So far this has been the most amazing year of my life. WOW! Life lived well has gained momentum and we’ve been so busy living out our plans and dreams! Because of that, I have not blogged much, and I apologize. Today I remedy that and regain traction here at Empiricusembarks. OK. Here we go!
Since Samantha and I met, we have been brewing all sorts of plans. Completing the Northwest Passage was only one of our goals in 2014
Before we left for that voyage, I began building a container HOME in Juneau. Last spring, we bought a 40’ high cube shipping container and dragged it into the shop at Seaside Diesel Repair.
I took the plasma cutter and knocked out the windows, then welded in a frame around each hole and began framing inside. The windows came from a remodel job in Juneau and I got them for a song.
Steven and I made camp there in spring, with plans to complete the project in the fall. As it turned out, Steven did not fit well in home school and wanted to be closer to his friends. So the plan changed and the container home was put on hold.
I also built a forge that week, then carved a wax mold for samantha’s ring. I made the ring from Gold that my father panned in Nome, and the very first coin from my childhood coin collection. A 1922 Liberty Silver Dollar.
Steven flew back to Seward in May along with me. After a visit with Isaac, I flew to Canada, met Samantha and you know the rest of that story.
By the time we made landfall in Greenland, some very important dates were popping up quickly on the calendar. So quickly, in fact, that Samantha had to fly from Aasiaat just days after we arrived, in order to complete the visa requirements at the US Embassy.
I stayed behind in Aasiaat and worked a deal to haul Empiricus out on the shipyard rails. Then I flew back to Alaska for a nice visit with the boys.
We also had another venture on the cooker. For those of you who don’t know, Samantha is quite an accomplished gal and amongst her other skills, she works as a bush pilot. When she and I met in 2013, Samantha was flying a Turbo Beaver all over the Canadian Arctic, conducting an aerial muskox survey.
Being employed in Canada as a commercial bush pilot, she has encountered many opportunities for adventure, but had quit her job as we had decided to settle in Alaska.
But just before we set sail in 2014, she called me and said, “After the Passage, they want me to fly in Indonesia!” I could hear the spark in her voice. All I could say was, “Yes, let’s do it!” So we juggled our wedding date to January and stopped in Greenland in September, revising from our original plan to stop in Iceland.
One of the difficult things about sailing around the world in segments, is travel and housing expenses when not on the boat. In our case we located in Seward for family reasons. But work there in winter is slow for seasonal employment. Regardless, we had made the decision and would cross that river when we came to it.
Just after I arrived back in Alaska in the fall, Samantha found a lot for sale in Seward and told me about it. We needed a base in Seward, since that’s where Isaac and Steven will finish school. The lot was off the grid with no power and limited access. The price was right and two days later we bought it, with plans to place our container home there. This would make an affordable and pleasant winter base for us, as we plan on being close to the boys for a while.
After securing the land and visiting the boys, I flew back to Canada, then on to Indonesia. I was to meet Samantha in Jakarta, Indonesia about a week after she would arrive. This would give her a chance to settle in to work before I got there.
As it turned out, I beat her to Jakarta by a couple days. There were all sorts of delays in the paperwork process and her contract was shortened by a full month. That was a bit of a set back, but out of our control. We were in Indonesia now and would see out the commitment.
Samantha began flying and I began writing my book, which took a great deal of organizing, but also focus. I love writing, but assembling this book is a great challenge for me.
Indonesia opened my eyes, not to global travel, but to the beauty of America. It was a loud, dirty city of 10.4 million people. I could go on and on about the drudgery of this, but lets just say it was a wonderful experience for personal growth in patience and tolerance.
Even Jakarta wasn’t without some highlights. Two for me were visiting the giant wooden schooners at the same wharf that Captain Cook and Magellan had moored on, and taking a ride on one of Samantha’s flights. I enjoy watching her fly.
Not unlike a well-versed sailor, she handles her bird with purpose and confidence.
Though the surroundings were not choice, Samantha and I actually had time together, for the first time ever. It’s funny to think, that in all the border crossings between Canada and the U.S., the first place we could just be together and relax was in a completely different country.
