Tuesday, October 17, 2017


I love this island so much.

It would have made much more sense for our work if we had settled in Juneau when we came back to Alaska. The University and NOAA both have large labs there.

But we never considered it seriously. We were focused on this place. I like to think that in prioritizing a place that we love over other considerations were are acting against the grain of post-war American history in a way that will in retrospect appear wise. Stay tuned on that one.

The funny thing is that I don't really feel all that at home here. Part of that probably has to do with us being away for a decade. But it's also true that Kodiak is neither an easy place nor an obvious one. It feels like the project of a better part of a lifetime to come to terms with this place, on its terms.

The Mothership at rest
Elias casting. There's always hope for one more salmon.
The boys just had a four-day weekend, and the gods of weather malice were off doing their evil deeds somewhere else for a change. So we pointed the barky to the other side of Ouzinkie Narrows - to Sharatin and Kizhuyak Bays, to be precise.

It was great to get away. And great to be reminded all over again how tremendously like nowhere else Kodiak is.

Autumn is well set in up here, just shy of the 58th parallel. Fresh snow fell on the higher summits while we were away.

And it's very deep into metaphorical autumn for this great chapter in our sailing lives. We're still faithfully living on the boat. But we have a house purchase lined out, and the celestial bodies of house finance are moving in their predetermined orbits. Before we know it we'll be living ashore.

The new neighborhood.

At dinner today Alisa and I quickly ran the numbers on how much we could make if we rented the house out and continued to live aboard. Pretty good money from a sailor's perspective, as it turns out.

But we won't make that grand gesture, of course. We are willfully jumping into this new phase of our lives, and really, considering how radically different was everything that's gone on for the last ten years, this new life.

But. Not just yet.

Monday, October 16, 2017


New observation for the Galactics.

We've now seen both the aurora australis and the aurora borealis from the decks of our little ship.

We saw the southern lights in 2013 from the Auckland Islands, in sub-antarctic New Zealand. And, for the last two nights running, we've seen the northern lights from our anchorage in Kizhuyak Bay, Kodiak. It's normally too cloudy to see the lights in Kodiak, but we got lucky.

And, after all these years afloat, a new error.

I've only backed down on the anchor - set it with the engine in reverse - about a thousand times. On our first day out on this trip, I finally made the mistake of backing down on the dinghy painter and sucking it into the prop.

The result: stalled engine, a propeller hopelessly wrapped in the painter, and a captain who got the unexpected joy of snorkeling in Alaska in October.

I suppose it's good to break out of the routine and try something new instead of just making the same mistakes over and over again.

This post was sent via our high-frequency radio as we're far from internet range. Pictures to follow when we reach internet again. We can't respond to comments for now, though we do see them all!

radio email processed by SailMail
for information see: http://www.sailmail.com

Saturday, October 14, 2017


Life can be confusing and I suppose that's why a lot of us go sailing in the first place.

You go sailing and while it is really just normal life that has been taken to a new venue there is also a release from some of the more inflated trivial concerns of everyday life. In the sailing life you are presented with the very concrete challenges of getting your little boat across an ocean, as well as the opportunity to contemplate the deep peace that comes from being a thousand miles from land. On a well-found boat, in the company of your family, making your way slowly though determinedly to your chosen goal.

This is all very nice.

Then you come back to land life, say after being away for ten years.

Among your fellow sailors, "swallowing the anchor" is legendarily the hardest thing there is about the entire sailing life.

But you scoff at this a bit.

First, you are at least for now keeping the boat and dreaming of new things to do with her.

And second, it's just land life. Don't be precious, you think to yourself. Get on with it.

But while you've been away all of your land friends have been building their lives around those confusing bits and have presumably achieved a certain equanimity. But you're all new to it again, and things do have a way of stacking up.


Eric and Elias' schools had a "lock-down" last week.

If you're in the US, you know what this means, and if you're not, you can probably guess. Schools in the US have adopted a code of best practices for minimizing fatalities during massacres. A kid at the Kodiak high school was overhead making an actionable threat against the school, and the system was triggered. Kids sheltered in place - locked into their classrooms, curtains drawn, on the floor and silent. The Kodiak police department geared up for an active shooter and secured the buildings.

