March 27, 2021
Photo: The wind harp building on Bainbridge Island above Agate Pass. The harp itself is missing.
We were sailing north through Agate Pass, Osprey
's sails hanging limply in the light breeze. Our engine, hobbled by a broken alternator, pushed us slowly ahead against an incoming tide. But we weren't in a rush; the sun bouncing off the water warmed our faces and we had all day to get home. I grabbed the binoculars and scanned the cliffside on Bainbridge Island to the east, looking for the small triangular building that housed a giant wind harp. As the building came into view, I saw that the metal harp, which had once been visibly attached to the building, was missing.
I had first learned of the wind harp in the early 2000's from the 1997 book Gunkholing in South Puget Sound
by Jo Bailey and Carl Nyberg. Bailey and Nyberg noted the harp was 0.25 mi south of the Agate Pass Bridge. I got in the habit of searching for it as we approached the bridge. Each time I looked, it became more difficult to see the small building among the growing trees. Then one year I couldn't find it at all. Concluding it had either been taken down or hidden by new tree growth we stopped searching until this winter when I spotted the building among a swath of newly-felled trees.
A few days after that trip through Agate Pass, I pulled Gunkholing in South Puget Sound
off my bookshelf. Looking through it, I marveled at its treasure trove of information. For example, it noted that around the corner to the east from the Agate Pass bridge, is a large glacial erratic rock with a petroglyph carved on its side. I knew of the petroglyph from reading rock art books but had not been able to learn its exact location. I now plan to look for it the next time I'm in the area at low tide.
Seeing the harp building got me thinking of Jo Bailey, who died in 2017 at 89. As women authors of sailing books, Jo and I had often met at seminars and boat shows. Once she told me that she felt out of place with all the adventurous women sailors. She was too scared to sail in the ocean. But I argued that her book, which gave many new sailors the confidence to brave Puget Sound, was a sailing accomplishment in itself.
I recall a conversation Steve and I had with one of Jo Bailey's sons before she died. Her son described her dementia and the task of taking her to the local swimming pool. Dealing with her dementia had frustrated him but seeing her childlike delight in being in the water made up for the frustration. I thought at first that Bailey's simple delight with the water was solely a sign of dementia. Thinking about it now, I believe it was also a sign of Jo Bailey's innate love of the water, something she conveyed through her books.
Bailey and Nyberg didn't explain why the harp had been placed above Agate Pass or who had put it there, but it took me only a few minutes to find a web post about the wind harp by its builder, Ron Konzak, https://www.harpspectrum.org/non/konzak_short.shtml.
Konzak wrote that he imagined such a harp and then realized he had to build it or be haunted by the image. Another internet search revealed the information that Konzak was an architectural designer, craftsman of Celtic harps and other fine woodworks, and a professional musician. His "Gooey-Duck Song" was a hit in the Pacific Northwest and Australia and was included in the Washington Centennial Songbook.
In the web post, Konzak noted that the harp was deteriorating and that he planned to rebuild it and move it to a more public location.
Wondering when that might happen, I emailed Konzak. Joyce Rice, whose email was listed on the same site, replied. She told me that the website had been written in about 2000 and Konzak had died in 2008. She knew nothing more about the project than what was on the website. Other efforts to find more information, including asking a harp-playing friend who lives on Bainbridge Island were also unsuccessful. But the visible effort to clear trees from around the harp building showed me that someone cares about it. I'll keep looking for changes each time we pass by.
Like Jo Bailey’s books that outlive her, Konzak’s music outlives him. Recordings of the giant wind harp can be heard at https://soundcloud.com/soundsofthedawn/ron-konzak-the-giant-puget-sound-wind-harp
. The recordings are more metallic than melodic, but haunting. The Gooey-Duck Song can be heard at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3JjhZfJ4dto