One Pair of Shoes

The name Andrew Berg keeps coming to mind.

It’s kind of a stretch, really. But there is an analogy. Returning from our first trip overseas, Italy was our choice destination. With Alaska as our main reference, we knew we wouldn’t want to cover too much land in one trip. You just can’t get it all in. So we focused on one country, one part of that country, and just a few places therein. We chose Rome, Vatican City, Cinque Terre National Park, Florence, and Tuscany.


Colosseum ruins built circa 70-80 AD

When in Rome, the takeaway is how old one city’s history can be. This stayed with me. I just couldn’t grasp the idea of ruins and artifacts that were thousands of years old.

As we went on to hike the 5 coastal towns of the Cinque Terre in the Northwestern Italian Riviera, I had time to think. My mind kept trying to understand this country’s display of “old”, and kept comparing it to “old” at home. In Alaska, our historical places that are being preserved for future generations are one hundred years old, if that. The Andrew Berg cabin is a prime example. It is an historical Alaskan trapper’s cabin that was moved from its original wilderness location near Tustumena Lake on the Kenai Peninsula. It was carefully taken apart, log by log, moved, and restored at the headquarters of the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge to be preserved. It displays the lifestyle carved out of the wilderness here for survival in the early 1900’s of the Last Frontier.

The Andrew Berg cabin circa early 1900’s Alaska, after being moved and preserved

Moving inland to Florence, Italy, we took an authentic Italian cooking class in Manuela’s home with two other couples. We visited the Uffizi and Academia museums, and walked the city’s small side streets. The buildings were huge and old, and the passageways for people were tiny and busy. I learned a cappuccino is never ordered after lunch, pasta is always served al dente, meals are never eaten while multitasking, and olive oil should always have a harvest date.


Cinque Terre Coastal Trail Region in Northern Italian Riviera. Coastal hiking trail connects 5 Mediterranean towns off of the road system.

Classic common fare

Italians are very proud of “zero kilometer” agriculture, meaning all of the food is directly sourced from their own local farms and vineyards directly to the table. I noted how similar this is with Alaskans, because the majority of Alaskans still hunt, fish, gather and grow. I feel proud of harvesting our fish, wild game and berries from our wilderness, and growing our own garden and greenhouse veggies. Not to say it is easy… the work and art of preserving these for the winter then follows. We finished canning, pickling, brining, smoking, and freezing for last winter. Maybe we are close to a “zero mile” cabin life! Unlikely though, since I work at the grocery store pharmacy. Still, neat!


Train from Cinque Terre coastal region to inland Florence, Italy

From here we decided on a small castle town in the Chianti region of Tuscany, called Monteriggioni. We hopped off a local train and walked a few miles along a foot path in pure quiet… something we now knew we missed. As we walked, the castle came in to view. It had freshly rained. The night was foggy and mystical, with sunny pastel days. This is how I have always pictured the Tuscany region. The castle dated to the early 1200’s, with medieval histories of constant fortress building and rebuilding from protecting against invading neighbors. My mind again wanders to Andrew Berg. He would have had no neighbors.


Medieval Castle of Monteriggioni, Chianti region of Tuscany, Italy

Homeward bound from here, our travels started with our countryside walking path back to the small train, changing to the large intercity train, then to the Rome airport, continuing on to New York City, then across our continent to Seattle. From Seattle we fly to Anchorage and drive 3 hours to our little cabin in the woods. Perspective hits me again when I get home and think about how our land was raw when we were first building on it… much more recent than even Andrew Berg’s cabin.

Having now been overseas to experience what “old” really is, I feel proud of being part of a history so new. Our history here is built on the Alaska Native history which may just outdo that “old” history over there. Even more intriguing!

All of this travel, hiking, backpacking, airports, bus stations, train stations, hotels, beaches, countryside, castles, ruins, language barriers, weather, and terrain brought my attention to the versatility, minimalism, and taking for granted what tied it all together… one pair of shoes.

IMG_1073 (2)


Confused Seas

It was not a dark and stormy night. We had been enjoying beautiful March weather while staying in port at Catalina Island. We spent some time in the small town of Avalon, then sailed to the west side and spent the rest of our stay in Catalina Harbor. We like this protected bay with its turquoise waters, surrounding mountains, and the quaint little town of Two Harbors. At this time of year there are very few folks around, the hiking trails abound, and the days finish having a drink on the beach at sunset. It is punctuation on great days to remember.

