Family Magazine

Summer in Seattle, After Detour to NY for the TODAY Show!

By Behan Gifford @sailingtotem

Summer in Seattle, after detour to NY for the TODAY show!

Fireworks flashed in the distance last night as the Bainbridge Island ferry pushed through Puget Sound’s dark water. This was supposed to be our last leg for summer travel back to the Seattle area, the culmination of a plan crafted in minutes while in Grenada last fall after learning Totem’s hull needed drying out. Instead, we’re headed to New York soon to tape an appearance on NBC’s Megyn Kelly TODAY. Holy exciting plan shakeups, batman!  Our interview is due to air next Monday, July 9, and we hope you’ll tune in.

How did this come together? Kicked off by a contact through this blog, followed by a broken phone call with a producer in NY as the Baja’s Sierra Gigante mountains interfered with the cell phone signal in our anchorage. Details finally worked out, plans shifted, and a couple of days ago an initial interview was recorded on a California beach with the gentle warmth of Lauren Ina and a great supporting crew.

Summer in Seattle, after detour to NY for the TODAY show!

It’s a little intimidating to think of the scrutiny this will bring. It’s been six years since our first taste of the mixed response from broad exposure after NY Times columnist Nicholas Kristof tweeted/Facebooked about our family. His post was entirely positive, as were many comments in response, but it’s remarkable what ugliness the anonymous uninformed are ready to throw at you! You know what? We can deal with it. The opportunity to inspire others to live more adventurously, and show just how accessible it is for people who feel stuck in their lives to make a change, is too good to pass up. Maybe we’ll even be able to help a few of them!

For now we’re in a vortex of busy travel. After tens of thousands of miles at the moseying pace of a sailboat, we hit hyper speed this week with a whirlwind of busses, planes, and automobiles… the final ferry transit adding a dose of familiarity on the water… the cross-country trip still ahead.

As much as I miss rocking in our floating cradle at night, we’re overdue for time at home. At least we can rest easy with Totem’s location in the very far north of the Sea of Cortez. Hurricanes are the northern hemisphere sailor’s worry this time of year. But Totem is hauled at Rocky Point Boat Yard, aka Cabrales yard, safely north of named storm risk in the shrimping port of Puerto Peñasco.

Summer in Seattle, after detour to NY for the TODAY show!

It was an intense week of work preparing to go. The boat’s bottom was stripped down to bare fiberglass. We weren’t just packing ourselves up for months away, we were packing anything Niall wanted to bring with him as he moves off Totem to start college. Boatyard owner/manager Salvador Cabrales’ guidance and crew made it possible to get everything done quickly.

Totems bare hull

Totems bare hull in the Cabrales Boatyard

Packing up the boat for months unattended is a big job. One task is removing any food that could tempt pests. Even after significantly reducing our stores, a lot had to come off the boat. One of the security guards, Amador, provided a channel to limit food waste. After telling us about where he lives – “the real Rocky Point,” an impoverished community near the garbage dump where some lives are eked out by picking trash and dogs are used for protection, a door opened. We passed him about 50 pounds of food and several bags of clothes to be re-homed, while relieving our excess.

Summer in Seattle, after detour to NY for the TODAY show!

We’ve been in 48 countries/territories: Tijuana scores the creepiest, most intimidating border crossing EASILY.

Relatives near San Diego were the first stop on our way to Puget Sound with cheap seats on 4th of July flights. Getting to California from Peñasco involved an overnight bus to Tijuana, a forgettable ride with uncomfortable seats and regular stops (including disembarkation of the vehicle at 4am for a military search) that made sleeping a struggle. Walking across the border was the easiest (if eeriest) part, through a cage-like tunnel to homeland security checkpoints. A few days under Dan & Hillary’s care provided the perfect gentle landing, softening re-entry into the bustle of the USA. We love our cousins and are so grateful for their support!

Summer speaking

This summer in the Pacific Northwest is a gift, one we hadn’t anticipated until Totem’s condition made it the obvious choice. I can’t wait to reconnect with friends and family, most of whom we haven’t seen in the decade since we left. A decade!?!? I only blinked, I swear! (And that, truly, is another reason not to wait with whatever it is you’re planning/dreaming).

Summer in Seattle, after detour to NY for the TODAY show!

When we were in the planning/dreaming stages for our own cruising life, attending presentations and seminars from the people who made it, who got away and sailed for a blue horizon, were important to keeping the dream alive until it could be our turn.

Now, it’s our turn to give back. Jamie and I have a number of speaking engagements around the Pacific Northwest this summer. We can’t wait to share our stories, to pass the spark and nuge those in our wake. Maybe you’d like to come to one?

  • July 12: Seattle Yacht Club at 7pm. “10 years around the world” – all welcome, registration required. (206) 325-1000
  • July 24: private talk in Ballard. Practical advice for cruisers turning left from the Strait: get in touch if you’re interested.
  • September 7-9: Wooden Boat Festival. Presenting all three days; for details, see Festival website.
  • Sept. 11: Bluewater Cruising Association – Vancouver, BC
  • September 14: Seattle’s Corinthian Yacht Club
  • September 18: Shilshole Bay Yacht Club
  • September 21: Puget Sound Cruising Club – Destination focus: unexpected gems along our path around the world.

Meanwhile, returning to Puget Sound for the summer gives us even more reach to help gonna-go cruisers in person, a rewarding addition to our coaching service. Jamie’s expertise is available for on board for sail handling or sail/rig inspection. We can do 1:1 guidance about systems or gear choices/setup. My personal favorite: route planning! Affordable rates, plus travel costs – get in touch, and we’ll look forward to meeting you.

Summer in Seattle, after detour to NY for the TODAY show!


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