SUP or Sail; Building Family Ties at Sea
Much like sailboat racing, parenting is a dive into the unknown and unpredictable; there is no tangible certainty what the outcome will be.
Recently, I was honored to be asked by Mustang Survival to crew up for two back to back races; both organized by the folks at the Northwest Maritime Center in Port Townsend WA, whose mission is to engage and educate people about all things maritime.
Photo by: Jeremy Johnson
First was the Seventy48; a 70 mile human-powered race from Tacoma, WA to Port Townsend. Starting at 7PM, the race sends competitors out on the last of the ebb, and into a gathering darkness. This year was my third time paddling this race, and my 17’6” BARK Custom SUP, Raven, has been my board of choice in all three Seventy48 events since the race's inception. Every year the race shows the ephemeral and unpredictable nature of travel by water - with there being no exception to that rule here in 2021. Conditions were lumpy and extra challenging, with a blow that filled in from the South West. I paddled straight through the night, capturing a first-place finish in the Standing Up category in just over 15 hours.
Spending a lot of time rattling around in your head is inevitable in races like these; with diﬃcult questions bubbling up from the depths. Fortunately, the old question of why I do this sort of stuﬀ has stopped popping up—I answered that a long time ago, with the answer being worthy of an entire article like this one. Relieved from the weight of THAT question, my mind wandered to another of equal—or greater—importance.
Photo by: Sean Trew
The next race was the WA360. I was queued up to race it with my 13 year old daughter, Dagny. And questions of the WA360 were the ones infiltrating the night’s silence while paddling through the Seventy48: What was I thinking? Is it a good idea to encourage my daughter to pursue a life of pushing hard and taking risks? Was I being flippant or unsafe with her? Was it too early? Too late? Would this pull us together, or drive us apart? 13 is such a tender age - was this race too much too soon?
Photo by: Karl Kruger
This second race, the WA360, starts in Port Townsend, and circles the US portion of the Salish sea. The first person I thought of for the crew was Dagny. The second: Molly Howe. I have known Molly her whole life, and Dagny absolutely adores her. There is no doubt why: Molly exudes stone-cold competence, and a natural ability on the water. It made me very happy that Dagny would have Molly as a mentor for this race. Molly brought in her friend Emelie VanVleet, who also exudes competence and a strong will to go hard. The team fell together almost overnight, starting with finding consensus in racing the Melges 24 'Millennial Falcon.’
Within the first 24 hours of the race, all my doubts as to my better judgement vaporized. I couldn’t help but reminisce about all the thousands of miles little Dagny spent with me at the wheel of Tomahawk, snuggled up in her sleeping bag between my feet as I drove. Tomahawk is a 51’ Frers, and the first boat Kruger Escapes Ski/ Sail/ Surf owned for running charters along the West coast. I thought about all the charter guests she has helped entertain, and comfort she provided when things got spicy. I thought about all the hours spent on boat projects, and deliveries made together.
Photo by: Karl Kruger
What I witnessed during this race were three young women owning their skills, and fully stepping into their confidence and competence. I watched Dagny rise up to meet the challenges of lack of sleep, hydration, and food with an iron will. She would worm out of her sleeping bag wordlessly, and start pedaling at 2AM when we needed her, without complaint, and with acceptance. I heard more giggling and laughter than anything else on this race. And when it was go time, we had all hands on deck without hesitation, moving as cohesively and committed as a team could be. I almost choked on my pride many times.
Photo by: Jess Barnard
We placed 6th out of 55 teams. We finished right up with the fastest of the fleet. Several of the crews were larger than ours, and with longer waterlines. I couldn’t be more proud of our finish, and the sportsmanship and tenacity shown by all.
I have stopped doubting why I push myself hard and will similarly stop doubting how we have raised Dagny. The competence, tenacity, friendships and skill gained during events like these will serve her all her life.
Words by Karl Kruger