Alan Niles: Blog en-us (C) Alan Niles [email protected] (Alan Niles) Mon, 16 Mar 2020 07:15:00 GMT Mon, 16 Mar 2020 07:15:00 GMT Alan Niles: Blog 120 119 Magical Encounter with Transient Orca Recently I had the privilege of sharing a special encounter with three families of Transient Orca along with a family of six aboard my good ship “Imagine”, one of the fine vessels I captain for Maya’s Legacy Whale Watching. It was a unique and rare encounter in that we were able to witness a “greeting ceremony”.   

A group headed south T36’s and 46’s, lined up fin to fin on the surface to meet the northern traveling group T99’s, who reciprocated with a similar pattern.  The whales remained at the surface without submerging for a good minute or more, facing off, not swimming, breathing audibly from where we watched 300 yards away.  Suddenly a tail slap by the T36’s and then an answering slap by the 99’s and it was game on!  The three families blended into a mass of orca, breaching, tail slapping, cartwheels and spy hopping.  

They quickly made a kill as evidenced by the gulls picking up scraps on the surface.  After 20 minutes of social play and presumably prey sharing, they charged south with buoyant energy.  Continuing to breach, and slap and roll as they travelled down the shoreline they exhibited behavior more a kin to resident orca than typically stealthy transients.   Some even saw some “excited males” which is to be expected during social encounters like this.  Males stay with their mothers so mating happens when families get together.  Who knows, mark your calendars for 17 months and check back on these clans we may have calf                                                                                                                .


As we finished our trip with this family they were rounding Turn Island and their sunlit blows erupted into an explosion of a million stars over each whale and drifted down like fairy dust.  

It might as well have been diamonds though for we all felt so much richer for the experience of being near these special social beings. 

Capt. Alan Niles

link to more images from this encounter


To see the rest of the images from the trip go to the gallery at
To book a trip call me or check out 



[email protected] (Alan Niles) T36 T46 T99 Sun, 26 Mar 2017 20:09:25 GMT
Encore Sail to San Francisco Encore Sail to San Francisco

I set sail from Olympia, the southernmost tip of the Inside Passage to Alaska. Along the way, I would occasionally run across another cruiser who had begun their journey much farther south.  Portland, San Francisco and San Diego were the most common ports of departure.  I use the word common lightly, as the total of these meetings was fewer than 10.  Each time I found it hard to imagine making the ocean passage, in order to get to the protected waters that I was now challenged with.  Indeed, these inside waters have their own set of unique challenges, but the ocean, with its wide open space and seemingly infinite power, is a thing of awe and wonder like no other.  Perhaps one day I’d have the gumption to go out there and try it myself, I thought.  



My chance came sooner than I had imagined.  While having dinner aboard another boat in Glacier Bay, the skipper mentioned that his wife was getting off the boat in Poulsbo, Washington, and he would need crew to get back to San Francisco.  Without hesitation I threw up my hand and said, “I’ll go!”  I instantly regretted my hastiness.  What was I saying?  They call that stretch of water “the grave yard of the Pacific”.  I’d read many a tale that says it is the worst patch of ocean. Many global circumnavigators swear that the Pacific coast is the most challenging portio

n of a trip around the world.  Most of the harbors are blocked by bars, shallow areas that cause strong tide rips and large waves as the energy from the ocean is suddenly concentrated from 10,000 foot depths down to 300 feet.  The Columbia River bar is one of the most notorious of all.  The Coast Guard trains there with their specially designed, powerful self-righting cutters.  Ships designed to be rolled.  Sailboats are self-righting too, but the consequences tend to be more severe.  



The reality is, though, if I want to ever go anywhere, I’m going to have to sail that stretch of water, so I might as well get used to it.  Seven weeks after that fateful dinner in Glacier Bay, I arrived back in Olympia.  Two weeks after that, I met up with Lou and Patrice on their boat, Sonamara.  Lou had found another volunteer along the way, so we had a total of three aboard for the passage south.



