By Warren Miller
I had used my surfboard, skis, sailboats, and now windsurfing to lead me through life up until this time. I had a very deluxe camera boat that I had earned, working for Dave Slickers on a sailing film and had never used it very much in the past because my knowledge of a gasoline engine is just that. You put gasoline in the tank and it runs. If it doesn’t, you get out your rolodex and look up the outboard motor fixer and call him for an appointment.
That was all about to change when Laurie and I got back to the mainland. She had a lot of catching up to do with her ski shop staff and I had a bunch of last minute things to do on the feature film that Terry was working so hard on. When Laurie and I were done she flew to Los Angeles and we hooked up the 20 foot camera boat and headed North. We also took along my windsurfer because I knew we would be going by the Columbia River, which still has the reputation for the best wind in mainland America. Laurie’s son, Colin, came down on the train to join us and we spent a few days at The Gorge camping out in my van; we spent most of the day sailing. Our next stop was to swing by Laurie’s 1909 craftsman out on Beach Drive to do the laundry and check on her folks. We then went up to Anacortes to launch the small powerboat. It had a 175-horse power engine on the back and a manual for trouble shooting any problems that might come up and what else did we need. We had a small catty cabin to sleep in, a Coleman gas stove to cook on, a Porta-Potty to do whatever you do in them and Colin’s Gatorade jug for the water. We also had a couple of sleeping bags and a Coleman lantern for reading at night, charts of the area of the San Juan Islands, crab pots, and salmon fishing gear. Someday I will write an entire book about our amazing, scary, and exciting adventures on that first three-week trip into places I had never dreamed even existed. Laurie taught me how to find and cook clams; oysters were on almost every rock we ever tied up to. Bruce Barr taught us how catch the salmon for dinner but he never taught us how to find out where they were waiting to be caught. We didn’t even have a radio in case we got in trouble and somehow we managed not to get in any.
Those three weeks on the small boat changed my love of sailing to a new love of the thousands of islands that stretch North from Seattle to the wilds of Alaska. We did not know it at the time but there are fuel docks and village stores about every twenty-five or thirty miles from Anacortes to the Lower Mainland of Alaska. Neither one of us knew that we should be uncomfortable living on a twenty foot runabout. We were discovering an entirely new way of life for both of us, a way of life that fits so nicely with our love of the mountains, snow, and our winter home where the ski lifts are.
We learned power boating together with the help of everyone else we met. I have written extensively about it in other books that I have written such as Lurching From One Near Disaster to the Next, which is how we live our lives. Expect the best and prepare for the worst because both of them will happen any time you leave a dock or a marina on a small boat.
On this first trip I took literally thousands of color photos that are in a cardboard box in my office that I will someday get around to sorting out and writing about.