Team Dark Star

More bios

Team members: Doug Smith
Hometown: Talkeetna, AK, USA
Race vessel: Pathfinder Monohull
LOA: 17’4″
Human propulsion: Oars


TL;DR: “Racing up the inside passage is like bicycling through the Louvre.” – Doug Smith

Her online obituary was short and brutally/sparsely funny: “Ellen Wolf passed away peacefully September 4, 2019, surrounded by family and close friends. She would rather be sailing.

We didn’t know her, but in her two-sentence life haiku, we wanted to. Even posthumously she was more succinct, poignant, funny, and full of joy than we could ever aspire to be… and, we’d rather be sailing too.

The solo crew of Team Dark Star became a widower just months before COVID, and 2020 would make him bereaved and everyone begrudging hermits. After a 35-year run of sailing the Inside Passage together, it ended abruptly and culminated in a two-sentence obit right before COVID locked everyone down for the better/worse part of two years. What did he do to get through? At least part of it was building a boat and setting his sights on R2AK. Our kind of guy. His other claim to fame: Doug submitted the only nude photos that we also felt compelled to share.

We salute all of that as much as we are humbled by it. (Yes, the nudes, but mostly the other parts. No, not that part. Perv.)

What boat do you build to fully channel all that grief, experience, aspiration, nudity, while creating a boat with an eye toward the next stage of your life’s adventure? A modified Welsford Pathfinder—18 feet of Kiwi-designed, gaff rigged, grief-eating fury. Solid choice. New Zealand based designer John Welsford has a reputation for handsome, stout crafts that consistently punch above their weight class. His 13’ Scamp has tested the Straits of Magellan. His Navigator design has voyaged as far north as “upper Sweden” and as far south as the 47th parallel. Team Dark Star’s Pathfinder is a stretched version of the Navigator, and this one has been modified with a custom cuddy cabin because Sleeping 2 Alaska is a significant portion of the success quotient of Racing 2 it.

Other than someone who would be a top ten allstar if coping with grief was a competitive and ranked activity, who is Team Dark Star? A man, a plan, a canal, that palindrome, the R2AK. In his own words:

“Ellen would say that racing up the Inside Passage is the dumbest thing anyone could do—it’s like bicycling through the Louvre. But if you’ve been hanging out in the Louvre for 35 years and you get a chance to bike through it, what the hell. Pass right by hundreds of nirvana-like bays, streams and inlets? Sitting for long days on a boat instead of hiking up a stream or a mountain? Living on glop and energy bars instead of rockfish and crab? Great idea!

In my years of interactions with williwaws, bears, currents, icebergs, deadheads, uncharted rocks and reefs, charted rocks and reefs, fishing fleets, tides, whales, and dumb mistakes, I have gained tremendous respect for what this coast can dish out, and for how quickly it can do it. I intend to push myself and keep in front of a few other racers if I can, but I won’t take chances just to beat someone. Including the sweep boat. I already have some money in the bank and steak knives.

Welcome to the R2AK, Team Dark Star. Let’s go sailing.