It was only a couple of weeks ago that I sailed through Captiva Pass at night and dropped the hook off of Cayo Costa Island in Pine Island Sound, Fla. I spent about 10 days in the sound.
After taking the editors of Practical Sailor on a demo sail, I was joined by my family. It was a special time that went by far too fast. Currently, I am about 3,500 miles to the west in Bend, Ore. Outside the window, Thorfinn, my Presto 30, is parked. Along with my good friend and tour teammate, Matt Jacobson, we have covered a lot of ground and we are only halfway into our trailer-sailer circumnavigation of the United States. In a few hours we depart for the Pacific Northwest.
Long Haul Sailing
Matt joined me on beautiful Captiva Island. Sarah and my boys had just flown home for Maine and I was feeling pretty low. My winter in Florida had been a fantastic experience, but it came at the expense of time away from family. It is tough starting an expedition business. This year I have had to lay the groundwork for future of Thorfinn, but it has been largely a solo mission. Florida proved to be an ideal cruising ground and I fell in love with the Keys, Florida Bay (Cape Sable!), the Ten Thousand Islands, and Pine Island Sound. I was able to sail with some excellent folks and I am really excited about 2012 Florida expeditions and our possible trip to the Bahamas. The time had come, however, to pack up Thorfinn and head to California, the Pacific Northwest and Great Lakes. It meant more time away from Maine, Sarah, and my boys.
I was below when I heard Matt’s duffle bag hit the deck. It was quickly followed by a, “Hey buddy!” Matt Jacobson and I have been sea kayak guides together, offshore sternmen on a lobsterboat, and I had hired Matt for a season at Outward Bound. Matt has also been a big help with Thorfinn. Earlier in the winter he helped me drive Thorfinn to Florida and was part of the crew on the Lauderdale to Key West Race. Matt’s greatest attributes are his sense of humor and positive nature. He is a very easy guy to be around which was important because we were about to head out for five weeks working and living shoulder to shoulder.
We spent a few minutes swapping jokes before getting to work taking Thorfinn apart. The next morning we left the marina before first light and headed across the sound to pull Thorfinn out on the trailer. Most of the day was spent getting the masts down, stowing gear, and eventually hauling Thorfinn to a friend’s house for a final cleaning. We took a quick swim/bath in my friend’s pool before hitting the road.
The next three days were a blur. We drove and drove. Occasionally we would pull over at a truck/rest stop and hop aboard Thorfinn for some sleep. The boat doubles as an excellent RV. Our route took us through Alabama, Mississippi, Texas, Oklahoma, Texasagain, New Mexico (a very cold night!), Arizona, and finally to California. Texas and Oklahoma were a little nerve-wracking. We fought 50-mph gusts, and the threat of wildfires lay to our south while devastating tornados were to the north. In Arizona we went over a 7,000-foot pass, setting the Presto 30 altitude record. I have driven cross-country several times, but it was a good reminder how large and diverse this country is.
Our mission was to make it to the Sail Pacific Show in Oakland, Calif. We made it to the ramp with an hour to spare. Thorfinn hit the Pacific Ocean and we motored over to the marina in Jack London Square, our home for the next six days. Matt and I re-rigged the boat and then headed up the street for a quick lunch. That night we slept the sleep of the dead.
Boat ShowRyder Boats, our builder, partnered with Thorfinn for this tour of the United States. Our goal is to show off the boat and attract some buyers. The Sail Pacific Boat Show was the only show on the tour and the best way to get the boat seen by as many people as possible. Boat shows are fun. It is very cool to walk the docks and check out the other craft. My favorites in this show were the Pogo Mini, a single-handing race machine, and the Corsair trimarans. Morris Yachts, a fellow Maine builder, was docked next to us with two of their gorgeous 36’s.
