Why cruising with kids? Why the NW Passage? Why Dogbark?

Ever since sailing across the Pacific on our honeymoon, Graeme and I have dreamed of cruising with kids. The “kid boats,” as they’re called, generally have tight family bonds, meet up frequently with other kid boats for camaraderie, and are crewed by curious, capable children who have skills and perspectives borne from living at sea, working and schooling as a family unit, and being exposed to different cultures around the world. We wanted that experience for our family!

But it takes a lot of energy–and work and time and money–to get a boat ready to cruise.  And when we discussed heading south on a route we’d already followed, Graeme and I didn’t find ourselves jumping up to make the dream happen. Been there, done that. Meanwhile, the girls were getting older and our window of opportunity was getting smaller. One day, after hearing a talk by his arctic explorer friend Eric Larsen, Graeme came home with the harebrained idea that we think about heading not south, but north. Through the Northwest Passage. Due to a warming climate, this route has been open to cruising boats each August since about the time our daughters, Talia and Savai, were born (2006 and 2008, respectively). It is the new normal. Several families have gone before us. And after going through the passage from west to east, we hope to make our way to the Med where there are lots of kid boats.

But such a route would require a stouter, sturdier, ideally faster boat than our old Farr 1220 Kotuku. Which is where the Open 60, Dogbark, comes in. Dogbark belonged to our good friend and racing buddy Al Hughes long before she came to us. He raced her in the Singlehanded TransPac and won line honors (meaning he crossed the finish line first) . . . three times! Dogbark is a strong old 60-foot boat with multiple watertight bulkheads, designed to race singlehanded around the world in cold latitudes. Since, unlike modern raceboats, Dogbark has a cruise-y interior (galley, settee, etc.), we thought she might be a great fit for a family cruising the Northwest Passage. Al agreed. He gave us a tour last spring. With enough room to add two cabins for the girls, it was easy to disregard the mildew.

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Graeme and Al watch Savai test the dodger for its climbability.

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Lots of mildew. Lots of line bags for lots of lines. But no cockpit seats for lots of guests!

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Talia tests the helm.

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Captain Tali examines the imaginary sails.

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A mountain of sails.

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Playing king of the mountain.