Engine update, and the utter enticement of the Race to Alaska, and a snail.

Last night I went to a meeting of the Puget Sound Cruising Club, a group I’ve known about for a couple of years but just never got the chance to connect with. I happened to check their event schedule a couple weeks ago, and lo and behold: they were doing a talk on the Race to Alaska. A few days ago I posted a link to the R2AK on Facebook with a message that went something like, “Who’s crazy enough to do this with me?” I deleted it seven minutes later (there were no replies). I didn’t want to hear how crazy it was, nor did I want to project onto everyone my fear that any person in their right mind who knows me and knows the state of my health would laugh out loud at such a thought. This race to Alaska involves piloting an engineless craft, all the way from Port Townsend, Washington to Ketchikan, Alaska. People go in multihulls, monohulls, kayaks, rowboats, even tiny paddleboards. It’s  750 grueling miles through freezing, moody, and treacherous water, and you have to run the whole thing entirely by sailing, or pedaling (yes, pedaling), or rowing, or paddling, or some combination of these.

Check out this video. And yeah, that’s the gorgeous sound of a Maori Haka dance, and yep, they got permission to use it.

Me? Mostly sedentary, with chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia, around eighty pounds overweight, can’t walk a block without giving my lungs a pep talk. Yes, I’m in a yoga teacher training program, but that’s mostly so I can learn for myself. It’s impossible right now for me to teach an entire 90-minute class, even if I wasn’t doing all the poses myself. And then beyond that, even assuming I was healthy enough, I haven’t sailed enough. I’ve never anchored my boat, I’ve never gotten caught in a storm, I’ve only ever camped overnight on board twice. I’ve never been tested. The whole idea is irrational and foolish, and even dangerous.

And yet. And yet. The thought niggles at me. Would it be possible? What if I got in shape and had some real strength and stamina? What if I lost some weight (this isn’t about weight politics and fat acceptance, this is about just taking off a heavy backpack so I can have some more energy). Okay, well, there is still the matter of the fibromyalgia. Well what if I took a group with me? Maybe 2-3 other people and I could form a team. Elska only sleeps two, but we’d be going through the night anyway, so we could alternate downtime. Maybe someone else rows the boat when that’s needed – yeah, I have oarlocks, and I have oars. Maybe I do this in a few years when I’ve sailed a lot more and I know my own boat better. I don’t know. Isn’t is possible? I mean, it has to be possible, right?

Dan Evans, who coordinates the race, gave a great presentation. He obviously loves this event, and the stories he told were so funny and amazing. People really have an incredible time. There is a 58% dropout rate, but that doesn’t seem to matter. He says everyone is a hero for even trying.

I don’t know what I’ll do. I’d love to do this someday. I’m 42 now, maybe before I’m 50? I need an adventure in my 40’s. I spent my 30’s getting the kids through babyhood and toddlerhood while coping with severe panic disorder and eventually fibromayalgia. Oh, and I finished massage school and became a massage therapist (I’m not working at that anymore). I went to college off and on. I moved several times. I’m exhausted just thinking about my 30’s. I want some adventure in my 40’s.

I’m not committing to any particular adventure at this time. But I did commit to an R2Ak sweatshirt. It’s an XL, but fit me (I’d normally wear a 2x or 3x), a weird bit of fabric magic I attribute to the gods telling me, We will cloak you in the garb of these crazy racers, thus you shouldn’t entirely give up on the idea yet. Okay.

So, engine update. This won’t take long:

Engine still doesn’t work.

Greg and I went down to the marina and decided we’d first see if just hooking up fresh gas would be enough to fix things. It wasn’t, the overheating alarm still went off (twice). So, the carb needs to come out and get cleaned, which isn’t too surprising. But by the time we filled the gas tank, moved it into its spot, and then I organized the boat a little while Greg was pumping the bulb forEVER, I was too tired to work on the carburetor. I have yoga homework to get done tonight, and I needed to save some energy for doing that. We’re hoping that tomorrow we can get down there again and try once more.

And because I love snails…..

When we lifted up the gas tank, there was another snail under there! I love gastropods. If you haven’t yet, you ought to read Elizabeth Tova Bailey‘s book, The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating, it’s fantastic. I love it so much. If you go to her website, you can download a sample. It tells of a time in her life when she became mysteriously ill, a sickness that demanded she stay in bed for months. She wasn’t even sure she’d live through it. But she found a friend in a wild snail, and spent hours, days, weeks just studying its behavior and movement around a small glass tank near her bed. I live in fear that I won’t get well, that in fact I’ll get worse, and someday find myself fully unable to to get out of bed. Panic disorder stole over a decade of my life, a whole decade that I wasn’t really living, I was just surviving, just coping. I’m terrified of fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue doing that to me, too. Reading Bailey’s book calmed me somehow. It showed me there is still life, and especially still a life of the mind, even when you can’t move.

But what to do with this snail under my gas tank? I put him on the dodger while we worked. After we were done, I took him in hand and decided I’d release him up in the parking lot, near one of the grassy strips. Once we got there, I realized the vegetation was all bushes. Can snails do okay in bushes? I didn’t know. I know they do okay in my garden, however. So I decided to take him home.

“Just let him go!” Greg said. “He’ll be fine.”

“He’s a very fast snail. He’s advanced! What if he just zooms off the strip right into traffic?”

“So you’re going to drive home with a snail on your arm? Yeah, that isn’t dangerous.”

“It’ll be fine. It’s a short trip. I’ll just let him go in the yard.”

“Jason is going to love that.”

“Well we won’t tell him, NOW WILL WE?”

 And I was right, it was fine, we made it home with Harry (I decided he was an ironic snail) on my left arm, and he only fell off once. He’s now chowing down on something in the garden, I don’t know what. I think it’s a fern of some kind.


  1. erniek3 says:

    My dad did a group cruise (power boats, stinkpotters I know) to Alaska and it changed his life. A group activity in a changing environment; it’s not like you’re going to the moon. He was in his 70s when they went. and it really did change him from an Eeyore into a happier guy.
    Just sayin’

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.