February 9th. A beautiful Saturday in Homer. Temperatures hovering around 40, light winds, and scattered clouds. Almost like spring. It’d be a perfect day for a sail – if the boat wasn’t all winterized. Ah, well. Maybe next time. I pondered the thought, while I sat on the snow-free deck, drank a beer, and enjoyed the pretense that it wasn’t really the dead of winter in Alaska.
Sunday dawned. No change in the weather. How could I *not* take advantage of this rare break? I shook off my amazement, and my winter lassitude, and headed to my storage trailer, where I dug out the mainsail from under a growing stack of winter oddities.
The mainsail re-rigged, I dug out and remounted the depth finder, the wind instrument, and the portable chartplotter. Unwrapped and bolted on the carefully stowed tiller. Set aside the tiller pilot at the ready. Do I really need all this stuff just to go out for an afternoon? These cruising boats are so complicated. I checked the thru-hull for the water cooling, and was finally rewarded by the sound of the engine jumping eagerly to life at the first touch of the starter button.
Early afternoon. Anticipation building. I stared doubtfully at the small flotillas of ice still swirling about the harbor. I tried to repress my worries, as I backed out the slip, and then slowly eased forward towards the mouth of the harbor. I had the harbor to myself. Slowly proceeding through the narrow Z-neck of the entrance at low tide, I emerged into the open bay, only to find myself encircled by long, dense swaths of ice chunks, bobbing in the otherwise calm sea. I wondered if I should just turn around and call it a day. However, I had already made it too far, at least mentally, to be so easily deterred. I slowly edged towards the first band of ice, and very gently nudged against the first few chunks, pushing them reluctantly aside as I nervously adjusted the engine RPMs to the lowest possible forward speed. They did say that these older fiberglass boats were overbuilt, right? I kept my fingers crossed and hoped.
Some nerve racking minutes later, the ice chunks began to thin. Past a few last dwindling chunks, I emerged at last into clear water. The blue horizon beckoned. I turned into the wind, and raised the mainsail. Falling off towards a close reach towards Cook Inlet, I finally relaxed. I was sailing!