July 14, Seward:
I don’t know why I want to go, but it has always been there. This restlessness. When I married Barbra, we exchanged titanium wedding bands with an inlay of white gold. The rings are incredibly light and strong and resistant to corrosion, characteristics sailors value in titanium. “Someday we will live on a boat,” we said.
A few months later we bought a small powerboat, a 22-foot C-Dory Angler. It is a beautiful craft, white with burgundy trim and lines pleasing enough that it regularly draws compliments. It’s 90 horsepower engine moves it along at 25 knots or so on flat seas. It’s got a pilot house to keep us out of the rain and cold, and enough open deck space for the two of us to comfortably fish from. We have spent many nights sleeping in its cuddy cabin.
The first summer we trailered Gillie from California to Alaska, we slept on it 42 nights both on land and on the water. That summer we saw our first Dahl porpoises and our first glaciers, and we caught our first halibut and our first yelloweye rockfish. We made our first-ever longish run—90 miles from Valdez to Cordova. On another outing, we learned what it is like to lose the main engine 30 miles from port and what it feels like to limp home on the kicker engine with radar, depth finder and electronic charts all down. And we discovered that our little boat can handle fairly rough seas.
When the summer came to an end, we were left with two predominant thoughts: We wanted to move to Alaska, and we wanted to get a bigger boat—one big enough to live aboard year-round.
The move from California was more easily accomplished than we anticipated. As it turned out, there is a demand for teachers in this state. We accepted jobs in the Arctic, hundreds of miles from roads. These jobs pay well enough to have allowed us to turn our attention to the passion of our lives: boats. There is scarcely a day that goes by that we don’t talk about them. How big? Power or sail? What kind? How much can we afford?
We read about them, we think about them, we dream about them…
We obsess about them.
These past two weeks we have been in Seward where we completed a six day sailing class during which we sailed 32 foot and 47 foot sloops.
Neither Barbra nor I had any previous experience with sailboats. But after six days of intensive instruction and learning, we now know how to use wind and cloth to make a fairly large boat move through the water.
And by acquiring that skill, we have at last come to an understanding of what we want in our next boat. I’m not going to put in caveats about the many things that could keep us from realizing our goal. We are mindful of those things.
But an important shift happened this past week. The pleasantly hazy “someday, somehow,” image of a dream has been replaced with the clarity and urgency and focus of a goal.
Our boat will be between 32 and 43 feet long. It will have a fiberglass hull, two staterooms, an efficient galley, and a cockpit designed for making ocean passages. It will probably be rigged as a cutter.
Our next boat will be comfortable, relatively easy to sail, and built tough enough to handle almost anything.
We will take it out on blue water, setting our course for places such as Hawaii, Japan, New Zealand and islands in the Pacific we don’t yet know. And Ireland and Greece and Belize and Argentina.
We think we can make ready in five years.
Get our finances in order, acquire a boat, improve our knowledge, hone our skills, set aside enough money to live off…
Cast off the stern line, cast of the bow line, unfurl the main and let her set, find the wind, and go.
This journey has begun.