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Boating Resolutions: 2020

by Norris Comer

Boating Resolutions: 2020

A new decade is upon us, and boaters are thinking about New Year’s resolutions to make the most out of 2020.
By: Norris Comer

BBoaters and marine industry professionals of all stripes in the Pacific Northwest have boating-related ambitions both large and small, from finally pulling the trigger on a long-anticipated Alaska-and-back motor cruise to buying prawn pots to shrimp for the first time.

Hotshot sailors hunger for a podium win in high-profile races—perhaps for the Vic-Maui scheduled this summer—while others just want to keep participating in the Duck Dodge tradition. Marinas anxiously await new dock installations, while growing brokerages plan office expansions. The eager plan to buy their first paddleboard and the curious want to give it a try.

Noble goals, all! And what are goals, if not dreams realized? It’s in the spirit of a new decade full of dreams come true that we reached out to local boaters and marine industry professionals to hear their sea salty resolutions for 2020.

Resolutions 2020: Sunset Cruising and Cutwater Driving

Left to right: A view from Captain Couch’s office, on a delivery during a sunset off Papagayo Penninsula of Costa Rica; Matt Ouilette of Bellingham Yacht Sales tries out their new Cutwater 24 Center Walkaround.

While diverse in our focuses and scopes, the commonality of these hopes touches a core emotional chord. In our own ways, we’re all navigating the same waters and chasing the same horizon. The water beckons us with its special kind of intangible spiritual gravity, a radio beacon at a frequency to which you and I are especially attuned. In the coming year, we will all face both fair and foul seas; successes and failures. But here, on the precipice of a new decade, everything is possible. So, spike a warm eggnog with some rum, get comfy, and let those aquatic dreams run wild.


When Pacific Northwest-based professional delivery captain Chris Couch was asked about his goals for 2020, he was sitting in Isla Mujeres in Mexico finishing a six-week transit from San Diego, California, to Naples, Florida. He reflected upon his clients’ impressive accomplishments in 2019 and their goals for the new year.

“I had three clients do Alaska for the first time this last summer,” said Couch. “I have one and maybe another planning to do Mexico this winter. Another two want to come back to the Pacific Northwest summer 2020.” What’s 2020 all about for Captain Couch? “For me, it’s about my clients and the new places I’m helping them explore,” he concluded.

One doesn’t have to look to tropical waters south to find marine industry professionals looking forward to the new year. For Dwight Jones, the General Manager of Elliott Bay Marina in Seattle, Washington, 2020 is all about an incoming new dock.

“The new dock at Elliott Bay Marina will be done in January,” says Jones. Brandon Baker, Marina Manager of Elliott Bay Marina, echoes Jones’ dock excitement with a few other goals for the popular Seattle marina.

“I’m looking forward to supporting training and education of boaters through hosting events and providing resources to increase knowledge and safety, notably with our Day of Safety event in May 2020,” adds Baker. “Also, we at the marina are looking forward to raising money for great causes by working with Pink Boat Regatta and Leukemia cup.”

2020 Opportunities:
Boats Afloat Everett

The Boats Afloat Show, formerly known as the South Lake Union Boats Afloat Show, will be hosted by the Port of Everett this year for the first time. This will be the 42nd iteration of the event that is one of the largest in-water boat shows on the West Coast. Typically held in September, details will be released by the
organizer — the Northwest Yachting Broker’s Association (NYBA) — at a later date.

Primary reasons for the move are related to proposed development at the previous Chandler’s Cove location on Lake Union and the allure of the massive Port of Everett Marina. Everett has invested millions over the last several years to make the marina one of the largest and most modern on the West Coast. Checking out the first Everett-hosted Boats Afloat Show should be a 2020 goal for all local boaters.

Boats Afloat

The Pink Boat Regatta is an annual charity sailboat race that raises money for the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. In 2019, the event raised an incredible $113,270. Hopefully, 2020 has even bigger fundraising hauls in store for the worthy cause. Getting involved would be a positive resolution for sailors of all skill levels. More information is available online at pinkboatregatta.org.

