By Kathleen Kaska
Kathleen: How did you and Don get started writing the Exploring Series Cruising Guides?
Reanne: After a few trips up the Inside Passage and further into Alaska, we felt that we could improve on the guides we were using. We started working on the cruising guides when we still lived in Bishop, California, and owned Fine Edge Production in the 1990s. We kept our boat, a forty-two foot Nordhaven in Anacortes, and every summer, we’d fly to Washington for another research trip. We’d started with the Inside Passage, logging everything we saw. But at that time, we were also publishing California mountain-biking guides.
Kathleen: Mapping the coast from Washington to Alaska must have been tedious. How did you manage it?
Réanne: We enjoyed the explorations. I think Don was born an explorer, and being with him, the sense of adventure was contagious. It might seem like a lot of work, and at times, it was, but spending time in the waterways of the Pacific Norwest was thrilling, as well as relaxing.
Kathleen: How did you manage the details for which your guides are so famous?
Réanne: Don and I quickly realized that to do a thorough job, we needed to maneuver into the coves and narrow inlets, so we brought a double kayak on board. We carried it on top of the Baidarka
Kathleen: You and Don became well-know from the publication of your guides. How were you able to build such a successful business on your own?
Réanne: It took about a year before the business really took off. We had the guides, and later, the maps, printed, and then as we cruised through these featured locations, we’d stop along the way and ask the businesses to stock them. At first, it was hard to sell them because people didn’t know us. Once they became familiar with our guides, mainly through word-of-mouth, the business took off. I was surprised it only took about a year. Don wasn’t. Being the entrepreneurial optimist, he knew they’d be well-received.
Kathleen: The first guide, Exploring Vancouver Island’s West Coast, was published in 1994. Now, twenty-five years later, they are still selling very well today in marinas, nautical supply stores, and bookshops in the PNW, despite modern boating technology.
Réanne: That’s true. Boaters are well-equipped with GPS and other electron apps, but I believe they still like to have a hardcopy on hand in case technology fails. Having a map pinned to a wall or framed makes it easy to see the entire picture. We also kept the guides updated.
Kathleen: You’ve probably spent as much time on the water as on land. I just found out that your boating adventure hasn’t always been on saltwater. Tell us about your time cruising the waterway in France.
Réanne: France is like my second home, and it became Don’s too once we started visiting my French family. When I was still teaching school, we’d go to France in the summer and rent a forty-foot cruiser to explore the rivers and canals. The boats had a double cabin so we could bring friends along. My favorite trips were along the Canal du Midi in southeast France. From the time when I was a foreign exchange student in college, I got to know the region like the back of my hand, and I always wanted to see the area from a boat. We also rented bikes, which we carried along with us to explore the places we docked. But we stayed on the boat most of the time, going ashore for groceries and trying restaurants that were recommended to us.
Kathleen: How would you compare your canal cruising to the ones on the West Coast?
Réanne: Very different, of course. Cruising along the West Coast was very solitary. The water was much more dramatic and, at times, dangerous. Our trips in France were laid back and casual. There was more activity in the canals and rivers. Along the West Coast, we were able to enjoy nature. In France, we enjoyed the history and the people. We took our bikes and visited glorious castles and other historic sites. And we weren’t there to map the area. We were there to relax, enjoy the sites, and see old friends and meet new ones.
Kathleen: You and Don sold Baidarkain 2014. Was that a difficult decision to make?
Réanne: It was. I wasn’t ready to sell our boat and give up cruising, but Don and I were both getting to the age that made the journey difficult at times. But we still kept up with our friends. Living in Anacortes, made it easy for them to drop by and visit, which they always do often.
Kathleen: Thinking back on all your nautical adventures, was there anything you’d do differently?
Réanne: I’m not sure there was. When I started out, I was a novice, and Don had to teach me everything. He wasn’t always the patient teacher, but he knew what he was doing, and his knowledge and experience saved our lives more than once. If it weren’t for his expertise, we wouldn’t have survived the pitchpole off the coast of South America. Over the years, I learn how to handle a boat in almost any circumstance. That was a great feeling for me.
At the time, cruising and sailing were considered a man’s adventure. Thankfully it’s different today. Women have proven themselves on the water. Sometimes I think of myself as a pioneer, until I learn about women who came before me like, Betty Lowman Carey, who braved dangerous waters to become the first woman to row the Inside Passage. She was a kindred spirit and role model.