Over the past few months, Barbie’s Café in Seabeck has been buzzing with talk about the development taking place outside the building.
Situated on a pier behind the Seabeck General Store, the café is a perfect vantage point for townfolk to watch, sometimes over Barbie’s homemade pie and coffee, as a piece of their community’s history and culture is restored.
For residents of the tiny town on the east side of Hood Canal, Seabeck just hasn’t been complete since its marina closed years ago. So when news came that the marina would be rebuilt by a group of private investors, locals were enthusiastic.
“The whole community’s behind it,” says Billy Mills, who owns the general store and café with his wife, Barbie. “We’ve always had a marina.”
Boater Rich Jacobson says the marina, which is slated to open in late summer or early fall, is badly needed.
“There’s no place you can go on that side of the canal,” he says. “There’s no place to tie up your boat if you want to store it over a weekend, get some gas, go to the general store.”
“It’s a real popular destination for people to come to,” says Jacobson, a real estate agent at Winderemere Realty in Silverdale. “We get quite a bit of tourism there, but it’s been limited because we haven’t had a place for boats to tie up.”
The marina has long been a focal point for Seabeck, founded in 1856 as a mill town. In its heyday Seabeck had a shipyard, several saloons, a couple of hotels and a population of more than 400. But a fire in 1886 destroyed Seabeck’s two mills, along with the original building where Seabeck General Store and Barbie’s Café now stand. Most Seabeck residents moved away and the tiny community all but disappeared.
The marina, which dates back to the 1800s, fell into disrepair and was condemned by the county in 2005. Soon after, a group of investors bought the foreclosed property for about $400,000. The partners planned to restore the docks, renovate an old building at the end of the pier and get the marina up and running again quickly.
But Boyer Halvorsen, one of the investors, said the structures were so dilapidated that they had to be torn down and rebuilt.
“It became a mega-project, just like that,” said Halvorsen, who owns Boyer Towing Incorporated, a Seattle-based tugboat and barge company. “It needed a total overhaul.”
The partners originally hoped to reopen the marina in 2007, Halvorsen said, but the project became mired in a zoning and permitting process, in part because the new marina will be located further offshore. Finally, in January, workers began installing pilings for the docks. Construction was put on hold from mid-February until July, until a “fish window” will allow the work to continue without disrupting marine life.
Floats for the breakwater and beams for the new dock are now being constructed. The new facility, to be named Olympic View Marina, will include 200 slips with some guest moorage, a fuel dock, a pumpout facility, restrooms and additional parking.
For Halvorsen, the marina has nostalgic significance. His family moved to Seabeck in the early 1900s and Halvorsen’s grandfather used to own the general store. The family kept a boat at the old marina that was used to deliver groceries up and down Hood Canal.
When the opportunity arose to buy the marina, Halverson says, “It seemed like a good idea. We figured there would be demand for it. The community out there really needs this. It’s really kind of the center of the community.”
The town’s only commercial area, clustered around the marina, includes the general store and Barbie’s Café, an espresso shack, a pizzeria and a gift and antique shop. A Christian conference center is across the street, and Scenic Beach State Park, a popular camping park with spectacular views of Hood Canal and the Olympic Mountains, is a short distance away.
Turie Killoran, who owns Turie’s Seabeck Espresso, grew up in Seabeck and spent childhood summers waterskiing, shrimping and crabbing in its surrounding waters.
“I’ve lived here all my life, 57 years, and I’ve never known there not to be a marina,” says Killoran. “We really welcome it.”
Killoran says the new marina is needed by residents, particularly a few older ones, who now have to buoy out to boats moored in the bay. And she predicts it will become a new boating destination for cruisers from around Puget Sound.
“It’s a beautiful location,” she says. “I think a lot of people would come out from places like Seattle or the San Juans. Seabeck needs to be a destination.”