On the fourth line our Declaration of Independence we find examples selected by our founding fathers of our unalienable rights… Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. Today there seem to be more people than ever working to reduce our happiness. I will never understand their motivations, and I suspect that if they have tied their own happiness to ending ours, they will be bitterly disappointed.
Everyone is responsible for their own happiness and has their own definition. For me, sailing up the inside of Vancouver Island last week in shorts and bare feet with friends old and new made me feel happy like a kid again. We were on a journey around this 275 mile long island as participants in the Van Isle 360 sailboat race. We experienced the rugged and remote beauty of the BC coast. The mountains, glaciers, forests, eagles, and otters saw me and my eagerness to be there. We had great wind and waves reminding us to respect the forces of nature. It was a rare chance for me to disconnect from regular patterns and reconnect with friends, the sport of sailing, and spectacular surroundings.
As the newest member of the team, I was eager to do my job and contribute however possible. My teammates were very good sailors, making this much easier to say than do. Not only were they experienced on the Dark Star, but they each had many years of time on the water in all types of boats. Only rarely was I able to conjure up something to add. So I added learning to my list with disconnecting and reconnecting. What a perfect combination.
Our team was together all day for ten days and the time just blew past. We got to know each other and learned how to work together. By the final day we had been tested under demanding circumstances and had improved every day. And then, on the final day, we found ourselves there together at the very north end of the island staring out at the Nahwitti Bar. The waves were reported at 10 feet, but who knew how big they would be as they went from the deep waters of Queen Charlotte Sound to the shallows at the bar. We tacked and sailed parallel to the break for a bit and then we all held on as we tacked again and headed into the breaking waves.
It was the perfect representation of what we had accomplished and how we had come together. We were in this together. I was a bit nervous, but could not think of better people to be with. The team and the boat sliced right through the dreaded Nahwitti Bar. The waves turned out to be confused, more like a giant washing machine than Hawaii Five-0. Even so, we later learned there was a time that the guys on the boat next to us said they saw our keel come out of the water. Fortunately not all of it!
Then came the frosting on the cake. We rounded Cape Scott for the 20 mile run down to Winter Harbor. What a ride! Just when we were smoking down the waves thinking 14 knots was great boat speed, the breeze increased and we were blasting at fifteen, sixteen and then seventeen. At one point a jellyfish washed on deck and all of the way back to the cockpit. With the whole team working as one, sun, wind, and nearly flying, it would be hard to think of anything better. But then we passed the boat that had been pounding us upwind all week. They had five miles on us at the turn and we passed them just before the finish, beating them by just one minute after more than nine hours of racing.
I will forever be grateful to my mates on the Dark Star team. Jonathan and Libby: thanks for putting this all together and trusting us on the H1 team with the Dark Star. Brian, Erik K, Katherine, Erik H and Morgan: you made this an exceptional experience and I will pursue happiness with you any time. To our amazing H2 team: Jonathan, Herb, Chris, Erik, and Katherine, good luck tomorrow.