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 8 project has sprouted wings.
None too soon.
The process of procuring the Figure 8 vessel had drug its heels so long that its boots fell off and then it wore holes in its socks; its toes got frost bite and threatened to turn gangrenous, and still it drug on.
It was without humor that my wife said, “Watching you buy a boat is like water torture.”
Two years ago came the idea, and early on I was all excitement.
I found many boats with potential and more with the help of my sailor friends who forwarded listings.
Florida, Seattle, San Diego, Victoria, Grenada, Florida again; Cambridge Bay, and Port Townsend were just some of the places visited.
But none of the boats quite worked out. One was too small; another too big; another too old.
No need to be hasty, I told myself. The Figure 8 was a demanding course, and I was learning the requirements.
Obligingly, over time the requirements ballooned, and I found myself seeking a flush deck, pilot house, split rig, lifting keel, fat tanked, amply powered, speed demon with iron scantlings and insulation Eskimo approved … that I could afford.
I’d become Goldilocks, for whom no boat could be just right.
Two years of searching and so many boats nearly bought, commitments made and then retracted. I couldn’t tie the knot much less finish off with a round turn.
Finally I wondered if the boats I rejected were, in fact, deficient, or had I lost my courage?
Then Homer called.
Actually, Ann and Glenn Bainbridge called. They had completed their two-year Northwest Passage and were moving on to other projects. Their aluminum sloop, Gjoa, was available if I was interested.
I remember first seeing her anchored against the hills of Arctic Bay, Nunavut. This was early in the Northwest Passage I crewed aboard Arctic Tern. It was the summer of 2014. Now that was the boat, I thought. Except that she was taken. Except that she was happily plying to her purpose with a couple happy to be seeing her at it. I made an offer anyway. The Bainbridges smiled and declined.
I had no intention of waiting for this boat. But that is how it has worked out. Today, sitting snugged next to her diesel heater and typing this as a light, dry snow falls, I know that when the sky clears, I’ll go on deck and admire the white and craggy Kenai Range to the east and search again for wind on the waters of the bay. Because the Figure 8 project has wings.