The idea came to me in the summer of 2001, while taking a shower. I was thinking about the different places I had sailed, and started counting the States. There were about a dozen; enough to think it would be fun to try and sail in all 50. Maybe I was all wet, but many people try and visit all 50 states, and other’s try to visit all of the pro baseball or football stadiums, but to my knowledge, none have sailed in all of the States. My rules were simple: sail on any ocean, navigable lake, river, bay; on any sailing craft > dinghy, yacht, one design, windsurfer, etc. I thought that it may take 20 years > and I wasn’t far off.
Experience told me many sailboat racer’s would welcome experienced crew on race day, as there is usually a racer that is short crew for whatever reason. So I surfed the web for active racing in the areas where I planned to vacation or for business travel . Most of my research for rental boats, local races, sailing clubs & yacht club race officers was done online, and I was fortunate enough to meet a lot of friendly sailors by hitching a ride on race day. Almost half of the states were visited for races. Eventually, I leveraged my quest as a way to get onboard non racing boats too.
When I mention my “bucket list” quest to people, the first thing they ask is “have you done Hawaii and Alaska?” I had sailed in Hawaii in 1982 and a 2013 family vacation on a cruise ship from Vancouver, Canada to Anchorage, Alaska. I had met (online) a member (coincidently from Michigan) of the Alaska Sailing Club and he was game to go out on “Big Lake” on his 22’ Ensign. I showed up at the club on a rainy Saturday morning. I had a sinking feeling that sailing was going to be a bust; and that I was going to have to figure out a way to get back to Alaska, because it sure was a rotten day to sail. Fortunately, Alaskan’s are hearty souls as my host said a little rain won’t hurt us and off we went.
By 2015 it became obvious that I would not get to all of the States by hitting only 1-2 states per year. By then I was in my mid 60’s with 17 States to go. It was time for Plan B. I purchased a Catalina Capri 14.2‘ and convinced a non-sailing friend to help me on my “Great Midwest Sailing Tour” to travel to 5 states in USA’s Heartland. The five day trip took in Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Missouri. It was exhausting: Travel half the day to a lake. Rig & launch the boat, go for a sail, de-rig & pull the boat – get it road ready and repeat for 4 more days. A few weeks later, my wife & I took another road trip that checked off Tennessee, Alabama, and Mississippi. 2016 was a visit to Lake Pleasant in Arizona & a race on a Hobie 33.
In 2017 I checked off New Jersey & Delaware sailing the Cape to Cape races and an excellent trip to N Dakota to sail on Lake Sakakawea. Trailer sailors ought to put this location on their short list. Contact Sakakawea guru Mike Quinn ([email protected]) for info. Later that year there was a “two for one” affair racing on a J-24 in the Cape to Cape series between Cape May New Jersey and Lewes, Delaware.
In the March of 2018 there was racing on Lake Mead on a Capri 30; and in May on the Great Salt Lake I had a close call: I showed up to meet the boat owner and attend the skippers meeting; and It was blowing 25-30. Hard gusts were coming through the mountains and the lake was solid whitecaps. As I was walking up to the pavilion, I just knew the race was going to be called off… And it was. The winds blew enough of the water out of the harbor that the Santana 30-30 we were to sail could not get out of the marina. I was thinking “I just spent a whole day traveling 1600 miles (not to mention airfare) and I won’t get to sail!”
Luckily, one of the crew members owned a Catalina 27 that could get out of the harbor; and the owner was game to sail. By the time we threw off the dock lines, the wind began to abate and we were able to have a really good ride. That was cut short a bit when storms rolled back in through the mountains creating some interesting 90-degree wind shifts and a nasty looking sky with rain & gusty winds.
The final leg of bucket list took me to Rhode Island and Connecticut. Again, the sailing community came through. The son of one of the local sailors I had raced against in Michigan happened to relocate to Connecticut. We crewed together in a Mackinaw race a few years ago, and those long-distance races tend to lock in memories and acquaintances. Thanks to Steve Frazier, Connecticut and Rhode Island became the last two sails of my 17 year quest.
So, in September of 2018 my bucket is full. It wasn’t easy. It is a BIG Country.
17 years +36 different sailboats = Sail in all 50 states.
– Anarchist Al.