Look who’s playing the harp at site of big ferries meeting

BREMERTON – You could cut the irony with a harp string.

Port Townsend Celtic Harpist David Michael performed early Friday morning in the lobby of the Norm Dicks Government Center, while Washington State Ferries officials, lawmakers and other ferry system community advisers munched pastries and sipped coffee.

“It’s all kind of funny,” said Michael, speaking between lilting harp plucks at a reception for the Puget Sound Leadership Ferry Summit.

“My situation is all kind of moot now, isn’t it?”

Michael, 55, performed his last gig aboard the ferry Klickitat in mid-August after more than 17 years of playing Celtic music on the route between Port Townsend and Whidbey Island.

Michael was notified he had to comply with both security and for-profit policies.

Ferry passengers are required to take their baggage and personal items off the ferries, and remain with their personal items, such as backpacks and luggage.

What that meant for Michael was lugging his 30-pound harp and packing CDs on and off each of eight departures and arrivals at the terminals.

After Michael quit playing – and the matter became cause for controversy on radio talk shows and in TV commentaries around Puget Sound – state ferries system officials proposed that he keep his instrument and backpack aboard the ferry if he paid a $200 daily fee.

He would no longer be allowed to sell CDs unless he had the proper vendor permit.

Michael said he couldn’t afford it.

Nicole White Clark, project director for the ferry summit sponsor, the Kitsap Regional Coordinating Council, seemed unfazed by the controversy surrounding Michael.

“I knew about it, and we were looking for people who worked on the ferry,” said Clark, who hired Michael for $150 and travel expenses.

“We thought it would be a cool idea to have music here.”

State ferries system officials appeared surprised to see Michael performing.

Asked if she knew Michael was going to be there, Hadley Greene, state ferries system communications manager, just smiled.

Michael was smiling, too.

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