Where the hell did the year go?!

So… it’s been a minute since I’ve written anything of substance. Truth be told, I haven’t known where to start with everything going on. Sure, there’s the elephant in the room that is COVID, but I don’t know that it’s really that as we are all constantly talking about it. Without further ado here’s what’s I’ve been up to and super not up to, unfortunately.

Clipper Delay of Game

Might as well start with the big one first. Yup, that thing that I and so many others spent years working towards was put on hold. Not going to lie, it was heartbreaking. I cried, I cuddled my husband and my dog, I moped, and was reminded that there are a ton of wonderful people who still were pulling for good things to happen. At the end of the pandemic, if this is the worst thing COVID does to me I will call myself very very lucky. The fleet of 11 boats has remained in the Philippines with one skipper staying on to maintain the fleet. No easy task as it is now monsoon season. As it stands now, the plan is the race will pick back up out of Subic Bay, Philippines in February of next year. The fleet will then go back and visit the three Chinese ports that had to be nixed due to being the epicenter of the virus at the time, then continue on to be in Seattle about the same time they were supposed to be here this year. Does this mean we will party twice as hard for my birthday/send off? Yes. Yes it does.

Someday we will be together again my beloved CV22/Seattle!

Plan B: R2AK… JK LOL

With the Clipper dreams put on hold it meant I suddenly had to figure out another crazy adventure to pull off this year. A friend reached out to me regarding a boat that had a couple of spots for the infamous Race to Alaska, would I be interested? HELL YES! I landed a spot with Team Repeat Offenders but sigh, Covid continued raging on so the organizers of R2AK made the wise choice to pull the plug on this year. It was at this point that I decided I would stop labeling plans for the year and keep trying to find new adventures until eventually one stuck. More on that later.

Making a Metric Crapton of Masks… ongoing

For those who don’t know, I am known sometimes as “the friend with the sewing machine.” When masks were starting to become the accessory of the year a few friends started pestering me to make them. At first I was making them only to donate to front line/essential workers, but then when the CDC recommendation came out for all to wear them I put the sewing machine and my stash to work and have made… crap I don’t even know how many at this point. I decided to do a one for one model, so for every mask I sell one gets donated to a front line worker in need. I was honored that some friends and family donated materials and/or cash to help get even more masks donated! Not what I thought I’d be sewing a bunch of this year, but I’m glad to be able to help people be safer AND it’s was great to be able to supplement part time retail hours. No, I won’t hem your pants.

Yes, of course I have sassy unicorn masks!

If you want your own mask I have several options in my Etsy with a predictable amount of unicorn/nautical variety. I’m going to keep making them until we no longer need them.

Black Lives Matter… and we need to stop forgetting

George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and too many other names have made headlines this year due to being killed by police. These killings were unjust and have shone a very bright light on the continued racial inequality issues and excessive force used by police in the USA. I don’t claim to have all the answers or anything resembling expertise here, but this isn’t right and it should have stopped a long long time ago. I’ve spent part of the summer educating myself more on anti-racism. It’s involved some unpleasant introspection and confronting biases I didn’t realize I have, but it’s important work to do. I’ve been reading So You Want To Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo, following @accordingtoweeze and @bexlife on Instagram, and writing/calling various elected officials in Seattle and beyond to push for change. I have not attending protests in person but have donated both money and goods to a group serving as medics at the Seattle protests and funds to Black Lives Matter. It’s important to me to always be learning and growing, if you have other anti-racism resources you recommend please drop them in the comments and I will check them out. Of everything happening this year the racial violence has been the hardest to deal with. Many days I have felt hopeless and depressed and ashamed about how things are going. America is supposed to be great, and yet corruption isn’t even pretending to hide anymore. There’s definitely a longer post to write on this, but let’s just say there’s a lot of “I know, I’m ashamed” in conversations with friends who live in other countries. I also recognize that this is coming from a place of immense privilege, because to others with more melanin in their life this is a daily struggle and re-igniting of deep traumas. I am striving to do better and I know there’s always more I can and should be doing.

Dogbark2AK

Remember that bit I said about finding the next adventure until one finally stuck? Sonic teammate Graeme posted in our team WhatsApp group that he was going to be taking his family’s boat Dogbark! up to Alaska and needed a couple of more bodies to help with the mission. This made for a very interesting proposition, because in normal years it would be a trip up the east side of Vancouver Island through the Inside Passage. This year the Canadian border is closed to US travelers, including by land. That meant we would be going offshore, sailing through the Pacific Ocean across the Gulf of Alaska to reach our final destination of Whittier, Alaska. This certainly isn’t a voyage that just any sailboat could do, but fortunately Dogbark! is a refitted 60′ yacht originally intended for solo round the world sailing. Needless to say she was up for the challenge.

