With their beloved boat Yahtzee on the hard for hurricane season, the Cross family returns to their old haunts for the summer and finds their way onto the water.

Rows of sailboats and fishing vessels of all shapes and sizes sat idle in Seward Harbor on the first day of September. It was sunny and warm, and a slight breeze trickled in from the south. I could hardly believe there was so little activity on the docks. Alas, summer was coming to an end. I savored the panorama from the porch of the Seward Yacht Club — Mt. Alice sat tall and stoic beyond the marina, and fjord-like Resurrection Bay stretched south towards the Gulf of Alaska. At that moment, I felt fortunate to be there, and particularly happy that we were able to experience so much over the past three months.

Our family was back in Seward for Jill to work a Memorial Day to Labor Day contract at her old job and, having spent 2018 and part of 2019 here aboard Yahtzee before sailing south for Mexico and Central America, it still held a familiar homeport feeling. That sense was heightened due in large part to the fact that we scored an apartment on the third floor of the yacht club, which put us right back in our old neighborhood.

But there was one glaring difference this time around. With Yahtzee sitting over 4,000 miles away on the hard in Mexico for hurricane season, we didn’t have a boat of our own in the harbor. ​​That meant we needed to find other ways onto the water, which presented a sterling reminder that we’re not alone in this.

Not everyone owns their own boat — including in Alaska — and whether it’s sailing, powerboating or kayaking, there is more than one approach to getting out and enjoying time on the water. Gazing out from the porch of our yacht-club-home that day, I reflected on two weekends with friends where we did just that — and had a great time in the process.


Relaxing in the cockpit of our friend’s sailboat, I listened to conversation and laughter, children playing, music thumping from the speakers, and two seagulls who had taken up residence behind us squawking. While I love the sounds of being at anchor rafted up with friends again, what I was patiently waiting for was a brief moment of silence.

Finally, there was a slight pause in the action and I heard it — waterfalls. Anchored in the nook of spectacular Thumb Cove, steep mountains towered overhead with glaciers and snowfields hanging above. From them, water cascaded downward and, though we could see the falls, it was the resonant whoosh of water that captivated my senses. Boy was it good to be back here. Cathartic, even.

But we hadn’t arrived here in typical fashion for our family. No, without Yahtzee, we had to remain flexible if we wanted to enjoy the sweet fruits of Resurrection Bay; and our patience paid off. Just hours earlier on Friday afternoon, we were on the dock in Seward where my buddy Devon brought me down to his friend’s 28-foot Albin power-cruiser. I was enlisted to help diagnose an engine problem on this boat and told him I would give it my best shot. With Devon on speakerphone with the owner, we ran the throaty diesel out of gear but talked about getting it away from the dock for a proper test run so I could make a few checks and determinations. That’s when he simply and matter-of-factly said, “Just take it for the weekend and see what you think.”

“Wait, what? Really?!” I replied with surprise.
“You don’t mind?”

“Not at all. I’m not using it. And that’s the best way for you to see what’s up with the engine.” It was fine by me. And with that, Jill, Porter, Magnus and I scurried back to our apartment atop the yacht club; threw clothes, food, and beverages into bags; grabbed pillows and blankets; and headed back to the Albin. In a flash, our weekend plans went from, “We’ll figure something out,” to “We’re heading to Thumb Cove!”

Thumb Cove is, as you guessed it, a thumb-shaped indentation that juts eastward into the mountains adjacent to Resurrection Bay. Located just 8 miles from Seward, it’s one of our favorite anchorages in Alaska and, with no cell service, it provides the perfect nearby getaway to unplug for the weekend. When we lived in Seward on Yahtzee, we spent many weekends swinging on anchor here by ourselves or with friends. This particular weekend, we were elated to be back out buddy boating with our friends Devon and Melissa and their two kids aboard their Beneteau First 42, Blown Away. They had friends aboard as well, so our total group of 12 included six adults and six kids ranging from age 5 to 12. Good times, indeed!

Having always arrived here on a sailboat, it was a slightly new and fun experience to pull in on a powerboat, circle through the cove in almost tourist-like fashion and then get rafted up next to Blown Away once their anchor was set. As we remembered, the rugged scenery of mountains shooting skyward was
jaw-droppingly gorgeous. It’s totally sensible, yet still surreal, that we’re looking up at them from sea level. Tucking into Thumb Cove always evokes the feelings of being high up in a mountain lake somewhere far from the ocean.

True to Alaska during the summer, we enjoyed the outdoors late into the evening and the glow of light above the mountaintops remained even as we finally crawled into our bunks on the little Albin. Morning arrived swiftly — it seemed like the sun never really set — and we watched shafts of brilliant light tumble into the cove and work their way down the
beach before greeting the boats. Sweatshirts came off, swimsuits went on, and dinghies got put in the water to shuffle kids to the beach; while the smell of bacon wafted up from Blown Away’s galley.

