Their ship has come in, in the form of a traditional new Shingle Style home on a special family site in Tulalip.

Share story

DAVID GOT HIS FIRST boat when he was 10. Later came a ski boat. He signed up with the Sea Scouts, sailing all the way to the coveted Quartermaster Award. In college, he was a midshipman in the University of Washington’s Navy ROTC. Then came active duty in the U.S. Navy itself, where he served for nearly 31 years.

Hoist a signal flag if you detect a theme here.

“I grew up with boats,” David says.

Just one little hiccup. “I get seasick,” he says. “In the Navy, I was on destroyers and was never really comfortable.”

Most Read Stories

Unlimited Digital Access. $1 for 4 weeks.

Fathoms away on the seafaring spectrum, David also served as commanding officer of the ballistic-missile submarine USS Tecumseh — “I spent eight years, day for day, submerged, most of the time well below any wave motion; it’s like sitting in your living room,” he says — except he was underwater, and working, and far from home.

These days, after retiring as a professor of Naval Science at UW and the commanding officer of its Navy ROTC, David skippers a much smaller fleet — one 8-foot dinghy with a Johnson 3hp motor — and, with his wife, Jeanne, a shipshape, intricately shingled home on a special stretch of Tulalip shoreline.

“The property had been in David’s family since 1946,” says Bruce Donnally (Donnally Architects), the architectural admiral of David and Jeanne’s new Shingle Style, high-bank vacation home. “A tiny 24-foot-square house had stood on the land for 90 years.”

David and his two siblings spent the summers here with their mother, then ended up owning the cabin. It was big on rustic charm, but with just one above-grade bedroom — and two lesser ones in the cinder-block basement, “with the mice,” Jeanne says — “People didn’t want to come and stay.”

The first thought was to simply add a second story, Donnally says, but, “The cabin had been cobbled together, and a bad foundation is like having bad feet. There’s a certain amount of charm people want to preserve, but then you demo it and it’s like a wet cat: There’s nothing there. If you have to take more than 50 percent down, it’s not worth saving.”

Codes of all kinds helped guide the next step, which was uphill.

“We built a new one farther upland, using the old house’s footprint as the new parking area,” says Donnally, who previously had collaborated with David and Jeanne on an addition to their Magnolia home, and on a remodel of an apartment building they own. “David wanted at last to enjoy looking out over the water he had sailed beneath all those years, so all the living spaces and bedrooms have a panoramic view of the water.”

From the brand-new, views-for-forever, way-above-water living room (beneath a coffered ceiling embellished by a pair of old-growth clear fir beams reclaimed from the cabin), giant windows (plus more nearby, in the dining area) look across Port Susan toward Camano, Whidbey and Hat islands, and possibly to the edge of the Earth.

“This literally reminds me of my surface ship: sitting way up high and seeing water everywhere,” David says.

Other reminders of the past surface among the whole-house nautical-themed décor, carefully curated, totally from scratch, by Jeanne:

• “An antique copper dolphin (the submariners’ crest symbol) was rescued from the original house, refurbished and reset as the weather vane atop the gazebo roof,” says Donnally.

• Bleached tongue-and-groove Douglas fir, formerly on the walls of the tiny cabin, covers the bottom half of the powder room.

• The headboard of the bed in the first-level guest room (a future easy-access master suite) came from behind the cabin’s fireplace mantel.

• And bricks from that same fireplace are now part of the new gas one in the current master bedroom upstairs, where kitty-cats Bart and Betsy curl in cushioned window seats specifically designed for them.

Outside, the stone veneer base and one other special element speak to one of the home’s guiding philosophies: Some things are worth it.

Beyond the western-facing deck, where motorized rolldown shades and a sweet jalousie trellis soften sometimes-powerful sunshine, “The circular stairway off the gazebo presented some interesting challenges as the design evolved and required nonstandard construction techniques and custom materials,” David says.

Unobstructed views; nautical-mile-after-nautical-mile of the shimmering Sound; and the highly evolved, elevated and supremely comfortable home itself speak to the other one: This is a special place.

“One of the great joys of a submarine is going in and out of port on the surface,” says David. “Having spent summers here as a kid, there’s a magic to that, too. There’s a shared joy, and intimacy, in the expanse and availability of the water.”