Getting the boat and provisions ready for the crossing back to the mainland of California, we had a forecast of 20 knot winds with gusts to 25 and seas of 4 to 6 feet. This is by definition a small craft advisory, however we are not a small craft. Out of experience we knew these prevailing winds would be at our aft and we’d have following seas. These conditions can lead to very enjoyable sailing with full sails and swift speeds while underway.

There was just enough of a breeze that night that I decided to sleep in the salon instead of the V-berth to get some good rest. Early the next morning I slightly awoke when Jeff made coffee, started up the engine, and dropped the buoy line from the bow cleat to set us free and on our way. I knew he didn’t need my help setting out as we motored out of the calm harbor where we can catch enough wind to raise sails. I started to snooze again.

I awoke slightly when the boat was pitching a bit. Knowing by then we were coming around the cape of the harbor and into more open ocean, I decided to rise and shine so I’d be ready to help the Captain raise sails soon.

S/V Keeper’s mannerisms took on a rapid change. She started to pitch from side to side severely. Pretty sure there was some fore to aft roll in there as well. At one point she listed so far to starboard that I thought to myself, “Gosh, she sure is a stable boat!” Right then all the books on the shelf above me fell and landed on my lap. My sleeping bag, the folded down dinette table, and my body all slid off onto the aisle floor. Ok, now I’m up! Since we pitched that far starboard, then next we must going… PORT! The entire port side library came crashing down to the floor. Well, at least now there was nothing left to fall! Just then I see a paint can starting to slide… “Caught it!” I yell to no one.

I am still down below as the pitching and rolling get more severe. I hang on to known safe spots to avoid injury as I make my way to the gangway to talk to the Captain. I wonder how things are going up there. On the way, one of my “safe holds” is the stationary bar in front of the gimbaled stove. Since we were heeled over so far at one point, the swinging stove caught my hand and pinched my fingers tightly in place. Never mind the severe instant pain, they wouldn’t budge. I was stuck. I need to tell the Captain that the seas are too much and I want to slow down. My body is stuck at the stove but I can barely reach the gangway curtain. I know he can’t hear me with the diesel engine running, but I am able to stick out my available hand and give him a big thumbs down to slow down.

He sees my thumbs down and interprets it as “this is rough”. So he responds with the same thumbs down in agreement and then points ahead. What the? I notice we are not slowing down, and did not know he had turned around.

Ok. So my hand is still stuck in the stove bar. I cannot move from this spot to communicate better. By then fear overrode pain. I pound the stove to swing back using a tool that was magically sliding by. I’m free! Pretty sure I escaped with all my fingers, but will check later.

Unstuck from my fate in the galley I now charge up the gangway to see why we’re not slowing down and still getting slung around like a ball in a pinball machine. I’m irritated and scared. Not necessarily in that order.

I start to assess the situation with my hands on my hips thinking about the chaos that just ensued down below. I look at the Captain and his expression is serious. He also can’t move, as he is hanging on to the steering wheel with white knuckles. His steering looks exaggerated as he throws the wheel one way, eyes on the sea, then spins it completely the opposite way. We both hang on tight with such remarkable forces from the waves. The cockpit floor is strewn with spilled coffee, a grill propane tank, sail ties, bungee cords, life jackets, rag towels, gloves, sunscreen bottles, and winch handles. All were being flung around and scattered as we pitched and rolled.

I looked beyond the cockpit at the sea all around us. The ocean felt huge, overwhelming, chaotic, confused. On top of the hefty swell waves there were substantial wind waves as well. I felt so small.

Now that we could communicate, Jeff said these seas were beyond our comfort zone and he was headed back in to Cat Harbor. He had figured out somewhat of a wave cycle that was occurring and was trying to sail with it, but it still was pretty rough. We re-entered Cat Harbor and safely hooked back up to the mooring buoy. Amongst the carnage of what once was an organized boat, we sat down together, collected our thoughts, looked at each other and let out a big sigh.

We talked about stowing things more securely and heading back out, but decided we should wait another day for the winds and waves to die down. We have learned sailors do not have the luxury of dependable schedules or being in a hurry, irregardless of weather conditions. With a mess of things strewn about the boat in the aftermath of the morning’s events, we prioritized tasks and made a fresh pot of coffee.