As far as dock talk about 2020 is concerned, Baker hears of boaters eyeing Alaska for the summer and vowing to explore the nearby but sometimes overlooked waters of south Puget Sound. “We also get a lot of comments from hopeful fishermen wishing for a great 2020 season,” Baker says.

Running the Races

Northwest Yachting’s own Schelleen Rathkopf, a professional sailboat race organizer who is producing both the new Point Roberts Race Week and new SHE Regatta, has an exciting 2020 full of spreading the sailing gospel ahead.

“Twenty-twenty is certainly a big year for the region’s sailboat racers!” Rathkopf says. “After 37 years on Whidbey Island, Race Week is relocating to Point Roberts.” She describes Point Roberts as that funny piece of land, called a pene-exclave, that hangs off British Columbia, yet is a part of Washington hardly anyone has ever heard of. It sits on the southernmost tip of the Tsawwassen Peninsula and was created when the United Kingdom and the US settled border disputes in the mid-19th century with the 49th parallel.

But like a long-forgotten cousin, someone forgot about this little 4-square mile piece of land slightly south of the 49th parallel on the Strait of Georgia and Boundary Bay. Protected by the full force of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agency, the 1,300 residents who live there say that it’s like living in the nation’s most secure gated community.

“My hope in 2020 is that Point Roberts is discovered and Race Week (happening July 13 to 17) continues to be a fan favorite by old and new racers alike,” continues Rathkopf. “With Race Week’s new location, I also hope that we see an equal number of boats participating from the US and Canada.”

It’s worth noting that those coming from the US who may not want to hassle with border crossings can either come to Race Week via the waterways or ride the Race Week Water Taxi (with daily AM/PM stops in Blaine, Semiahmoo, and Point Roberts) where no border crossings are required at all.

Another big slice of sailing goodness for 2020 is the new SHE Regatta, set to debut September 19 to 20 at the Corinthian Yacht Club in Seattle and presented by Northwest Yachting magazine. Rathkopf, the mastermind behind the concept, explains:

“SHE is a regatta that is being designed by women for women, and will feature all-women skippers, crew, and race management including the PRO and mark set drivers! My hope is that this event fully celebrates women in the sport and draws boats in from all over the Puget Sound. And when SHE racers hit the docks after racing, our guy and gal pals are there to join us in what I hope becomes one of the most fun, inventive, entertaining post-race parties in the region.”

Point Roberts Marina

The Point Roberts Marina, host location of the inaugural Point Roberts Race Week in 2020.”

Besides the two exciting racing firsts ahead for 2020, Rathkopf hopes everyone would be able to correctly pronounce Tsawwassen without the phonetic respelling (tah-WASS-en), that all sailboat racing events in the region up the fun factor and produce NORs and SIs that could be easily understood, and PHRF NW and PHRF BC would come together over a cup of coffee (or a shot of rum) and work out all the differences for those competitors who need accurate and reliable ratings, if not sailing One Design.

“But my priorities right now, in addition to finding sponsors and building regatta registration, lies in pulling more people away from the docks and out on the water, with friends aboard and smiles on our faces,” Rathkopf concludes.


Two main ways for folks to get on the water is to either own a boat or be a part of a boat sharing company. Both methods get the job done, as demonstrated by Kim and Beth Webley. These two avid boaters have been a part of Carefree Boat Club, a Seattle-based boat-sharing company, since September 2017. The two had never driven boats before in saltwater, but their goal was to get out there anyway. The Webleys are frank in their descriptions.

“We were terrified to dock the boat for fear of damaging the boat or other boats around us,” says Beth Webley. Fortunately, Carefree Boat Club offers unlimited training with certified captains to their members.