We had a small simple Christmas in our little apartment and also went to the Christmas Symphony, which was a real treat. I have heard the phrase, “Music is the universal language,” all my life and thought nothing of it. But the saying took meaning, as we soaked in the concert of familiar Christmas music in that beautiful hall, so far from home.
The last thing we did in Indonesia was watch New Years fireworks from the window of a high rise apartment. Our bags were packed and sitting at the door. With the dark of night blanketing Jakarta, the fireworks actually made it look beautiful.
That was a nice way to remember the place, but even under the splendor of crackling fireworks, we were thirsty for cooler, cleaner, quieter North America.
As we drove to the airport we reviewed our to do list and joked of the audacious content. Sail the Northwest Passage… Check… Go work in Indonesia… Check… What’s next? Oh yea. Cross the border with marriage visa in hand, and then.. Get Married!!! Then get to Alaska, find work, and finish our container home.
We had booked our wedding at the Center for Wooden Boats on Lake Union in Seattle, Washington. It was to be a simple, small wedding where close friends and family could gather and meet one another.
We vowed not to coach any one to get along, but to let them figure it out on their own. We trusted that our good friends from diverse backgrounds would enjoy meeting each other. We also planned to self-cater our wedding so we would be very busy indeed. Samantha sent emails and placed orders and enlisted the help of her sister-in-law who lives in Seattle to be “boots on the ground.”
We chose a band named Gertrude’s Herse. They are a Seattle band, comprised of local sailors and riggers, who visit Alaska each year to work on sail boats. They came highly recommended by our friends at Alaskagraphy, as well as the main man himself, Jason Wilson, who became ordained specifically to conduct our ceremony!
With all these plans in place, we said goodbye to Jakarta and our planes took to the air, Eastbound across the Pacific.
When we arrived back in Canada, the customs officers were not surprised. It had become a “Where are you going now?” scenario, and I passed through with no problems.
Samantha and I enjoyed a brief visit with her brother Karl, his wife Anya and their two boys., then got in her car, “Nellie” with her dog Tico and other brother Nick, who came all the way from Germany for our wedding. Wow! When we were all crammed in the car, we hit the road for Seattle.
It was January and the weather came down hard. We thought it was a bit comical listening to people in gas stations talk the snow over like it was Armageddon, after all we had just experienced in the Northwest Passage.
Onboard Nellie, we did what we always did and took the path of least resistance. A long sure trip is better then a short uncertain one. We had too much riding on the calendar for any risky mountain passes. We headed south and crossed the border in Montana, opting for the less-wintry U.S. mountain passes in Idaho and Washington.
The U.S. border crossing went as smooth as we could hope for. Well over a year of planning and paperwork paid off. We were now in the same country at the same time. With no time constraints to leave again! Together at last… Because it took so much expense and effort to live in the same country, I believe we will always appreciate our time together, just a little bit more.
By the time we turned west, we had reached northern Idaho and soon rolled in to Seattle’s glowing lights.
The trip was a blast! It was really nice to get to know Nick and also to share my knowledge of greasy spoon dishes along the highway. Chicken fried steak and biscuits and gravy. Merca!
We arrived in Seattle to the welcoming faces of friends and family, who had broken away from their busy lives, to join us on that special day. We felt very appreciated and loved for sure.
The next couple days were a whirlwind. Friends and family gathered. We were food shopping down the street and prep cooking in the hotel room. Tico came with us nearly everywhere, including the grocery store, a Seattle feature that Samantha enjoyed.
On January 10th lots of people showed up early and we all set to work. Everything was as pre-planned as it could be from Indonesia.
I spearheaded the food set up, while Samantha coordinated the decorations. The band arrived and we crammed their kit into the corner. The place was buzzing and I was so grateful for everyone’s willingness to help set up. There was cheese chopping, salad tossing and meat searing on the grill. Then the room seemed full. The list was checked. Everyone was there.