We sat together in silence in the warm sunshine, safely tucked away in this little cove, under a bluebird sky, light winds, on flat calm waters. But never far from our minds, just outside this protected little harbor, were those fateful confused seas.


Sometimes the vast ocean and it’s forecast are so inviting. It is good to learn things are not always as they seem.

Small view of Cat Harbor where Keeper was so calm and protected. We spent this day hiking this trail instead. Good call. ūüôā

A high point on Little Harbor to Cat Harbor hike invites a view west of the Great Pacific Ocean and its “apparent conditions”

Two Harbors new “South Pacific” style theme beach. So far we are lone customers. Surely not for long!

We waited to sail back to the mainland until this next day. The beauty of such a safe and comfy sail was fully enjoyed and appreciated. We do not underestimate the sea. Ever.

The Right Tool

You just don’t know unless you go. This is the latest lesson I’ve learned during our fourth season living aboard S/V Keeper. As any mariner will attest to, a big part of owning a boat is upkeep. We have spent considerable time doing just that.

While in port at Shelter Island Marina, San Diego, our stay was peppered with mending the mainsail, fixing the starter, tracing old electrical wire, rewiring radar, replacing the bilge pump, polishing metal, and daysailing out the Bay.

One beauty of a morning a couple of weeks ago I was out for an early walk. Since the prevailing winds don’t normally pick up until noon, it was noticeable when the winds felt strong this early. I peered over the Bay and was delighted to see a number of sailboats heeled over with full sails.

I hurried back to S/V Keeper to tell Jeff about this perfect breeze. “We should head out for a daysail!” I burst out. This wasn’t part of our plans for the day. He lights up for a second, then looks around. He is knee deep in tools, boat parts, and project equipment. He sighs.

“One too many things to add to the list today?” I ask. “Yep,” he answers. “But let’s look at the weather.” Yet another reason he’s the Cap’n… this never even crossed my mind.

Pulling up NOAA Weather marine forecast for these waters, we find out a low pressure system is moving in, bringing increased winds and rain overnight. When winds are forecasted over 25 knots with gusts over 30, I know it wouldn’t be my favorite kind of sail. My weather observation from the morning’s walk wouldn’t last. We decide against it for the day and Jeff dives back in to finish up his current project.

As the winds increase during the day as expected, I hear a loud “CRUNCH”! I peek out our galley window, hear voices, and feel Jeff jump off the boat. He hurries over a few slips where water is spraying. As I climb out the gangway, winds strong against my face, I see a captain three slips over trying to maneuver his boat away from the dock’s firehose station that now lays flat. An incredible geyser of water pressure plumes above the dock. I watch the captain throw Jeff an aft dockline. Jeff quickly ties a cleat hitch and runs to the bow. I realize my stand-n-stare and move to grab a fender to cushion anywhere needed. That captain, now tied off safely, jumps on the dock and runs to the flattened firehose. He’s familiar with the dock and announces he is going to shut off the water for this finger. He hurries to the main dock and throws open a floor hatch.

A second boat in that same fleet is coming in under these strong winds. Sailors know where land and water meet is where damage can occur. This captain sees the firehose geyser and radios a third boat in the fleet to wait. He lands hard, but safe, and quickly steps over to check the damaged dock and secure docklines. The third boat then enters the marina and lands safely. Now with three of their captains in port and help from their office, we retreat to S/V Keeper to standby, knowing extra help can just get in the way. When their final boat in the fleet lands safely, one of the captains says, “Did anyone check the forecast this morning?”

They have everything under control when the first captain returns. “The water supply spigot handle was rusted through and broke right off,” he says. He leans over a corner dock box and throws it open. He exclaims loudly over the spraying geyser sound, “That’s why I have one of THESE!” He holds high the largest wrench I’ve ever seen. He smiles and says, “The right tool!”

The following days I think about their hard, windy landings. We are happy with our decision to play it safe that day. But to their credit, these events were only possible because they slipped the docklines. You just don’t know unless you go.

Now we’ve slipped the docklines. We’ve set sail for Catalina Island. We know the forecast. We know the region. We don’t know what may happen, but we go. I do hope that, if needed, we also have the right tool.


