Bill: Minimalist to the Max

The heavens above Juneau had let loose with rain and it was almost dark when I headed back to the boat.  There at the foot of the ramp a completely sodden man had just tied up a weather-beaten 15 foot kayak and was pulling out a few meager belongings.   I asked where from where to.  “Olympia to Skagway”, he said. 

BillI knew dinner would be quick as that morning I’d picked up two pounds of shrimp from a boat at the dock. (Red striped, net trawled, “Completely vegetarian”, said the fisherman, “They won’t touch bait in a trap.”) So I invited him along. He accepted and introduced himself as Bill.  I offered to carry his tent; it was soaked, four times its weight with water.

Compared with David and Pearl, the Corvallis kayakers we met in Shearwater, Bill is a thorough minimalist. He doesn’t have GPS nor a basic VHF radio.   He uses a compass with charts photocopied at the library.  In fact, the Juneau library had so many books he’d wanted to read he’d decided to spend a couple of days doing just that.   He’s already kayaked Glacier Bay and now was doing the Inside Passage.  100% of it.   Hard core.  Buoyant.    

Seems Bill has already travelled 21,000 miles by kayak and sort of would like to bag the equivalent of a circumnavigation.   In passing, he mentioned he’d also logged 61,000 by bike and 38,000 on foot.  

We were starting to wonder if Bill was a fifty-year old trust fund kid, when he mentioned his day job back in Iowa.  Business communications, that is, installing telephones.  He doesn’t like the work but is good at it and has gradually been able to cut down his working weeks to about ten a year.  We are all very impressed. 

Bill and JackAnd yes, he’s a minimalist to the max at home too.  No car.  Lives in a cabin without electricity.  193 square feet.  With a sleeping loft: Jack calls him on it, saying “That’s more than 193 square feet!”  He sheepishly admits it is and, after delighting our evening, heads off into the rain.


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