Crouching at the water’s edge, I picked up a smooth black stone and gripped it in my palm. Magnus stood next to me — clad in his wetsuit with boogie board in hand — and I talked him through his latest attempt at setting out into the cold water of Alaska’s Prince William Sound. Then he went for it and I smiled watching him splash his way into the clear blue water before launching the rock far beyond him.

Later, sitting next to a fire and fresh caught salmon roasting over hot coals, I thought aloud to Jill while watching Yahtzee bob just offshore: “Does life get any better than this? I don’t think it does.”

In many ways, that’s how 2017 went. By any and every measure we can think of, it was an amazing year of cruising aboard Yahtzee. Here are a few of our most memorable moments:

Fish On!

For all the years that we’ve lived and cruised aboard Yahtzee, we never really began seriously fishing and crabbing until this summer. And boy has it changed how we eat. We finally bought a crab trap in Ketchikan and after a week or so of empty pots, we got it down and started hitting the jackpot. We also fished more than ever and caught a smattering of delicious fish including salmon, ling cod and rock fish. Hopefully halibut is next.

My pupils showing off their fresh catch.

Experiencing Haida Gwaii

When departing the San Juan Islands to head up the west coast of Vancouver Island in March, we had Haida Gwaii on our list of places we’d like to visit but weren’t sure we’d make it to this somewhat off-the-beaten-path cruising destination. After spending a week there, we were very glad we made it.

Totems at SGang Gwaay, a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Making landfall at Anthony Island, or SGang Gwaay, on the southern tip of the archipelago after a 160-mile passage from the top of Vancouver Island, we were truly in awe of our surroundings. The inescapable wildness of the place, coupled with the fact that we saw no other vessels for days, truly made Haida Gwaii special. If you have a chance to get here by boat, we say go!

No more diapers! 

Magnus’ potty was the perfect teaching tool — no matter where it went.

Ok, this one seems really obvious. But getting Magnus out of diapers at 2-years-old meant no longer carrying these stink-bombs around until we could get rid of our garbage — which, in some instances, wasn’t for as long as two weeks. Yikes!

Hello Ocean

Yahtzee sails toward the sunset in the Gulf of Alaska.

I touched on this in an earlier post, but our time sailing on the Pacific Ocean up the west coast of Vancouver Island and then 500 miles across the Gulf of Alaska in early July was our favorite experience of the summer. We love the freedom of ocean sailing, the challenge of being self-sufficient in a vast wilderness, and even the hardships that can come with less sleep and sometimes boisterous sea conditions. It’s all part of it, and we look forward to making longer ocean passages in the future.

Ahoy, Family!

Knot tying lessons with Papa.

One of the things we’ve enjoyed most about living and cruising aboard Yahtzee over the years has been our ability to share it with friends and family — and 2017 was no different. Hosting Jill’s mom for three weeks in Southeast Alaska, her brother and his girlfriend for a long weekend in Sitka, and my dad for a week in Prince William Sound were all very memorable parts of year. It’s wonderful for them to not only see where and how we live, but also to spend time with the boys in their own environment. That, in and of itself, is priceless.

Jill’s mom Donna looks on while Jill and the boys head out for a paddle around a big iceberg.

Alaska, Alaska, Alaska

Yahtzee looking quite small in Glacier Bay’s Reid Inlet.

It’s said that naturalist John Muir wrote in his journal, “You should never go to Alaska as a young man because you’ll never be satisfied with any other place as long as you live.” Well, John might be right, Alaska is extraordinary.

Sure, Alaska is Jill’s home state, so she gets it more than most, but from the moment we entered “The Great Land”, it was love all over again. So much so, that we’re still here. Whether it was our amazing time in Glacier Bay, exploring Lynn Canal,  falling for Sitka, discovering the stunning Kenai Peninsula, or looping through breathtaking Prince Williams Sound, we sure did cover some magnificent miles through this huge state.

Sailing up Lynn Canal on bluebird day.

Of course, throughout it all, we did have some tough days, too, and some big life decisions to make. And as the year winds to a close, we can’t wait to experience even more of this awe-inspiring place in 2018 and then we’ll see where the winds of change blow us from here.

Happy New Year, everyone! May it be a happy, healthy and fun one on the water or land!