Forthat fleeting moment in time...

Published on Thu, Sep 9, 2004 by ack Kintner

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For that fleeting moment in time...

By Jack Kintner

The second annual Smuggler’s Inn B&B Art Contest is under way this month and, according to innkeeper Bob Boule, over 30 artists have entered original paintings. This year’s theme asks artists to paint or photograph their concept of the long awaited downtown Blaine boardwalk, as yet unbuilt, or something on Blaine’s Victorian city downtown decor, or on the old Blaine Lighthouse, torn down in 1927.

“Some people painted the old lighthouse working from old photographs,” Boule said, pointing out a detailed rendering by Bellingham marine artist Jim Williamson, “and others have painted things that are under it, or around where it will be. One even painted it next to the Smuggler’s Inn, since with a little more global warming we’ll have waterfront property up here, they say.”

Boule runs the art contest as a way of covering the walls in his four-story eight bedroom house that he bought three years ago, an unfinished project he saw as a way of fulfilling his dream to someday own and operate a bed and breakfast inn.

After a lot of work with a neighbor and others helping out, Smuggler’s Inn opened in May of 2003. Boule said it took him another year to begin to break even, but now things seem to be picking up as his location and the name draw more and more attention to the mediagenic new but old-looking farmhouse. One recent incident in particular seems to have put Smuggler’s Inn on the media map.

Boule said that a group of 10 foreign visitors was staying at his place and hired him to drive them all south to Sea-Tac when their stay was over. “They all had ID, and had all been traveling for a while, including in and out of the U.S.,” he said, “and seemed to be above suspicion.” Boule loaded them all into his motor home and then got stopped almost immediately by the border patrol.

“Turned out that a lot of them were illegal entrants despite their having traveled all over, including through airport checkpoints,” Boule smiled, “which was obvious when the border patrol collected their ID and then asked them where they were from. Four of the 10 couldn’t remember which country they supposedly came from.”

The bust was covered by area TV stations, and was written up so cleverly in one Canadian newspaper that Jay Leno used it on the air last July in his “Headlines” segment. “Where else would smugglers stay?” laughed Boule, who didn’t see Leno’s piece but has been hearing about it ever since.

The name “Smuggler’s” actually came from Boule’s grandson, a tongue-in-cheek reference to the location that was not intended to attract actual smugglers. Boule does, however, provide night-vision binoculars for his guests who want to watch for scofflaws jumping the shallow little ditch alongside Canada’s O (Zero) Avenue to head up Boule’s very American front lawn for the woods beyond. “It’s not just people. When hunting season opens there are a number of deer who trot across O Avenue into Canada during the day and then return at night,” Boule said.

In the 16 months he’s had the B & B open the gregarious Bremerton native, marketing graduate from Central Washington University and one-time men’s clothing salesman at the old downtown Seattle Frederick & Nelson’s has devised all kinds of ways to get his business known.
“We have destination packages - people actually coming to Blaine for what’s here as opposed to just traveling through - that involve using our two limousines,” he said, “things like a men’s package that includes a fishing trip with Jim Jorgensen, or a Ryan Stiles package that includes a visit to the comedian’s theater he recently opened in Bellingham.”

Smuggler’s also offers an international wine tour to take advantage of a break in duty charges when a US citizen brings back a case of Canadian wine. “Even locals are surprised to learn that there are now five wineries in the lower mainland, four of which are just a few minutes away in Langley,” Boule said, “and for returning Americans, the first bottle you bring back is free and the duty on the rest of them is just 12 cents apiece.”

Boule has been interviewed on 28 different radio stations including major drive-time markets in Boston, Montreal, Miami, Los Angeles and San Francisco, even Cambra, Australia. “We’ve got a lot here that will draw people already,” Boule said, “so the trick is to get the word out.”
Smuggler’s Inn, 9910 Canada View Drive, Blaine. 332-1749.