Homer is the hailing port of the Kilchers, the family whose adventures in homesteading are featured on the long-running TV show, Alaska: The Last Frontier. You’d never know it from the show, of course, where story lines and careful editing leave one with the impression that the Kilchers live moose-miles from the nearest telephone pole, but, Read More

I find admirable Alaskan willingness to tackle the unknown. One could argue that this “last frontier” requires it of them or that the requirement draws those so inclined, but whatever the reason, Alaska is a land of generalists, generalists with heavy equipment and a will to get stuff done. Need a new barn on your property, or driveway, Read More

Surely there was more imminence in the second coming of Christ than in the acquisition of new Selden spreaders from the lower forty-eight. So, on Thursday morning I began shopping around town for a mend-and-make-do solution, opinions on which, I found, were as easy to come by as a cup of coffee in Seattle. Mike Stockburger in the Homer, Read More

Even tasks that take twice their anticipated time do eventually complete, and so Gjoa emerged from Homer Boat Yard’s Bay Five thirteen days after Mike Stockburger and team initiated their “four or five day job.” The delay had been inevitable; the quality of workmanship, high. I was pleased. Already I had decided to leave, Read More

I once read that the best way to budget for a boat project is to a) plan meticulously, and then, when all items are accounted for and you have your grand total, b) double it. This technique applies equally to budgets of time and expense. With that in mind, I dropped my jaw when, Read More

“Sure thing,” says Carol, “we don’t have tides this week anyway.” Carol is the office manager at Northern Enterprises Boatyard, my home on the hard. I have just inquired if her crew would be available in the next few days to assist with pulling Gjoa’s mast. Her response is jargon and translates as follows: Tides in Homer’s, Read More

March 23 Sandblasting has been underway since Monday and is slow work, reports Randy, the man in the white jumpsuit. Each of my twice-daily visits to the shed finds him in just such get-up, swinging the blast nozzle as if watering a lawn. By now I’ve shaken Randy’s gloved hand and found his eyes behind the, Read More

March 19 “Where you gonna put the rig?” asks Erin. “The what?” I ask. — I’ve returned to Homer to ready Gjoa for a sandblasting and bottom painting job whose list of preparatory tasks unfamiliar to me, all of which must be completed in two days, extends to the floor. What started as a, Read More

February 8 Homer weather changes every two hours and usually for the worse. So, if the sky clears, drop everything and do the outdoor tasks. How often has a sunny morning encouraged me to begin work in the anchor locker that afternoon only to find that after lunch I am rained or sleeted or, Read More

February 4 Insurance survey in the morning. Uneventful. Father and son team, both native Homerians. “Oh,” says the father when I ask, pausing as if struggling to remember, “Born and raised in Homer. Guess I’ve lived here all my life.” Both men are soft spoken and polite but clearly excited to survey something other, Read More

Boats of a certain age have history, but not always a history as interesting as Gjoa’s. I’ve written previously about the two-year Northwest Passage just completed by Gjoa’s most recent owners, Ann and Glenn Bainbridge. It was on this passage and a waylay in Arctic Bay, Nunavut, that I first met them both. The, Read More

Homer for the first time to see her sitting there on the hard like a bird awaiting spring. That was November. The snow fell wet and heavy and quickly turned to mud. Then back to San Francisco for a month of brooding. Then Homer again to buy her. And just like that The Figure, Read More

Here we consider the first of several big issues impacting the success of the Figure 8: Mileage and Timing. The Figure 8 Voyage consists of two distinct segments, a longish ocean cruise through the Pacific, Southern and Atlantic Oceans, and a tight, harbor pilot’s squeeze through the very constricted waters of the Northwest Passage. Strategies for, Read More

At the recent Strictly Sail show in Oakland, an experienced blue-water sailor and I got into conversation about the Figure 8. I described the loop in the Southern Ocean followed by the Northwest Passage and said I thought the latter was technically the more difficult. His expression darkened. “Down south it will be heavy, Read More

Archimedes lay in his bath, Newton pondered beneath a tree, and Einstein pushed a stroller along the busy sidewalks of Berne–surprisingly mundane activities for the birthing of big ideas. So I take it as fortuitous that my idea came into being while I washed dishes. Maybe water swirling in the sink suggested that a figure eight sailing, Read More