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S/V Tender Spirit: Ocean Cruising
Join us as we cruise amongst the Islands of the South Pacific with plans.....what plans?
Celestial Navigation
Joan
11/03/2006, Sitka, Alaska

I was so excited to receive my sextant in the mail along with Starpath's Celestial Navigation class. I can see they'll be teaching this old dog some new tricks! I am a firm believer that for every electrical/electronic system on board, we need a mechanical/non-electrical back-up. So, Nobeltec move over for some good ole' fashioned geometry. I want you to know, math was not my favorite subject back in my school days of yor, and I have limited knowledge of astronomy. Grant it, I can find Orion, Ursus Major, the sun and the moon, but that's about to change! I am learning a lot, but with the rain and more rain, I expect that taking the sights will have to wait awhile.

2006-2007 Preparation Posts Before Leaving Alaska
A Conversation with an Addict: OR The Cause of All This Madness!
Joan
09/27/2006, Sitka, Alaska

It was my mother's fault. Of course my dad seriously contributed to my downfall. He admits it quite gleefully when pressed, giving an abundance of fuel to the flames. Yes, they ruined me beyond repair. My husband suggested that perhaps some sort of twelve step program would cure me. I did quit, for a whole year, but fell off the proverbial wagon. I blame my husband too. He does admit to sabotaging my best efforts. Oh, so you say I am setting blame onto others for my downfall, but it is honest and truthful as you will soon discover.

You would think that with having a close knit, loving family, along with accomplishing my career goals and dreams of obtaining the greatest job in the world that I would be content. Hell, I even have a working environment that is so good that people would kill to be in my situation! But I just can't quit!

I am reading in this writing class that perhaps journaling and memoir writing can have therapeutic results. So here goes. This is the general direction that these scatterings of journal writings and memoirs are leading down this strange path called life......

Hello, my name is Joan and I am an addict. I am addicted to cruising under sail. I know I can quit any time I like (right) if I want to. I guess. But not today, and tomorrow doesn't look too good either.

I first discovered I had this problem when I was applying to colleges. I applied and was accepted into all of them, but I really wanted to go to Hawaii. My mom suggested that I write out all the pros and cons for each university. Hawaii, Yup, sailing, diving, coral reefs, swimming, beaches, and did I say sailing? Yeah, I wanted to go there for all the wrong reasons, that is, if I planned on graduating. Since it was my hard earned dollars and I didn't have enough to linger through more than 4 years, I knew I needed to concentrate on school and get finished as quickly as possible. I ended up going to Fairbanks. There would be no salt water distractions. I want you to know that I did finish quickly because I hated being away from the water.

After my first year of school I went home to Adak for the summer. It was glorious getting off the Reeve's plane and inhaling the sweet aroma of moist maritime salt. How I missed that smell of home! I spent every free moment fishing with my dad or on the beach watching the water. Who cares if the wind was blowing forty knots, driving the rain across the tundra, and stirring up saltwater foam.

Towards the end of summer, my mom and I were having one of those "meaningful conversations" about my boyfriend. Yes, I told here important things about him; or should I say about his boat, and that he invited me to go fishing with him for a few weeks at a place called Ketchikan. While relating all this to her, she wisely asked if it was him or the boats and fishing that attracted me. I insisted that I loved him because he loved boats. It turned out that I fell in love with Southeast Alaska and sailboats instead!

Now when Mom and I talk, she reminds me that my addiction does have genetic roots. She spilled the ole' beans all right! You talk about enabling someone! She definitely succeeded in a major way. She spent way too much time discussing my uncle's genealogy research with me. Of course I took it in like rain soaking into desert sand. He had an easy time tracing my mom's ancestors because of the ships logs. That's right, Mom's side of the family turned out to be Nantucket Whalers going clear back to the early 17th century and ended right up to the time the whaling go shut down. At one time we apparently had a fleet of ships. My great grandfather was born rounding the Horn, yeah, that one, the dreaded South American detour before the canal was built. Contrary to popular belief, sometimes wives of an officer or captain accompanied their husbands on whaling voyages. These voyages often lasted three to five years.

