Say you are planning a summer cruise from the Puget Sound to British Columbia, or maybe as far as Southeast Alaska. You’ve probably got a pile of guidebooks on your nightstand already; you spend your winter evenings perusing them, planning the anchorages and towns you’d like to visit. Besides filling your sailboat with food and fuel, you’re ready to go. But before you do, there’s one more book you need: and that is Taken By the Wind by Marilyn Johnson.
While other Pacific Northwest cruising guides tell you where to go, this book tells you how to get there — literally. The author has written this book based on years of experience cruising these notoriously challenging waterways; combined with detailed research of wind and current patterns, the information contained will help you arrive at your coveted anchorage without burning gallons of diesel, or worse, struggling against tide and wind.
The book is easily navigated, beginning with two comprehensive chapters on getting ready to go. The author’s tips on preparing for the trip are excellent, and include suggestions I’ve not come across, such as a list of publications to download while you still have good internet access. Chapter 2: Learning Before You Go is a must-read for any sailor, in any part of the world: an extensive, easy to understand primer on how to obtain, interpret, and use weather information, as well as the concepts of how land affects wind, and how wind and tidal currents affect sea state.
The author then divides this extensive coastline into three sections: Salish Sea, North Coast B.C., and Southeast Alaska with following chapters breaking down the areas further. If minimizing time under motor and enjoying this majestic coastline in peace is your goal, these chapters contain all you’ll need to do that (adding in a good amount of patience). For each section, the author describes wind patterns typical in summer, local weather reporting stations, any areas of challenging currents, anchorage notes, and a wide variety of local knowledge. There’s no assumption a sailor will choose an inshore route versus an open water alternative; the author details areas where you can choose either, plus the particular challenges of each option (for example, crossing into Alaska via the open Northern Hecate Strait, or inshore through Chatham Sound with a stop at Prince Rupert). The book concludes with a comprehensive wind data appendix.
Taken By the Wind is proof cruising the Pacific Northwest is not the “motorboat” ride many sailors joke about; you can sail this coast if you know it well, and having a copy of this book aboard is a great way to start. All sailors know it’s about the journey, not simply the destination — but having actually sailed to get there will make it all the sweeter when you do arrive.
Taken By the Wind: The Northwest Coast, A Guide to Sailing the Coasts of British Columbia and Southeast Alaska by Marilyn Johnson (Createspace, 2016, 384 pages)