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!

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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!

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