The Osbros (Isaac and Steven) and I looked each other over sharp, then walked to the head of the room, where the newly-ordained minister Jason Wilson presided.
It felt great to have my boys stand beside me, all suited up, especially knowing how great an influence Samantha will be in their lives. She was marrying me selflessly, Osbros included. We are a lucky pack indeed.
I’ve got to slow down this whirlwind rundown for a moment here. Because something amazing happened when Samantha walked in with her father. The room fell silent as she emerged from the shadowy hallway. The light hit her face and she simply radiated. I could feel her bright beautiful energy all the way from where I stood. I wanted to run over there and swing her around in circles!
Each step she took closer to me, built the lump of excitement in my chest and I got a little choked up. She was extraordinarily beautiful, with her thick hair in a side bun and simple elegant dress. Then moments later, she was right in front of me.
She came here to marry me. I came there to marry her. Not because it was convenient, or made sense. This was simply magnetic appreciation for each other’s presence. Nothing could have stood in our way to each other. We had knocked down wall after wall, of ice, then paperwork over international borders, just for the opportunity to stand, look into each others eyes and make our vows.
I felt like you do when you’ve had a long hard day in the cold and then sit down to a piping hot dinner and take that first bite…. finally…. the real thing…. Every moment appreciated like a cold man savors a hot meal.
For the first time, in a long time, I was not in a hurry to go anywhere. I was right where I wanted to be and found rest in this exciting place where I stood. Full of satisfaction and appreciation, to the eyelids, I said this, there, and I will say it here again. Samantha. I love you. I love you just the way you are…
Jason did a bang up job on the ceremony! He told stories and even quoted Samantha’s favorite comic Calvin and Hobbs!
Samantha’s sister Victoria stood at her side and graciously held Tico. This was a bit of a job. Tico ran amuck a little bit and did some barking during the ceremony. That was cool, too, as he is part of the family, and probably wondered why there was a room full of still people sitting in chairs. He was probably like “Hey! Quit staring at me everyone! Why are you just sitting there! Where’s the food!?” He is a terrier (West Highland White) and just like my terrier “Rock” (a Jack Russell), he likes to mix it up!
(Samantha and I both already had terriers before we met. We like them, probably because we appreciate tenacity and vigor.)
Finally, Wilson gave us the greenlight and we had our first kiss, as husband and wife. We are married!!!!
The chairs went away and the food came out in a flash. Everyone pitched in and the band became part of the crowd. In fact we ran out of chairs and had to hustle up another setting for friends Nick and Moni – they grilled 50 lbs of lamb and rib eye to perfection out on the rainy deck. Thank you so much!
We had toasts, wine, beer and champagne. But nobody was stupid. We were all there for a great memorable time and indeed it was! Many kind words were said and a little roasting, which we enjoyed very much J Karl!
I could write a list of all the efforts and contributions made for us that night, but this is not a thank you card. Those are on the way.
Soon the music was bumping and the dancing began. The band was fantastic and played many original songs throughout the night that rocked!
Steven, who has taken to breakdancing, was not sure he could “break” to this music. But soon adapted and tore the floorboards up. We had a little dance battle but he won for sure. It sure is great as a father to watch your children find passion for this gift of life!
At the end of the night everyone pitched in for clean-up and goodbyes were said. Isaac did all the dishes for the whole shabang. Thanks Bro!
We could have spent many days with each guest visiting, so the conversations we had were meaningful and heartfelt. Everyone agreed it was a great wedding!
The next two days were spent with the Osbros and Tico, camped out in a little cabin two hours from the city. Then the Osbros got on a plane and we got busy getting to Alaska.
Because she entered under a marriage Visa, Samantha must stay in the U.S. until her paperwork is finalized. So instead of driving up through Canada, we took the ferry to Juneau, where we visited Travis and prepared the container home for shipping.
I took full sheets of plywood and painted them, then used them as window covers. Samantha scored a nice cast iron sink from the counter top builders used stock. Things were coming together.
I loaded all my tools in Nellie which loaded her down good. I would be driving up the highway from Haines as the ferry was full. Samantha flew to Anchorage.
