Struggles of a stationary sailor

I can’t wait to be sailing out here again.

It’s no secret that I’m absolutely infatuated with Alaska. The place is truly amazing. But I’m also not going to mince words in that I’m finding it increasingly difficult to be the sailor and writer who can contentedly sit by and write about sailing while not actually being on the water. I know some folks can pull off the tired shtick of writing about their boats and telling years-old sea stories while rarely, if ever, leaving the dock. To me, all that bluster is for the birds.

I want to be sailing and writing about it!

Maybe I need to get Hornpipe out for some winter sailing.

I guess I’m having a hard time with it because the dock- and desk-bound sailor isn’t really my style. Never has been, never will be. And after the past three years and thousands of miles spent as a sailing nomad in the Pacific Northwest and Alaska, I’m finding it’s not so natural for me.

With winter rapidly approaching here at 60 degrees north, I’m reminiscing more and more about past winters spent on the water. This will be the first in a long time that I won’t be out cruising or sailing on a regular basis, and coming to that realization is painful. Especially because wandering under sail has been such an integral part of my, and our family’s, life. Up until this point, it’s literally all we know together.

Faithful readers are well aware that we’ve spent the last three winters continuously cruising the Pacific Northwest and loved almost every minute of it. Sure, the days were short, cold and sometimes windy, but we found fun, adventure and some magic in discovering the bountiful Salish Sea cruising grounds in the offseason. The Gulf and San Juan islands, in particular, were true gems when the crowds of summer sailed for home and the parks, anchorages and coastal communities were left for the few willing to explore them in the din of winter.

A winter sail in the Gulf Islands of British Columbia.

Before that, I spent many winters sailing, cruising and racing the warm waters of the Eastern Caribbean, Florida and Bahamas. I was on some type of sailboat nearly every single day and, though it was work, it was mostly an incredible vocation. And back then I couldn’t imagine spending a winter somewhere cold, especially with no sailing. Sigh.

Though it was for “work”, sailing to places like this used to be my year-round norm.

While this lack of sailing in my life is unusual and somewhat of a bother, I’m actively applying my typically optimistic outlook to the situation and channeling my energy into things besides feeling sorry for myself. I’m happy in Alaska and can’t imagine being anywhere else — because I don’t want to be.

Meanwhile, work on Yahtzee has been a therapeutic way to stave off the blues of life ashore. Projects are coming along nicely and it is fun to watch the changes take shape. The best parts of my days, though, are spending time with Porter and Magnus; teaching them, playing with them, and watching them learn has been an incredible role to fill for our family. I love it.

The boys discover a waterfall on one of our many hikes.

With Jill off at work five days a week, the boys and I are finding routines and activities to keep us busy. From the library, gym, aquarium and more, Seward has a wealth of things to do indoors, and we’re finding Alaska to be as incredibly rich in outdoor opportunities as we’d imagined it would be. Plus, they’re great helpers when we need to work on Yahtzee, and love being back on the boat just as much as I do. And when I worry that life on land is washing the sea water from their veins, they’ll point out high and low tide, wind direction and strength, climb the mast or simply play on the foredeck.  Yesterday while walking down the dock in a brisk northerly, Porter pointed a finger south and said, “It would be a great day to sail that way.” I laughed. He was right.

I know they miss sailing, too. Fortunately, we all do.

Porter in a familiar place, up Yahtzee’s mast.
Puppy Magnus out trick-or-treating.
Visiting Jill at her office on halloween.
Porter crushing the rock wall at the gym.

10 thoughts on “Struggles of a stationary sailor

  1. As you probably know by now… time flies, especially as we get older… before you know it, you all will be back out on that beautiful water!! I love your blog and hearing what you guys are ‘up to’! Love and miss you guys!! Xo mamajo

  2. It’s hard to maintain a sailing blog, because sooner or later, sailing has to take the back seat in life. That’s why most blogs are just blogs, and they may happen to talk about sailing frequently.

    If you’re looking for writing ideas, here are two subjects I’d love to read more about:

    -How do other sailors up north handle the winters? What makes a ‘northern’ boat? How are they insulated? Where do northern sailors go cruising?

    -Talk more about northern route planning and anchorages. I know how you did it, but how do other people do it? Particularly in small boats. My first book was basically a collection of blog posts about favorite anchorages I had written about. You could do it way better than I did.

    1. Thanks for the suggestions, Chris! There is definitely still a lot to write about, I just need to get a bit more creative since I won’t be on the water as much this winter.

  3. Hello Andy, I loved reading your interesting post and what an incredible experience your boys are having! You have a beautiful family, I enjoyed your lovely photos.
    Carolyn Bach (Deborah’s mom)

  4. Andy, being a writer is a double edged sward. The best writers are the ones that write from the heart, for them self’s. The bounty is the readers that stumble upon this writing and find solace in the same things you do. On the other hand your writing will expand far beyond you and others will come to rely on your journey even if it’s not happening in real time. The act of writing about past journeys while you are land locked will be extremely therapeutic. People don’t read books anymore. Back in those days a sailing book hot off the press was already years old. I’ve been blogging for 12 straight years, thousands of posts and have yet to touch the top of the iceberg of my sailing experiences. Yes your stuck on land and yes you prefer to write in the present and yes many of us look forward to your writing even if it’s not real time. Like a sailboat your pen is both your master and your servant. Write the winter away.

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