Francine from and I hold “The Right Tool”

Calm seas en route to Catalina Island allow my reflection selfie

Boat project pile-o-parts

Colorful Desconso Beach near Avalon

Keeper at rest in Avalon Harbor, Catalina Island

The Sound of Fog

I’ll never get used to it.  If we ever sailed in fog in Alaska it was more of a low pressure system that settled in with low clouds and misty rain.  It wasn’t this stuff.

With three seasons under our belt sailing the coastal waters of Southern California, we have experienced fog in a number of ways.  Most of them from land, because with a chance of fog we generally avoid it.

I’ve learned this fog phenomena is somewhat common off of this coast.  Before spending any quantity of time sailing here I would never have associated the Southern California coast with dense fog!  When we first started visiting San Diego to charter sailboats for vacations, I fell for the warm weather sailing instantly.  Soon we were kicking tires looking around at boats for sale.

Our first winter season that we lived aboard Keeper we started off with many daysails in the SoCal sunshine. On a January day we were sailing north from Oceanside to Dana Point for the first time.  We had yet another bluebird day.  On the VHF we heard  some mariners radioing Dana Point Harbor Master about visibility.  We looked at each other quizzically.  Ahead of us on the horizon we could see what we assumed to be clouds or city smog of some sort.  There was one other boat out, a little sailboat ahead of us about one or two nautical miles.  As the “clouds” came in closer we could start to make it out as a fogbank.  With no land in sight our depth perception of it was difficult… until we both watched the little sailboat ahead of us disappear.  Gulp.

Realizing we were headed for the same fate, we hooked up our radar that we didn’t know how to use.  Should be like on TV, right?

We sailed into the fogbank.  It engulfed us.  The sun got dark.  The sails hung quietly.  The wind quieted.  The sea quieted.  We sat together quietly in the cockpit.  There was little visibility in any direction.  It’s a big ocean, and it seemed as though we couldn’t see or hear.

The little sailboat ahead of us that we could no longer see showed up as a blip on the radar.  I loved this little sailboat!  It gave me comfort.  With that as our starting point we slowly slipped through the quiet sea on our original bearing.  Soon the green and red navigational lights of the Dana Point Harbor entrance appeared through the thick fog.  “Red, right, returning” I said to myself and let out a big sigh.

Since that first fog sail we tend to avoid sailing in it just as any sailor would avoid a storm.  But some passages are longer than a weather window allows, or fog just decides to form unforecasted.

This winter while living aboard Keeper we’ve been daysailing out of Glorietta Bay and Mission Bay while enjoying land excursions of biking and hiking around San Diego.  Our main voyage has been to Catalina, exploring and circumnavigating the Island, and now we are currently underway back to the mainland.

While sailing up the coast last week on our way to Catalina, we once again encounter the fog phenomenon.  As we are slightly saltier sailors now, we settle in for it with our radar, GPS, VHF, position, and bearing.  It engulfs us.  The sun gets dark.  The sails hang quietly.  The wind quiets.  The sea quiets.

The sound of fog is silence.  I still get a little nervous.  I look back at the captain, who’s at the helm, and he gives me a great big smile.


Blue skies above, fog ahead

Top of the mast and mainsail slips into fog

The sun darkens

Little visibility, little sound

A ‘lil nervous

Our “eyes and ears”

Land Ho!

Trading Ice Cleats for Dock Cleats

There’s a well known warming trend occurring at home here in the great North. ¬†For me, it’s just a bit slow. ¬†It’s time again to dip down to the lower latitudes. As much as I love new gear, I will say goodbye to my fancy hiking ice cleats until next year. ¬†S/V Keeper, here we come! ¬†Now, how do I tie a cleat hitch again?


Hiking Skyline last week with my ice cleats. These cleats really get me where I want to go!

Regardless of a warming winter trend, these past few months have made for a pleasant winter. ¬†We had cold temps after good snowfalls leading to great conditions for outdoor sports. ¬†We were able to rack up some miles of ice skating, snow shoeing, cross-country skiing, and skate skiing. ¬†None of these are much fun much less possible if the temp is above 32 deg F! ¬†Now we’ve landed back in San Diego to pick up where we left off with some warm weather sailing (above 32 ¬†F hopefully) and to give Sailing Vessel Keeper a little TLC. ¬†With the safety and comfort she’s given us, we owe her that much!


