Thoughts from Jenny Lind Island

I have time to write while we are here on anchor In Jenny Lind Bay, which is amazing.

One of the problems with being on the go is that after awhile, you forget how to stop.

That’s a good description of me for the past three years. Since setting out for the Northwest Passage, literally hundreds of checklists have been written, revised and checked off, each with their own invisible list of everything else that has needed to be done along the way.

And so by this process, my time has been spoken for.

I thought to myself as we came up to our very windy and cold anchorage… Which has been harder? The actual doing? Or the preparation?

It’s a good question and I am chewing on the answer like a whole pack of bubble gum.

On one hand, the prep has taken years in total, whereas the trip has taken only months so far. And at the risk of sounding indecisive, I dare say that the two cannot be separated.

The preparations actually began long before I decided to go. I was on a path with sailing. A path to the daring side. I remember going out for a sail with the wind snorting, and I remember the funny looks and subtle comments of disapproval. “Why do you go out in this stuff?” people would say.

A cold view from within our warm cabin.
A cold view from within our warm cabin.

I never really gave a pat answer. I guess deep down I did not understand the question. You see, I did not buy an ocean-going boat to sit at the dock.

I can remember when I was looking for the right boat. I wanted the heaviest, most capable boat I could get in my budget. That’s a tough one. But I looked hard and found Empiricus for 50K.

Not bad if you’re living aboard. Less, in fact, than many new vehicles.

I had not even been sailing yet and was researching the Vendi Globe entrance requirements. I dreamt of smashing through the ocean, in a race around the world.

But the sailing world in Alaska is small and I found myself not fitting in with the Yacht clubs very well. So mostly I sailed alone, read a lot of books, and broke stuff making mistakes.

As a result, I got good at fixing stuff. From wiring to sail-making and a hundred skills in between, I was becoming more independent. I was getting ready…

So what does a kid from Alaska, who likes to sail hard, make his own repairs, explore beyond the horizon do with all that?

Answer: The Northwest Passage

I knew that was it by the time I read “North into the Night” by Alvah Simon.

I consumed the book and was hooked immediately. I was teaching ASA sailing courses in Resurrection Bay, Seward Alaska. One windy day on Resurrection Bay, a student turned to me and asked what my aspirations were in sailing. I answered by saying “I’m going to sail around the world.” This was no new news, of course. I had been piping about that since I bought the boat.

“Which way will you go?” they said, “Panama Canal or Cape Horn?”

“The Northwest Passage” was my reply.

I had been thinking about it for months and calculating it all in my head. Finances, primarily, along with a long list of boat projects.

So when the next question came things got real. “When will you go?” asked the same student in the summer of 2010. “In 2012” was my reply. And so the die was cast. From that moment on, I was bent for the Northwest Passage.

What followed was what I consider to be my college education. I have never studied more in my life. Not just in books but with my hands. My skills, my health: all of it was aimed down this extraordinary path that seemed so worthy an undertaking.

It seemed worthy, not because it was a poetic gesture, or important to the world that I go, but quite frankly it just sounded bad ass and I knew deep down that it would ask everything from me. I needed that in my life and that’s exactly what I got.

So the trip has been mingled with the prep since day one. Since I stepped aboard this ship for the first time. I simply found what I was already looking for, but did not know existed. The Northwest Passage…

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