at the dock.
It was Reitz, who is Sioux, who offered to perform the smudging ceremony, which is done to clear away negative thoughts and energy and provide a fresh start.
At Friday’s gathering at the dock, she first called on the “choir”: Johnson, a retired band teacher (Don was one of his students), accompanied by Donna Purnell on rattle.
Then, everyone joined in the chant “Mother, I feel your heart beat” as Terry and spouse Mark Reitz climbed aboard the boat, Mark drumming as Terry wafted smoke from burning sage around the boat.
After the smudging, Juanita turned the ashes of the sage over the bow into the water, and Ankeny led a prayer recognizing the sovereignty of God over the earth and heavens.
He also asked for protection as the family fishes the waters.
Saturday was the opening day of fishing for eight tribes, but only the S’Klallams were planning to brave the windy weather, Juanita said.
Trinity has also passed through perilous waters — it was scheduled to be closed 13 years ago.
But under the leadership of Ankeny, who persuaded church leadership to remand the sentence, the congregation rebounded and thrived.
The building, which lacked a foundation, has been renovated and restored and has not one but two pipe organs and a grand piano.
On any given Sunday, Terry Reitz moves between the tracker organ, the grand piano and the console of the latest addition, a 23-rank pipe organ.
Trinity also has two other musicians: Mary Weeding and Theresa Bowman, who came to hear the new pipe organ and stayed to be the choir director.
In addition to her studies, Katy is the child care provider at Trinity, corralling toddlers after the children’s time during the Sunday service and taking them to the nursery.
Katy, 22, attended Olympic Community College in Bremerton and is graduating from Central Washington University with a double major in elementary and special education.
For the first eight years of her life, she lived aboard a fishing boat in Alaska with her parents.
Terry Reitz also has a double life: In addition to being a musician, she designs and creates custom upholstery and fabrics at her weaving factory near Quilcene.
On Friday, she and Mark presented the Campbells with a braid of woven sweet grass and the rattle used in the blessing ceremony.
Bill Metzer, a member of Trinity, presented the couple with a bottle of champagne along with a box of chocolates on behalf of him and spouse Wendi Metzer, owners of William’s Gallery.
At the close of the prayer, Ankeny blessed the boat and its crew in the name of Jesus Christ, echoing the benediction he bestows on the congregation every Sunday at the close of the service.
In all, more than 20 Trinity members turned out for the ceremony to launch the three Campbells and their boat, to say nothing of the dog — Harvey and Jan Crow brought their bishon frise mix, Duke.
At church Sunday, Ankeny reported that the crew of the Ah-Ah-You — Don, Juanita and Katy— had worked well together on their first day out, bringing home 200 pounds of halibut.
Ankeny also announced that there will be a special offering Sunday for the United Methodist Committee on Relief for tsunami relief in Japan and that contributions from the Trinity’s next Candlelight Concert — guitarist Joe Euro on March 24 — also will go toward that cause.
Trinity United Methodist Church is located at 609 Taylor St., across from the east side of the Port Townsend Community Center. Sunday service starts at 10 a.m.
Tell them Duke sent you.
Speaking of dog owners, I got a call from Irene Anderson, whom I met on the beach awhile back with her black poodle.
Anderson, who lives at Seaport Landing, wanted to commend the ferry system for its punctuality.
Anderson recently spent a spell in the local hospital, where she had bird’s-eye view of the ferry landing.
Not having a lot to occupy her, she began monitoring the comings and goings of the Keystone ferry and discovered that their timing was spot-on.
“I wanted to let people know and say thank you,” she said. “I don’t think they get much gratitude.”
Jennifer Jackson writes about Port Townsend and Jefferson County every Wednesday. To contact her with items for this column, phone 360-379-5688 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.