The good ship Dogbark! at anchor in Alaska. Note the Lima/Quarantine flag flying.

Admittedly, I didn’t hold my breath on this trip as the year had taught me to not get my hopes up. However, after a delay of a couple of days to wait out a storm on the coast I was truly in a car with two fellow crew members and we were off to Port Townsend to board the good ship Dogbark! Getting to the boat felt surreal as I had only ever seen her in photos, she was truly larger than life. Once all of our crew were assembled we were composed of the skipper Graeme, his fantastic 12 year old daughter Savai (holy crap is this kid amazing!), Graeme’s friend Eli and 12 year old son Solomon (cracked me up the whole darn trip!), my skipper Marek from Sonic, and of course your friendly Sailing Unicorn. Minus a bit of seasickness and cuddling the bait bucket as we transited the infamous Strait of Juan de Fuca and then when we took the right turn into the Pacific, I felt great the whole trip and really enjoyed settling into the watch system and life onboard. Sailing past Vancouver Island and then Haida Gwai’i was nothing short of beautiful. We kept a respectful distance off the coast but were still able to appreciate just how gorgeous the area is. I now have an even stronger desire to go back to visit when it’s safe to do so, for now I’m absolutely going to respect the closed border. Crossing the Gulf of Alaska felt surreal because the weather was very calm, the swells weren’t much bigger than about 2′ tall and at some points the water was downright glassy.

The trip was over entirely too quickly, before I knew it we had sight of land again and entered Prince William Sound. The night before landing in Whittier we anchored out in a really cool area called Shotgun Cove and rendezvoused with another cruising family who had been aboard since early June. I got my first taste of a cruiser potluck (don’t forget to bring your own dishes!) and would be more than ok with doing more cruising in the future. The following morning the kids took us on a dinghy ride to explore a wrecked ferry (so cool!) before it was time to quit avoiding the inevitable and motor in to Whittier. We got lunch at the waterfront hotel and it was the oddest thing but the table felt like it was moving for all of us ;). There will be a longer form post about the Alaska adventure later, but I am so so grateful to Graeme and the rest of the crew for the amazing opportunity to get offshore this summer after all.

YAYYY Racing is Back, Kinda!

I’m very fortunate to have dear friends who both understand my need for sailing and are happy to help facilitate that sailing. That meant that I got to scurry up to Anacortes for two weekends in a row in June to go sail, one weekend on a very fun Moore 24 and the following weekend with the lovely Steph Campbell on her Martin 242. Getting to know little boats and the dark arts of spinnaker poles was fun, as was sailing in an area I don’t normally go. However, I was really missing weeknight sailing in Seattle!

We were mere minutes away before the time limit was called for the Round Orcas race. Fun was still had

While on the delivery I saw some of the best news I had all summer. With very strict Covid protocols in place, the Sloop Tavern Yacht Club was bringing back the beloved Monday night Ballard Cup! My heart soared. Not having racing in my life was contributing to some pretty gnarly mental health challenges and to have it back was better than Christmas. In short order I had secured a spot on Reckless, the beloved J/80 I owe so much gratitude to for helping shape me into the sailor I am today. Getting back on the boat and in regular racing condition again has been wonderful. I appreciate the owner John so much for how he has pushed me to advance in my sailing.

Speaking of pushing me, our friends at the STYC had another trick up their sleeve. The Women at the Helm race had been announced earlier in the year but I didn’t pay it much mind because at the time it was to take place while I would be gone on the Clipper Race. I figured it had fallen victim to Covid the same way all of the other summer races had. Not true. When the Facebook posts ramped up announcing that it was on John challenged me to assemble a crew for the race, so I managed to get together a really awesome lady crew including the ray of sunshine Steph from Anacortes and our awesome rookie of the year Kathy. We all wore tutus, because if I was going to skipper this thing I was going to do it my way! For the full report of the race go check the article I collaborated on for my friends at 48 North.

Our epic Women at the Helm crew.

Oh, and we won so that was pretty cool.

