For the last year or so, their has been a gentleman on a local forum I frequent (Pacific Northwest Riders) that I have been meaning to take the time to go and see.
Jim Whipple, and his wife Tamara, own a small machine shop located in Bremerton, Washington by the name of Phinney Bay Machine Works. Across the Puget Sound from Seattle, this small Naval town is an hour ferry ride from the Main terminal in Seattle.
I decided on Saturday, to send Jim a message to see if was at all opposed to my stopping by, to just take some time to watch him work and bs with him. He was completely open to it, and told me to come anytime so I let him know I would come over on Sunday if that was ok.
So come Sunday morning I awake to our typical late fall rain, have a couple cups of coffee, shower, and gear up.
One thing, I have not done since living here, is really explore the ferry routes, nor have I ridden on one, but once this last summer on the way to Whitbey Island with a couple buddies of mine for a relaxing Sunday ride.
So riding on the ferry is still relatively new to me. But I understand the benefits of riding the ferry with a motorcycle.
For one, you get to go to the front of the line. First on, First off (Mostly). Second, it’s much cheaper to take a Motorcycle at more than half the cost of taking a passenger vehicle.
And although it was raining, I was still able to park the bike, and wait under a walkway to keep out of the rain while waiting for the ferry.
The ferry soon showed up, I boarded first, and as I was riding down to the end, they stopped me just before the end. Because it was still raining, the gentleman told me to park my bike in a little nook just back from the front, that way it didn’t get rained on (for the most part, the ferry is completely covered, but the very front and very back are not). I took up this kind gesture with a smile and thanked him.
I then decided to head upstairs to the main passenger deck. Since I was still in my gear, and I really didn’t feel like taking it off, the passenger deck was a bit to warm for me to hang out in, so I instead rode the whole trip from the viewing deck. It was absolutely incredible. The rain, the Wind, the Smells of salt water. It all touched the senses, and continued to keep me smiling. I’m so easily amused, it doesn’t take a whole lot!
The whole of the ferry trip across the sound to Bremerton is just under an hour in total travel time. Mark it to be about an hour total by the time you figure in loading and unloading (not counting the wait to load).
For the most part, the ride their was extremely relaxing, and calm. I was the only person that was on the observation deck for most of the trip. Towards the end of the trip, some kids and their parents, and guessing scout leaders (as all the kids were in cub scout uniforms) came out. The silence I had been enjoying, listening to the rumble of the ferry mixed with the sounds of the water and the gulls was finally broken by the sound of screaming, running kids all around me.
Luckily for me, I could see the Naval yard in the distance (Hard to miss an Aircraft Carrier from distance), and decided to gear back up, and head down to the lower level and hold on to my bike during docking, just to keep it upright if there was any major jolts.
Due to the placement of my bike, 2 vehicles had to leave prior to me, but then the ferry crew stopped the cars and had me disembark, and I was soon on my through the streets of Bremerton.
It didn’t take long for me to get lost. On the ferry ride over, I took the time to memorize the streets from Google Maps that I needed to take in order to make my way to the Whipple’s.
After realizing that either a street name was wrong on Google Maps (Would not be the first time) or the street ended prior to intersecting with the street I was on, I stopped in the parking lot of a local Napa auto parts store and looked at the maps once more.
Noticing that the last major intersection I went through, prior to crossing a small bridge that went up the hill to where the Napa was, I realized that in fact, the road that it showed as intersecting, did in fact end before. So I made my way back down the hill, took the street before it, and finally got myself to my destination.
Tamara greeted me at the door, and offered me some hot coffee, which was a very welcome gesture after the ride. Soon after Jim showed up and my questions began!
Now previously mentioned many times before, I grew up on a farm, and with growing up on a farm I was exposed to a lot of fabrication. Sometimes you just needed to make a part, or repair a part. So fabrication, and machining has always intrigued me, especially the people who do it for a living.
Never have actually been up close to CNC machines, this was like a candy store to me. Seeing the machines up close, and getting to look at them from every angle just made me giddy.
Jim was working on some plates for a client of his, and he was working on modifying his program to do more plates at a time.
It was a great opportunity to watch it all come together as I continued to ask questions, and Jim fired back with answers.
The greatest thing about Jim, is he is a fellow rider like myself. In fact he has a rather large collection of bikes in varying states of repair. Most of them being older British bikes.
While on the topic of discussing his DRZ400SM, I brought up some idea’s I had about my XT, how I wanted to build an oil cooler with bypass for it. Jim perked up, and walks over to a bench.
There, sitting on the bench is exactly what I had in mind for the oil cooler. A large, billet aluminum heatsink style cooler.
I’ve been wanting to design one, and build one, yet there was exactly what I had planned in my head.
Jim is planning on manufacturing them for the dual sport market. I think it is a wonderful idea!
We discussed several topics, and he went over different directions he plans on going with the business in our current economy. Staying afloat for a small business is sometimes hard, and sometimes sacrifices are needed to be made. Jim, however is looking at expanding what his shop offers. Wanting to move into the specialty parts business for motorcycles, which I feel is a great idea, given he owns and operates his own equipment, it would be easy enough for him to manufacture on demand, which would lower his overall costs for stock and storage.
I enjoyed every minute of my visit, and the hopsitality that him and his wife showed me remarkable. Even feeding me pizza, which is always a way to this mans good side.
Soon, the afternoon started to come to an end, and I had to take leave to catch the ferry back on over to Seattle. I left gaining a new friend, and several ideas. I’ve been wanting to get into manufacturing some small parts for the XT market, due to its limited aftermarket support. Maybe in the future, Jim and Myself can come to a business agreement. The parts are (in my mind) simple enough, and could very well be a great opportunity for us both.
Before leaving however, remembering my disappointment with Google Maps, I asked Jim for the easiest directions back to the Dock. He told me a simple route, I took it, and ended up back at the terminal! Yay for local knowledge! I could have probably saved myself the headache by originally asking him for directions to his place. But that’s half the adventure yah know?
I soon boarded the ferry and I was on my way back towards home.
During my visit with Jim, the weather took a turn for the better. The sky’s opened up, and the blue made its appearance. The ride back on the ferry, was much different than my ride before. This time, people were on the observation deck as soon as I boarded. Lots of people, lots of kids, it was not as relaxing as before. I took the time however, to walk around the ship, and just enjoy myself. I was in an extremely good mood. The day was great. The weather didn’t bother me, and neither did the sounds of people at this point. In fact, it was rather welcomed.
Soon after leaving Bremerton, with the ferry on its way, Seattle finally came into view. Still a ways off, it was beautiful to see it against the Puget Sound and the fading daylight.
After wandering around a bit, I made my way back to the front of the ship to the covered observation deck, and road out the rest of the trip until the terminal came in viewing distance. At which point I geared back up, and made my way down to the lower deck once again to hold on to my bike.
At this time, it was already dark. I took one last picture of the Seattle Skyline, and waited for the signal to go.
Back on the solid ground, I made my way home to end my days journey.
I thoroughly enjoyed my day. The hospitality that Jim and his wife shown me, the ride over, the ride back, and most of all, getting to watch a master at his work, just really made a great day. I am looking forward to returning to see Jim and his wife, as I hope to do so often.
For more information on Phinney Bay Machine works, visit them on the web at: http://www.pbmwgroup.com/
You can also read about this small Machine Shop with big service in American Machinists: Top Ten Best Machine Shops
For more information on Washington Ferries, please visit the official Washington State Ferries website at: http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/ferries/
For more information on Bremerton, Washington: http://www.ci.bremerton.wa.us/