For Jim Findley, Heaven Is A Gust of Wind And A Sailboat

south sound sailing
For Diane and Jim Findley, sailing is a natural part of their life on Hartstine Island.


By Gail Wood

sunset airIf you can’t find Jim Findley, try checking the Puget Sound around Harstine Island.

He’s probably there, sailing.

Findley was ten when he and his dad first climbed aboard a 12-foot runabout, catching the wind to move their boat. Later, he went on a neighbor’s sailboat. And he was hooked.

“I was just amazed that you could just go anywhere out there on the bay,” Findley said. “And it was the wind that moved you.”

Findley’s getaway is sailing, his heaven on earth. Some guys golf or putter with cars. Findley? He sails.

south sound sailing
For Diane and Jim Findley, sailing is a natural part of their life on Hartstine Island.

“He really, really likes to be out on the water,” said Diana, his wife and first mate. “Some people ski. Some race cars. He plays with boats.”

At Diana’s last count, Jim had nine boats, counting the crew boat he enjoys going out on when the wind is calm and the Puget Sound is flat. She figured he’s out on the water three or four times a week. During the summers, he’s racing twice a week. On Mondays, he races in the Star Fleet. On Thursdays, he races, or helps coordinate, in the Dingy Fleet.

Since Jim and Diana live on the water on Harstine Island, having a boat is, well, a necessity.

“I’ve got web feet I think,” Jim said. “I need to be by the water all the time.”

For the past eight years, he’s been in charge of the Dingy Fleet that races in Budd Inlet, getting people signed up and ready for the races. There were 20 boats signed up for the race a couple of weeks ago, which is as high as it’s ever been. Sailing interest isn’t dying out in the smaller boats.

“This year we’re back up to record numbers,” Jim said. “We’re back up to really a lot of people coming out. Which is really neat.”

Entries, however, have dipped a little in the bigger boat races.

south sound sailing
At last count, Jim Findley had nine boats.

“Maybe that’s because the bigger boats are getting so expensive,” Jim said.

There was nothing mentioned in their wedding vows about sailing when they were married in 1965, but when Jim and Diana were professing their mutual love there was an assumed commitment to sailing. Diana knew about her husband’s love for sailing. And, over the years, they sail together. Of course, Jim sails more than Diana. There’s one thing Diana doesn’t enjoy about sailing. That’s seasickness. She’s prone to feeding the fish.

“We both grew up on the water,” Diana said. “So, we’ve been around it all our lives.”

Jim grew up in Federal Way and lived on a lake and his parents had property on the Puget Sound. Diana, whose father was a college professor, moved around a lot from Palo Alto, Calif., to along the Puget Sound here in Washington.

“Jim and I were raised on different kinds of water,” Diana said. “He was raised on a lake. I was raised on salt water.”

While Jim was on the water a lot as a kid and growing up, it wasn’t until he turned 35 that he really got into racing. By then, he had his own boat, a Hobie Cat 16. At that time, Jim, who worked as a carpenter throughout his job career, was living in Rochester and sailed in Olympia.

When he was younger, Jim, who recently turned 71, talked to Diana about sailing across the Pacific.

“It went into my mind and floated out again,” Jim said with a chuckle. “Never got serious about it to do anything about it.”

south sound sailing
Jim Findley coordinates sailboat races through South Sound Sailing Racing Club.

Jim said he’s got a couple of reasons for going out on the Puget Sound and rowing in his sleek crew boat. And getting exercise isn’t the first reason.

“It’s just being out on the water,” Jim said. “It’s peaceful out there. I pretty much just go out when it’s dead calm. It’s really nice and relaxing. It’s fun. I enjoy about anything on the water. I love boats of any kind.”

Even motor boats. But for Jim there’s something fascinating about catching a breath of wind that fills the sails, moving his boat across the water.

“Knowing how to make a boat move under sail is kind of tricky,” Jim said. “Being able to do that kind of makes you feel good.”

But that’s only part of the excitement. There’s also the competitive edge to racing.

“On race nights, there’s the adrenaline and all of that,” Jim said.

For Jim, boating, whether it’s sailing, rowing or taking one of his motorboats out, being on the water is a way of staying young. It keeps him active.

“We’re old. We don’t keep track of age anymore,” Diana said. “Jim will probably sail until the day he dies. He just loves it.”

For information about the South Sound Racing Club visit


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