Velkomenn til Poulsbo

Sometimes you choose your destination. And as Alvah Simon writes in the latest instalment of the Roger Henry File, sometimes your destination chooses you.

Our winter home at the Port of Poulsbo Marina near Seattle found us just in the nick of time.

Our winter home at the Port of Poulsbo Marina near Seattle found us just in the nick of time. Alvah Simon

I often use the adage “a sailor with time always has a fair wind.” On the surface this seems to imply that with patience and good timing, we have some control over our surrounding conditions. But peel that back and you find the frank admission that we are subservient to nature. We move only where and when it allows. I know this too well, for I have shown up at many a declared destination months behind schedule. I once made landfall on the wrong continent.

You come to accept that, even expect it. It is a good lesson in humility, and a safer way to travel. When you get yourself into trouble is when you overlay artificial date or deadline on those natural rhythms. “We have to set sail before our visas expire.” Or, “I have to catch that plane on October 7th.”

I committed to the later when I accepted Editor Mark Pillsbury’s invitation to return as a judge in Cruising World’s most recent Boat of The Year contest. However, we were still nearly 1,500 nautical miles from our as of yet undetermined winter haven in Washington State. The craggy narrowness of the Inside Passage limits travel to daylight hours. With only thirty horsepower and a bowtie propeller we were not going to impose our will on such legendary vortexes as Seymour Narrows. And when daylight and favorable tides finally cooperated, a shroud of fog would block our way.


When the days dwindled faster than the miles, I told Diana, “Don’t worry. There must be a hundred marinas within striking distance of the Seattle airport. We’ll just pull into one and I’ll catch that flight.” A key ingredient of optimism is ignorance. I am good at that.

But Diana likes to know. From windy phone booths down every dock in British Columbia she phoned a long list of marinas looking for winter moorage. Many were full. Many prohibited live-aboards. Of the remaining, we had to balance cost, convenience, and amenities. Yes, amenities, for Diana held firm to her non-negotiables – warm restrooms, hot showers, a laundry this side of the county line, a library, and walk-to groceries. See how these modern women are?

Finally, as the US border and our deadline approached, she put down the phone with a relieved sigh. “We have an actual reservation in beautiful Port Townsend!” Good news – scenic, convenient by ferry to Seattle, a sailing Mecca. But when Diana called the marina again to settle some details, the other shoe dropped- we needed liability Insurance–$300,000 with the town named as beneficiary. Don’t show up without it.


We have wandered this world from Chile to Chagos, Africa to the Aleutians and our only insurance has always been to reef early, deploy stout ground tackle, take care of the boat and it will take care of us. Liability? It had never crossed our minds.

More phone calls to insurance agents. And since the Roger Henry is a 27-year old steel boat, we would be required to haul the boat and hire a licensed professional to conduct an audio-gauge survey. Even if that piece of paper had been worth the staggering cost, we simply did not have the time.

Back to the phones – “They require it.” Next – “They require it.” The list and the calendar raced each other towards ground zero until…


“Good morning. Port of Poulsbo Marina.”

Diana put down the phone and smiled. “Not required!” We rushed to the chart. Not a bad location- Kitsap Peninsula, a quick ferry ride to Seattle, near the Olympic National Forest.

We sailed into Liberty Bay and anchored in the dark. We anxiously waited for sunrise to light up our new home. Fat seals littered the breakwater to the marina. A parade of shiny ducks led us into an empty slip. A sleek river otter ducked under the dock. Somehow, this all seemed like a good omen.


Above the dock in the little marina is a sign that says ” Velkommen til Poulsbo” Known locally as “Little Norway”, the quaint town of Poulsbo retains the proud heritage of its Nordic founders.

Jannece, in the marina office, offered us our first week for free. She then gave Diana the tour of the warm restrooms with scalding hot showers, the laundry facility at the top of the dock, and handed Diana a guide to the nearby library, grocery stores, the many fine restaurants, and artsy boutiques.

Kirk, the Marina Manager, is married to a Kiwi and lived in New Zealand for many years. He and Diana swapped down under stories. People on the dock stopped to say hello. There is an eclectic community of live-aboards and long distance sailors – just our style.

I jumped the jet. Somewhere over Kansas it occurred to me that we did not choose Poulsbo. Poulsbo chose us.