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Influenced by a legacy of pioneer resourcefulness, vision and determination

Cronkhite Ranch House, Built 1907. Now on the National RegistryRattlesnakes can kill you but only if they bite. As fifth generation living and working in the gypsum laced red canyons of northwest Oklahoma (an ancient ocean bottom before the Rockies rose), I quickly learned to watch my step, to listen carefully and like the pioneering generations before me, to stride and ride with an eye to the horizon and an equally keen sensitivity to what was at my feet. I learned to read the cues nature and animals gave willingly and often. Always grateful I never got bitten, except by the travling bug.

The house where I spent my childhood was built by my great grandparents. Four generations and all their stories lived there and in the little "bunk house" for the first three years of my life.  That house is now a national landmark, still standing despite toranadoes, drought, depression and death. From the day I could hold a pencil, I sat on her porches and wrote. From the day I could walk, I "went".  My favorite words were "go outside" and go, I did. Red dirt, rattlesnakes and drop dead sunsets primed the pump, but like the Dutch and pioneering genes that pushed generations before me, Oklahoma wasn't west enough.

Cape Flattery, NW tip of Lower 48 US statesAt 21 I got my first sight of the ocean and something clicked. Briny horizons and wind have long been a source of inspiration and that night they spurred the start of two decade's journey around the world. Plane flights, river trips, backpacking and sailing took me through thirty-two major US cities, twenty-nine Alaskan villages, four provinces of Canada and 28 other countries before I stopped to figure out how my roots and these branches fit together. Turns out, I was going in circles.

The first circle was in Alaska. Seductive summer sun, northern lights and the long winter blues and whites anchored me in Anchorage where for ten years I went to the wilds and back to "town" exploring academia, the arctic tundra, Brooks Range rivers and took my first forray into foreign lands - the Himalayas.

With a masters degree squeezed between adventures and a glass ceiling looming, the ocean called again. This time, I was 31 and the salty muse started with a sailboat ride in the windy juncture of Port Townsend Bay. "Take the tiller," he said. "Keep the wind in the sails and head for that point." My sailing circle started there.

Wind, a world of ocean and a buoyant mode of travel as familiar as a horse. Infinitely curious and feeling free, I held that Port Townsend experience close and moved to Hawaii to start a Ph.D.Point Hudson, center of my work for 10 years

What was it about sailing that inspired such familiar bliss? Questions lead to answers that lead to more questions. How did my experience fit or compare with other women's experiences? Pre-Google, I dove into books and discussions about mythology, anthropology, nature poetry and psychology and took the advice of that man who first gave me the tiller. "Get aboard as many boats as you can. Watch the Captain. Try things. Learn."  I volunteered for the weekly races off Ala Wai marina in Honolulu. Rail bait to sheet tailer to bow watch, in every role I learned. 

Then it happened. I was invited to crew on an offshore delivery from Honolulu to Port Townsend, Washington. With a promise from my buddy Captain Bruce that I would navigate, learn weather, change sails and stand watch as well as cook like the two men crew, I climbed aboard and met my first strong trade winds, doldrums and cold fronts. That first trip we nearly made it to Japan before the high pressure gracioiusly slipped south and we rounded the latitude to make our way to Cape Flattery and my first ocean landfall, Port Townsend. The profundity of that fateful circle from a first sail to arrival from my first ocean passage did not go unnoticed, but little did I know what else was ahead. 

With one ocean passage in my wake, I hopped on a flight to Australia to crew on an even longer passage, another upwind journey, from Lake MacQuerie to Honolulu and this time with a woman captain on a sparsely equipped 32 foot gaff rigged double ender. Ocean, not ignorance was bliss, so despite my relative inexperience, I didn't hesitate. The Captain was not only experienced in sailing ocean extremes, she was continuing anthropological research in Polynesia that would profoundly deepen my research journey. That trip took me places no academic in my discipline had explored. Raw experience on the ocean with only another woman, with a third woman crew who joined us for the passage from New Zealand to Cook Islands and as an all-woman boat through island groups where I could read in tiny libraries and meet women captains in their own villages was a unique opportunity and I made every day count.

A network of women sailors and women's research evolved to include renowned sailmaker and sailor  Carol Hasse and Captain Nancy Erley, the first woman captain to privately organize an all-woman circumnavigation. In 1994, at the end of the 6 month voyage from Australia, I joined Nancy as full-time First Mate and co-instructor aboard Tethys, her 38' custom cutter-rigged sloop in Tahiti and Pacific for a year. Finishing that year in Tahiti again with more turquoise ocean beckoning, we agreed to head west, to continue teaching women on another five-year all-woman circumnavigation.

In the Indian Ocean, I had to make a choice. Continue the circumnavigation or get off the boat and finish the Ph.D. I chose the latter, rounding another Cape in my life and traveling through the Maldives, Chagos, Seychelles, Mayotte, Madagascar, Mozambique and around the infamous Cape of Good Hope. Cape of Good Hope, where 3 great oceans meetDuring the next year's travel we crossed the Atlantic, transited the Panama Canal, returned to Galapagos, and made the longest passage of my life, 38 days, to Hawaii then "home" to the USA. As we pulled into Port Townsend the circle was complete.

Working through the winter on Tethys post-circumnavigation overhaul and sorting out options for the future, a part-time job coordinating the Port Townsend Wooden Boat Festival was offered.  Naive to the herculean task ahead, but encouraged by my closest friends, I began what would become another 10 year adventure. Ten years of progressively improved festivals, while expanding my life experience by purchasing a boat, a house and closing another circle where family, Oklahoma, ocean, writing, nature and boats are braided together. Different strands of a whole. Woven together in a circle that continues on, into yet another decade of life.