There are a lot of ways to think about the time we spend on the water. For some, it’s relaxation away from it all. For others, a lifelong learning experience. Maybe it’s a test of your skills, a joyful (or serious) competition, or a meditative practice of living in the moment. It can be all of the above, or any of the infinite list of other perspectives about this experience we’re passionate about.

Recently, I’ve been compelled by stories that frame on-the-water experiences as adventures. It is top of mind this month because I got to sit down with one of the world’s great adventurers, Kirsten Neuschäfer. Kirsten is an extraordinary South African sailor who won the “retro” Golden Globe Race in 2023 on her Port Townsend-built Cape George 36. Retro, in this case, refers to the limited technology sailors were allowed—no GPS or modern weather information on smaller, older boats.

Kirsten is particularly notable because she won the race, but I was doubly impressed to learn about her profound competence with boats and offshore sailing, the ways she leans into to things many would shy away from, and her commitment to adventure which she says is “the thing that enthuses me most in life.” She defines adventure broadly, and pursues these activities with enthusiasm and aplomb—whether riding her bike across Africa from north to south, or logging more than 15,000 solo ocean miles on the new-to-her Cape George 36 (Canada-South Africa-France) before she even got to the start line of the race she would eventually win. Yes, this prepared her and let her know how to ready her boat for the race; but getting to know Kirsten for even a few hours, I feel certain she was primarily keen for the adventure of it all.

Most of us won’t be solo circumnavigators, let alone win a race around the globe. So it can seem counterintuitive—it doesn’t necessarily feel adventurous to day sail waters you know well in gentle breeze and sunshine. Still, it may be less about the facts and more about the mindset, and any trip away from your slip may become adventurous thanks to wildlife, weather, personal experience, or a problem that arises with your boat. Of course, each edition of this magazine and any sailor’s mind is filled with stories at the other end of the spectrum—more intense, more exciting, more conventionally adventurous (like, say, rounding Cape Caution, page 34, or racing on Puget Sound when a 50-knot cell comes through, page 46).

The important thing is to recognize that when we hear about adventure sailing or adventure racing, we might be defining those experiences too narrowly. What sailing isn’t adventure sailing? And what racing isn’t adventure racing? It’s not to take anything away from those resilient folks who take on the challenges of more traditionally-defined adventures. I’m just suggesting that broadening the definition and using a lens of adventure to view our time afloat in the Pacific Northwest and beyond may deepen our experience, our appreciation of the environment in which we adventure, and the people with whom we share it.

I’ll see you on the water,

Joe Cline

We want to say a truly heartfelt THANK YOU to each person who donated to 48° North in the last month. It has been humbling, invigorating, and rewarding to see this tangible and generous expression of support from so many people who believe in what we do. We are beyond grateful and inspired to carry on the work of 48° North with your help!

Title background photo by Joe Cline.