Thursday, December 18, 2014

The hunt for Das Boot

Let it begin, in earnest anyway! Ever since we sold Cirrus in May 2000 I've been obsessed with boats, some more than others. In 2006, we actually had an offer ready to go on a very affodable San Juan 28 in Seward, as a Prince William Sound escape -- but work had just changed. Subsequently, during the last 8 years my summers have been occupied by beating on rocks and helping to map Alaska's geology and mineral potential. The boat would have mouldered in the snow, glacial silt, and transient moorage in Valdez. In this case hindsight caught up just in time.

Now, however, retirement is looming; over the horizon we can see the beacon's flash, and the Pavlovian urge has grown stronger than ever. From 2012 until just a month ago, I was convinced that a Freedom 38 was the perfect boat for our cruising plans for the west coast of North America. 
In particular I had fixated on one particularly well maintained, well sailed, and very loved hull. It was said to have been the last hull of the model built by Tillotson-Pearson. The owners and I started communicating and we had a phone call or two and many email/blog chats. 
The owners ended up passing Das boot on to their son and his family; who can argue with that? Then the owner went out and bought a new smaller racier model...well, who could argue with that? All in all a very happy ending! Except we are boat less...

I am still a fan of the owner's blog posts and stories of coastal club racing in Southern California -- perhaps we'll have chance to meet face to face soon!

As a post script, Madame Commodore and M looked at another hull of the Freedom 38 model, there were some particular deficiencies to the particular hull, and in general we started to come to our senses that the North Pacific and the log and ice strewn waters of coastal Alaska might not be the best place for a high-aspect fin keel and spade rudder.

The holiday letter meets the 21st Century

Over the last 31 years together, we have developed an extended family in Fairbanks; it is delightful to come together with many generations around the table at the holidays. We are part of a big circle.  And we are always delighted when MELT are together – wherever we are. We were together many places this past year.
Last Christmas we celebrated the holiday with Tyler and Michael on the shore of Tomales Bay CA, enjoying sunshine, sounds and smells of the sea, and family spirit; then we went off to Yosemite for some warm-winter hiking. New Year’s Eve found us in Bellingham and Tacoma with friends and Larry’s sister Janet and her husband Larry. Six months later we were all together again to celebrate Michael’s graduation from Oregon State University. In July E & L joined family to commemorate Janet and Larry’s 50th wedding anniversary, then snuck off for a few days alone in Victoria, BC. We squeezed in a few Alaska adventures this summer. We spent a day fishing for halibut outside of Seward. Along the way, we had a narrow miss with a mama moose and her new calf in the woods near Hatcher Pass. We love weekend trips to day-hike in Denali National Park and raft the Nenana River, the only white water within hours of Fairbanks.
Tyler joined us and a few friends on a 4-day raft and kayak trip on Alaska’s Tazlina River in August; we had a great time appreciating campfire camaraderie, solitude and autumn beauty along the river. Tyler is currently taking advantage of the mobility of a web-programmer, being able to run projects and servers from any network connection in the world. After spending a couple of years settled in Oakland he hit the road this fall and has traveled between Fairbanks, Portland and St Louis, carrying his office in his backpack.
Tyler and Michael enjoyed 2 weeks of Alaska in July; Elizabeth had a great time with them but Larry was in the field! Michael then tacked on a wilderness adventure on the Tatshenshini River. In August, Michael began work with Glosten Associates [a naval architecture firm] in Seattle. He and doggie Max found a home with a yard and nice human and canine roommates. Michael continues to kayak often with his girlfriend Anna and Corvallis friends, and is broadening his circle to include local Seattle boaters and rivers.
Elizabeth is transitioning to a new grant project for her last 9 months of employment at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, and is reducing her work schedule to part time until retirement on September 1st. She is still involved in several non-profit organizations, but is slowly removing herself from leadership roles. She spent time with family and friends in the Lower 48 this spring and fall, and is looking forward to more time for that.
Meanwhile Larry managed to shed the yoke of ski patrol leadership, just as he was promoted to Mineral Resources Section Chief in the Alaska geological survey. The new position is both taxing and engaging, and requires a lot of travel, schmoozing and public speaking. He still enjoys fieldwork on geologic mapping projects; last summer he was in the Talkeetna Mountains with challenging weather, rocks, and terrain. However, the call of the sea is strong… he will probably follow Elizabeth’s retirement by a few months.
The search for our next sailboat is picking up momentum. We have made first-pass inspections on several boats, eliminating a few from Larry’s nautical-obsession list. We are looking forward to returning to the cruising lifestyle upon retirement. We are grateful for health, comfort, family and friends – we wish the same for you and your family. With the coming Solstice and the renewal of light we wish you, your friends, family and community all the best for the coming year.

Submitted with love and fondness -- L & E