“Kim and Beth were partnered with Captain Michael O’Brien for on-the-water training,” explains Yvette Perrantes of Carefree Boat Club. After sessions with Captain O’Brien, the Webleys gained the confidence they needed to boat their dreams. The two now go on five-day overnight trips to destinations such as the San Juans, Port Townsend, Gig Harbor, and more. They’ve become pretty good shrimpers too, pulling in pots and putting spot prawn dinners on the table.

For 2020, Beth is taking an anchoring course andis ready to put lessons learned in a 2019 navigation course to good use. “I plan on taking a girl trip with our closest friends,” she says. Of course, 2020 will also see many more shrimp-themed meals aboard.

On the boat ownership side of things, yacht brokers have their resolutions to share as well. Bellingham Yacht Sales is one such example. The coming year could be a big one for their Port of Everett location that opened recently in 2017 thanks to the migration of the Boats Afloat Show from South Lake Union in Seattle to Everett, Washington.

Resolutions 2020: Boat Sharing

This Ranger tug is one of the boats in the Carefree Boat Club fleet; The Webleys having a great time on the water and looking forward to 2020 adventures.

“We at the Port of Everett are going to be the 2020 home of the Boats Afloat,” says Aleigh Wehmeyer of Bellingham Yacht Sales. The event is one of the largest in-water boat shows on the West Coast and is scheduled for September. “We will have a floating sales office on K-Dock in the central marina dock space,” she continues.

Like many brokerages, a new year means new boat inventory. Notably for Bellingham Yacht Sales is the debut of the new East Coast-built Sabre 58 Salon Express at the Miami International Boat Show this February. The brokerage is also a dealer of Cutwater Boats, a Washington-based boatbuilder, and new models this year include the Cutwater 24 Center Walkaround and new 32 Cutwater.

2020 Opportunities:
Fishing Derbies

This year ushers in the inaugural Northwest Fishing Derby Series, the evolution of the long running Northwest Salmon Derby Series. The competitive fishing event series has expanded to include a few cod and bass derbies too. Maybe taking some cod should be on your resolution shortlist? Get more information at nwfishingderbyseries.com. The 2020 lineup is as follows:

Resurrection Salmon Derby
Anacortes, Washington, Feb. 1-2

Friday Harbor Salmon Classic
San Juan Island, Washington, Feb. 6-8

Roche Harbor Salmon Classic
Orcas Island, Washington, Feb. 13-15

Olympic Peninsula Salmon Derby
Port Townsend, Washington, Mar. 13-15

NEW! For the Love of Cod Derby
Coos Bay, Oregon, Mar. 21-22

Everett Blackmouth Derby
Everett, Washington, Mar. 21-22

NEW! For the Love of Cod Derby
Brookings, Oregon, Mar. 28-29

NEW! Something Catchy Kokanee Derby
Lake Chelan, Washington, Apr. 18-19

NEW! Lake Stevens Kokanee Derby
Lake Stevens, Washington, May 23

NEW! Father’s Day Big Bass Classic
Lakeside, Oregon, June 20-21

Bellingham Salmon Derby
Bellingham, Washington, July 10-12

Slam’n Salmon Ocean Derby
Brookings, Oregon, July 10-12

Lake Coeur d’Alene Big One Fishing Derby
Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, July 29-Aug. 2

Brewster Salmon Derby
Brewster, Washington, July 31-Aug. 2

South King County PSA Derby
Point Defiance, Tacoma, Washington, Aug. 1

Gig Harbor PSA Derby
Point Defiance, Tacoma, Washington, Aug. 8

Vancouver, B.C., Canada Chinook Classic
Vancouver, Canada, Aug. 22-23

Edmonds Coho Derby
Edmonds, Washington, Sept. 12

Everett Coho Derby
Everett, Washington, Sept. 26-27

Everett Bayside Marine Blackmouth Derby
Everett, Washington, Nov. 7-8

Fishing Derby Seminars

“We are looking forward to another year of good health and joy as we strive to build and maintain long term relationships with our customers,” says Wehmeyer.