My crew mate Vincent had also sailed the passage earlier in the year.  He did it mostly solo in his 30 foot Cat rigged Nonsuch 30. He had other offshore experience including sailing overnight solo from Haida Gwaii. Lou's boat, Sonamara, is a 45 foot cutter rigged Island Packet.  The skipper had sailed her up himself, as well as having sailed halfway around the world in a Westsail 32 at one time.  I felt good that we had a good crew and a good ship.



We left early on the morning of Sept 14.  The wind was light and the current against us.  We motored through the gathering clouds and light drizzle.  The iron genny moved us along at 6.5 knots all day.  At Point Wilson we found thick fog and calm seas.  The veil over the tranquil straits belied the dangers of the active shipping lanes.  Our AIS and radar showed blips moving at 18 knots from a variety of directions.  We would only hear their fog horns as 

they came within a couple miles.   During the night, ghostly apparitions would pass by within a quarter mile.  A cruise ship was lit up like a city on the water, a glowing cloud of vapor as she steamed past.  



My night watch was from 1 to 4 am.  When I took over we were 20 miles from Cape Flattery and the entrance to the Pacific.  I punched a twenty degree turn into the auto pilot to set our course across the traffic lanes and out to sea.  This was my first experience using radar.  I played with the buttons, trying to get used to selecting targets and determining closing distances and speeds and times.  There were plenty of them, so I had lots of practice.  About two hours into my watch the fog lifted just enough that I could see an amber light ahead.  I checked the radar and saw nothing that matched.  The light seemed to be low on the water.  There was still fog just a little above water level.  I was very disoriented.  It was impossible to tell how far away the light was or what it was attached to.  The fog was lit up in a bright amber glow and below it a dark line of pure blackness.  I turned the boat and throttled back to an idle.  This woke Lou who came charging to the cockpit to see what was wrong.  He instantly recognized the amber light as the big lights of a fish boat in the distance.  Just about then, the one light that had seemed so close began to resolve into 3 lights.  I could see it was a couple miles off at least.  More of these boats showed up as we came closer to the Cape.  Not knowing what kind of nets they may have had out, I gave them a wide berth.



The next day was supposed to be rather stormy near shore so we headed farther out to sea for the rest of the night and the following morning.  I took another watch around 10am and was soon greeted by a pod of orca cruising past.  We were motor sailing with full sail into darkening clouds.  I could see the cells building in patches around the boat.  Before long I started to see lighting strikes.  We secured electronics in the oven and the microwave.  We steered away from each cell as it built in front of us or threatened to veer into our path.  At one point, lighting struck right in front of the boat.  I felt like we were a running-back, ducking and dodging through a line of tacklers, looking for a hole to the end zone. We turned 90 degrees to port.  It really didn’t matter if we were headed in the right direction for San Francisco, as long as we were headed away from the lightning.  



Soon,  a pod of dolphins joined us and surfed along side the boat.  It felt as if they were saying, “this way guys, follow us”.  We sailed past another large group of dolphins jumping and frolicking and appearing to be in a f

eeding frenzy.    Shortly after, the lightning abated and we were able to resume a proper course.



The next couple days were a blur.  We motored mostly. We tried to sail, but light SW wind and confused seas made it difficult.  The night of the 18th the wind finally decided to cooperate and I pulled out the Genoa during my night watch.  This was the beginning of a lot of good sailing.  From then on we sailed with a variety of configurations.  We did some wing on wing with the staysail, we reached fast with full sail.  We flew the spinnaker during some light air, keeping the boat going at over 5 knots. 



Rounding Cape Mendocino, we consistently had 7 foot sea and winds over 25 knots.  We had top speeds of 8.9 knots and averaged over 7.2.  We were racing a storm front that was supposed to be bringing a cold weather and SW winds and rain.  If all went well, though, we would be able to get to the Golden gate about 6 hours before the storm hit.  That was a pretty tight window.  



