I am writing this from Key West, Florida, where (not to brag, it’s just the truth) the daily weather is 80 degrees and sunny.
I’m here volunteering on a sailboat. In exchange for my labor, I get free room and board, plus a hands-on education in sailboat operation and maintenance.
I learned how to sail last summer in Alaska.
My workplace in Alaska is about 50 miles from the town of Seward, which lies on Resurrection Bay and is home to an American Sailing Association (ASA) certified school called Sailing Inc., where I enrolled in a two-day 101 course.
This wildly amused my co-workers, who called me “Captain Alexandra” for weeks and were full of questions. How did I find out about the school? What was class like?
I found out about the school because I passed it so often. My job includes driving tourists into Seward twice a week. Sailing Inc. was hard to miss — right on the highway, with a 30-foot “for sale” schooner in its parking lot.
As for why I wanted to “learn the ropes”? Honestly, I just get bored easily. I love learning new things and leaping into new adventures.
Sailing is completely different from anything I’d endeavored before, with a steep learning curve — the parts of the boat, tacking vs. jibing, the rules of right-of-way on open water.
There are many different knots to tie. The bowline is easy enough, but I still get all confused with the clove hitch, cleat hitch, rolling hitch and two half hitches, just to name a few.
It was a whirlwind of information to cram into a two-day course. Though I got an “ASA Certified Sailor” certificate upon completing the course, I was an entirely unconfident, underqualified sailor.
I immediately began searching for opportunities to get more hours on the water, which led me to my current boatyard gig in Florida.
In the interim, I consumed as much sailing-related material as I could, including (from the Seward library’s sizable nautical section) “The Essential Book of Knots,” along with Jonathan Raban’s travelogue “Passage to Juneau” and a biography of the adventurers Miles and Beryl Smeeton.
I found plenty of films to stream, including the documentaries “The Untold Story: America’s Cup” and “The Race to Alaska.”
Netflix recently put out “True Spirit,” a fictionalized depiction of 16-year-old Australian sailor Jess Watson, who solo circumnavigated the globe in 2010 — at the time, the youngest person to do so.
As an idealistic adventurer constantly in search of new material to get all dreamy-eyed over, I guess it was inevitable that I eventually landed (no pun intended) on sailing as a pastime.
It’s been lying dormant in my unconscious, ever since those first elementary school lessons about the worldwide exploration of men like Ferdinand Magellan, Christopher Columbus and Captain Cook.
It’s a marvel, that era when tall-masted ships roamed the Earth, braving powerful storms and cutthroat pirates in the search for new lands. It’s inspired countless fictional oceangoing voyages: “Moby Dick,” “Treasure Island,” “Robinson Crusoe,” “Pirates of the Caribbean.”
Imagination and grandeur aside, ships were vital to world commerce for centuries; sailing metaphors are embedded in the English language.
We can anchor ourselves, or stay afloat. Either hit the deck or clear it. Batten the hatches, or weather the storm.
Are you on an even keel or in the doldrums? And, who doesn’t love to yell, “Ahoy!” That’s how all of my friends greet me now, at least.
If nothing else, sailing is a skill that offers me a new and novel way to experience Alaska, a place I love too much.
Now that I’ve gotten my sea legs, I look forward to plying Alaskan waters when I return north this summer.
Alexandra DeArmon grew up in Frederick. She now divides her time between Maryland and Alaska. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Gosh, you are a fun read. I always think so, then you surprise me again. My sister’s family took on instruction in sailing one summer, then sailed the Atlantic coast. If you love it, you just do.
Interesting. Different perspectives. Must be a challenging job for the FNP catering to a diverse readership.
Happy for you and your adventures. I lived in Alaska, visited Florida, and was a crew member in the San Francisco winter sailboat races. But in my search for adventure my deepest regret was missing time spent in Frederick. My classmates and friends took local jobs -teachers, government employees, government administrators, business creators, etc. They helped build the community and were Frederick through and through.
I guess my point is this. I am very happy you are living an idyllic life but I would think that a paper, questing to be "local" would dedicate this space to local people building our community.
Nit a negative aspersion on you by any means.
Scheeze, jsk, lighten up. The woman is a life long resident of Frederick and bit of an adventurer who's traveled much of the world and is sharing some of her experiences - which are very interesting indeed. Is no nit too small to pick?
Oh, veritas, your’s is one of those disrespectful comments from someone who doesn’t have the courage to stand behind an opinion openly and honestly.
I agree with you. And I’m impressed by the paucity of adjectives. Mark Twain, another social commenter who used a pseudonym, would be proud. He would give you you two thumbs up if doing so wasn’t regarded as a micro aggression to those with one or no thumbs.
You are right. As soon as I saw dwsserbia's comment I realized that. People enjoy that sort of story.
Good on you, sir!
[thumbup]jsk Yes. Vicarious. And by “Ms. D” - I later realized you weren’t addressing me 😆Beg pardon
Jsk, first, she grew up here. I fear water but respect the fearless, which apparently includes you! 😃I rarely leave Frederick to do anything worth submitting for others to read. Recently we went to Bedford, Pa. On purpose? you may rightly ask. Why, yes, sir, we went to Jean Bonnet tavern, a 1760’s building floating in a sea of highway, to meet a favorite cousin and his new gf, taking my genealogical history binders and index cards. I was adopted into his family, and readily agreed it’s all his now, God bless. Haven’t really touched it since therapy some 20 years ago, except to answer random questions from family. One time I wrote about how I had realized it was an “acceptable” form of “searching” my family is okay with. I wondered how I would feel without it, and I needed to check a birthday, sought it online, found one, it was wrong 🤷🏻♀️ Fail. So. Oh to be young and bolder than I ever was! I read for fun.
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