This article originally appeared in the May 2021 issue of 48° North.

We had just moved 3,000 miles across the country to Seattle, drawn by its enigmatic inland sea fueled by the Pacific Ocean and embraced by jagged snowy peaks, when our friendly neighbor in Ballard invited us to go racing on his new-to-him Moore 24. Excited to explore the waters of our new home we enthusiastically agreed, despite a total and complete lack of sailing experience.

That was 12 years ago. Like so many opportunities that drift by on an incoming tide, we had no idea how much that encounter would change our lives. We agreed to go racing with our neighbor first because it sounded fun, but also because it agreed with our philosophy in life to say “yes” to new opportunities as often as possible.

We went on to lose every single Sloop Tavern Yacht Club Monday night race that summer. But after each race, we straggled into the Sloop with new bruises and huge smiles. There, we found a joyful and welcoming community of like-minded people and an introduction to what a life of sailing could look like.

Soon, we were looking for a boat of our own. We saw an opportunity to buy an affordable home that came with some of the best views in Seattle. More than that, though, we were enticed by the unknowable but undoubtedly opportunities that would float by an adventure-ready boat.

With the courage to seek out the unknown and buoyed by a strong community of experienced sailors, we bought Halcyon, a 1976 Valiant 40, promptly moved aboard, and let the new adventures begin. We spent a year working on the central coast of British Columbia, living aboard through a cold and stormy winter, and then sailed to Southeast Alaska to support an expedition. Back in Seattle, we nestled into the vibrant Shilshole Bay Marina liveaboard life.

I don’t remember when we decided to go cruising. Along the way what started as a far-off notion evolved into a dream and then into a deeply rooted ambition. Much of this evolution happened over countless wine-induced evenings with dear friends Graeme and Janna Cawrse Esarey (of Kotuku, 1st R2AK winner Elsie Piddock, and then DogBark! fame). They introduced us to the idea of cruising and fed the dream with stories and photos and ambitions of their own. They patiently imparted an endless stream of cruising wisdom, along with some vital tools like a pressure cooker and the Dashews’ Offshore
Cruising Encyclopedia

Unlike our neighbor casually mentioning his racing boat and need for crew, this was not an opportunity that drifted by on the current. Our chance to go cruising was forged with determination, frugality, and hundreds of hours of boat work. Instead of going skiing on the weekends, we replaced our standing rigging and sanded teak. Instead of going out for beers with friends, we spent our dollars on bottom paint and hose clamps.

The most important step we took in our plans, though, had nothing to do with safety gear or how much money we had in the bank account. It was simply setting a date. It felt arbitrary when we did it, but we picked a day, wrote it on the calendar in Sharpie, and then we left it there. Opportunity was calling, and we were not going to let it slip by.

On August 14, 2016, we untied the lines on a calm clear morning, waved goodbye to the stragglers that had gathered, and ceremoniously motored promptly to the fuel dock. And then we waved goodbye again, this time with a full fuel tank and an empty holding tank. We hoisted the sails and settled into life at sea for our first big passage. Seven miles later, we dropped the sails and tied to the mooring buoy that was fittingly in front of Graeme and Janna’s new house. We were officially cruising.

Since then, Halcyon has carried us 15,000 miles down the west coast of the U.S., Canada, Mexico and Central America, and then across (half of) the Pacific and through French Polynesia. It would be impossible to record here even a fraction of the journeys, the lessons, the opportunities, and the hardships we have experienced in that time. Some of them are memorialized in our monthly 48° North column, others are on our blog, and most of them are tucked away in our memories, just for us.

When we left Seattle, I assumed cruising meant moving from place to place on the boat full-time, except for short visits to see family. But it turns out there are as many definitions of “cruising” as there are cruisers. When Graeme and Janna called with an opportunity to join them for an adventure to the Alaskan Arctic, we did not hesitate. We nestled Halcyon into a slip in Panama and ventured north. We said yes when our friend asked us to deliver his Nordhavn 47 up the coast of Mexico. We said yes when an Arctic research scientist invited us to embed with his team and document his work.

Our malleable transient lifestyle allowed us to grab these opportunities as they came and they, in turn, reoriented our definition of cruising. With each opportunity, we modified our plans on Halcyon to be able to go. Cruising became less about the specific form of travel and more about a lifestyle philosophy. The philosophy to be spontaneous, explore with curiosity, keep it simple, and stay intentional.

We have recently agreed to a new opportunity that will undoubtedly reshape our lives, as they so often do. This spring, we are coming back to the Pacific Northwest so that I can take a job with Ignik, an emerging company founded by Graeme, and my husband can launch his new business. This new opportunity, while superficially different than Alaskan expeditions and ocean crossings, embodies many of the same qualities that cruising requires of us: being attentive enough to notice a streak of corrosion on the wire well before the shroud threatens to break; having the confidence and conviction to become an expert in all things, from changing the engine oil to rewiring an anchor light; and having the fortitude and perseverance to thrive for a month at sea.

Every opportunity requires sacrifice, and this time is no different. Halcyon will not be making the trip with us back to Washington in the spring. She has taken such good care of us over the years, and we will always be grateful for that, but our perspective and priorities have shifted in the 10 years since meeting Halcyon. It is time for her to represent her next owner’s dreams of tranquil anchorages and stunning sunsets and the undeniable opportunities drifting by.

Cruising has seeped into our blood and our joy is entwined with the ebb and flow of an ocean tide. We do not intend to ignore that. We are searching for the next boat that will embody our new dreams. Because I can say with confidence that we are not yet finished sailing among the atolls in the South Pacific or the icebergs in the Arctic.

Right now, the tide is pulling us to the Pacific Northwest to embody the simplicity, spontaneity, and intentionality of cruising while living aboard whatever our next boat may be and working on exciting new projects. It is futile to predict what might happen in the future, but what I do know is that we will always venture to say “yes” to new opportunities brought by the rising tide.