During the night of the twentieth, the full moon lit up the sea. I took my watch at 1am where I soon found that I was surrounded by dolphins.  I counted at least 20.  They spent the next two hours surfing along with the boat.  Some rode the bow wave, others just swam alongside the boat.  Now and then, I’d see one dart away, probably chasing a fish spooked up by the boat. It was a magical experience, alone with these graceful animals in the moonlight, surrounded by the wind and the sea.  



 As it worked out, the wind began to shift as we made our way toward the Farallones.  This shift gave us fog and lighter wind.  It also apparently gave lighter winds on the race course of the America's cup as Team New Zealand was about to defeat Oracle but the race timed out, leading to a history making comeback that we got to witness in the coming week.


As we entered the shipping lanes toward the Golden Gate, the fog lifted and the wind built back up.  We had 18 knots on a broad reach.  I looked at Lou and then at the spinnaker and said we could fly it.  I’m not sure if he agreed or just didn’t disagree, but that was enough.  I was on the foredeck getting it set up.  



We were missing slack and it was a big tide on a full moon.  We were facing a 4.5 knot current at the Gate.  We needed all the power we could get to push Sonamara’s 25k pound displacement against that stream.  Lou’s big, custom designed, asymmetric flew powerfully in the freshening breeze.  The boat moved at over 7 knots through the water.  Lou did a great job hand steering to keep the sail full in the shifty winds under the gate.  The big ebb tossed up a little sea against the wind.  It was a dramatic and memorable

entry into San Francisco bay.  A line-up of tankers piled in behind us. They had probably been waiting off shore, as the bay had been restricted for transit during the America's cup racing. 



We jibed in front of a big tanker as we made our turn for Sausalito.  We found a spot at a marina and tied up.  A few hours later the wind came roaring into the bay.  The rain came in buckets and it snowed in the mountains.  The America's cup race was canceled the next day.  We had just made it before the storm.



The following days were spent sightseeing, and watching the AC 72’s scream across the bay with Oracle winning race after race.  We had a great sail of our own to Sonamara’s home port in the South bay.  Of course we gave the ship a good, well-deserved scrubbing after a long and successful voyage that Lou had begun back in April. 



We traveled just under 1000 nautical miles and averaged 6.8 knots.  The trip took 7 days and 6 nights non-stop.  I feel very fortunate to have had a calm passage and sturdy boat with a good skipper and good crew.  We were blessed with dolphins, porpoise, whales, tuna, flying fish, and sunfish, along with full moon rises at sunset.  We had good wind, sun, and following seas, pretty much everything a sailor could ask for.  It was a perfect conclusion to an amazing summer of cruising the west coast. 

[email protected] (Alan Niles) Mon, 07 Oct 2013 19:36:06 GMT
Inside Story of the Inside Passage  

Genesis to Revelations

The Inside Story of the Inside Passage

Anchored in Reid inlet Glacier Bay


In April of 2011 I went sailing for the first time. It was a 3 week trip covering 300 miles from the Everglades to Key West and back.  I fell in love with sailing from the first hour.  Five months later I found Genesis in Friday Harbor.  Something about the boat just resonated with me.  Even the name suggested a great new beginning for me.   May 6 of this year I left on a trip that would turn out to be much more than a cruise.  It was an epic life experience that struck to the very depths of my soul.  When someone says “how was your trip?”  I just say, “Awesome!”   The truth is so much more complicated.  In this article I’ll try and explain just five experiences that made the trip so meaningful. 


One : A far greater sense of self confidence.  I had planned on having crew for the whole trip.  But at the last minute my crew bailed.  I had never singlehanded for more than a day sail.  I had never even considered doing the trip solo.  I almost canceled.  But for reasons I didn’t understand at the time, I suddenly decided to just go and see how far I’d get.  I threw out all itineraries and plans.  I was just going sailing day by day.   


