by Jane Miller
We are working on the boat. A lot of working on the boat. I am amazed at what we have accomplished; daunted by the size, scope, and expense; and anxious and panicked when I think too much.
We leave for Alaska’s Inside Passage on June 18 with a group of other boats under the leadership of our friend Jim Rard and his “Sail Alaska” program. Our starting point is Anacortes, WA, and we’ll be going up north to the South Sawyer Glacier. There and back again. Around 2,000 nautical miles. In about three months. On a 56’ boat. Did I mention the anxiety? How about the panic?
This trip has been on Erik’s list since before we became “we.” He’s been focused on redoing systems and I’ve been working on what we know about the route; finding our daily stops; researching everything from navigational charts to anecdotal information; and – this is the interesting part – creating initial routes based on what I would do.
Is that hubris? Seriously, what the hell do I know? I’ve had no real sailing “lessons,” I haven’t even sailed since last October when we crossed Haro Strait to the Strait of Juan de Fuca to Victoria. The only places I’ve been are to Desolation Sound, and that was mostly Erik and Roy making the decisions for our boat and the “flotilla” Roy was leading. I barely played a role. We sailed a few times into Friday Harbor (on San Juan Is.) and Blind Bay (on Shaw Is.) last summer, both places I love, but nothing like what is coming up.
Fear creeps in when I’m unguarded, and then I shake myself. Compartmentalize. Move on. I suggested to Erik that it might be a good idea to have an additional hand on the boat, at least part of the time. Not because he is lacking, but because I so clearly am. At first vehemently opposed to having another body on board, he is now at least allowing the idea to enter our conversations.
This summer will be challenging, which would be great if I hadn’t had to face a number of other challenges in the last five months. Kind of feeling challenged-out.
This summer will also be a hell of an adventure as I stretch physically and emotionally beyond where I’ve ever been. Is it too large a leap, though, to go from eight days in Desolation Sound last August to three months in Alaska this summer? My skill set has definitely not made that leap with me.
But you know what? Earlier this week we took two great new friends on what we figured would be a jaunt around the harbor, with plans on fueling up then practicing maneuvers. We have to move from one dock to another due to a boat show in the inner harbor, and the new slip is difficult to reach given that Foxy is 56’ long.
Erik told everyone his plan for leaving Dock B, we knew what our jobs were, and it went off like clockwork. I secured the lines, closed the gangway, and off we went. As we approached the fuel dock, I manned the center spring-line. I threw the center line right over the fuel guy’s shoulder, and then threw the bow line to our friend on the dock.
It’s ridiculous to be proud of throwing a line to a guy at the dock, but reaching this point has been a study in re-coordination for me. Ridiculously proud of that.
When we left the fuel station, Erik maneuvered the boat at the perfect angle, I held the bow line tight, then slipped it off and pulled it up as we headed into the harbor.
We had planned to go back to our “home dock,” and move the boat on Friday, but the wind was mild, the sun was shining — a rare day of spring in winter-locked Victoria. All four of us looked at each other, and said almost in unison, “We should just dock the boat.”
It would be a tricky combination of backing into the marina; making a 60° turn between the end of the dock, three boats, and the edge of the harbor; shifting into forward between two whale-watching boats; and slipping into our berth.
There have been times when Erik and I have totally botched a landing. Times where I’ve steered us past the mooring buoy, where Erik has come in at the wrong angle, and that will happen again.
But not this time. The angles were just right, we tied off smoothly, and we couldn’t stop smiling at each other!
Sailing is more than a combination of its part. We will face heeling in rough seas, system failures, doubts about ourselves and each other, and making mistakes. But we will also face joy in the sunrises, love for each other, exhilaration in our accomplishments, and peace in our souls. And that’s what I’m going for.