Did I tell you that Mom loves to fish as much as anyone I know? Well, she routinely outfishes most of the people I know, including my dad. Dad said to me one day that that's a great marrying quality. He was enthusiastically cleaning a huge halibut that Mom had just caught at the time.

Now it wasn't just genetics that caused my ruin. Let's take a look at environment and up-bringing. This is where my dad comes into this tale of woe. I do want you to know that my parents are great people. They were excellent parents for the three of us. I have an older sister and a younger brother all one year apart. They were strict, made us work, earn our own way to college, cultivated a love of learning, reading, and yes, travel. Did I say they also took us camping, fishing, and boating?

Growing up as a military child, we traveled all over the world, and looking back on it, we always wound up on an island or at least in a coastal area. I was born in Puerto Rico, but lived on Hawaii, Okinawa, Adak, Puget Sound, and the beaches of North Carolina and Maryland. We always had saltwater at our doorsteps and boats. That is the scene; such a seemingly innocent environment! Now for my dad!
For as long as I can remember Dad read aloud to us. He was always reading something, and we were always begging him to read it out loud to us too. He read "Mutiny on the Bounty", "Kidnapped", "Treasure Island", "Old Man and the Sea", "The Cay", the Hornblower series, along with a zillion other sea stories and adventures. Oh and we always receive National Geographic Magazine, which I loved to read, and look at the pictures. That magazine seriously contributed to my total downfall as you will soon find out. As you can see, Dad certainly did his part in ruining me.

Oh, did I tell you Dad loves to fish? About a dozen times by now! Well, he started taking us fishing and camping before I could walk. He showed me a picture of myself and a large salmon that he claims I caught. I couldn't have been more than three at the time. Dad taught me how to fly fish, even on windy Adak days. He even taught me how to tie my own flies. I still love to fly fish, but I often wish for more wind and less trees!

I love conversations with my dad. He always has an adventure to talk about. It usually involves boats and the sea. My dad loved to talk about historical maritime history. He had me well schooled on the voyages of all the great explorers. I was always fond of Captain Cook, but believe it or not, Darwin and his voyages on the "Beagle" was my most favorite. After Dad retired form the Marines, he completed his degree in history and began a second career as a teacher. He must have been a great one because I certainly learned a lot about fishing, boats, and sea adventures!

My parents are retired now. They recently sold their last boat and bought a 5th wheel. Now they travel all over the country and spend the winters on a Mexican beach. Dad is currently writing a book on early fishing schooners of the Pacific Northwest.

The biggest dream, or should I say, my wildest, hair-brained idea I got from reading a series of National Geographic articles by Robin Lee Graham about his solo adventures sailing around the world in his small boat. I was captivated. I was only 13, but decided that I too wanted to sail around the world. Later I would read his book "The Dove" (instead of listening to my algebra teacher!). I also read "Maiden Voyage" by Tanya Abi about her solo voyage on a Contessa 26! I was hooked. Then it was totally down hill from there. I read everything I could get my hands on about sailing and ocean voyaging. Have you ever heard of Lyn and Larry Pardy? Well, for people I never personally met, their lifestyle and books doomed me to this addiction.

As sometimes happens to us, my life's dream to circumnavigate was nearly snuffed out during what I call my dark years of life's struggles that nearly crushed all hope out of my heart. I emerged from that with my life, and that chapter of it securely buried under a hundred fathoms of water forever.

It was a new life and a new day when I was shrimping full time and working in the schools. I needed a home and a fishing boat. I saw lots of boats for sale, but the only one, (a very tired, old wood troller) I could afford became unavailable. There was a long forgotten sailboat for sale, but that was a dream, I needed an income.

For whatever reason, I'll just call it fate and an amazing league of guardian angels, I wound up buying that Pearson 33 sailboat that fall. I had a home for the next foreseeable future. During the winter I worked hard on the boat, slowly turning the derelict back into a sailing vessel. As I worked and learned, that long forgotten flame flickered and burst into a bonfire with fresh oxygen. The next thing I knew, I was teaching at Little Diomede, saving for an engine and an electrical system for the boat. Did I tell you the boat needed everything? I mean Everything! It sat for 17 years without care. All it had going for it was a solid, dry hull.

