Eleven years ago this month, my wife Jill and I finalized the purchase of our beloved 1984 Grand Soleil 39 on Lake Union and couldn’t have been more excited. Starry-eyed youngsters, we celebrated with beers on the patio of what used to be the Nickerson Street Saloon and decided on a name while playing the dice game Yahtzee. That was it! Yahtzee. It fit.

The next day we exited the Ballard Locks en route to our liveaboard slip at Shilshole Bay Marina and had no idea what was in store for us. New to the Salish Sea, but not to sailing, we were very quickly struck by all the cruising and racing possibilities that were now at our fingertips. Accordingly, we dove right in and resolved that Yahtzee should be ready to sail away from the dock on only 15 minutes notice. Ambitious? Yes. But we stuck to it, kept the boat prepared, and got out on the water a lot.

Our first weekend trip took us over to Blakely Harbor on Bainbridge Island. That night, swinging on Yahtzee’s anchor for the first time, we watched the daylight fade and the lights of downtown Seattle twinkle to life. It seemed surreal. From there, we sailed the short hop down to Blake Island and picked up a mooring. We were amazed that such an incredible destination was so close to our home marina. The next day we ran back north to Shilshole wing-on-wing with a 10 knot southerly breeze pushing us under brilliant sunshine. It was mesmerizing. “We can surely get used to this!” we thought.

Soon after, we met a neighbor and fellow liveaboard who invited us over for happy hour where we talked charts and about all the places we could go by boat. The possibilities were endless. Then we found out about something called the Downtown Sailing Series at Elliott Bay. “We love racing — why not?” we figured. We joined in the action and had an absolute blast, and came back every Thursday night that summer.

From those first few weeks aboard, everything was clicking. We met more like-minded folks from around the marina and the local sailing community, and seemingly everyone had a way to get Yahtzee out of her slip. And that’s what we did.

We joined in other weeknight races, met fellow cruisers at different ports or anchorages, explored quaint towns and harbors up and down the sound, and joined a yacht club. One of our favorite things to do was to invite friends out sailing after work. Our go-to plan was to reach across the sound into outer Port Madison, roll up the genoa, fire up the grill, and lazily sail circles with just the mainsail. When dinner was over, we’d roll the headsail back out and sail back across to the marina as the sun set behind the Olympic Mountains. Perfection.

That first summer of boat ownership was a blur of excitement and action, and the more we went out, the longer we wanted to stay out. Indeed, we were hooked. For us, the pathway to the water in the Salish Sea was on our own boat and by simply saying yes to opportunities that came our way. But you don’t necessarily have to be a boat owner to join in the summer fun, you just have to be willing to take a chance and get out there. When you do, you won’t be disappointed.

However you enjoy the water this summer, have fun, be safe, and remember not to take the beauty and wonder of Pacific Northwest waters for granted. It’s truly remarkable.

Note: Managing Editor Joe Cline has been out chasing northbound racers as part of the Race to Alaska media team this month, and will be back with his regular letter here in the August issue…