Another Successful Passage

We left Kodiak on September 15 th.

I didn’t want to spend the winter on the Island.

Barbara had never sailed before.

She had been the cook on the fishing boat I had worked on that Summer.

I had single handed from Seattle to Kodiak via San Francisco and Hawaii.

We left the harbor late in the afternoon.

Forecast, NE 40 kts.

Ten hours out,

in the midst of Albatross banks,

the sort steep seas stripped out the auto pilot,

the fierce wind

shredded the jib.

I was puking yellow bile.

Barbara braved the misery, but refused to eat or drink.

After having the door, to the john, rip off its hinges,

I decided I was too stupid to make decisions.

I lay down in the lee cloth of the main cabin.

Barbara called down from the cockpit,

Just tell me one thing, Brien”

Are we going to die?”

The brave woman

finally had to say it.

I hadn’t realized her fear.

I had been blinded to the human element,

rejoicing in the battle with nature,

reefing in the main

hauling in the torn jib, under water on the bowsprit.

Are we going to die?”

No dear, she is stronger than us, lay down and try to rest.”

She disappeared into the aft cabin.

I lay awake,

wearing the violence of the sea,

watching the compass.

After twenty minutes, I got up

and lashed the kettle to the stove.

The sickness was gone.

Energy and life were back inside me.

On deck I surveyed the white spray around us.

We weren’t past Albatross Bank yet.

Thirty foot seas on the stern.

I threw a sixteen inch truck tire over board.

Between it and the boat I connected 300 feet of two inch nylon line and anchor chain swivels.

I hauled up a fully reefed main sail and off we went.

I smiled.

I was King again.

The thirty footers reared up

and threatened to smash upon us.

I stood on the aft deck.

One second I faced a wall of

white streaked, green sea,

the next,

I was on a mountain

looking out over Gods bosom.

Three hundred feet back

the tire leaped out of the sea like a hooked marlin.

Five days to Salisbury Sound.

Boogaroo for breakfast lunch and dinner.


I don’t remember.

Where’s the chart?

Can’t find it.

Wasn’t planning on coming in this far north.

Land ahead.

Wasted time bringing that blessed tire in.


Death on the rocks.

Thank God for GPS.


The main jibes.

Barbara’s at the wheel.

With the tire gone,

the mountains of water throw the boat around like a toy.

I’m down below searching for the damn chart when I feel the roll.

First I hear the preventer snap,

then the crack of the boom

as it smashes into the standing rigging on the other side.

The hand is dealt.

The bluff is called.

Fate gives me the finger.

She knows that I am but a child upon a Gods adventure.

Salisbury sound welcomes us.

With no chart I plan to motor around in a circle until morning.

Unfamiliar area, no detailed chart

it’s midnight

I’m dead tired

no way to go through Peril Staits.

Barbara is suddenly happy.

She thinks that when the boat smashes upon the rocks she will be able to step ashore.

I’m scared.

I’ve been at the wheel for damn near five days and nights.

Twenty to thirty minute stretches of sleep with one eye open while we drifted,

all sails down and the tire dragging.

We motor in a circle.

I’m afraid to give the wheel to Barbara

thinking she’ll drive us onto the rocks.

I know I can not stay awake.

I call a Tug in tow, that I see entering the Bay.

He says he’ll slow down and guide us in through the straits.

Under power

full throttle

we make it.

Thank You, Alaska Marine Lines and Ford industrial Engines

Brien Hamilton

ã Copyright 1998