It was Christmas. I was home; back on the boat, with a great boyfriend who would later emerge as the greatest husband one could ever have. Chuck showed me a sailboat that was for sale. I fell in love at first sight. I was on the boat for only 15 minutes and knew that I could never afford "Lightfoot". I did apply for a small loan, and put my boat for sale by placing a one time advertisement in the Wrangell Paper. With that, and encouragement from Chuck, I flew back to Diomede with just a far fetched dream of sailing off on Lightfoot. Yes, she certainly was a beauty, and her systems actually functioned! She did need some work, but at least I could safely leave the harbor. It's funny that somehow the wildest dreams actually become reality.

My guardian angels were putting in a lot of over time. My ad. reached a person in Idaho who bought the boat sight unseen. He did know what he was getting himself into. I told him all the gory details. He bought the boat anyway. As of today, he still owns and sails that boat. I even got the small loan, which at the time was no small miracle. Somehow by spring, Lightfoot was mine.

How I loved that boat! We (Lightfoot and I) sailed all over Southeast from Juneau to Hydaburg, from Sitka to Wrangell. While Chuck fished alone on the slow openings, I would sail. I learned a lot. I also gillnetted with Chuck and even married him!

Two boats were difficult. We needed one house (live aboard boat) to focus on. We agreed to sell our boats and by a trawler. Everyone says that the two happiest days of our lives is when we buy the boat and then when we sell it. I guess I am not most people. I put one sign up and sold my love in a week. I cried for a much, much longer time. I was glad that the new owner loves Lightfoot as much as I do. That next summer he showed me around on Lightfoot. I liked the work he had done. I sure missed her. He later told Chuck that he could tell I was still in love with her. I didn't tell anyone how much I really cried with a broken heart.

We were cruising on Shearwater, a 46 foot twin screw, beautiful Monk Trawler. We took her all over Southeast having a great time. With the visibility of a fly-bridge, and a walk-around bunk, I actually thought I might be able to kick the sailing habit. But No, Chuck the instigator had me check out a Hans Christian sailboat. No, we actually were on three that summer! I was surprised at Chuck's sudden interest, OK, shocked! But winter set in and we settled into a pleasant cozy life on Shearwater.

One cold wet February afternoon Chuck took me to see the Hans Christian we had boarded the previous summer. He found out that it was for sale. I looked, OK, I drooled. I fell for her as bad as I fell for Lightfoot, but the stakes were much higher this time. She was a beautiful bluewater ocean boat, perfect for an ocean crossing or a circumnavigation. She was also in great condition. There would be no boat building projects on this boat! Chuck, that instigator, had already made a deal with the banker before I had even boarded this paragon of canoe stern designs! See, there was no hope of ever curing the addiction to sailing with that kind of pressure!

On St. Patrick's day, Tender Spirit was ours. I failed the 12 step program. I am in love again. Tender Spirit is a dream to sail and one tough girl when the weather and water turns angry. She is also a comfortable home. We sold Shearwater without any fanfare. She was a good boat, but I never quite bonded with her. Don't tell Chuck! That was his babe!
We have sailed Tender Spirit on the outside and inside waters of Southeast. My life's dream is a goal that is close to being attempted. The question is, can I leave my dream job for my life's dream of circumnavigating by sail? It is a three to four year voyage. Chuck is asking that question with a cattle prod to make up my mind. He said I need to decide before life will decide for us. So, what do you think? Will I actually go for it and take the risk, or stay and enjoy the career? Predicting what will happen in the future is futile, but death is certain for us all. What will we take with us from this experience called life? What will we leave behind?

2006-2007 Preparation Posts Before Leaving Alaska

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Adventures of Tender Spirit
Who: Joan & Chuck
Port: Sitka, Alaska
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