With the search for the new boat dragging on, it’s perhaps inevitable that we’re living in the future when it comes to our sailing life.
We think about how our next boat might match up with the kind of sailing that we want to do, and that raises the question of how we might get home to Alaska, if we’re lucky enough to keep sailing for the next eight years or so.
I've long thought that the best way for us to get home, in a Grand Poetic Gesture, Logical Route sort of way, would be via the Northwest Passage, the most legendary and ill-fated sailing route of them all, right across the top of Canada.
Only thirty years ago, the Northwest Passage was a horror show of ice-choked waterways, completely unsuitable for a small sailboat with two children aboard. No private yacht made it through the Passage until 1977. But the shrinking of Arctic sea ice has been so dramatic that the Northwest Passage has suddenly turned into an adventure that is accessible to anyone with a reasonable bit of ability and a reasonable boat. The high-latitude sailing grapevine has it that ten yachts made it through last year, which is really astounding when you think about the misery and mortality that attended so many of the historical attempts at the Passage.
We would have to be quite lucky and quite determined over the coming years to have a go at that route. But we figure we might as well get a boat that would be suitable, just in case.
So that’s why, at this point at least, we’re only looking at aluminum boats – strong enough to operate thousands of miles from repair facilities with a reasonable amount of peace of mind, but without the maintenance issues of steel.
In a way, we’re making things hard for ourselves – there are a lot of boats out there that would be great general-purpose cruising boats for us, but the Anglophone sailing world is very short on aluminum boats.
“There seem to be so few aluminum boats in the southwest Pacific,” Alisa said the other day. “Do you think we can find one?”
“Well,” I answered. “I did find a Lebanese wife in Alaska. So maybe lightning will strike twice?”