Snowshoe up Kenai Keys Trail to Kenai River with Outdoor Club


Skiing at Russian Camp again… but at least the sun is starting to come back!


With team KPOC (Kenai Peninsula Outdoor Club) Jeff finishes second place in the first annual “Tri-Flake” triathlon (Run, Fat Bike, Ski)!


Docking S/V Keeper in Glorietta Bay, Coronado Island, San Diego Bay upon arriving from Alaska. The ease in getting her ship-shape shows her sea worthiness.


Our newest crew: Butters travels to San Diego


Ahhh, the dock cleat with a neatly tied cleat hitch knot upon landing this dock in strong winds. My sailing instructor would be proud!

At this time I hang up my ice cleats and the dreams where they can take me, to pick up lines at dock cleats to see where they can lead me.  The differences between these cleats vary greatly, but in the end they are just a tool for me to follow dreams.  The idea of a cleat meaning a stronghold of support and security in the direction and intention of the user, I think I have great ideas for these cleats.  Whether ice cleats or dock cleats, letting go of either I go into the unknown. I wonder where this will lead me?


Visitor’s Log

Whoa, what a ride! ¬†Have we been busy? ¬†I know that’s right. ¬†As we wrap up another season of living aboard and sailing S/V Keeper, I reflect on what we were up to. ¬†This was a season full of visits from family and friends. ¬†Stories abound! ¬†Laughter and smiles overflow my memory bank. ¬†Home to Alaska we go. ¬†I leave the rest in pictures.


Kara and I show off our sailing skills by posing under the tricky “wing on wing” sail trim


Kara, now Skipper, takes the helm


First Mate Marly’s favorite visitor ūüôā


Also First Mate’s favorite! Thanks for visiting, Dad and Micky!












First Mate’s least favorite visitor… boarding by Coast Guard under sail near Mexican waters



Next Skipper up is Mary… I think she likes it!


Les and Mary, now retired from the Alaska life, show us how to landlubb in Escondido


After meeting last year on an offshore island, Sailor Bruce returns for another “3 hour tour”











Frank and Wyatt join us! ¬†Will Frank be promoted from Captain’s highschool classmate to shipmate?¬†



The Captain teaches potential crew…



…and explains points of sail…



…with success! Wyatt takes the helm!









Thanks for crewing, Frank and Wyatt ūüôā


Amanda and I ham it up a lot!


Still hammin’ it up


Sean and Amanda enjoy sun and coast with us, and not the Alaska coast this time


Amanda catches us contemplating the vast liquid wilderness


Captain Jeff has crew Amanda haul in the mains’l…


…then Sean takes the helm and points us on a close haul away from town…


…wait a minute! Is this a mutiny?











Captain and First Mate regain control of the ship!


And what a good ship she’s been. ¬†She’s a Keeper.










Cutting the Cam

I didn’t go for it. ¬†I just couldn’t. ¬†Too much was happening all at once. ¬†Experience has taught me what I can miss by spending time just trying to get a picture of an event. ¬†Especially wildlife! ¬†Fumbling through gear to find my camera, point it, steady it, focus it, snap it, and check it, I have missed many happenings for the memory vault. ¬†This includes such incredibilities as an apparent grizzly bear chasing a wolf (right), Mount Denali peeking through clouds with evening alpenglow (possible), a rainbow’s arch briefly making a full circle (wow), and twin baby moose calves standing up together for their first time (shoulda looked up).

Of course, all of my reaching for the camera over the years has yielded some excellent shots. These were the reinforcements for my continued behavior to go for the camera. ¬†Of special note here is a fun memory I have on a glacier cruise out of Seward when my brother was visiting. These were the days of yore when a “camcorder” (an archeologic human handheld electronic device once used to record live motion) was popular. ¬†It was one such device my brother was using to film the face of a very active glacier. ¬†He stood with it lifted and pointed to catch any ice calving. We’d hear deep cracks and groans thundering with bass-like acoustics that echoed off the mountain sides. ¬†We waited. ¬†We watched. ¬†As he cut the cam and turned away, I watched a four-story ice tower lean and slowly crash into the sea, sending large waves toward the boat. ¬†He continued to look at me in disbelief of what he heard behind him. Yup, right when he cut the cam.

