Sunday, July 16, 2017

Better Than Real

Her: I'm so glad to be back in Kodiak.

Me: I know. It's such a real-world place.

*Thoughtful pause*

Her: It's better than real.

Metaphor alert! Stepping off the boat...
I'll begin with a note on congruence between life on a traveling boat and life in Alaska. They're both all about the people.

We have been met by our old crowd in Kodiak with typical understated Alaskan hospitality. Friends met us at the dock with ice cream and beer and home-cooked treats. In the days when we were freshly back, people stopped by the boat to give us halibut and salmon.

Friends who are off the island offered up a truck that we could drive for a month while we were looking for our own vehicle (thanks so much, Heather & Pete!). And friends who were going to the Lower 48 for a family visit kindly offered up their house as a place we could stay if we wanted to get off the boat.

We didn't really want to get off the boat - except.

Except that the middle of summer is the perfect time to haul out a boat in Kodiak. The days are super-long, the temperatures are conducive to painting, and the yard is mostly empty, as Kodiak's working fleet is out working. We always prefer to move off the boat when she's in the yard. So, we took the opportunity of a place to stay (thanks, Sara and Ian!) and hauled.

Real help: Joe and I watch the slings come off.
Pretend help: Eric pressure washing.
Fuller's boat yard is part of the "delightfully real" aspect of Kodiak that Alisa and I were commenting on. At most yards where we've hauled through the years, there is a driver for the travelift and a yard worker or two who pressure wash your boat and position the jack stands. In Kodiak, there are first of all no jack stands - those tall boat stands for sailboats. Commercial fishing boats don't use them, so Fuller's doesn't have them. We had a set of our own ordered and waiting at Kodiak Marine Supply when we sailed into town.

And, as for the yard workers who pressure wash and set up the stands, that would be the crew of the boat being hauled. Who also have to provide their own pressure washer (thanks, Debra!).

Another friend, who just happens to be the second owner of Hawk, which he took through the Northwest Passage, stopped by at just the right moment to give us a hand with the stands.

And so it has gone through our time in the yard. People just stop by now and then to talk and look at the boat. It's part of the pace of life in a small town in Alaska. And it's part of the process of our re-integration into this town, one conversation about this and that and nothing at all at a time.

Elias in a triumphant mood.
Allright - listen up you dreamers who want to chuck it all and sail away but don't know much about sailing. Find someone who has a boat and volunteer to help them with their next haulout, start to finish. You'll learn a hundred times more about the sailing life that way than by taking one of those "learn to cruise" classes.

Sunday, July 9, 2017


Me and mom (and Eric).
Well.  I would count us as lucky.  We have had a life over the last ten years that has been far richer than the life awaiting us in that alternate universe where everyone gets just what they deserve.

Our good fortune has been wonderfully multifaceted, and, I hope, not been taken for granted. (In conversation with Alisa I have started using the shorthand "white privilege goes to sea" to refer to a certain sort of American sailor.) But just now I want to focus on the tremendous good fortune that we had in our shoreside ship's agent during our ten years afloat.

That ship's agent to Galactic would be Joan Litzow. Mom to me, "JoJo" to my kids. (Someone felt too young to be called grandma almost 11 years ago when Elias was born.)

Anyone who has been on an open-ended sailing trip will tell you how important it is to have someone back in the home country to look after your affairs. We Galactics cut the ties more than most. No house or business back in the home country to tie us down. And the internet has of course made the mundane details of life infinitely more tractable for travelers.

But, for all that, if you're going on a years-long trip, you really need someone to help out with practicalities. My mom was set up to sign checks for us and authorized to deal with our credit card companies on our behalf. She could deposit the checks that came in from my science work and my writing for Cruising World, she could let us know when the credit card company was calling to OK the sudden splurge of spending in the final 48 hours before we put to sea from some foreign port. She could sign the annual application to renew our vessel documentation and send us the new paperwork wherever we might be. She could open our mail and pay the occasional bill that, for all our efforts to live cheap, still somehow made its way to us.

For all those years that we were gone, robbing her of easy access to half her grandkids, she kept our affairs in order, and was an absolutely dependable backstop against late fees and unmet obligations on our part. That role she played gave us a tremendous peace of mind when we were off in some atoll, blissfully pretending that the real world did not exist.

So. For playing such an important role in making our voyage a success, and for all the thankless tasks that she pursued on our behalf, I wanted to say a very public and heartfelt "thank you" in this space.

And, don't worry, mom. We just got a post office box of our own.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Family Affair

Allright - passage recap. There have been a few of those through the years.

For this Kona-to-Kodiak leg, the destination was more important than it has been for most of our passages, so we'll begin with pictures of our arrival.

Elias is quietly ecstatic. Eric is suddenly anxious and has taken refuge in a "disguise".
Alisa is overjoyed. And that smear on the shoreline to the left? That would be dowtown Kodiak.
This picture would seem to suggest more complicated emotions on my part.
Our state of dress in the pictures above tells you everything you need to know about the climate that awaited us at almost 58° North latitude. It has been a particularly cold summer in Kodiak.

But we started this 18-day sail in tropical conditions. Check out the crew watching pilot whales, below. 

And that would be the Marine Engineer getting after a broken batten box on our full batten mainsail below that. Schaefer may make some good products, but their batten boxes are rubbish! Luckily we still had one of the spare boxes that we bought in South Africa. If we are lucky enough to sail up to the Arctic Ocean next summer, my bet is that our remaining Schaefer boxes will be off the main... 

And, well. The junior crew. There were some heated parent-offspring moments in the passage, I will admit. The frictions of endless energy (them) vs. short sleep (us) are guaranteed to produce combustion at some point. But those moments are quickly forgotten (by us at least; they may be in therapy for years for all I know). We really have the best under-11 crew you could ask for. You've never seen kids who are more game for a passage than these two.

How's that for insouciance under sail? Eric hasn't been seasick once since we left South Africa, though he did keep the throwup bowl near himself for the first week of this passage....I thought of it as a little comfort talisman, like a favorite blanket for a younger, or more land-bound, kid.
Sleeping arrangements - Elias in the port bunk, and Eric under the table, which is the spot he insists on. Notice the Tintin craze that has gripped our boys...

Elias rugged up to stand an evening watch somewhere in the 50s North latitude. Can you see how proud he is to be standing watch?

We played endless card games...
And, a persistant theme in Twice In a Lifetime passage notes...the fishing report!

A wahoo and...
...a mahi mahi made up our tropical catch.
While a silver salmon...
...and a rockfish made up the higher latitude catch. Elias managed to grab the rockfish in the ten minutes it took me to pause and check the oil while we were motoring the final miles to Kodiak.
And finally, there was the endgame. For our return to home waters we strung up all of the courtesy flags for the foreign nations that we visited during our 10 year voyage. This is the Chilean's seen its share of wind!

I have a special fondness for the text-only blog posts that I put up while on passage. It seems so much easier to grasp at the elusive nature of seafaring when you're actually doing it, and when you're not distracted by the literal nature of photographs.

In this land-based, retrospective version of the passage's story, I'll throw up my hands at the idea of any what-it-all-means summaries.

I'll just note that being all alone together on the big big blue can make for the very best family time that we have ever known.