Especially when I look through a boaty lens, a year-end reflection on the past 12 months is a fun exercise. To think about the people, places, boats, and experiences I’ve been able to enjoy… I’m one lucky guy. I’d say that anyone who adventures on the water in the Pacific Northwest is pretty dang fortunate!

For me, the year began with racing, as it so often does. Wasn’t March just a few days ago when I was shaking off the winter rust and settling back into the groove on the good ship Glory, reconnecting with sailing pals and the amazing opportunity to trim on a TP 52? Time does fly when you’re having fun!

A centerpiece of my year was the chance to spend almost two weeks aboard the impressively capable 32-foot Barnett Offshore aluminum power cat, Disco, while following the Race to Alaska. No waterborne experience in 2023 can top the anticipation and excitement of charging toward the unknown of Seymour Narrows. Even at 20 knots, the last few miles to that legendary patch of water were neverending as I waited to finally witness the water wonder I’d heard so much about. Seymour did not disappoint! The tide was running mildly by Seymour Narrows standards — maybe about 10 knots. I sat on the bow, clinging committedly to the boat while also trying to get close to the roiling, raging, surge of hydraulic force. We aimed our reassuringly seaworthy vessel at a few of Seymour’s famous whirlpools, and the sensation was a rollercoaster-style drop of maybe 6 feet, accompanied by a moment when exhilaration overshadowed the panicked curiosity, “Are we just going to keep going down, Davy Jones?” As much fun as that was, I was infinitely more inspired in the following days when I returned to the Narrows to see engineless boats sail through, and then to watch a kayak, a rowboat, and a standup paddleboard transit the notorious stretch together under human power.

Another pillar of my year afloat was the 48° North Cruising Rally. I missed the rally in 2022; and when I say I missed it, I really did miss it. I was never more aware of this than on the first night of the 2023 rally, coming out of the cozy salon and poking my head through the companionway to survey the post-rainstorm scene in Garrison Bay. The day’s first and last splash of dusky golden rays washed a far shore, and all around our nine boats were safely anchored at the head of the bay near English Camp. I saw grill smoke from one transom, and another rally boat splashed a dinghy to go retrieve eye-poppingly full crab pots. When the first day goes well in spite of very unsummery conditions, and there’s a whole cruise ahead promising sunnier weather, strengthening rally friendships, and the discovery of new Northwest nooks… I really did miss it!

The fall flurry of festivals and races, boat shows and boat tests blurs into one rich stew of happy memories, a vibrant reminder of the many ways to enjoy this lifestyle in our region. Amidst this splendid melange was what’s sure to be my most lasting memory of 2023: a few brief minutes of an hour-long September joyride on a friend’s fishing boat, with my 20-month old daughter in my lap, giggling as her little hands moved the steering wheel port and starboard. The kid can drive!

Such ruminations come with their share of perspective. The rigors and rewards of parenting mean that I don’t get to count as many days on the water as I might have a few years ago, and I stayed mostly on local waters. Still, when I look back at the sum of 2023’s wonderful opportunities, there’s so much to be grateful for.

Cheers to a good year, and happy holidays!