Sailing Alaska means often finding remote anchorages like Driftwood Bay in Day Harbor. The bay, southeast of Seward, provides incredible beach combing and towering peaks for goat viewing. Photo by Melissa Bradley.
I was recently asked by a friend: If I could travel anywhere in the world right now, where would I go? With that prompt, I imagined the smells and tastes of the places that have always called to my inner culinary explorer and ancestral roots—Italy or Greece.
While I departed on a brief and fun adventure in my mind, I came back to the same realization I do every time: Our family vacations every weekend in the most beautiful place in the world. Why would we need to go anywhere else?
Each year, as I juggle a busy job and two kiddos, I somehow manage to make the most of an Alaskan summer that comes and goes in a blink. From sheer repetition or desperation to maximize the asset of warm months of weather, our family has traveled this weekend warrior path so frequently that we can run it with our eyes closed. The duffles and boat bags live in the laundry room and arctic entry where they remain in perpetual states of unpacked and almost packed. Our six-year-old, Amelia, checks if I packed her journal/specific art supply/sketch pad and reminds me to pack her warm socks this time. The text thread between my husband and me vibrates with pictures and posts from the past weekend and vague plans and lists for the next one. It’s chaotic and organized all at the same time: the house is never very clean, the laundry is never done, the piles of gear are never fully put away.
And yet, each weekend we pull it off. We find the most beautiful escape, one that recharges our spirits, no matter how often we sail away. We don’t need to purchase plane tickets or spend hours researching a destination. Our itinerary is controlled by the marine forecast, and our beach bags are packed with the essentials: bear and bug sprays. We drive two hours south and let the stress and noise of the work world melt into the mountains and tide that lead us to Seward.
If you’ve visited Seward or explored Resurrection Bay, you understand the palpable magic it houses between its steep peaks. As we arrive at the harbor, the anticipation is magnified by adding or shedding layers to match the weather. We load up all our gear, and Wilder, our four-year-old, pulls the wagon down the ramp. Within moments of arriving, our kids don their life jackets and are ready to climb aboard our sailboat, Blown Away.
The time between unloading the car and pushing off from the dock is usually full of the same themes. Tourists ask us if our dog, Koala, is part wolf. (Maybe.) The kids get asked if they need help walking down the ramp. (No, thanks.) Fisherpeople step over Amelia and Wilder, who decorate the float with chalk as we prep the boat. Chatty visitors walking the docks want to know how long we’ve lived in Alaska, why we moved here, why we stay. Some of them are finally visiting Alaska for the first time with their grandchildren and occasionally, the most honest of them all, say they wish they hadn’t waited so long, and they admire us for making adventure our family’s priority. I always tell them I agree, that life is too short to wait for that big trip. Dedication to balance has allowed us to follow our dreams and chase the wind, while still maintaining jobs and security for our family.
Every weekend illuminates different reasons why we love our beautiful home. When Dall’s porpoise play at our bow and the kids scream in delight, I marvel at how lucky they are. The beaches we visit provide rocks and trees to climb, sand to build with, streams to play in, and tide pools to be explored. We can catch food from the sea and pick snacks from bushes. Our souvenirs are unique rocks, shells, and driftwood that we use to adorn our garden in Anchorage. We meet old friends and make new ones, because when you’re surrounded by so much beauty, everyone is friendly and ready to share stories.
My ideal vacation encompasses seclusion, incredible cuisine, and sunshine. Most weekends, I’m more than happy with at least two out of those three elements. While we’ve been fortunate to spend multiple weeks at a time sailing around Prince William Sound, feasting on shrimp, hiking and exploring, it’s the weekend treks that keep our everyday wanderlust fulfilled. Every Alaskan dreams of tropical beaches and hot sun, but I’m increasingly aware of my desire to be the only boat anchored in a remote cove, without phone service. When my best friend visited recently from Colorado, she remarked on the awe-inspiring solitude and privacy of our frequent anchorages. She reminded me that Alaska embodies wild and unfettered spaces, and that sometimes the most memorable trips are the ones without strict itineraries or plans, places where only the wind and waves guide you.