NC100

There’s a running joke amongst racers in the PNW and that joke is that we can be a bit polyamorous when it comes to the boats we race on. I am guilty of this as well and had been dearly missing sailing TP52 Sonic during quarantine. Fortunately as crew manager I have keys so was able to pop over to the boat to check on her (and my beer stash on her…) but for obvious reasons we weren’t able to sail together. This was more than a little bit of a bummer as the boat and some of our crew were planning to do the Pacific Cup race, instead she had been sitting at the dock since early March. Skipper Marek and I got to do some noodling on the Dogbark! delivery and started talking about what races were still possible this year. Another crew had suggested the Northern Century 100 and Marek was keen to make a go for it. After discussing Covid protocols with the crew and gauging comfort levels it looked like this one too would be GAME ON!

Approaching the Deception Pass Bridge on the way to Anacortes for NC100.

We had a couple of practices prior to the NC100, with a lot of sanitization and temperature checks along with ensuring that only the crew who would do the NC100 would be part of the practice team. Thanks to a couple of sexy new sails from the awesome humans at Ballard Sails we were feeling ready to rock. The crew all got Covid tested no more than 72 hours prior to the race start and everyone was negative, yay! I joined the delivery crew for the trek north as some traditions (ahem, mimosas) had to be tended to and we met up with the rest of the crew in Anacortes to get dinner and then get on the boat and get underway. Friends, it felt SO GOOD to get the band back together. We had a really good race, minus a couple of moments of type 2/3 fun including a spinnaker tack line that decided it would rather not stay on the the winch and clutch. Sailing through the night was an experience that tested my endurance, fortunately we had a clear, moonless night and the Perseid meteor show to keep us entertained as we trudged to the Pt. Roberts buoy.

Light wind (or no wind) was the name of the game on the race and we were fortunate enough to be able to pick our way through wind holes and play the currents to earn line honours. This was just my second time getting line honours on Sonic and it was very hard fought. The crew all worked together beautifully, tagging in for each other when one needed to go below to rest and helping each other stay focused on the task at hand. When the committee announced us over the VHF as finishing the race I was a bit amazed at the happy bottles that came out of hidden corners of bags. We were definitely in a celebratory mood.

Sending it past the Hein Bank buoy.
PC: Will Penny

Some of the crew (myself included) somehow managed to stay awake for the whole race and very much earned the rest that came after the race, whether that be in a bunk on the delivery home or in a comfy bed. I’m very proud of how we did and grateful to have had the opportunity to take the “big boat” out for a bit of fun after being apart for so long. I don’t know what our next race will be as things continue to be a bit fluid with race scheduling, but I am hopeful that we get to get together on the race course with our friends sooner rather than later.

Black Lives Still Freaking Matter!

Why am I bringing this up again? It’s still an issue. As I write this protests around police violence continue to flare up as another name has been added to the list of victims, this time a black man named Jacob Blake. At this time it looks like he is no longer in critical condition and likely to survive being SHOT IN THE BACK by seven bullets as he tried to get into his car. Regardless of his arrest history, this was not an appropriate use of force. Even more inappropriate is the fact that a white 17 year old kid with a weapon he was not legally old enough to own was allowed to shoot five people at a protest for Mr. Blake, killing two and is now being painted by the media as an “aspiring police officer.” This is straight up wrong. Our justice system is structured in such a way that citizens accused of crimes are meant to have a right to a fair trial. Killing someone or giving them life-changing injuries deprives them of that right and it is happening disproportionately to people of color. This has to stop. We absolutely need police reform. We need more social workers and more de-escalation training for police. We need more accountability for police officers who have a history of excessive force.

Why am I talking about this on a sailing blog? Because this is not just a sailing blog. This is a blog written by a woman who also cares deeply about mental health and whose mental health is being severely impacted by the gross injustices in the country she calls home. Sailing is a big part of my identity but it is not my entire identity. I strive to also be a kind compassionate person who wants to make the world a better place. I can’t do that if I’m staying silent while gross injustice is happening. I am not beholden to an editor who is going to force me to only talk about sailing, so best believe I’m going to talk about the things I care about as they impact my world.

I encourage all who have read this far to do what you can to take care of each other and make the world a better place. Take care of your mental health and the health of others, if you need help with this I’ve got some great resources to point you towards. Speak up when you see something that isn’t right, it’s scary to do but so worthwhile. Keep wearing your mask in public (mouth AND nose covered!), keep your circle small, and practice social distancing so we can keep more of the people we love safe.

Love and light to you all, I promise to not be as much of a stranger

Lizzy

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