Nothing came of it.

On earlier visits back to the US I remember asking family and friends with young kids what they thought of mass shooting drills and the impact on their kids.

"Oh, they just call them lock downs," was the typical response. "The kids call them that, and they don't really know what they're for."

Well, I can assure you that our kids know what they're for.

Eric came home with a second grader's incomplete understanding about some sort of bad guy who might do something bad. Elias quickly disabused him of any comforting lack of specificity and said no, we were locked down because there might be someone coming to the school to shoot kids.

Eric is now afraid to go outside for recess, and before he uses the head he asks his mom to check the big locker where we store toilet paper to make sure there's nothing bad in there.

I have plenty of responses to this state of affairs in the US as a social and political issue, but not so many as it plays out in my kids' everyday life. I found myself being able to say nothing at all when it was discussed at the dinner table that night. I suppose I'll try to explain to the kids about the soothing role of probability in assessing how worried we should be about things like school shootings. And I'll also adopt a certain troubled equanimity about the nature of the world, and how coming to grips with it is an inescapable part of growing up.

More immediately, Elias and Eric have a four-day weekend, and we have untied the dock lines and headed out for a little jaunt to visit a couple Kodiak anchorages that we've never visited before. There are lots of those.

And, for these few days, we'll revisit that solace of the sailing life. Town life will be waiting for us when it's time to go back.

This post was sent via our high-frequency radio as we're far from internet range. Pictures to follow when we reach internet again. We can't respond to comments for now, though we do see them all!

radio email processed by SailMail
for information see: http://www.sailmail.com

Monday, October 9, 2017

This Peripatetic Life

We were at a party last night in Kodiak, and someone asked me about the friends we'd made during our grand tour.

"Yep," I answered. "The way we look at it is, we got to know some of the most fantastic people that you could ever imagine. And most of them we'll likely never see again."

Elias and Eric had certainly picked up on the transitory nature of sailing friendships. As we were counting down our last year before returning to our home port, I once asked them what they were looking forward to about being ashore. "We can have friends!" was their immediate, and enthusiastic, answer.

Most of the time in the life afloat, you meet people, hit it off, and then sail away from each other, never again to cross paths. If you're on the same route, say sailing across the Pacific, you're likely to run into people over and over during the season. But then the season ends, and you inevitably go your separate ways. 

A very few times, though, we've been lucky enough to run into simpatico yachties during more than one season.

A couple memorable examples are illustrated below. There was Six Pack, with Rex and Louise aboard, whom we met in Tonga, saw again a year later in Queensland, and then saw again a couple years after that in Tasmania.

And there was Thélème, the long-term floating home of wonder couple Richard and Michele, delightful holdovers from the good old days when sailing wasn't so darn serious, and sailors were a lot more fun. That's Thélème tied next to Galactic in Whangarei, New Zealand.

The very champion example of ships we meet more than once, though, is our friend Leiv on Peregrine. We met in Tasmania, saw him again in the Falklands, and just now had a great summer with him in Kodiak.

Leiv and Elias, high above Kodiak
But these things of course come to an end. Leiv buggered off a few weeks ago, chasing rumors of cheap sandblasting in Mexico, and ultimately headed back home to the Falklands.

I've gotten very used to quick goodbyes. In fact, the practiced way that sailors make quick work of goodbyes is one of the many things find attractive about that wonderful tribe of hybrid dreamer-doers.

So it was Alisa who really marked the moment for us when Leiv dropped by Galactic to say farewell. When the hell would we ever see each other again, she wondered aloud.

When indeed.

Farewell, mate.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Hot Link

I haven't written about it much on the blog, but one of the delights of our sailing life ever since our second visit to New Zealand, in 2014, has been my occasional bout of on-spec writing for Cruising World magazine. The sailing world has quite a history of good writing, and an even more notable history of sailors rubbing their incomplete educations against their dubious finances and coming up with the answer of freelance writing as a way to stretch the cruising years out against the inevitable return to work.

That, by the way, was far too much of a conglomerate of a sentence to ever make it past the editors and CW.

Anyway, our most recent story is featured on their web site just now. It's about one of our greatest sailing experiences ever...