Will’s madcap plan was to sail around every offshore lighthouse in Britain. The project began in March 2012 when he and his wife Sara sailed around the Eddystone Lighthouse, 13 miles south of Plymouth, in a 14′ open dinghy. The couple did that trip to raise money for WaterAid, a global nonprofit devoted to bringing clean drinking water and hygiene education to disadvantaged communities, and the idea grew from there. Will’s scheme is an ambitious one, not least because of the sheer number of offshore lighthouses—at least 50—but also the remoteness of some, for example, Sule Skerry is 35 miles north of Scotland. But Will isn’t in any hurry, and regards it as a lifetime project.
The morning was clear and cool; the sky had washed itself clean of the thick gray clouds I’d encountered on yesterday’s 10-mile passage from my launching point in Spanish, Ontario. I’d never come to the North Channel so late in the year before. The sun hung low in the sky, casting long shadows across the beach and promising shorter days. A stand of yellow-leafed birches at the edge of the beach shifted slowly in a slight breeze, and an osprey flew past with a faint flumph of wings. A dozen small islands and granite outcroppings rose from the water just offshore, and beyond them was the chain of pink rocks named the Sow and Pigs. Otherwise, nothing. There were no other boats in sight—and this at South Benjamin Island, one of the most popular cruising destinations in the North Channel.
The boatbuilders I’d known back in my home on Cape Cod worked with electric planes, drills, and band saws, but Ulf shaped sheerstrakes by eye with a Sami knife [explain in text or caption what kind of knife?] and scarfed planks with an axe. I’d never seen precision like it in my life, and I occasionally stood in the middle of a floor carpeted by fresh wood shavings contemplating what I ever had to show for myself after a day’s work back in my office: never anything so substantial nor so fragrant. “I’m not exaggerating when I say that nine out of ten visitors who stick their noses into my boatyard take a deep breath, smile and exclaim, ‘It sure smells good in here.’” It was time to toss in the towel, learn to speak Norwegian, and become an apprentice boatbuilder.
The chop stirred up the bottom across miles of shallows, turning the water gold under the midday sun. I closed on the windward shore until I was in calmer water, where waving swaths of dark brown sea grass waved across the bottom. Water had almost filled the forward part of the cockpit, and instead of turning to parallel the shoreline and sponging out as I sailed, I beached the boat and took a break. I pushed the button on my satellite tracker to send Victoria the preprogrammed message that I wasn’t on my planned route, but everything was OK. I bailed out the boat and tucked my last reef.
I slid ROW BIRD, my 18’ Iain Oughtred Arctic Tern, into the waters bordering the town of Sidney on Vancouver Island. I was launching very late in the day—I’d just finished a 200-mile drive from my home in Portland, Oregon, followed by the two-hour ferry ride—but I didn’t mind. Ahead of me I had a week to cruise among the islands I had drawn from the heights of Mount Maxwell,now visible, eight miles to the north and looming over Sydney’s shore. The southern Gulf Islands, scattered to the east, promised an ever-changing horizon and the pleasures and challenges of new anchorages.
In the autumn of 2011 Erik Schouw-Hansen and I were discussing our next adventure. In 2010 we had sailed together to the Shetlands—Erik crewed aboard my 31′ sloop on the first leg of a voyage from Norway to the Caribbean and back. We were both born and raised on the west coast of Norway, so for our next trip it was natural to look westward across the North Sea to the Shetland Islands. We wanted to try something new and settled upon rowing a small, open boat across the North Sea the following summer. We set mid-June as our deadline to be ready for departure, and from that point we would wait for favorable weather conditions.
It was a quiet Sunday morning, August 15, 2016, and a thin fog, lit only by the dim glow of dawn, was lingering over the glassy water of Wisconsin’s St. Croix River. The sun had not yet risen and the only sounds were birds singing in the wooded valley and the whisper of the river. The sun began to lighten the sky as…
My life totally changed in my mid-20s when a casual invitation to a wedding in India unexpectedly became six months of travel through South Asia. Upon my return to the USA, I realized I was addicted and decided to travel the world full-time. The next target of my travels became Africa, where I planned to cross the…
Five weeks into our voyage from Puget Sound to Juneau, Cindy and I were well into the daily rhythm of life aboard ROWENA, the 21′ Gokstad faering I’d built for the trip. After traveling the Inside Passage through British Columbia we were leaner and stronger, our hands and our butts had toughened up, and we could row long…
When my parents returned home to Edmonds, Washington, from a trip to England in 1983 they brought me two green booklets about the Gokstad faering, the smallest of three ninth-century boats unearthed along with the Gokstad ship in 1880 near Norway’s Oslo Fjord. The 21′ faering was the most beautiful boat I had