Sailing with SEAS

The optimism of Juneauites is a wondrous thing.


Behold: Maybe spring will come in March this year … It’s sunny today, let’s plan a Sandy Beach party for next weekend … We’ll get enough crab in the pot for the party … I’m sure the Governor will like us once she gets to know us.

Add to those common Juneau Pollyanna-isms the following: The sun is shining; the wind will be perfect for a sail.

Yes, there are few activities in Southeast Alaska that require as much optimism as sailing, and few groups who embody that optimism like the Southeast Alaska Sailing club.

Though the sailing season is only May through August, the sailors and crew members of SEAS start meeting in January to share and spread their optimism about the upcoming summer.

SEAS was founded in 2009 by Juneau sailors who wanted to see more sails out on the water. A bit evangelical, they feel more sails means more converts following wind and wave, more devotees at the Inside Passage revival. Because the traditional sailing club stereotype has no place in SEAS, there are no white deck shoes or yacht-side cocktail soirees. At their March 7 Sailor Talk, there was a pile of XtraTufs at the door while skippers showed slides of weekend trips, mapping the best sailing, whale watching spots and impressive crab pot hauls. Beer, chips, and A&P chicken legs kept the diverse attendees happy.

According to SEAS members, the group diversity is intentional and important. They want sailors of every level of experience, and those with none. They want established boat owners and new boat owners, as well as those who only dream of it. They want couples, individuals and families; adults and kids, men and women at the helm and lines. They want folks learning the intricacies and details of sailing and boat ownership, and folks inspired by a wind-powered day on the water.

And, judging by the Sailor Talk audience, they’re succeeding. After slide shows and talk of preparing your boat for the season, conversation over the beer and chips included the feeling of camaraderie SEAS offers. One couple, new live-aboard sailboat owners, returned for their second meeting because the group is open and friendly, and offers knowledge and resources. Another woman admitted that a sailboat, though dreamed of, is not on her horizon so she tries to crew as often each summer as her busy work schedule allows. Longer term members expressed interest in racing, others in cruising with family and friends. Most appreciate the fact that SEAS offers both.

To kick off the 2012 sailing season, SEAS has planned a party/sail combo (a common pairing for SEAS, looking at their race schedule). The Spring SEAS Party will be held at a Sandy Beach shelter on May 4, from 4:30-9 p.m. Following, on May 5, they’ll hold the DuPont Shakedown Rendezvous to motivate skippers to get out their boats early in the season. What better than a morning sail along Gastineau Channel, getting the kinks out of your back and your boat, followed by a 2 p.m. raft-up barbeque at DuPont Cove? If folks can’t come by sail, they can drive out Thane, hike to DuPont and catch a skiff to the sailboats.

After that opening weekend, here’s the SEAS Cup race schedule:

May 13: Skippers’ Choice #1, day sail from Marmion Island and back.

May 26-28: Jay Ginter Memorial Day Regatta to Taku Harbor and dock party (see what I mean? What’s not to love about the sail/party plan!)

June 9: Admiralty Cove Race, barbeque

July 7: Skippers’ Choice #2, day sail from Marmion.

July 21-23: Funter Bay Race, from Auke Bay, with a day relaxing in Funter.

August 4: Skippers’ Choice #3, day sail from Marmion.

August 18-19: Admiralty Cove Rally, beach party

September 1-3: Labor Day Regatta to Taku Harbor, dock party

Another sailing event sponsored by SEAS in 2012 is the SEAS AIR (Admiralty Island Rally) from June 16-24. You may have heard of the annual Around Admiralty sailing race historically sponsored by the Juneau Yacht Club. Now called the Spirit of Admiralty this race is sponsored by SEAS and will be held on odd numbered years, while the SEAS AIR will be held on even numbered years. The decision to alternate the races comes out of the SEAS goal of including and educating as many sailors as possible.

What’s the difference between the two? Although the routes are similar — both circumnavigate Admiralty Island — the intensity of sailing is different. The traditional Spirit of Admiralty runs in two legs, from Auke Bay to a layover at Warm Springs Bay, then back around Admiralty to Auke Bay. The waters of the Inside Passage require good sailing skills on the best of days, but sailing constantly for 122 nautical miles out and 94 back requires advanced seamanship, lots of coffee, and a hot-berthed overnight crew.

The Admiralty Island Rally, on the other hand, allows cruising sailors, and those with families on board, to spend days racing and evenings moored, socializing with other crews and enjoying the breathtaking Inside Passage. The AIR is run in six legs (seven if you include the run from boat to bath in Warm Springs) and though it starts at Auke Bay, it ends in the Gastineau Channel, where most of Juneau’s sailboats are docked. Don’t mistake, though, the racing legs of AIR are challenging and competitive, and the Spirit racers get to enjoy nature’s magnificence throughout their adventure, too. This is Alaska, after all. But SEAS wanted to offer different paces, different flavors of sailing, to entice more people to get out on the water for the longest inland water race on the West Coast.

Visit for the SEAS calendar or to join. If you want to crew, you can sign up to get notices for sailing opportunities, especially the SEAS Wednesday evening Get Out the Boat sails that start May 9. If you have an unfulfilled dream of sailing, a sailboat that’s growing seaweed in the harbor, or just want to see Southeast Alaska from a different view, Southeast Alaska Sailors wants you. Because, as a woman at the Sailor Talk said, SEAS is filled with people of heart and, of course, optimism.

• Sarah Lewis is an architect, writer, and co-owner and crew of the S/V Tango, Juneau.


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