This was the third time I'd sailed up the Inside Passage in a boat. The third time I'd watched surf explode from the rocky headlands of northern Vancouver Island, the swell rhythmically shifting my view of the horizon. The umpteenth time I'd listened to the weather forecast on the VHF radio while gulls catapulted past me in the wind. But it was the first time I'd done a trip like this with young children on board.

In June of last year, in the lengthening days of summer, my husband, Pat, and I launched north from Bellingham, Washington, on a 32-foot