“There’s no way to see Alaska that exceeds seeing it from a Nordhavn.”
In 2004, Buddy Bethea accompanied his son to the Annapolis Powerboat Show where his son was looking to purchase a 20-ft bass boat. While walking the docks, Bethea came upon a “magnificent vessel” sitting in a slip, beckoning him to come aboard. It was a Nordhavn 57, a brand he’d never heard of or seen before, but when he finished touring it he came off thinking, this is a boat that could give someone the adventure of a lifetime.
He decided that someone should be him and before he knew it, he had placed a deposit on a brand new Nordhavn design, the N55. Bethea and his wife, Kathy, received their boat three years later, having it shipped and commissioned in California because they decided they wanted their adventure of a lifetime to start in Alaska. The couple spent three months in the Last Frontier, exploring Ketchikan, the Icy Strait, Juneau and beyond. Online blogs were a new-ish thing back in 2007, and Bethea kept one every day of his journey. He documented the fascinating people and things he was able to do, all because his Nordhavn 55 Almost Friday led him to them. Bethea recalls befriending a commercial fisherman in Homer, Alaska who took him out salmon fishing in Auk Bay. “He showed me how to do everything, and at 3 am we were off to the markets to unload our catch,” he said. “Imagine a little guy from Virginia taking a commercial fishing boat out and getting twenty thousand pounds of salmon!”
Personal relationships with the people who put the character and life into these Alaskan villages were the highlight of the Betheas’ time there. “One after the other, no matter where we were, the boat always brought attention,” he said. “There’s no way to see Alaska that exceeds seeing it from a Nordhavn. If you are willing to meet great people, it will be non-stop.”
Bethea wrote about the astonishing beauty of Alaska’s glaciers, forests, the funky towns, the pristine yet sometimes harrowing seas, the indigenous traditions and the rich history surrounding all of it. But most of all he wrote about the locals who gave him authentic experiences and were the greatest source of knowledge, each of them just as interested in him and his Nordhavn as he was in them. “I always said the boat was my spider web in which I catch locals,” he says with a laugh.
Following that magical summer in Alaska, the couple decided to bring the boat back to the east coast where they split time between their homes in Virginia and Florida. Bethea attended boat shows and would get recognized by fans of his blog asking why he wouldn’t write a book about his travels. Citing time constraints and a lack of initiative to get the ball rolling, Bethea was content with his musings staying put in the cyberworld. A friend and business associate, Eric Fox, approached Bethea and asked if he could publish his writings on his behalf. Fox told him, “People need to read this.” So Bethea gave his blessing, the one caveat being he didn’t want to be involved in any way. He told Fox if the book made millions, he was to keep all of it.
A few months ago, Fox presented Bethea with a copy of Alaska On Our Minds. Bethea devoured the book in two days “with tears in my eyes. It brought back a lot of wonderful memories.”
The Betheas sold Almost Friday in 2009 after putting nearly 15,000 nm on her. Although the book focuses entirely on their journeys around Alaska, the pair traveled extensively around the Americas, having gone from Alaska then south along the west coast and around Mexico, through the Panama Canal and to the San Blas Islands and up and down the U.S. east coast.
Their boating days are behind them but they look upon their adventures aboard as some of the greatest times of their life. “Times like those are not repeatable,” Bethea said.
To order a copy of Alaska On Our Minds, click here.