My Boy Scouts troupe used to take lots of canoe trips. Every year, we would paddle the Grande Ronde River and hit some wicked rapids and a potentially deadly whirlpool. Every two or three years, we took a week- long paddle through the San Juan Islands.
My father also had a small collection of canoes and my brothers and I would often paddle the Columbia and Yakima rivers. Add to bringing them along on our many camping trips and I have lots and lots of hours in canoes as a teenager.
Once out of the nest I had pretty much nothing to do with boats, much to my loss.
Fast Forward about 15 years.
I suffered a terrible breakup with a girl. The depression was debilitating. Even getting up to eat was a major event for about three months. I lived in a coastal town and started dreaming about just sailing away to anywhere else.
That's when boats started to appeal to me again. I started researching boats and boat designs, mostly focusing on bigger yachts. I thought I might want to build one to take me everywhere. An internet search brought me to Mike's Boat Plan Index at Duckworks, which eventually led me to the Yahoo group which is a daily read still. I don't participate much, but I do read.
In 2010, I moved back to Washington to care for my mother. Finding difficulty in getting a job, I determined that I would build a skiff and commercial fish crawdad. That's when I built my first boat, the F/V Hogswallup (a Gavin Atkin design named The Barton Skiff, hull #2.) I faired poorly in my commercial venture, failing to catch enough to be saleable. Still, I had completed construction of a boat. It was THE accomplishment that got me out of my funk.
When I could no longer be nice to my mother, I set her up with all the services she would need to cope with life - handyman, housekeeper, etc. - and moved back to Alaska. I thought I could get a job at the shipyard in Seward and save some money to finally build or buy that yacht I'd been dreaming of. No such luck. Having no welding experience, they wouldn't hire me. Neither would the other boatyards.
Eventually, I determined that I would become a merchant mariner. I got my MMD, took some basic safety training and started applying for jobs. Nope. I was (and still am at time of writing) an Ordinary Seaman and everybody wants Able Bodied Seaman as a minimum; but you need sea service time to get the rating. Not so with tall ships. I found the Tall Ships America website. Billet Bank and started sending resumes to everything I qualified for, which eventually landed me a job with the Gray's Harbor Historical Seaport Authority aboard the 112-foot (fully sparred) brig S/V Lady Washington (article to follow).
Now I'm back home working on tour boats in the Kenai Fjords and still dreaming of yachts. I'm finally building a boat again, this time a Selway Fisher designed 12'6" Northumbrian Coble. I plan to sail it around the fjords, doing some camping and maybe fishing, learning to sail a fore-n-aft rig and generally having some fun.
Yes, there are some big gaps when I had no association with or access to boats. Yes, I still have lots to learn. Yes, I'm still excited about boats and what I can do with them, places I can go that you can't get to by car or bus or even aircraft. I have several more decades of life left in me and I intend to spend much of that on the water. Undoubtedly, I'll build another handful of boats, possibly even a yacht to sail around the world.