Rolling with the sea is the best way to enjoy her. There is no fighting the inevitable dominance of this great hydraulic flow. She’s too big and powerful. We can fight her for a shift, or a day, or even a week. But eventually, she will break us. Unless of course, we learn to ride with her, as we steer for our own points of the compass, in a more round about way.
That’s just what we are doing in regards to the sea of life’s choices this winter.
Just after Christmas, the boys and I packed up the truck and set out for Yellowknife, Canada. I had a job offer in Cambridge Bay, and according to our interpretation of the rules on the Immigration Canada website, I could apply for a work permit while in Canada.
The plan was to bring Isaac on the trip, for a visit and a chance to see interior Canada. Then, Isaac would return to Seward and it would be homeschool for Steven in Yellowknife, while awaiting a work permit for Cambridge Bay. If the permit failed to come through, we would leave Canada before our visitor permits expired. Then, return to sail out of the Arctic in the summer.
So with this plan on point, the boys and I packed up the truck with the last of what we owned, besides a few items left with a trusted friend. It was snowing and blowing as we said our last goodbyes and stuffed ourselves into the little Toyota.
Bruce the Dog from Chignik was jammed between a mandolin, guitar and Steven’s Nerf guns. There was barely room for a cup of coffee in the cab when we fueled up and broke town for the great Canadian Arctic.
It was a long drive to the border, and Isaac got some road time as I slept for a while. We made it all the way to Border City in one run, including the final truck packing. But we had a long way to go. So we stayed at the lodge there on the U.S. side and would cross the border early the next day.
When we got to the border our plans were changed for us. I must say this was my first negative experience with any border patrol. Like a wall of breaking waves, the border patrol cast a black line on the stirring horizon. We were abruptly educated on the immigration rules and learned that when entering Canada with intent to stay and work, you must first have a work permit actually granted. Our truck was on the overload springs with parts, tools, clothes and Nerf guns. It certainly looked like we were moving for good. Of course, that was an option we were exploring. But even with a promise to leave before our visit time expired, we could not come in. There was, they told us, “No draw for us to leave Canada” after entry. They wanted to see that we had a home and work in the USA. Which we did not. We did not meet the definition of a visitor.
So there we were at Border City: 650 miles into a trip to nowhere. By the time we left the border crossing I was just glad to get out of there.
I just wanted to be with Samantha. Why was that so hard? But at this point, our love took back seat to procedures of the Queen. Our plan was broken. The boys were furious. Dreams of the West Edmonton Mall and waterslides dissolved into frozen crystals of ice on the windshield, as we stared ahead at the dark snowy road that lay sprawled out back to Seward. My heart was heavy. We stopped for the night in the same place as before. Watched movies, and tried to forget our worries for an evening. Cell service was poor to non-existent. But Samantha and I were able to Skype and talk the mess over.
In just a few hours a new plan was hashed out. We all agreed that the hard part was over. We had prepared for a new beginning in a new place, packed up our things and drove away. The hardest part of any journey is leaving… we had done that and going back just didn’t seem right.
Samantha, Steven and I all had an interest in Southeast Alaska. For me, this is where it all started, learning to sail aboard Empiricus in 2006. I love Southeast and Steve was set on moving on as well. He wanted to try homeschool and we were all set to do that. But where should we go?
I needed to work ASAP and Juneau immediately came to mind. There is flying for Samantha there. Lots of fun opportunities for the boys and plenty of broken things for me to fix. So, Juneau it was.
Before we got back to Seward, our ferry ticket was booked to Juneau. We caught the last boat south, just a week later. Our Arctic gear was swapped for rain gear back in Seward and we headed for the ferry.
Within a week of arriving in Juneau, I had a job as a diesel mechanic and welder for “Seaside Diesel Repair”. They said that they needed someone who is flexible with hours depending on the seasons. We got along just fine because the next thing I asked was for all summer off. This was no problem and I was hired on the spot. So I slipped on another pair of greasy coveralls and began to enjoy this new process in this new place with these new people.
There are many terms that describe situations like this – “Rolling with the punches” comes to mind. But if you notice, rolling with the punches does not mean you stop fighting. Rolling with the ocean does not mean you go adrift and let the sea take you.
The key to rolling with it lies in identifying what you can control versus what you cannot, then putting yourself in a position to ride comfortably somewhere in the middle. All the while accepting that while taking the long road home was not your first choice, you shall get there regardless. Every foamy sea is connected to a glassy, calm one somewhere else.
This reminds me that those who spend their time chasing the horizon get a taste of every type of sea. Crossing between them is a subtle moment in time, often not recognized or appreciated. There are no street signs on the cresting waves to guide you. The only way to navigate and voyage the open ocean is to study it. Plug into it. Be part of it. To roll easy when she rages. To sail in a breeze. To soak up the sun when it shines. Change course when needed. All the while, focusing on what is truly important.
Samantha and I have changed course to the same destination we had before. We have filed for a Fiancée visa in the USA. As it stands now, we should be granted the visa by late summer. We will sail Empiricus out of the Arctic in July. In the meantime, we visit back and forth as often as we can afford.
We have also started a new company, doing what we do best and want most: to sail together all over the world. “Seven Seas Sailing Logistics” is our Alaska-based sailing business, specializing in long distance sailing deliveries and personal instruction. Bookings are already coming in!
Steven is doing well in homeschool. We joined a gym and are making the most of our opportunities here in Juneau. We are staying in a camper, because rentals here are not dog-friendly and quite expensive. Steve and I agree that the negatives of camper life are offset by Bruce’s companionship and the financial freedom to do the things we enjoy.
Again, sacrifice trumps convenience, as we feel our way through the rolling sea of Southeast Alaska. Steven has his dog and is in homeschool just as he wanted. But not without sacrifice. Isaac is doing well and just turned 16! He has a pickup and growing independence in Seward. We will see him soon! Samantha and I will soon be married and sailing for a living.
One of my favorite things about being challenged in life, is that my priorities are very clear. In my past there were times where I wandered, dabbled and searched for fulfillment. And although I do not understand the ultimate path of my life, I know now what makes me tick. What turns my crank. Who I love, and what I want for my children.
The only difference between a pipe dream, and its true visceral version in the real world is action and focus in the midst of a rolling sea.