The Figure 8 Has Wings

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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.

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8 Comments on “The Figure 8 Has Wings

  1. Oh bravo my friend, I am thrilled indeed, though will follow your adventures all tucked up here with my Redwood Trees, and my Hounds, vicarious would be mariner that I am. I am very happy for you. And I admire your patience and fortitude in waiting out for the truly right boat. I’ll have a noggin in honor of your voyage right now. Cheers, Remy&Phineas’ Mom!

  2. Brilliant Randall! So glad to hear that. I was afraid to ask what had become of this dream. I’ll noggin too.

    • I don’t know about 15 dead men, but the noggin was good, so I too had another. Thanks for the best wishes you two.

  3. Outstanding! I have been checking the Blog for 52 weeks for this news….Alas.

    • I appreciate your patience, Bruce. Hopefully you will have found it worth the wait. Thanks for staying in contact while not so much was going on.

  4. Hey Randall, Kurt and Nancy are up here visiting us in BC and we were just discussing what had become of your quest. We are all very glad to hear you have settled on what sounds like a suitable and pedigreed vessel.

    • Chris, Rani, Kurt and Nancy, great to hear from you. Thanks for the well wishes. Yes, the boat has quite the pedigree; hopefully now I can sail her to her liking! Best to Kurt and Nancy for me.

      Chris, thanks again for your assistance in the boat search in BC and when you were in NZ. I know it was a hassle, the more so since none of those boats worked out. Your help, and your and Rani’s hospitality when I visited Vancouver, was much appreciated.

      Warmest Regards,


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