Thus, anymore I don’t go for it. ¬†It constantly crosses my mind as I watch whales dive and sunsets paint. ¬†The past couple weeks we spent sailing to Southern California’s Santa Catalina Island. ¬†We had rich new experiences. ¬†We sailed through the night, battened down hatches for gale force winds, watched wild buffalo with an ocean backdrop, paddle boarded out into open ocean, and circumnavigated an island. ¬†While sailing S/V Keeper back from Catalina, we entered a huge pod of dolphins at sea. ¬†This time? ¬†I didn’t go for it. ¬†But Jeff did. ¬†And oh, how happy I am, he didn’t cut the cam.

(Click here to see the cam!)



Like Riding A Bike

This is goona be GREAT!  After living aboard S/V Keeper last winter, all the sailing skills we learned and how well we got to know the boat, sailing her again would be just like riding a bike.  Oh yeah, we got this.


Walking from the ferry on Coronado Island brings familiar sights in view

We went to San Diego for a long weekend last fall to check on the boat and have our annual Coast Guard inspection.  When our plane landed, I already felt the familiarity of this city.  We jump off the plane, grab our packs, and walk right to the downtown waterfront.  Here we catch a water taxi for a few bucks that zips us right across the Bay from downtown to Coronado Island.  From there we walk the easy bike trail to the beach where our dinghy (Barnacle Bill) patiently awaits.


The dinghy landing. Barnacle Bill? He's here somewhere. Ohhh... forgot about timing the tide. Lowtide = mud

We approach Barnacle Bill and again I think to myself how awesome this is goona be now that we “know what we’re doing”.¬† Yup.¬† We got this.¬† Just like riding a bike.


Barnacle Bill! There you are!

We turn over the dinghy to access the combination lock attached to the staycable onshore that sailors lock their tenders to.¬† Then, it starts.¬† Little reminders that let me know I’m not in charge…

There’s a beauty to sailing and harnessing wind for power.¬† I just love it!¬† How quickly I forget the work that goes into it, and all the idiosyncrocies that follow suit.¬† I am reminded when the combo lock, now weathered with sand, salt, sun, won’t open.¬† It’s getting dark.¬† Combo is correct.¬† Bang on it, brush it off, dry it, bang it again.¬† Nope.¬† The sea is in charge here.¬† Finally after running some fresh water over it and banging it with frustration and expletives, it opens.¬† Heavy sigh of relief.¬† Now we got this.


A ketch sails under bright purple spinnaker power. Sailors stop and watch her quietly slip by

The sea and sailing her give me constant orders that she is in charge.¬† I walk along the port bow in bare feet and throttle my pinky toe into a jib sheet (front sail) shackle, which forces me to hop up and down with the other foot on the slippery deck.¬† Yowwwwch!¬† Surely that’s new there.¬† Lifelines and fate keep me on board… this time.¬†


An aggressive shackle ondeck (lower right) awaits to stub my pinky toe. Was that there before!?!

Now we want to take our bikes to shore.¬† They are stored in the boat, so “all we have to do” is bring them up the gangway, heave them over the lifelines,¬† catch them in the dinghy, and row them to shore.¬† We probably got this?

While handing my bike up the gangway from down below, the handlebar impales me in the gut while the pedal scrapes off patches of calf skin.¬† Uff!¬† I follow it up to help get it topside.¬† A small wake from passing boats turns into a larger one that ensures the boat goes up as the dinghy beside us goes down.¬† We scale down from “throwing” the bikes to using a spare halyard from atop the mast to “lift” the bikes.¬† Good idea from the Captain. Thus we get both bikes and ourselves onto Barnicle Bill and row them to shore.¬†


Our bikes show no signs of the work required to get here ūüôā

It’s the nature of boats.¬† After inflating my stand up paddle board on the deck, I give myself a “snakebite” skin pinch when affixing it to the lifelines.¬† Turning to go down to the galley for more iced tea, I throw my head into the dodger frame.¬† It also must be new there.¬† Putting away the iced tea I¬† close the hatch for the fridge, which drops on what was an uninjured finger.¬† Opening the thru hull for the gally sink is now a lever in a smaller space than a human hand can fit, unlike before.