Couples with liveaboard and boating lifestyle ambitions might want to take a page from aspiring liveaboard couple Scott and Allison Helfen. The duo work for Union Marine, formerly Lake Union Sea Ray.

“[We] have wanted to live aboard for many years, and in 2018 we sold our home and began the process,” says Allison. “We moved into a condo in Seattle, sold our first boat (a sport cruiser), and searched for our liveaboard home.” The Helfens quickly realized that they could easily find a 50-foot boat, but not the approved liveaboard slip. “We have put our name on a few waiting lists, which we were told could take three to seven years.”

In March 2019, they bought a Bayliner 4087 Aft Cabin to keep the process moving along. “Our goal is to spend as much time on it during the weekends, including stormy nights, to make sure we can make the adjustment to full time,” says Allison.

For the couple, 2020 is all about pulling off this multi-year boating lifestyle dream. They’ve chartered a power catamaran to tour the British Virgin Islands for April 2020. The rest of the year is for exploring Pacific Northwest waters with their sights set on British Columbia, the San Juan Islands, and Puget Sound. They are active bloggers, and you can follow their adventures at boatingjourney.com.

While the Helfens plan to move aboard in 2020, some who are already liveaboards have big dreams for 2020. Cara Kuhlman lives aboard a Catalina 34 in Shilshole Bay Marina and co-owns a San Juan 24 named Argon with four other women. Originally terrified of deep water in her Opti on the Oakland Estuary, she got irreversibly hooked on sailing in college. Since then she has coached, raced, and even sailed to Tahiti.

“In 2020, it’s the Argon crew’s goal to participate in the San Juan 24 North Americans,” says Kuhlman. “I very intentionally say participate instead of compete because we might be approaching this event differently than other teams. Our crew has a wide range of experience and racing is not our only goal with Argon.” The team plans to use North Americans as a teaching tool over the first six months of the year to learn how to sail fast and have fun.

“A personal resolution I have for 2020 is to talk to and meet more women in boating,” Kuhlman says. “Whether it’s in-person, online, or on-the-water, I want to learn more about the other women in the Pacific Northwest who are passionate about boating.” You can follow along or connect at carakuhlman.com.


The popular Northwest Salmon Derby Series—hosted by the Northwest Marine Trade Association (NMTA)—has a positive transformation in store for 2020.

“After 17 wonderful years since the derby series began in 2004, it’s time for a change,” says Mark Yuasa, the NMTA’s Director of Grow Boating and the derby series. The series will be rebranded in 2020 to the Northwest Fishing Derby Series. “The hope is that anglers will like the direction as we diversify the fish species our events target while boosting the number of derbies to 20 up from 14 events in 2019.”

Resolutions 2020: Argon and Cara Kuhlman

Left to right: The all-women owners of Argon, a San Juan 24 that’s bound for North Americans in 2020 as a shared learning experience; Cara Kuhlman, Seattle liveaboard and sailing addict.

The new lineup includes derbies in Oregon and an additional derby in central Washington. Cod and bass are two new target species. These new derbies also occur at a time when in the past no events (from April to June) were scheduled.

A highlight for anglers is a chance to enter and win the grand prize—a $75,000, fully loaded KingFisher 2025 Escape HT boat. This epic prize boat is powered with 200-horsepower Yamaha and 9.9-horsepower trolling motors on an EZ Loader Trailer. Yuasa continues, “One of our newest sponsors of the derby—Shoxs Seats (shoxs.com) — has provided a pair of top-of-the-line seats that are engineered for maximum comfort in the roughest of seas. The good news is that anglers who enter any one of the 20 derbies don’t need to catch a fish to win this beautiful boat and motor package!”

Whether you’re a veteran of the Northwest Salmon Derby Series or want to up your fishing game, giving the first-ever Northwest Fishing Derby Series a cast in 2020 would be a great boating resolution.

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