IT’S A SOBERING THOUGHT, but the success rate among people who plan to go long-term cruising under sail is only 35 to 40 percent. What is the problem here? What makes 60 percent of cruisers unhappy?
Well, two things spring to mind. The first thing is that most people need a goal when they go cruising. They need to feel they have a plan, that they are making progress, and that they will eventually accomplish something worth-while. But too many people don’t put enough thought into creating a goal. They believe that they can just take off into the sunset with a champagne glass in hand and find happiness on the way. They can’t.
The second thing is that they don’t understand what happiness is. It’s not the evanescent feeling of joy and laughter you get from watching the clowns. It’s not nonstop smiles and jokes. It’s far deeper and longer-lasting than that.
Democritus, one of the leading Greek philosophers, taught that the goal of life is happiness. He said that at all times man should seek happiness. And, of course, you probably remember that the pursuit of happiness is part of one of the most famous phrases in the Declaration of Independence.
So what is happiness, then? Democritus described it as a state of mind, an inner condition of tranquility, a harmony of the soul, a combination of reflection and reason ... in fact, what amounts to serenity.
My own theory is that happiness is serendipitous. It sneaks up on you and ambushes you when you’re quietly going about your normal day-to-day cruising activities. If you set out purposely to pursue happiness, it flees in front of you and you can never catch it. But ignore it, and it will creep back and embrace you.
So, before you go cruising make sure you understand what happiness is. Make sure, too, that your cruising plan is based on a solid goal. And then, if you have a good number of points in the Black Box, happiness will wrap its welcome cloak around you and you will find the serenity you seek.
Happiness? A good cigar, a good meal, a good cigar and a good woman — or a bad woman; it depends on how much happiness you can handle.
— George Burns, NBC TV, 16 Oct 84
“Why don’t you play bridge with Jim any more?”
“Well, would you play with a man who keeps aces up his sleeve and cheats every time he writes the score down?”
“Of course not.”
“Neither will Jim.”
(Drop by every Monday, Wednesday, Friday for another Mainly about Boats column.)