Each plan was  built on the previous days success.  The days began to pile up and the miles flowed under the keel, I checked off one “first” after another.  I began to believe that I was capable of doing more and going farther.   I rode out a gale in an anchorage in Prince Rupert then timed a weather window for a perfect crossing of Dixon Entrance to Ketchikan and for the first time I could say with confidence, “I was going to Juneau!”  


Two: I learned that there is an intelligence greater than my own.  You know how many people say their best ideas come first thing in the morning, or last thing at night or sitting on the toilet?  Well those are all quiet times.  Times when you let the world go and your mind is still.  Sailing alone I lived in that state and consequently I was open to “ideas” all the time.  Where does inspiration come from?  I don’t know. God, universal conciseness, or whatever.  I know it can’t be simply my brain.  


Many times I was nervous about one thing or another.  So I dealt with it by breathing, being grateful, appreciating beauty, and loving everything.  Hymns from a church I had not gone to for years would pop into my head and without noticing I’d be humming some song over and over.  Suddenly I’d realize what I was doing and when I’d listen to the words consciously they would be pertinent and profound.  Here are a few snippets, “It matters not what be thy lot for Love doth guide,” “From sense to Soul my pathway lies before me from mist and shadow into Truths clear day”  “And o’er earth’s troubled, angry sea, I see Christ walk,  and come to me, and tenderly, Divinely talk.” there were many more but the point is I felt I was given inspiration and guidance as I needed it.  I didn’t worry or stress.  


Please don’t misunderstand, I also did not just blithely sail along with no regard to the tools of seamanship.  I used my charts, books computers, internet when possible, radio weather reports, and other sailors.  However I also came to find that all these tools are mistaken at times.   At times every one of these resources was wrong. Obviously the weather was up for debate, the chart had misplaced rocks and unmarked shoals, other boaters opinions at times were good at times not so good and often lacked detail, and the guide book had mistakes as well.  And lets be honest sometimes I just misread or misheard or forgot something. So I used the tools but then allowed my heart to be open to direction.  


As the trip turned days into weeks, I had many experiences when I suddenly “felt” that I should take action, such as, reef now, or sail now, or anchor right here.  There are so many little moments like this that I can’t discount that I was being guided by an intelligence greater than my own.  I’m not that good.   I didn’t acknowledge what was happening fully until the day I arrived in Ketchikan and talked to another cruiser who had come across Dixon 4 days earlier.  They crossed based on a good weather report.  I was planning to cross on that same day.  But when I got up to go, I just didn’t feel it was right.  I stayed despite others leaving and the favorable forecast, even though I knew it might be my only chance for at least 4 days.  It turns out the forecast was all wrong and they had the worst crossing in 14 years of cruising.  The beating they took even broke their radar.  I enjoyed a nice day being very productive fixing some issues on Genesis and then sitting out the next storm in Pillsbury cove.  Sitting by my little diesel furnace I read during the worst of the storm. During lulls I visited with other cruisers, and beach-combed for petroglyphs.  It was all very pleasant and when I did leave I had perfect conditions and a fast crossing.


Three: People are so nice. If you put out love you get love.  The law of reciprocity, or whatever you want to call it is true.  You can bring good things and experiences into your life if you expect it.  I met nothing but kind and generous folks both on the water and in towns along the whole trip.  From invites aboard yachts for potlucks, to locals offering rides, to shop owners helping with repairs, to fisherman offering fish, everyone had a smile and an open heart.  At first it felt like I could not give back enough.  I received so much, but soon it was clear that kindness could never cost them or me.  