The night before we left, we were at the gym playing racquetball, when Travis and I scored an amazing deal. The gym had torn up a racquetball court for remodeling. The floor was cut into 5’ square chunks and was free for the taking.
Travis and I patched up an old trailer and hauled flooring till midnight. Samantha prepared the container to store some and we loaded some nice hunks inside. Solid maple floating floor. Unbelievable.
Id like to take a second here to point out something. As I describe our life and activities, it may seem like we live frivolously and care free. But although we have freedom, nothing could be further from the truth.
I share details like getting cheap windows, free flooring and kitchen sinks, because I believe it is important to share how we are doing all of this. The fact is that we do not make a lot of money in comparison to a full-time job with recognized “Career Income.” But we make enough through hard work and ingenuity to pursue our goals regardless.
Even as I write this article, I am sitting in a fuel truck in the Arctic. The winds are howling over 60 knots and forcast for more. I drag a fuel hose through howling winds and snowdrifts tonight, not because I love this work. Nor because I am not capable of working in a more glorious occupation. Tonight I do this job, because my life is bigger then my career. I don’t need a flashy title or high pay, because satisfaction is found in the heart. I am glad to drag fuel hose in this storm, for through it, our needs are met, our family is strong and our ship will sail this summer.
If living in a container home and recycling building supplies is what it takes to live an amazing life, then so be it. We live by simple rules that involve working hard, spending smart and dreaming big. Then its one foot in front of the other, and up the mountains we go. You can be a parent, a friend, a husband or a wife, while also living to the fullest extent.
Back to our winter since the wedding, now. Once the flooring was secure inside, we screwed the door shut and rented a loader, which I used to lift our home onto a truck, for shipping to Seward, via Sampson Tug and Barge. Those guys are awesome! A real down home Alaska-style company, with professional service.
We also shipped a woodstove with them which we found on Craigslist and had sent to Seward as well. Piece by piece our home base comes together.
After we loaded the container, Samantha got on a plane for Anchorage, while Tico and I took a ferry to Haines then drove the Alaska Highway to Anchorage. The highway was in good shape and we made it to Anchorage in 14 hours. Including a nice break during which Tico found and and tried to harass a free range horse near Destruction Bay.
Once reunited with Samantha, it was off to the immigration office for more paperwork and more fees. Legal immigration is quite expensive but worth every penny it for us to be together.
Once back in Seward I found some work, removing a hazard tree and welding a telescopic wind turbine tower.
Soon our home arrived on the barge, so we filled the evenings and weekends with land clearing, hoping to spot the container right away.
Bixler and Krystin from Alaskagraphy came out multiple times to help us clear land and my dad built some mean brush fires as we heaped up the limbs to be burned.
Samantha took to the chainsaw like a natural and we set to it in wind, rain and snow. Dragging logs, felling trees and building fires.
I rented a loader to level the entrance to the clearing. But the ground was frozen hard, even with this warm winter. So in lieu of dragging the container in place, we purchased a retired semi trailer and stored the container on it, just down the road from our land.
We also enjoyed hanging out with the Osbros. Mostly at the gym, where we all 4 pump iron and do yoga together.
As for me, the winter was slipping by and work was slow. I made a phone call to the North Slope and a week later flew into Deadhorse, Alaska where I am now working as a mechanic / fueler as required.
- It is snowing and blowing. But spring is coming and we are booked solid, either working in the arctic, delivering boats on the west coast and sailing in Greenland.
- Guest positions are filling up on Empiricus and the plan is coming together.
- Isaac is getting into building quadra-copters and looking at a career in aviation.
- Steven is into breakdancing.
- Samantha and I are building our company (Seven Seas Sailing Logistics) and continuing our high latitude circumnavigation of the world.
Living an amazing life is a large amount of work. But the rewards are incalculable. I believe that a fulfilled life is reserved for those who apply effort to desire, always with a mindset that entitlement is pure fiction and we were each created with all opportunity and ability required to live well.
Capt. Jesse Osborn