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.
If 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.
We 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.
One 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.
In 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.
Editor’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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