Four: This brings me to the fourth big revelation and that is the power of gratitude.  This one is still something that I’m trying to grasp but I do know that a big part of receiving good is being grateful for what you have.  So when a cruiser would offer me a dinner or something far greater than I could repay, I would make a point of clearing my mind of the temptation for guilt, or for even declining a kind offer because it was “too much to ask”.  They offered willingly and with love and I believe that such an act can never deplete them.  As it turns out I was able to repay in very large ways many of these kind acts.  I was able to photograph their boats in dramatic scenes, against glaciers, or nosing up to a giant waterfall, or sitting at anchor with perfect reflections and sailing under spinnaker.  I was able to pay it forward by diving a boat who’s prop was tangled in a crab trap.  I buddy boated with another cruiser, going first down a very narrow and shallow twisting rock and kelp choked passage called Rocky Pass.  I also ended up crewing for one skipper to help him sail home from Puget Sound to San Francisco. 


Five:  If you need it you’ll have it.  However if you worry about it and stress over the possible loss of something or lack of something then you will likely experience that very lack.  An example... I had decided that I needed to change the oil in my gear case on my 9.9 hp engine.  This is my boats one and only motor by the way.  In Ketchikan my crew and I went straight to the outboard shop.  I was going to buy oil and figure out a way to remove the engine from the boat, including disconnecting all the controls, lift it off the mount, find a new place to mount it vertical and change the gear oil.  I had never done it before, didn’t know how to do it, and am not very mechanical.  But I felt it needed to be done.  The guy that serviced the engine before I left told me not to worry about it until I got back.  However I felt without a doubt I needed to change the oil right then.  

The whole story is a bit involved but the punch line is that I have no mechanical knowledge but was given the right person with the right info exactly at the right time to get the job done.  In addition my gear cable that had been cracking broke as we finished the job and the shop we were at had one of the exact cables we needed to replace it.  


These are just a few of the many “revelations” I experienced on the passage.  I was successful in sailing to Juneau solo and then on to Glacier Bay and home with the help of crew.  Sailing south as skipper was a fun contrast to being solo.  The new dynamic of three guys on a 27 foot boat created opportunity for a whole new set of “Revelations”.  


Authors note:

The trip totaled 2879 nm in 110 days.  Farthest point North and West was Grand Pacific Glacier at Lat 59 N and 136 W.  I sailed about 900 of the 1450 miles north and about 700 of the 1400 miles south.  I’m a professional photographer and have assembled a nice slide show of the trip.  I’ll be available to do presentations in the near future.  Contact me if you have a group that would be interested in seeing and hearing about sailing BC and SE Alaska.

[email protected] (Alan Niles) Fri, 04 Oct 2013 18:25:10 GMT
One Year of Racing

This weekend marks the first anniversary of my forte’ into sailing races.  Last year my first race was on the longest and most well attended race in the South Sound: Toliva Shoal.  This is a 36.8 mile race if completed in full and covers six major passages and several narrows.  The 18 hour time limit means you could face three tidal exchanges with up to 18 feet of water being flushed thru in a six hour cycle and currents running up to 5 knots.  


Last year I was a brand new crew on a J 35 that had a reputation both for winning and for getting into accidents.  The year before they T boned another boat a six knots almost sinking it.  The year I was on it the skipper was out sick and we had a make shift crew consisting of six folks who mostly didn’t know each other hadn’t sailed together and two of us, myself and my son, had never even raced.  In the end we took 3rd in our division which was a very competitive division.  How we did it, frankly I had no clue.  Most of the time I was just trying to remember the names and locations of the lines to adjust and not get yelled at.  


Fast forward one year and I’ve sailed over 30 races including 9 on my own boat, Genesis.  I’ve learned a lot but now I’m just getting to the point of being able to start learning the details that make the difference between just getting there and getting there first.  


This year the fleet sailed a challenging race due to light winds on the nose and opposing currents in a high current zone.  Erratic boulders near the tidal zone made for sketchy near shore tacking while trying to find eddies that give current relief.  These combination of factors meant that we did not sail far very fast so the race was shortened significantly to allow the slower boats to finish just after dark.  


