But They’re Worth Holding On To
I have always been a dreamer. A big picture, can-do person who yearns for adventure and unique conversation starters.
“Oh, I see you have a castle?”
Yup, building a castle is on that list. Since childhood, castles, racing the Iditarod, or surviving plane crashes with a hatchet have been on my unique list of goals. Unlike those, I recently caught up to a twenty-five-year-old dream and now feel a need to dive a little deeper.
Gary Paulsen’s adventurous novels filled my head as a voracious book-reading youth. Only one, “Caught By The Sea”, spoke of life on a sailboat. Since then I have wanted exactly that. A chapter in my varied life story dedicated to treacherous waves, foreign ports, and whatever romantic notions come with living on the water.
We often don’t realize how much choice we have in the matter of our lives. We don’t take risks because we have built routines and comfortable lifestyles out of Jenga blocks, afraid if we take one wild chance it could all come tumbling down.
Though sailing was on every life goal list I crafted for two and a half decades, I chose paths other than the sea. I stayed in Minnesota and traveled rather than relocating. I bought cars and cameras instead of boats and moorage. I took jobs using skills I already had rather than stretching my wings to learn more. But then I got a call.
A friend in Alaska wanted to move her 27’ Albin Vega from Juneau to Seattle. She needed crew. She called me. I was in. All I could see, was my life at sea.
My interpretation of ‘living on a sailboat’ had always been in lieu of any other type of home. Eat on the boat. Sleep on the boat. Return after work, to the boat. Invite friends over for dinner, on the boat.
There are two ways to tackle dreams. I have done both. You can scratch the surface as a way to test the waters, see if you want to go further. I did that by hiking the Superior Hiking Trail instead of the Pacific Crest Trail. Or you can dive headlong in without any real preparation and see if you know how to swim. That’s what I did cycling from Canada to Mexico.
This sailing voyage would be the former, not the latter.
After many iterations of the route and planning, it was settled that we would sail for two weeks. Onboard would be me, the twin sisters, and their ‘young-at-heart/grumpy-in-the-evening’ adventure dog Buddy. We would share the space, the views, but take turns at the bow bucket. Our route would take us south from Juneau to a place called Thorne Bay, and return to Juneau via new passages.
There needs to be another story about the actual adventures had on this trip. A quick overview should suffice…
There were fishery ruins and seaplanes, sunburns and sunsets, icebergs and technical sailing through fast-moving waters, bushwacking and whacking bushes, glorious waterfalls and wild beach landings, hand-pulling anchors and wind-whipping sails, engines dying at sea and fisherman tows, Vikings and Valkyries, boiled food in a canoe and fresh fish from the sea, rain from above and sea spray from below, plugged bilge pumps and the tiniest of sinks, games of cards and laughs galore, new places to me and places I’d been before. And because the girls are Wisconsinites at heart, there was always plenty of beers and cheese.
In the end, the voyage was a huge success. Nothing about the trip turned me off from wanting to sail again and own my own boat. (Except, for that damn sink. I vow never again to do dishes hunched over…) I felt if I could survive, nay, thrive sharing this space with others on an adventure of this magnitude, when the day comes that I make the choice to liveaboard my own boat I know there will be much to love.
After returning home I spent a week or so looking at local sailboats on Facebook marketplace. I downloaded “Caught By The Sea” on my phone. I have yet to buy a boat or read the book.
The sailboat dream had never become a goal. A goal being, something you assign actionable elements to. The timing required never felt right, and it took a good friend’s intervention to turn it into a reality. With this experience under my belt, I realize I should have made it a priority long ago.
You cannot know what you do not know until you know it. By truly giving yourself a chance, you need not live in regret having never tried. To pursue these dreams, especially the big ones, there will be sacrifices to make. I have found for myself, that is often why the dreams stall out.
So I say, dare to dream. Not only that, nary lose sight of dreams dreamt. Life may necessitate a pause, but even decades can’t extinguish that which is dear to us.
I would like to dedicate this story to my future self.
“Dear Future Self,
Look what you have gleaned so early on. In these days, you oscillate between feeling old and that time has run out, yet you know better. The future feels open to possibilities and some of the goals you had when you are younger, accomplished now, will taste just as sweet. Never stop dreaming, and don’t forget the ones you had early on. As most often, that which you dreamed of as a child, was your true nature buried by life’s accruing responsibilities. In the wise words of Aerosmith, ‘Dream on, dream on, dream on, dream on…’.
Your Biggest Fan,
Your 37-Year-Old Self”
See more photos from this and other adventures here.