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After a career working boats in high latitudes, I suppose most of us would sail south for our retirement. But I never could get enough of that subtle light. I'm still unable to explain it to those not fortunate to have seen for themselves. The same can be said of the Aurora Borealis, the incomparable power of the ice as summer finally sets the rivers flowing once again, the nearly frantic urgency of summer as the birds return and fish push up those same rivers to regenerate their species. The explosion of flowers and berries, held close to the ground to savor summer's sun, as though they somehow know the equinox will soon return the gales that foretell the coming snows of winter. So when the opportunity came to sell our modern ninety-one footer and close out a twenty-one year career in the fisheries of the Gulf of Alaska and Bering Sea, it just seemed natural that Nancy and I would make our first extended cruise to the North.
Nancy spent most of her adult life planning for the next adventure. It started when her family moved to Japan in 1964 while she was in high school. At the time, being only 15 yrs old, she was not convinced of the great opportunity presented to her. Sje just wanted to go home to California. In 1966 her family returned to the US via Russian (old Soviet Union), Scandinavia and Britain. The experience left a big impression on Nancy and she has been on the move ever since. In 1969 she spent a year traveling from Europe overland through Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan to India and Nepal. On the return trip she spent 3 months on a kibbutz in Israel. Over the years her travels have taken her back to India and Nepal, Sri Lanka, Burma (Myanmar), Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Japan, New Zealand, French Polynesia, Peru, Mexico and North Africa.
Nancy's love of the outdoors and hiking fueled her interest in geology and in 1985, after returning to college, graduated from the University of Washington with a BS in geology. Though she's never worked in the field, she views the world through the eyes of a geologist and naturalist.
There were a few complications however. The offer for the workboat had been unexpected, and had come just before Christmas. The deal came together so quickly that there had been little time to fully consider what would come next. As Mark had sold his job, they had better not waste time realizing the very long held dream of cruising those higher latitudes. It certainly didn't feel like it when Mark departed Prince William Sound for the Gulf of Alaska on a near zero January night to deliver the boat to Vancouver, B.C., but spring was not long off. It just wouldn't due to waste the first summer of his early retirement, but the problem was they owned only a twenty-six foot trailerable, unsuited to extensive cruising.
First they had to find, buy and commission the right boat for work in the arctic, find a new home for the horse and cats, close up their house in Port Townsend, WA, and drive a van load of boat gear across the country to Fort Lauderdale. A tall order in such short time, but not much different from what Mark had to do every spring all those seasons before. This time they would be driving the load of boat gear south, to Florida, instead of north to Alaska--the snow on the roads would be in Montana instead of the Yukon. The logistical and planning experience of those seasons paid great dividends, and by mid-April Tamara, their newly acquired Swedish built 44' steel ketch was bound north for "the Labrador."
From that beginning, three more extensive cruises in the Labrador Sea would carry them to Hudson Straits, to all reaches of this stunning but challenging region, bring them face to face with Polar Bears (see Home page), take them all around Newfoundland with the incomparable hospitality of its outports. From Newfoundland, they then followed the tracks of the New England maritime fur traders, sealers, and Yankee whalers, across the North Atlantic to the Azores, Madeira, Canary Islands, Cape Verde, back across the South Atlantic to Brazil, Uruguay, Argentina, the Falklands, Cape Horn, Antarctica, Chilean Patagonia, the Galapagos, Mexico, Hawaii and finally back to familiar grounds in the Aleutians, Alaska Peninsula, and Prince William Sound. In all, nearly 50,000 miles of the sort of adventure they could only dream of before, more than half of it at latitudes above 50°.
These adventures can be followed on the sy Tamara blog.
"Cruising Labrador's Dramatic and Demanding Coast", Blue Water Sailing, June 2002, feature article
"Northern Exposure", SAIL Magazine, People and Boats feature, September 2002
"Arctic Visitor", SAIL Magazine February 2003, Polar Bear photo and story
"Shorthanded Smarts and Safety", SAIL Magazine May 2004
'This Is Not a Test", SAIL Magazine Online, 2006, twice resorting to the life raft.
"It's All in the Mind: When it comes to offshore passage making, safety is all in your head", SAIL Magazine, Bluewater Cruising feature, July 2006
"Flooded Engine in mid-Pacific", Ocean Navigator, January/February 2009
"More Sea Ice from Global Warming?", Ocean Navigator Magazine, March/April 2009, our cruises in the Labrador Sea and Antarctica, and ice dynamics
"Voyaging Skills", Ocean Voyager, 2009, an interview feature in Ocean Navigator's annual handbook
"Home Is The Sailor", Ocean Navigator, October 2010, essay on the difficulty of re-entering life ashore after years cruising distant waters
"Ice Dream: A Fisherman Becomes a Sailor", Voyages, Chronicle of the Cruising Club of America, Issue 54, 2012. Awarded the Charles H. Vilas Literary Price for 2011.
Numerous slide shows and lectures featuring our voyages, and our seminar "Safety and Survival at Sea" conducted for the Wooden Boat Foundation, The Wood Boat Festival, Puget Sound Cruising Club, University of Alaska Marine Advisory Program, Prince William Sound Community College, Cruising Club of America, Northwest Maritime Center, and others, 2001 to present
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