Belle Ryder, the builder, and her husband, Matt, flew in and we had a good crew for the show. We were busy. A lot of people came onboard and we had a good time discussing all of the positive and unique attributes of the Presto 30. When we explained that the boat had just been in Florida just a few days before people were impressed. We also met some legends; Dick Newick — famed designer, Tom Wylie –another great designer who has designed some amazing sailboats with free standing masts and wishbones, and West marine founder Randy Repass — who also owns a Wylie designed boat that is currently sailing the globe. All were impressed with the Presto!
After four days the show finally came to an end. We then switched into demo sailing mode. For the next three days we took people out for short sails. The winds often blow hard in San Francisco Bay but we had to wait until our third day to experience them. Our final demo sailing day was hosted at the OCSC Sailing School in Berkeley. A good friend and fellow Outward Bound instructor, Alisha Witham, set up the day. The winds built, and under an overcast sky we blasted around the bay under the gaze of the Golden Gate. It was a blast. That evening some of the OCSC staff sailed with us and they were a great group.
Thorfinn did its thing. With full sail set we cruised upwind. The OCSC staff were amazed by both the ease of handling and the Presto’s stability in the heavy air. The sun set and with darkness encroaching we turned downwind and sailed fast back to the dock. Thanks to OCSC and everyone who sailed with us.
Bend or BustWe left the Bay Area on a beautiful sunny afternoon. Once again Matt and I unrigged Thorfinn and reloaded for driving. By sundown were passing Mt. Shasta in northern California. The snow-covered peak got me excited for Bend, where I used to live, ski patrol, and backcountry ski. We arrived at my friend Jonas and Annas’ house after midnight.
Bend is a very cool town. You can do just about any outdoor sport there, although there are not too many 30’ sailboats parked around. Passersby checked out Thorfinn and asked what a boat from Maine was doing parked in Bend. Matt and I went for a run along the Deschutes River and the sweet smell of the pine trees flooded back great memories of my time in Central Oregon. That night was the annual end of season ski patrol party and it was excellent to catch up with old friends and meet some new faces. The Mt. Bachelor ski patrol is a tight knit and very experienced crew. The job entails dealing with medical issues, keeping the mountain safe (chucking bombs to control avalanche danger), and of course great skiing. Mt. Bachelor was three inches shy of their snowfall record in excess of 600 inches and the forecast was for snow!
As much as I love Mt. Bachelor, I really dig backcountry skiing. A lot of my time when I lived here was spent touring the Three Sisters and heading off on trips to places like British Columbia, the Sierras, and the NW volcanoes. Most of this BC skiing was done with my buddy Jonas Tarlen, who now co-owns and guides for Three Sisters Backcountry. They have two huts stashed up in the wilderness area. Jonas and his wife Anna completely outfitted Matt and I with gear. We then headed up to a snow park where we hopped on a couple of snowmobiles and then cruised up to the huts. The huts themselves were hard to spot at first because they are buried in the snow. Rising above are some great treed slopes and further up the alpine bowls. Jonas and his crew have some pretty sick terrain and it does not take long to skin up for some turns. We stuck the skins on our skis, strapped on packs and headed up.Matt and I have been sailing, driving, and occasionally running (at sea level) so there was some burn involved. Eventually we cleared the tree line and all around us lay the snowy peaks of the Three Sisters Wilderness. We got on top of a bowl, ripped off the skins and then wahoo! We made some turns. It felt awkward after not skiing in quite a while but very fun nonetheless.
That evening we were joined by my friends “the Jamies” (a married couple both named Jamie), and Bird. We skinned up for another run before dinner. I was pretty psyched to make it make to the hut and settle in for some “hut lounging.” With the wood stove cranking we made dinner and spent the rest of the evening laughing about this and that before climbing into our bunks.
The Pacific Northwest
Soon Matt and I will turn off our computers and head north. I absolutely love the Pacific Northwest. I do not care if it rains, but I am hoping for a clear day so we can sail under the majestic Cascades and Olympic mountains. Puget Sound, where we will explore and hopefully show Thorfinn off to some new folks, awaits. The Presto 30 is well-suited to the area. It is going to be a little tough when we have to haul out. British Columbia and Alaska will have to wait for future expeditions.