Sailing Away, Alaska Style

Mark Twain said it best: "Throw off the bowlines.  Sail away from the safe harbor.  Catch the trade winds in your sails.  Explore.  Dream.  Discover."

What I've noticed from my years of living in the Last Froniter is that exploring, dreaming, and discovering are the cornerstones of many Alaskans' lives.  Take my friend, Captain Louis Hoock, for example.  He's got a zest for adventure that's infectious, so much so that he owns and operates Alaska Adventure Sailing, a charter company based in Alaska's capital city. 

There are three things you need to know about Captain Hoock:

  1. Louie served active duty sea service as a NOAA Corps Commissioned Officer aboard the NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette where he explored the farthest reaches of the sea.
  2. His whistle is so loud, it could rival Guinness World records.
  3. In 2010, Captain Hoock founded Coastal Footprint, a nonprofit environmental/scientific research organization.  That same year, he sailed The Jolly Roger from Alaska to Panama - almost 5,000 miles away - teaching more than 40 people to sail while simultaneously removing more trash from the shoreline than the entire NOAA Marine Debris Program accomplished in 2010.

In May, I took a day sailing trip with Louie and his friends.  It was the adventure of a lifetime.  Aboard his well-appointed and comfortable 54' sailing vessel, the S/V Arcturus, we were in very capable hands for our day of exploration.  Departing from the Douglas Island harbor, we traveled south of Juneau down the Gastineau Channel and tucked into Taku Inlet.  It was a sunny, picture-perfect day for sailing around Southeast Alaska.  There was also a bit of stand up paddleboard skiing, too - which was an absolute riot to watch from the dry deck.  All-in-all, what a terrific experience that's now got me hooked on Alaska even more! 

Check out Captain Hoock's website - Alaska Adventure Sailing - for your own adventure on the water.

[Click the photos below to expand] 

Milk Sandwich

Ever seen the Space Shuttle covered in snow?  Me neither.  Until today. 

Snow levels currently at aft BSM thermal curtain, expected to reach well beyond the stiffener rings to the aft center SRM segment.  Only in Huntsville can you measure snow depth in solid rocket booster terminology.  (Photo and caption courtesy of William Alexander Franklin.)

My hometown of Huntsville (Huntsvegas for some), Alabama, just had the second snowiest day in the city's history.  8.1 inches blanketed the Rocket City on Wednesday, and my Facebook Newsfeed has been blowing up ever since. 

Friends back home are making snow cream frappaccinos, taking their kiddos on make-shift sleds, and asking themselves "What Would Brad Travis Do?" 

I also hear that folks are eating milk sandwiches.  Apparently, one can survive two weeks eating nothing but frozen milk sandwiches.  This is a new concept to me, and I will work to confirm or dispel this myth once Juneau gets some snow. 

I hope you enjoy these pictures that friends in North Alabama shared with me (thanks, y'all!).  I've been in Alaska for six years now, so you'd think I'd be used to all this wintry mumbo-jumbo by now.  But all I can say is brrrrrr.  Stay warm, folks.

Meanwhile in Alaska...

Warm temps continue to plague Iditarod plans, and Juneau's famed Eaglecrest Ski Area has no snow.  The only snow in Juneau right now is high above the city and far out of reach.

While my friends in Alabama are making snowmen, we in Alaska are enjoying the sun and sand at the beach!

In Juneau this winter, you won't find families making snowmen in their front yards or sledding down their driveways...

But what you will find in Alaska right now are plenty of snowsuits.  On clearance.  At $4 a piece.

Boston: please send us your snow

A Christmas Day Calf

I spent the holidays back in my homestate of Alabama, and it was terrific.  There was so much Chick-Fil-A and Krispy Kreme consumed that I reckon I'll be detoxing from the South for a good month before my dietary habits get back to normal. 

One of the high points of my trip was driving up to Tennessee with my dear sweet Momma on Christmas Day.  Most of my roots are still in the Deep South, and whenever I'm that side of the Mason-Dixon line, I try to get some time in with family in Centertown, Tennessee.  My last trip to see my Tennessee kinfolk was way back in 2012, so my visit back to the Farm was long overdue.

Most of the family's got a history in farming, and Uncle Pug - who's in his late 70s - is still up and at 'em.  Imagine my surprise when he tells me Christmas morning that one of his Black Angus cows birthed a little one just a few hours earlier!  Somehow I talked Uncle Pug into naming it Candice, because let's get real - who doesn't want to have livestock named after them?  What an awesome, one-of-a-kind Christmas present!

Check out the video below of when Uncle Pug and I took the four-wheeler on the farm in search of "Candice."  My fave part is at the 02:19 minute mark when Uncle Pug tells me about "Big Daddy."  Enjoy!

Uncle Pug.  Quite the character.

"Candice" and Momma Cow.

They call this one "Candice."

I don't know this cow's name.  I will call it "Grumpy Cow."

Reunion Time

A far cry from Alaska, tonight I'm in Central Alabama for a long-awaited evening with my wonderful (and gorgeous!) friend, Stormy, who flew in from San Diego, and our close friends and mentors Audrey and Eduardo. Wish I lived closer to these three.


Funny story: in 2008, Stormy and I were visiting Audrey and Eduardo in their kitchen. The topic of my moving to Alaska came up, and I expressed my hesitancy. Audrey responded without missing a beat:

"What do you have to lose? It will change your life. You'll probably have the adventure of a lifetime, too."

For whatever reason, Audrey's statement flipped a switch in my mind. 

Later that evening, I literally saw the sign - a magnet on Audrey's fridge, which read: 

"Twenty years from now, you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did do."

Remember this inspiring advice, my friends. Remember it. Always.