January 25, 2012

“The Patch” funds sailing trip of a lifetime

By Lauren Billing
Farmer Staff Writer

Most children grow up dreaming. Maybe they want to be a ballerina or an astronaut or a doctor. They fantasize about all the wonderful and exciting things they could do, but many of those dreams will fade or become new dreams while the old are forgotten.
As children enter adulthood many get caught up in mainstream society’s prescription of how professional adulthood should be, and then even dreams that have been remembered are put aside in order to become a productive member of the country’s work force.
It takes a truly strong and courageous person to turn his or her back on the traditional ideal of getting a job, working 40 to 60 hours a week for years and saving as much as you can in order to secure a comfortable retirement. It takes a dedicated dreamer to make the fantasy a reality.
Capt. Jesse Osborn is one such person. Osborn currently hauls water for RW Trucking located just south of Watford City. He found the position on Craig’s List and has been able to work in the area despite the fact that he does not own a car, which may be because Osborn favors a more nautical means of transportation.
Osborn began his early adulthood following a traditional route. He served as an Alaska state trooper for seven years and filled a few other positions before he realized that he did not like the road he was on.
“I realized that I am not interested in giving the prime years of my life to some company just to retire to feel secure with stuff,” relates Osborn. “That stuff ends up owning you.”
So Osborn decided to do something about it, which began with getting his certification as a licensed captain.
Originally from Oregon, Osborn and his family moved to Seward, Alaska, for his father to begin work as a commercial fisherman when production in the lumber industry began to slow in the mid-’80s.
Situated on the northern rim of the Gulf of Alaska just up Resurrection Bay, Seward offers all kinds of opportunities to explore the land and sea of rugged Alaska. Here Osborn was able to see all the different kinds of boats and the prospects they afford. Though he never got the chance to do much sailing in his youth, he always had an interest in boats.
It was in moving to Ketchikan, Alaska, for work that Osborn was finally able to get his first boat. In his beginnings as a sailor, he read a lot of instruction books, then would go and sail, break something and have to read some more.
Fortunately, he was able to learn a lot about the craft of sailing from the local postmaster in Ketchikan who brought Osborn on board to help with his racing boat.
From there, Osborn took a turn that most people would find a bit too risky. He sold his house, quit his job, and bought another boat. All in the hopes of leading research expeditions around Alaska. Much to his chagrin, the contracts he hoped to get had already been awarded. So now he had two boats, no job and no house. But Osborn was not about to let his dream die.
“Difficult times make you realize what’s important,” says Osborn. “It’s when you are all out of options that you are at your best.”
So Osborn lived on his boat and took on all kinds of odd jobs to keep it afloat. He taught sailing classes, delivered other people’s boats from as far away as Seattle, worked construction, drove trucks, and even did hazardous tree removal, all for the sake of making his hobby of sailing into a lifestyle.
“Find something you love and then do it and do it and do it until you can make some sort of living at it,” describes Osborn. “And then roll the dice and really do it.”
For the past five years Osborn has lived on his boat, doing jobs here and there, and mostly just loving the change. He takes his two sons, Isaac, 13, and Steven, 10, with him whenever he can. His stories of seafaring abound, many of which include the use of his catastrophe-honed MacGyver skills.
Since taking on his nautical lifestyle, Osborn found someone to share his way of life with. His girlfriend, Christina Anderson, has lived in Alaska for four years and shares Osborn’s affinity for sailing. She works in the area as an environmental consultant.
It was in finally living his dream surrounded by loved ones that Osborn was able to dream even bigger. The newest dream and plans for Osborn’s 50-foot boat, the S/V Empiricus, are to sail around the world, beginning with a trip through the Northwest Passage.
This summer Osborn plans to sail north out of Alaska and possibly winter in Nome, Alaska. He will continue through the passage the following summer. From there he will move down Europe and either through the Suez Canal to the Red Sea or down around Cape Town, South Africa.
Though Anderson is not as seasoned as Capt. Osborn, she is helping him plan what is sure to be the experience of a lifetime.
“Her organizational skills are proving to be key in realizing this dream,” says Osborn.
The journey will function as a sailing school, a vessel for photographers and researchers, or anyone looking for a less traditional means of travel. Osborn’s aim is really to find individuals with a sense of adventure to share his dream with, not to mention the expenses.
“It’s worth it to go after something you love,” describes Osborn. “Sailing, for me, is the best way to do that. It’s freedom and a challenge at the same time. And although sailing around the world is technically the goal, what I truly desire, is to explore the planet with those I love.”
Osborn’s work in McKenzie County will afford him the opportunity to begin the first leg of his trip around the world. Being away from his children, girlfriend and home is just another sacrifice he is willing to make to bring his dream to fruition.
Capt. Osborn is a tremendous example of what it is to live a dream no matter how scary or unrealistic it may seem at times. He is certainly a figure worthy of admiration and just maybe someone to contact if you are looking for an adventure of your own.
More information about Capt. Osborn’s journey aboard the S/V Empiricus can be found at www.empiricusembarks.blogspot.com.