So far Genesis and crew have had the pleasure of sailing races in all kinds of conditions  from wild downwind spinnaker runs with twenty knot winds to upwind battles into 40 plus knot gusts as well as whisper light weather, where the reflections of spinnakers mirror off the water in almost perfect duplication of the real thing.  This race offered an opportunity for a new challenge.  Like sneaking thru the gates of a guarded fortress we had to find the route thru the current along the shore line without losing wind to power the sails, and tacking away from land before the keel found one of the big boulders left behind by the ice age that formed the Puget Sound thousands of years ago.


I’m pleased to announce that we managed to negotiate the challenge.  Although not as well (meaning not as fast) as some, we did manage to do it  faster than almost half the fleet.  And not too far behind the veterans who are typically on top.  I’m very happy with my crew and our results but I am seeing a pattern.  


After the race I spoke with the winner of our division.  A gentleman I had the pleasure of sailing with once before.  He told me his story and suddenly it was clear.  He told me that although he sailed since he was eight, he plateaued quickly having only learned from his dad and then being self taught.  It wasn’t until sailing with a  champion that he discovered that there are fine tuning strategies and adjustments that allow the sailor to finish well consistently and not always have the excuse that the “conditions weren’t right” or the other guy got lucky.  His encouragement was to keep sailing with sailors better than you so you keep learning.  


I can see that I am running into this problem of the plateau effect.  We do ok but we could do so much better.  I think the boat is capable of it, and I take full blame for holding it back.  I am not going to settle for average.  I’ll find the mentors to help me attain the skills and knowledge to keep progressing.  All the knowledge can’t replace experience though so I’ll keep going out there and trying new things.  I’m sure some will work and some won’t.  


One year from my first race as a crew that new nothing, to skippering my own boat through some challenging situations.  It is a first step and I look forward to all the lessons to be learned over the next year.  I can’t even begin to guess at what lessons I’ll have learned a year from now but I can promise you that this rookie skipper won’t be the same.  

[email protected] (Alan Niles) Mon, 11 Feb 2013 02:43:48 GMT
Cultural Acceptance of Addiction  

You know how some people feel that you can open any book to any random page and you will hear the message the you need to hear at that moment?  The thing is you have to listen.  And when I say listen I don’t mean with you ears.  I’m not going to start preaching, or lecturing, so don’t worry.  But I’m going to tell you my experience.  And what to me was a “revelation”.  


A few weeks ago Annette and I started to read a passage from the bible every morning.  And sometimes a passage from “the Illuminated Rumi” as well.  We would just open the book and read the first passage that we turned to.  Ok to be fair sometimes we aimed at the new testament after reading a few of the darker chapters from the old testament.  But still you could say that is simply what we were guided to do to get the message we needed.  


A while after we started this we also started a 21 day detox cleanse diet.  Today is about 2 weeks after completing that diet.  And we watched a movie that to my surprise brought a number of events into perspective.  The movie was “Flight”.  A story about a pilot who landed a broken aircraft saving most of the passengers.  However he was an addict.  And refused to get help.  


I finished watching the movie and at first thought I can’t relate to that.  I’ve never been a drinker or a drug user.  I got up and took a shower getting ready for bed and as I started the shower I began to think about the morning and what I had to do.  The work that had to get done and the projects to complete.  And I thought to myself that I’ll need to get a mocha.   You know where this is going now right?  The interesting thing was the feelings that went with the thoughts.  At first thinking about the jobs to do I felt heavy, burdened and almost tired.  Thinking about the mocha, I actually was excited.  I was looking forward to it.  Not for the taste but because I knew that I’d get energized and peppy and productive.  I would wake up and zoom thru my work with focus.  


Then I thought of the pilot in the movie who drank to much to dull his pain and then snorted coke to “get right”.  What was the difference?  Legally, socially, and perhaps morally there may be a difference, and perhaps there is a difference in scale but the addiction is the same.  And suddenly I heard the messages that I had been reading over the weeks.  Messages that had made no sense until now, or passages that I’d read many times and thought I knew the meaning but didn’t make my own.  


this morning we read from Luke I think.  The parable that Jesus spoke to his desciples saying among other things that a man can not serve two masters, he cannot serve both God and Mammon.  Actually that was the second thing we read because the first thing I picked out was another of what seamed like a constant repetition of the same thing I seem to always pick which was another chapter about the heathens in Israel and how the children of judea would be victorious and blessed and how the essentially drunken partying squatters of Jerusalem where going to be smitten.  