Yet, the nature of boats also included raising the mainsail smoothly, rolling out the jib, turning off the engine, and feeling the power of wind effortlessly slip us along San Diego’s downtown waterfront while we sipped iced tea in sunny and 78¬į weather.¬† Ice from the tea doubled as first aid for mystery injuries.

In all it was a fast trip and a thumb’s up from the Coast Guard for S/V Keeper.¬† Each day I awoke with new bumps and bruises just from being onboard.¬† I learned I don’t just got this.¬† The ocean demands my attention and respect.¬† I think at sea any ego may be unacceptable, and confidence seems unattainable.¬† I dunno.¬† I am sure of one thing.¬† Returning to S/V Keeper to liveaboard recently will be another new adventure.¬† It will not, in kind, be just like riding a bike.¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†



Riding our bikes to watch the sunset. Yup, it's all worth it.


S/V Keeper is ready again!

Shoulder to Shoulder

I just knew it.  The time, I mean.  How quickly I forget how quickly time flies.  Living aboard S/V Keeper last winter had lots of firsts.  Coming home to Alaska this spring seemed like our return to her would be a lifetime away.  I would forget everything I learned.  Not so.

When we first got home it was the shoulder season here. ¬†Not enough snow to ski or snowshoe, too much ice to hike, but enough daylight to seem like summer! ¬†Sure enough the summer did return. ¬†And a sweet one it was! ¬†Not only did we have a warm one, a busy one as well. ¬†My 14 year old nephew, Joey, came to visit from Minnesota. ¬†He was here for a month, and man, did we get out! ¬†(Of course, that is “what there is to do here”.)

Prolific adventures!  We went backpacking to Lost Lake, the 16 mile through hike on the Seward side of the Kenai Peninsula.  We hiked to the top icefields in Kenai Fjords National Park.  We ran a weekly 5k trail run series that benefits the salmon of the Kenai River.  With this we sprinkled in fishing, day hikes in the Kenai Mountains to waterfalls and scenic vistas, and boating across Kachemak Bay to explore Grewingk Glacier.  Joey and I topped off his stay by summiting the Skyline Trail, an effort indeed.


Hiking up to the Harding Icefield with Aunt Marly and Uncle Jeff. Got a ways to go yet!


Joey’s rainbow


‘Packin to Lost Lake, a noble trek…


…has it’s rewards.


Joey and I hike my favorite: Hideout Trail along Skilak Lake


Cap’n Jeff rows as we raft the Kenai with friends Sean and Amanda from Fairbanks


Neighbor takes us across Kachemak Bay on a beauty of an Alaskan summer day. Thanks Bill!


Joey and Aunt Marly at the summit of Skyline. Now that’s some puncuation on a trip

Then, it began. ¬†The berry season. ¬†My favorite season. ¬†Let’s just say, it was a good run this year. ¬†A good berry picker never gives up their favorite fishing hole berry patch. ¬†So the details remain. ¬†Anyhoo, this summer had flavor. ¬†Time was well spent.




Bumper crop year for Alaskan blueberry!


my favorite cranberry – low bush


more bounty – late season


Jeff had his own “berry” run


Unlike berries, his bounty all looks the same to me


…except for this grouse bounty (yum). Hunting in Interior Alaska while visiting friends Sean and Amanda


Thanks you guys! May the Interior have a great winter!

So here we are, on the other side of the this shoulder season already. ¬†Winter has settled in at 60 degrees north latitude. ¬†The temp is not above zero yet today. ¬†Our seasonal lifestyle will soon lead us back to S/V Keeper, sailing again at latitude 32 degrees north, San Diego. ¬†It’s probably above zero there today.


The valley out front shows this shoulder season is over


‘Course there’s still fun to be had


and fun things to make!


Raw beauty. ¬†Not above zero yet…


…but hiking up in the sunshine matters! ¬†Snowshoeing to Manitoba Mountain Wilderness – Kenai Peninsula Outdoor Club


Adventures abound not only on S/V Keeper. The Northern Lights dance above our cabin recently, reminding us why we live here. Seasonally, that is. ūüôā

S/V Keeper’s Adventures continue. ¬†And from shoulder to shoulder, it’s been fast and fun.




It’s kinda funny, really. ¬†How a name can mean so many different things to folks. ¬†I got many responses to a name depending on what facet in life I knew someone.

