A Global Flotilla

By: American Sailing Association, Flotillas, Schools

I wasn’t aboard for this June’s San Juan Islands flotilla, but seeing the photos folks brought home, I wish I had been! The San Juans flotilla this year was unique in that we had a couple of “celebrities” along: Cindy and Lenny Shabes, ASA’s President and Founder/Chairman of the Board couple, as well as Yoh Aoki, who as a young man circumnavigated the world solo at the age of 22 (breaking the world record at the time) in a 21-foot boat he built in his backyard! Now Yoh runs his own ASA school in Osaka, Japan. What started out as a vacation for Yoh and his wife quickly developed into a school sailing trip–nine of his students flew with Yoh all the way to the Puget Sound for the San Juan Islands flotilla!

The confluence of cultures for the San Juan Islands flotilla made for a lively adventure for all, complete with a Japanese-American campfire sing-off and a Japanese leg Sumo wrestling match between Yoh’s wife Misako and our own Cindy Shabes! From the very first night, as flotilla leader Roger Philips describes, the 2010 San Juan Islands flotilla shaped up to be a beautiful, unforgettable experience:

On Tuesday we departed Friday Harbor, crossing San Juan Channel and entering Upright Channel between Lopez and Shaw Islands. We had a nice following breeze and most of the fleet sailed wing-and-wing. Passing close to Frost Island, we swung around to starboard for a striking view of Spencer Spit. This long sand spit juts out from forested Lopez Island, nearly touching Frost. The spit and surrounding area comprise Spencer Spit State Park. It being early evening, the park was nearly deserted.

Our boats found moorings or anchored just off the spit and dinghied to shore to explore. As the sun began to set behind distant Orcas Island, the sky turned all shades of pink, red and orange. Many of our party had barbecued dinner on the beach and were now busily building a bonfire using the plentiful driftwood. The flames leapt up, and we all sat around the fire chatting about the day’s adventures.

Someone started singing, and soon the whole group joined in. We had two crews from Osaka, Japan, in the fleet, so after each American song, the Japanese sailors belted out one of their local favorites. Everyone applauded each others’ musical offerings as the long sunset finally yielded to darkness.
Conversations with new friends continued until the flames died down and people began heading back to their boats for much needed rest before the next day’s cruise to Orcas Island.

Yoh recalls of that unforgettable first night, “Everybody looked like kids again–beyond nations and generations.”

An ASA flotilla is so much more than a gathering of boats sailing the same itinerary at the same time. When Yoh’s engine overheated on the way into anchorage at Sucia Island, Roger and Charles hopped over from another boat, replaced the impeller, and tightened the exhaust hose, fixing the problem for him in less than 30 minutes. A flotilla is a place where there are many helping hands at the ready, and boatloads of unique perspectives share common experiences together. As even this record-breaking solo circumnavigator will attest, there’s something for everyone, no matter how experienced, to discover.

Next year’s San Juan Islands Flotilla will take place June 24-July 1, 2011. Book a long vacation, culminating in the Fourth of July holiday weekend in the beautiful San Juans! Contact Brenda at bw@asa.com for more details and pricing information.

More photos from the 2010 San Juan Islands Flotilla Photo Album