There was a common thread that has been running thru words I’ve been reading.  And It has to do allowing things to control me like caffeine and sugar.  Even when I know they are bad for me.  I’ll crash after a mocha and be even less effective.  I’ll consume more calories and gain more weight.  I’ll eat less healthy food, robbing myself of good nutrition and healthy energy.  And lets not forget the ridiculous price.  We complain about 4 dollar a gallon gas and then pay 5 bucks for a 16 oz glass of poison.  I would know all this and in the same moment order the drink anyway.  That is an addict.  


I had gone three four weeks without a mocha.  I had one and then another today and was now planning my next one in the morning. Thats how fast it happens and how easily it is justified.  I had work to do, and I’d be more effective with caffeine.  Of course I didn’t say caffeine, I would say I just worked better around the “white noise” of a busy coffee house.  


What is more compelling to me than my personal revelation that I was an addict to Starbucks is that I was OK in the eyes of society by association.  I couldn’t be sick because everyone else is doing it and has done it for decades.  We are told its good and we “deserve” a treat.  Its refreshing, or energizing or simply makes us happy.  Now I’m not just talking about mochas now but all things that fall in the category of feel good happy foods.  How funny that is to even write.  “Feel good”, that is what we are told and that is what we feel in the short term.  But most of us know that it doesn’t last.  Soon we feel depressed, fat, tired, shaky, and if we eat too much we stand a good chance of getting some disease like diabetes or heart disease.  What is the difference between that and a smoker or an alcoholic?  


Am I going to never eat another cookie?  Or never have another mocha?  Probably not.

I do like treats.  But just as you can’t work all the time and you have to take time to play, one can enjoy some of the delicious joys of our world.  But it must be limited to a proper ratio and never allowed to control us or become expected, automatic, or habitual.   


Messages come to us in all forms and from many sources.   I’m going to try and listen more and maybe I’ll hear more and I won’t have to be taken to the slow class to watch a movie on the subject before I catch on in the future.  This is my latest Genesis to Revelations, whats next?

[email protected] (Alan Niles) Thu, 07 Feb 2013 08:49:29 GMT
Overcoming discouragement  

Today I talked with the editor of one of the major cruising guides for the inside passage.  She basically told me that I shouldn’t go in my boat.  It “wasn’t enough boat”.  That was hard to hear.  According to her I needed quite a few things that Genesis does not have.  Such as a big inboard diesel engine, radar, AIS (auto info for shipping), Epirb emergency satellite beacon, dcs radio (radio with auto distress ID), Chart plotter, radar, backup gps, and lets not forget the power to run all this, and a way to generate the power.  Imagine if she saw little Genesis!  A owner finished spartan early 80’s boat that has been sailed hard and put away wet many a time.  She’s no glamour queen is all I’m saying.


Her remarks really made me concerned about the validity of my plans and caused me to not only second guess but truly consider a much more conservative plan of sailing up to the tip of Vancouver Island.  Although that is quite an adventure, it isn’t the one that I’ve been dreaming of.  It isn’t the Great Bear Rain Forest.  And it definitely isn’t the glaciers whales, bears and wolves of the Northern passage.  I want to get beyond the range of the average Seattle recreational cruiser.  I want to photograph the rare and wild places.  The land and the see have a story to be told and I believe I can in some part tell a piece of it.  But I have to get there.


This expert with 20 years experience “cruising” the inside passage was giving a three hour talk at the boat show.  So I listened to her presentation and as I listened started to understand that we were two very different types of people.  With much different levels of comfort and security.  Also different needs for adventure.  The story the she tells of the inside is not the story that I’ll tell.  