Several years ago I still volunteered at the local animal shelter. ¬†I steered away from walking dogs since that seems to lead to taking one home! ¬†So I was helping in the cat room when I opened the door to a tiny black kitten’s cage. ¬†She looked at me, slowly put her top claws on me, then all four. ¬†Now this kitten is hanging from my shirt. ¬†As the animal officer walked by, I turned to him with my arms at my sides and a kitten on my front.

“Well, at least the dogs aren’t choosing you!” he said with a smile.

“What’s her name?” I asked.

“Catalina. ¬†She’s the last of a full litter that came in. ¬†Her sister was adopted out, and just in time because she had that feline rhinovirus. ¬†If she starts symptoms she will go into quarantine, but not for long. ¬†I can’t risk the entire kennel’s cats getting the virus.”

“Why Catalina?” ¬†I asked, understanding the kitten’s situation.

“Because she’s a cat! ¬†‘Catalina!'” he pronounced with a grin and laughed as he continued on to the dog area. ¬†She soon came home with us and we nicknamed her Lena.

Here’s where my story gets fun. ¬†As friends and family asked about our new pet, I would tell them her name. ¬†“Oh, Catalina like the mountains in Tucson you hiked when you worked there?” ¬†No. ¬†“Ahhh, Catalina like the popular sailboat maker!” ¬†Nope. ¬†“Nice! ¬†Like Catalina Island off the coast of Southern California?” ¬†MmmMmm. ¬†And my personal favorite from my brother, since we were raised in Minnesota, “Lena! ¬†Ha! ¬†Like the Ole and Lena jokes from up north!” ¬†Now that really is funny! ¬†But, no.

So in the end, I always felt like she was meant to be with us. ¬†Especially since we travel and getting a dog would tie us down and be unfair to a dog. ¬†Lena loved to travel, in the camper and on the sailboat. ¬†She was so comfy on the boat, knew her perimeter, and liked to be in the cockpit. ¬†Of course, when we got home this spring it is evident that a cat’s favorite place would be a cabin in the woods with lots of hunting and playing, her peeps always around gardening or snuggling her! What an adventurer.

Lena watches ducks float by, while S/V Keeper is moored at Catalina Island last January

Lena watches ducks float by, while S/V Keeper is moored at Catalina Island last January

In July Lena went outside and was hanging out on her rock in our yard, surveying her domain. ¬†It was getting dark, so within an hour I started calling for her since she wasn’t sitting at the window to come in like usual. ¬†We never saw her again.

It’s time.  I can tell.  Of all the ideas I’ve entertained, the possibilities I’ve considered, the unaimed anger, the tears I’ve sopped up, and the smiles I’ve forced, I’m finally tired.  Time spent alone is particularly hard, time to think, wonder, grieve… but it also seems to be when I start to realize, start to decide.  It’s time.

I have learned in life at times like this it is good to talk about it, write about it, reach out to friends.  Working in healthcare, I am shy of my pain over the loss of an animal.  I  feel embarrassed tearing up over a kitty knowing what kind of real pain and loss people are currently going through.  This is nothing.  Recently I gave a flu shot to a patient who only has one arm after being in the Service.

One particular friend who I respect and admire had advice. ¬†I was not asking for advice. ¬†She must have known I needed some. ¬†As we were walking, I mention where I am at with the disappearance of my cat. ¬†With pain in my chest but a casual tone, I tell her how I might do another campaign of lost pet ads. ¬†This would include radio, social media, brighter ‚Äúlost cat‚ÄĚ signs around the neighborhood, trips to the shelter, on and on. ¬†She asked me if I have had any responses. ¬†I hadn‚Äôt. ¬†I know she could see the pain flash on my face. ¬†Then she asked what my endpoint would be. ¬†A specific date, a feeling, a decision? ¬†She said when she has a hard time with something in life, she asks herself what she can learn from the experience. ¬†I walked on in silence.

For 77 days I have searched, waited, listened, called.  I have failed her.  I loved her.  But not one little hint has come about.  Not one.  So I turn to look this pain in the eye.  I have decided a predator got to her, swiftly, quietly… just as she would get her own little prey.  So my endpoint is a decision.  And I learned something.  People care.

Her name was Catalina.


Kitty's rock

Rest peacefully 'lil Lena

Rest peacefully ‘lil Lena