In a choose-your-own-adventure sort of way, we all made the very best of the warm day ahead. Kids climbed on rocks, played in the sand, beachcombed, and picked berries to their hearts’ content. As usual, the boys and I threw the football. Others went fishing. And most of us swam in the chilly water. At various points, we all found ourselves simply basking in the breathtaking scenery around us. Then, as the sun started to make a move towards the horizon, we lit a bonfire and broke out the s’mores for a proper conclusion to a day at the beach.

Moving back to the boats, the kids got to sleep like falling dominoes and the adults savored both a delicious dinner and lively conversation. The stories progressed into the night, but the frequency of yawns began to increase — indicating that our day in the sun had finally caught up to us. It was going to be a good night’s sleep.

Refreshed and well rested, Sunday morning came and our crews were once again greeted to clear blue skies and bright sunshine. After a leisurely breakfast, we got the Albin underway and headed out into the bay for a bit of a tour before returning to the marina.

Our family won’t be switching to a powerboat any time soon, but it turned out to be a great platform for a weekend cruise and we certainly understand why it could be perfect for others. Being choosy about a vessel was way down our list of priorities, far surpassed by the opportunity to spend the time on the water as a family, exploring and enjoying it with friends.

Pulling out of Thumb Cove, I looked back at the tops of the mountain peaks, down to the calm water below and thought about all the great memories we have made in this magnificent place over the years. To say it was good to find a way back here was an understatement — definitely a highlight of the summer.


One of the aspects of cruising that I love the most is meeting new people, especially when we meet someone, become fast friends, and then reunite in a completely different place thousands of miles away. So it was with the family crew of Apsara, a beautiful Tayana 52.

To be sure, our meeting had been a unique experience. We connected with Ben, Yan, and their two girls while cruising in Mexico, where we, and another buddy boat, ended up spending over a month together in a small section of coast quarantining during the infancy of COVID-19. As one would guess,
we became very quick pals, living nearly every day anchored mere boat lengths apart and navigating a new world of caution and restriction in a foreign country. It was an experience I’ll never forget.

Having taken a two-year sabbatical to sail from Alaska to Mexico and then on to the South Pacific, the family aboard Apsara was effectively stopped in their tracks by COVID. In a unique twist, Ben was intimately knowledgeable about the circumstances of this fast spreading virus. He happened to be one of only four infectious disease doctors in the state of Alaska, and thus, in light of a rapidly worsening pandemic, needed to get back. After much deliberation, they decided to sail home to Alaska and, while we were sad to see them go, we understood that duty called. We bid their family fair winds as they sailed for Seward by way of Hawaii, knowing full well that our wakes would cross again someday.

Now, over a year later and in a world that has completely changed since they sailed off into the distance, here we were, reunited in Alaska. It was only appropriate then, that we’d pile both families aboard Apsara for a reunion weekend of cruising on Resurrection Bay. Having already been to Thumb Cove, we all wanted to see another favorite anchorage and chose to sail farther southwest into the bay to Bulldog Cove.

Nearing our anchorage for the evening, we rolled up Apsara’s jib off of Callisto Head and put out a couple fishing lines to try our luck. With Ben’s guidance, it only took about an hour for our son Porter to reel in dinner — two nice sized salmon, a king and a coho. That evening, with a fire crackling and the salmon slowly cooking, we caught up over sundowners while trading sea stories of our family’s divergent journeys.

For our crew it was sailing south after our boats had parted, exploring more of Pacific Mexico and then on to El Salvador and Nicaragua. For Apsara, it began with the passage to Hawaii, where they installed a diesel heater while quarantining for 14 days, before sailing for Alaska. Ben regaled us with their summer adventures from the stunning cruising grounds of Katmai National Park and nearby Kodiak Island. And also caught us up on what life had been like in Alaska upon their return and throughout the pandemic.

The following day, we were greeted by blue skies and a brisk northerly breeze. While the kids played down below, the adults continued the conversation and Ben and I traded back and forth on the sheets and helm; tacking Apsara gracefully back and forth up the bay to Seward. Though it had been so many months since we’d anchored together and cooked over beach fires in Mexico, it was comforting to see that our crews hadn’t skipped a beat. It was like old times again.

What was missing of the old times, of course, was Yahtzee. But here we were, sailing on different terms than we’re used to — this time thanks to the welcoming hospitality of dear friends. It wasn’t our well worn groove, but frankly, it wasn’t any less wonderful.


Ten days after our weekend cruise aboard Apsara, September arrived and I was back on the yacht club porch overlooking the harbor, mountains, and bay. In a day’s time, our family would once again be leaving Alaska; this time on an airplane, not aboard our own boat. But the feelings were similar.

It had been another incredible summer in Alaska. Punctuated by friendships and good times spent on and off the water, we’d have it no other way. We can’t imagine a fully shoreside summer, and thanks to those friends and our own flexibility to get out cruising in whatever ways were available, we had a summer full of adventures afloat. Wherever you call home and whatever destinations speak to you, you can do the same by connecting with the local cruising community and being willing to jump aboard at the drop of a hat.

As it always seems to be for cruisers like us, our goodbye to Alaska wasn’t a forever farewell, but instead a, “We’ll see you next time.”