Great and not so great explorers have plied these waters with all manor of ships for over 200 years and in canoes for thousands of years before that.  Genesis may not have the latest and greatest.  She may not be comfy or fast.  I may not be able to travel at times because nature gets in the way.  I won’t have electronics to give me super powers like ex ray vision to see through the fog, or have telepathic abilities to sense ships coming around a corner.  But some day when we can just say beam me up scotty, people will say its to dangerous to go without your matter transporter.  


Well I’m going!  I’ll be cautious, I’ll use my head, thats what it is for.  I feel lucky that I have a radio that gives me weather reports.  I often have a cell phone and the amazing information system of the web.  I have GPS, and I have paper charts.  I have a compass, I have a watch.  The last two items alone would have been miracles from the gods for sailors like Cpt. Vancouver who searched for the great NW passage in 1789.  I have the experience of all sailors who have gone before me.  I have a strong fiberglass boat with strong nylon ropes and sails designed by computer models for optimum performance.  I have so much that so many sailors would envy or would have thought total luxury.  I am rich!  I am fortunate! I am blessed!  I will go and I will tell the story that I am meant to tell.


I am grateful for this persons experience and her words of caution.  I don’t disregard it as nonsense.  The sea is not to be trifled with.  Alaska is never to be taken lightly.  And so it is with caution, respect and awe that I set out with a plan to experience all of this with Genesis, using what I have with gratitude and not missing what I don’t.  Perhaps it is the things that are missing that will allow me to see what I need to see.

[email protected] (Alan Niles) Mon, 28 Jan 2013 05:20:43 GMT
Getting the word out.  

I always new that somehow going to Alaska was going to be more meaningful than just another person going there.  After all people go by the proverbial boat load everyday in cruise ships and ferry’s and working vessels and yachts.  Most just see trees and rocks and water.  Maybe they get to see a whale or perhaps a bear and while some are impressed others are fearful but neither usually understands the delicate balance that these noble animals walk on the land and the sea.  They don’t see the salmon habitat being destroyed upstream that is weakening the salmon run and starving the bear and the orca.  The over fishing, the logging, the erosion and pollution that is the decay that eventually will rot the foundations of the last great temperate old growth rain forest.  


Studying the route and learning about the land and sea has opened my eyes as never before to the importance of standing up to the issues that the whole northwest faces.  I’m going to travel the length of the great inside passage and I believe it is my duty to give back something.  My gift is going to be to treasure this place by photographing it and sharing it with you.  My images and stories will give you personal perspective.  And I will develop a body of work that I can take to the community far after the trip is complete.  I look forward to giving shows and speaking when I return.  I am compiling a list of organizations that are fighting to protect the interests of this unique habitat.  I will do my best to make their missions known and the need for them apparent and accessible.  I believe I can make a difference.


An expedition like this is not easy for is it cheap.  I’m going to take off four months of work.  I’ve put everything I have into the boat and camera and computer equipment and I still need more.  I’m looking for support from you and those you know who believe that my mission is important.  I’m going to be creating a donation program soon with rewards  at different denomination levels.  I am also selling art from my portfolio of past work.  Purchasing art will directly support my ability to do this work.  At this moment I need to raise ten thousand dollars.  Thats a lot of pictures.  So please if you can, and would like to help and would like a beautiful piece of art, take a look at my Northwest gallery titled San Juan.  These images were taken at the head of the inside passage in the San Juan islands where I lived for over a year.  These images look amazing on metal or on canvas as well as in photographic prints or on fun items like mugs and book markers.  Whatever you choose it will be appreciated and will help.  If you have questions about how to order or what would look best don’t hesitate to email me or just call.


Please subscribe to my blogs, like my Facebook page and you’ll be sure to not miss updates on my voyage and amazing images and stories about the inside passage to come.  


Fair winds,



[email protected] (Alan Niles) Mon, 21 Jan 2013 08:11:32 GMT