We ran into Naomi Spar on the piers of Sitka, Alaska, while they were driving their adventure touring bike over the dock, and onto the worn deck of their sailboat—a sloop named The Raven. The scene was so exceptional that we had to ask them their story and how they came to be navigating the waters of Alaska with a motorbike strapped to their foredeck. They gave us a tale of navigating the Inside Passage, a lawless, mystery-ridden trail ground that so many prospectors had conquered before them.
“During COVID, I felt like I needed to go on my own personal sail to Alaska because I was missing something in the merchant marine and the commercial fishing fleet. The deep end of the pool is available to all of us. It’s a pursuit of the human spirit, applying the lessons of the Inside Passage to our own lives. Sailing is all about knowing how to manipulate energy and potential energy, and I needed to do that; otherwise, Alaska would wash away every part of me and my, boat the Raven.
My journey to Alaska got real when I was on the hard, and a shipwright pounded through my rotten deck, around the mast, busting a hole in my new boat. “Imagine waves crashing down, blowing your deck in until your mast falls into the ocean.” The spar got pulled out, and an eight-foot hole was cut in the deck almost immediately following that conversation. I’d never done woodworking, or even had the tools I would need to start. So naturally, I rented a crane and got the local yard kids together. From our fire in the belly, and strong mentors in the community, the whole rig was rebuilt and structural pieces of the boat holding the spar upright were repaired using faith more than calculated details. Brion Toss showed me how to not just rely on math and gauges to tune my rig but to trust my intuition. We tightened the rigging down and plucked the rods like we were tuning a guitar. A forty-foot-long, sixty-foot-tall ocean racing guitar!
“The deep end of the pool is available to all of us. It’s a pursuit of the human spirit, applying the lessons of the inside passage
to our own lives”
Reaching the proving grounds of the Inside Passage, or Narnia, brings very real hazards that you learn to overcome. My friend Julie and I sailed into Seymour Narrows, known for taking more than a hundred NW seafaring souls. When a lively whirlpool fifty feet wide has surfaced below your home, you hear swallows of air engulfed by the current, pulling downward with a wild amount of force, leaving only an eerie darkness on the surface that your eyes can’t hold onto. Once the Raven reached Cape Caution and traveled all the way to SE Alaska, we hoisted up our largest racing sails, with each crank on the headsail sheet burying the topside in the ocean and increasing the hull length, creating its own potential energy. You can feel the frustration of buoyancy between the ten-thousand-pound fin hanging below, and the powerful gusts of nature above. That balance of energy is transferred to the tips of your fingers for you to interpret.
Now that the Raven had reached its homeland, the Alaskan spirit was strong and the harbormaster in Sitka helped me ride onto the dock and head off to our largest national forest in the U.S., the Tongass. Here, we have opportunities to challenge ourselves, pack rafts down glacier rivers, and learn to coexist with the whales and bears. Watching incredible natural greens and blues pop in the rain forest canopy, dodging ice bergs with your friends, it’s your responsibility to learn the rules before they are broken.”