Sailing to Alaska – By Molly Rard

Attention all flotilla-members and envious onlookers: Sail Alaska 2016 is almost here!

Our departure date is June 19th, so that means one last rush of preparation. You may find yourselves in dire need of a nap before the trip even starts, but don’t worry – the hard work pays off and we will be “relaxing” (Learning! Fishing! Cooking! Adventuring!) in no time.

11032509_877532162322345_6670105301425353860_nIf you don’t know the history of this trip, you may be wondering how it all started. In 1992 my parents outfitted four identical Jeanneau 44s through their business, Marine Servicenter, for a Rockefeller expedition – the first Sail Alaska. This was the catalyst for our program. For the past six years my dad, Jim Rard, has led a group of adventure seekers north to Alaska through the Inside Passage from Anacortes, WA by boat. I act as first mate aboard Ruby Slippers, our Jeanneau 49. I am a recent graduate of the University of Idaho in Natural Resource Conservation, and will be acting as naturalist, photographer, writer, and activities coordinator for the trip. This will be my fifth time as part of the Sail Alaska flotilla, and it is going to be a great year.

10565242_688435301232033_5558676753957990725_nWe have 12 boats joining the 2016 flotilla, 10 of which are Jeanneaus. We will leave immediately following the Jeanneau rendezvous on Sunday, June 19th and will be gone for most of the summer.

11713908_859684030780024_2099346223653967015_oOne of the unique aspects of Sail Alaska is that we travel together and get to experience the Inside Passage as a group. As part of this, our oldest tradition is holding potlucks along the way. They might happen on shore for a special occasion such as finding a great clam beach, smoking all the salmon we just caught, or simply for a sunny afternoon in a beautiful anchorage. If it is raining or there isn’t a good spot on shore, it is common for people to pile onto one of the boats. We often do this after a successful day of fishing or crabbing so that we have a fresh main course.


There is always the opportunity for friendly competition in a group this size, so we like to give out prizes for the best of the best. Biggest fish caught, best picture (wildlife, scenery, or candid shot), most delicious berry pie (pick ‘em in the middle of the day before the bears come out!), or most stylish all-natural handmade walking stick are a few of the competitions we have held in the past.

12240394_924447040964190_4793981361023555175_oIn many ways, Sail Alaska is a lot like old fashion summer camp. Email is replaced by conversations over dinner with new friends. The internet and virtual reality are replaced by real adventures. TV is pushed aside for old-fashioned entertainment such as cooking on a beach campfire, playing cards and telling stories. We have a songbook full of Sail Alaska classics that we break out for potlucks or whenever you ask us to. I sing and am learning the ukulele, and I have heard that there will be at least a few guitar players this year as well. Other interesting talents and hobbies always emerge throughout the hikes, kayak outings, and radio conversations along the way.

Sail Alaska is a true adventure for those looking to unplug, sail away, and learn about longer-term cruising. It’s an opportunity to reconnect with the outside world, be self-sufficient, and enjoy the company of others. I really can’t imagine a better way to spend the summer.

JimEditor’s Note: Jim Rard is the owner of Marine Servicenter, a full-service boat yard, repair center, and dealership with locations in Seattle and Anacortes, WA. He has been a Jeanneau dealer since the early 1990s. He currently owns a Jeanneau 49 named Ruby Slippers, which he sailed across the Pacific to Australia with his wife Jeannea and their twins, Molly and Jessie. He is one of those guys that can do anything with his hands. He’s a true MacGyver and all around great guy!

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2 thoughts on “Sailing to Alaska – By Molly Rard

  1. Sounds great Did not know of cruise to Alaska
    I have 05 Jeanneau 54 DS I bought new.
    Sounds fun, keep me informed please.
    Like to do some cruising around Seattle and Vancouver on power boat with skipper who has local knowledge.


  2. One of the Rockefeller 44s, Tlingit, is still going strong in Alaska. We’re leaving for a two week adventure to Prince William Sound this weekend out of our home port of Seward.


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