[Photo: Shemaya Laurel]

Well, the sad report is that as our go/no go decision date of May 1st approached, I did a serious evaluation of the prospect of the cross-country car trip. There were benchmarks that I needed to reach, to pull this off, as far as so very many hours – and days – of car riding that would be involved in crossing the country. I’m sad to say that those benchmarks were so very far off that the conclusion was unequivocal, and I pulled the plug on AUKLET’s 2019 r2ak run, a couple of days before the 1st.

This has been sad for so many reasons: the sailing itself, through such wild countryside, and even more the tremendous community that is such a big part of the race. The contact with other racers is a treasure, and the enthusiasm of everybody – from marina staff and B&B operators to friends and family – when one says that one is signed up for the race is so incredibly much fun. I know for sure that all of this would be multiplied many times over, being actually there to do the race, and as it unfolds. I miss going forward with this, so much.

It was always a long shot, the possibility of pulling this off. The absolute miracle is how far it got: boat transport arranged; a full crew of dear friends signed on to help with my own travel; the boat, trailer, and minivan all in order enough that we could have completed it in time for the various departures. Crew for the first part of the race, and help with getting the boat rigged and in order in Port Townsend. All of these things fell into place, one by one, making this possibility very real.

On the bright side, in spite of this change, the organization for all of this is not lost. The boat is ready to go, and the trailer as well, with only small items still on the list. Unknowns have been resolved, in everything from where the boat would arrive in Port Townsend, to where it would stay before I got there, and where it and I would stay once it was floating. Huge questionmarks about requirements for meetings, and the pesky stairs, were all beautifully resolved with Daniel, the Race Boss, in a way that only added to the feeling of welcome and possibility. Transportation questions for folks coming and going, as part of helping with the team effort, were almost entirely clarified, as well as great headway being made on places for everybody to stay. If this gets tried again, so much is now sorted out.

It’s a good rehab goal, the prospect of riding across the country with enough comfort and stamina to make it doable. Although it was not possible to meet that goal in this timeframe, headway was made, and much fun has been had in the effort. With more time, I am not ruling it out. The r2ak organizers have said that they will make an announcement in September about changes to the race, going forward. For now they are not saying more than that… Who knows if the race will be significantly changed, slightly changed, or if this fifth year, in 2019, will have been its last. This uncertainty is what made it worth trying to do the race this year, even though it seemed improbable. And I am so glad we did.

It has been a perfect treasure, to get this far toward this goal that has been simmering for years. It will be enormously sad to not actually be there when the race sets out in June – but it would have been even sadder to have never applied. I thank every single one of the many people who made this possible:

Luke Tanner started it, when he said, early last September, “I could haul the boat to Washington – that would be easy.” And later when his schedule changed, he continued to say that if nothing else worked out, he would still do it.

Janine Georgette came forward and said, “I’ll drive you to Washington.” Our plan shifted over time, coming to include crewing on the boat, and some rearrangements in the driving piece. But like what Luke said, Janine also made the whole concept realistic, and, in fact, possible.

Chris Shelton, who I knew from fun in the Junk Rig Association, saw my note on Facebook about all this, asked if we had enough ground crew, and then volunteered. When I mentioned that leads on a person with a truck would be great, he responded with a photo, of his own truck.

Kate Fahey, early in the whole discussion, said she would be happy to come meet me – perhaps in Alaska – to be a “ferry buddy” for perhaps returning to Port Townsend that way, and then driving back across the country with me to Maine. “Ferry buddy” could just as well be “fairy buddy” – magic.

Suzanne Jean, when the westbound driving schedule became a little complicated, somewhere along the way had an epiphany to do with the prospect of this trip. Where it had previously looked to her like the worst idea in the world, and we had together completely rejected the idea of her doing it, she decided that actually it could work out just fine, and we went ahead modifying the minivan for both of us to camp in it, studying routes and making plans for fun places to stop along the way, and how we would meet Janine in Washington, where Suzanne would catch a plane home.

Suzanne did so much to make this possibility real. Working together on the boat, sorting out food plans, going for practice car rides, including whenever our icy, snowy road in the middle of the winter seemed reasonably passable. And so much more. None of this would have happened without her enthusiasm and generosity of time and effort. And we had fun!

So many other people helped with this project too: Dave McDermott did drawings, both whimsical, and a fantastic chart key. Chubba Kane was over here helping bolt parts on the boat in the late fall chill, and Chipper Daley brought his woodworking skills. Suzanne’s parents, Doris and Henri Jean, got out their pressure canners, and helped make boat food. Kate Fahey opened her home to be the first pitstop in western Massachusetts, where Suzanne and I would spend the night, including hosting a visit with Suzanne’s parents, so I could see them on the way through. Susan, Cuiee, and Aveour Masters said they would bring Doris and Henri over to Kate’s, for that visit, and I was so looking forward to seeing the three of them as well.

Judith-Kate Friedman, in Port Townsend, invited us to stay when we landed on that coast. Joanne Moesswilde offered enthusiasm and support, with ideas of coming to Port Townsend to help get the boat organized, and see us off. Tim Pfeiffer told me in September, “Let me know when you are accepted, and I’ll make a reservation in the RV park in Port Townsend, and be there for the days before the start.” Driving from Arizona! More friends offered enthusiasm and encouragement, from this continent, and from halfway around the world. As did folks I didn’t even know, who, after seeing the notice about Team AUKLET being entered in the race, wrote to offer everything from driving information for crossing the Rockies, to a friendly welcome in a harbor halfway up Vancouver Island. Junk rig sailors in the Pacific Northwest developed a plan to sail together, at the beginning of the race, with the fun of a junk rig boat being entered.

It has been such an incredible, unbelievable gift, to be the recipient of so much goodwill, and such generosity. I am so very touched. I would so love to be reporting in with pictures, a few weeks from now, of AUKLET with those snow-covered mountains on the BC coast in the background.

And what a ride it has been, just getting this far. I so thank you all.