Sailing Around the World with BJ Rollison

BJ Rollison loves sailing, and in the decades he’s spent on a boat, he’s been almost everywhere you can imagine.

“She’s sailed the Atlantic, the eastern seaboard, the ICW, sailed over in Sweden and Denmark. I’ve sailed in Ireland, I’ve sailed in Israel, and Bulgaria,” he said.

BJ’s love for the ocean even played a big part in his wedding, just ask his wife, Dana.

“I met BJ, he was living on his boat at that time in Lake Union. And by the time we got married, it was agreed in his marriage vows that he would be able to spend one night on the boat. And after retirement he would be able to sail around the world,” she said.

One of BJ’s latest expeditions was sailing to Hawaii, but that trip came with many challenges.

“We were about 1,100 miles out when the forestay broke. The forestay is the part that holds up the front of the mast. We looped around the Pacific high into San Francisco,” he said, “and I was able to make it to San Francisco with the wind on our stern and get repairs done. That took about a month, a month and a half or so. And then in October, I picked up another crew member and we made it across to Hawaii safely.”

BJ is spending time with his family over the holidays at his home in Renton, but that wasn’t always a certainty for him. Because of COVID, BJ couldn’t stay in Hawaii, so he set his sights to the islands of the South Pacific Ocean.

“The only two options after COVID were Fiji, which had a blue lane program, and Guam. And Guam was kind of iffy. So I applied for the Blue Lane program in Fiji, I was approved and so that was the destination I was heading for,” he said.

But after a 22-day sail to Fiji, COVID had become much more prevalent on the islands, and BJ ended up staying there, “from April to October.”

He spent seven months in Fiji, and including his sail to Hawaii, that was nine months spent on the boat. For BJ that was a long time to spend away from his family.

“I love being on the boat and I love sailing around, but it was a long time. It was a long time away from home. It was a long time away from my family. I really missed my wife and daughter,” he said.

All throughout those nine months back home, Dana was waiting for BJ to return. “I felt all the feelings. I got angry at one point, and then just resigned knowing that there was nothing he could do. This wasn’t planned. Just hoping that he could make his way back when the time was right and when the weather windows were right,” she said.

Finally in October, the weather was right and BJ sailed to Guam and flew back home, just in time for the holidays.

“Getting off the airplane and knowing that I’m going to see Dana and Elizabeth very soon, it was a big deal,” BJ said.

“It was the best Thanksgiving that we’ve had. And I’m really grateful that it all worked out for him to come home,” Dana said.