Achieving a cruising dream (published June/July 2017)
With our bright blue spinnaker poled out and full of wind, we sailed across the border between British Columbia and Alaska in perfect downwind style. Bathed in April sunshine, our family of four whooped and hollered at the occasion. It had been nearly 700 mostly downwind miles since leaving Victoria four weeks prior and a sense of accomplishment swirled in our wake.
After leaving the friendly confines of the San Juan Islands in early March, we weren’t in a rush to reach Alaska, but it was our goal for the summer. Helped along by spring southerlies, we opted for an outside route along the west coast of Vancouver Island then hopped north to Haida Gwaii. From there, Alaska was in our sights and favorable breezes kept blowing us north.
When we bought Yahtzee five years ago, sailing to Alaska was a goal. A dream. At the time, we didn’t know when it would happen, how long it would take or what the actual route even looked like. We just knew we’d get there. Being that we’re not the type of sailors to sit at the dock and ramble on about fixing our boat and half-baked aspirations for what we’d do with it, we chipped away at the dream and made it happen. And here we are.
For boaters, reaching Alaska from Washington via the Inside Passage can be daunting. It’s far. And at times, it’s not easy. While cruisers make the trek north every year, sometimes over and over again for many years, many leave the Pacific Northwest and turn left to head south without ever seeing Alaska, which is an absolute shame.
For the crew of Yahtzee, though, the voyage has been more than just a trip north. We did it in an unconventional way and are making the experience all our own. There aren’t many other northbound boaters around, the recreational fishing crowd has yet to arrive and cruise ship season is in its infancy, so we’re basking in what it means to be here early—enjoying spring southerly winds, open wilderness and meeting hearty locals who are getting their first taste of visitors after a long winter.
For Jill, Alaska is her home state, which means that being here amongst its mountains, trees, water and residents is a homecoming. Born and raised in “The Last Frontier” by adventurous parents who drove across the United States and Canada in a converted school bus in the mid 1970s, built a house with their bare hands and then raised two children is about as Alaskan as you can get. Throw in the fact that their family staked claims on a gold mine in the Alaska Range north of Denali National Park, which her brother still has, and we’re talking full on Alaska pride. And if one thing is certain, it’s that Alaska is a VERY prideful state.
For good reason. Few people live in this humongous state and even fewer are born and raised here. It is a cruising destination that is truly like no other and the residents who call it home are equally unique. From the moment we tied to the dock in Ketchikan to clear customs we’ve been welcomed with open arms by nearly everyone we’ve come in contact with, making us feel right at home.
Now, sitting at the doorstep to Glacier Bay National Park, summer awaits, and we can’t help but feel that a cruising dream is being achieved.
Andrew, along with wife Jill and sons Porter and Magnus, are currently cruising the Pacific Northwest aboard their Grand Soleil 39 Yahtzee. Follow their adventures at threesheetsnw.com/yahtzee.