It took until about March for the water to look a tiny bit appealing. One warm day (comparatively) and a little breeze, sitting on the shore. It happened again in April, once or twice. By May it occurred to me that if a boat had a little more space, and if it were in a quiet cove, I might like it. The fear wore off, with a good long rest. Being about done with the discomfort, not so much.

Two weeks ago, middle of June, the 2018 Race to Alaska started in Port Townsend, Washington. This year they had perfect weather for the initial crossing to Victoria, streamed for all the rest of us to see on Facebook live. “For THAT race,” I said, “it would be worth being uncomfortable.” Knowing full well the pounding they took in 2017, and the long calms, the year before that, has not seemed to interfere. This year, 80° for days, and a lot of rowing, peddling, and paddling. Eventually the wind came, and the temperature dropped. Seven women got to Ketchikan first, all the rest of us bursting with pride. I ordered some charts. Actually, I ordered them the day the boats all set out from Port Townsend.

It’s far-fetched, the possibility of Race to Alaska 2019 including an entry with my name. What’s nice to feel is that given the right motivation: Alaska, BC, mountains, fjords, true silence – even a drive across the country – something inside lights up. I’m happy on land. But the room that had gone dark, that is filled with sailboats, might have the kind of light that comes with dawn. Faint, in the east. With stars.


On the plus side, as far as practical realities of the r2ak, there is that ever since the Race to Alaska was proposed about five years ago, its requirements have been a guiding theme in AUKLET’s development, and my own. Motorless – check. Human power (yuloh) – check. Navigation, current, big tide. Stores for weeks. Water (see rainwater collecting). Check, check, check. Heavy weather sailing – see junk rig. Check. Night sailing. Solitude. Check, check.

The work that was done in these past years has stayed, banked, even as I walked away. The boat capable of such a trip is right there in the boat shed. It dawned on me in the last few weeks that what changed, in my lessening enthusiasm over this last while, is that with so much familiarity, and so much practice, I was getting bored. Who would’ve thought! There was stress, and there was discomfort, but there was not the newness of the unfamiliar, and the delight at finding one’s way. And the all-absorbing challenge, to expand into such new territory, which goes so far to counterbalance the stress and the discomfort. But ALASKA! And British Columbia, which is the bulk of the Race to Alaska. Lots to not know, in that proposition. To study, and to see how it unfolds.

So maybe it’s not done. Applications for entering the 2019 R2AK open in September. In the meantime, though the front runners are all snug in Ketchikan now, the 2018 race is ongoing, particularly for those in small craft that are paddled or rowed. Soon the sweep boat – affectionately called the Grim Sweeper – will be making it a real race for those on the slow end of things. If I get in the race, I would expect to be somewhere in the middle, or having my own personal run with the Sweeper. But there is no shame in that. Being in the race would be by far the greatest victory. With bonus mountains. Whales. Sea otters. And me.


For information on the Race to Alaska, see: