On an island in Denmark where the oldest oak tree in Europe grows, a lone builder nicknamed “the perfectionist” crafted a boat with his hands. In 1936, the boat was finished and her journey began.
Seventy years later in Port Townsend, Washington—just minutes after a near catastrophe was averted in the marina outside her office window—Kaci Cronkhite opened an email. A Danish spidsgatter named Pax was for sale in Victoria, British Columbia.
The journey that brought the two together became a quest that connected families in three countries with history that had been lost.
What Kaci didn’t know—what no one knew—was where and how far Pax had journeyed, what she survived those seven decades and what those who loved her would always remember.
From 1994 to 2001, Kaci Cronkhite sailed more than 60,000 miles as hired crew on boats in oceans around the world, earned a Captain's license, conducted research, wrote articles, and taught all aspects of ocean passage-making.
In 2001, after completing a world circumnavigation, she attended the Port Townsend Wooden Boat Festival. On September 11, the day she was heading back out to sea, planes crashed into the World Trade Center. Like others around the world, the incident altered the course of her life.
She stayed in Port Townsend and a few months later, was asked to take the helm of the Festival. For a decade, she served as director of the event in addition to executive roles with Wooden Boat Foundation & Northwest Maritime Center.
In 2007, Pax entered her life unexpectedly. There, this story begins.
"She" was built in 1936. If you don’t already know, boats are traditionally feminine. In her case, it didn’t take an expert to understand why. She was voluptuous. Wide and full in volume, buxom for and aft, she was all about the curves.
Technically, Pax is a “spidsgatter,” a design term chosen in Denmark to brand a new sailboat racing class in 1926. In English, the word translates from Danish as “two pointy ends” or “two butts.” In America, we say “double-ender.”
Spidsgatters were built to specifications in six sizes, commissioned by individual owners. Pax represents the second-largest size, at twenty-eight feet long and nearly ten feet wide. Fewer than two hundred were built. Of the estimated twenty to thirty spidsgatters sold to North America in the 1960s, only a dozen remain.
But her history was lost.