Captain Chris Wilkinson

and the Orcas Belle




Back in 1972 I was lucky enough to get a summer job as a “Park Aide” for the Washington State Parks.  Even luckier I was sent to live on Sucia Island - the whole of which was a “marine state park” and only accessible by boat or float plane.  It was there I met Captain Chris and the Orcas Belle.

Captain Chis owned and offered for charter the William Garden designed Orcas Belle.  For a number of years he lived in makeshift a dwelling on Sucia.  In spite of living in this makeshift dwelling, Chris was quite well off and as I remember also owned an art gallery in Seattle.   The whole, well almost the whole, of Sucia Island is a State Park, and the Washington State Department of Parks and Recreation tried to force him off the island - his residency was actually illegal under state law.

Eventually they did.....

.... and as  it turned out Chris didn't move very far.

All of Sucia was owned by the State of Washington, except for a tiny islet - on the charts it is called Herndon Island.  Herndon Island is located in Fossil Bay, one of the two main anchorages at Sucia.  The State may have thought they had won when Chris left, but he just moved to this island which he had purchased and named Christmas Island.  He built himself an A frame house, and says he brought over the building materials including a large cast iron stove, aboard the Orcas Belle.

Captain Chris hung flower pots from the trees and fed the many chipmunks and squirrels on Christmas Island.  The Orcas Belle was moored at Christmas Island during the off season or when not under charter.

Captain Chris was an interesting character, but a nice guy.  He took pity on the “park aide” and invited me to his island for a dinner of Irish stew.    A stew cooked on that big iron stove.