A CONTRIBUTOR to the Cape Dory bulletin board was asking for help recently. He wanted to know if other people would sail away into the sunset if, like him, they were offered a retirement lump sum of $525,000, plus an extra distribution of about $28,000 a year for four years.
Those figures just blew my mind. When I think of the pittances some of the great circumnavigators started out with, I just have to laugh. And yet, as the thread developed on the bulletin board, other people warned him to go into it very carefully. Some people obviously believe you simply cannot have too much money if you want to go cruising permanently.
This thread reminded me of a middle-aged Englishman I met a couple of years back on a voyage to St. Helena Island in the South Atlantic aboard a Royal Mail steamer. He somehow found out that June and I had once left behind everything we owned and loved and sailed across the oceans on a 30-footer.
"You were very lucky," he said. "I wish I could have done that."
We laughed. "Luck had nothing to do with it," I said. "It was a choice."
He was offended. "I had no choice," he insisted. "It was expected of me to marry, have children, buy a house, and hold down a responsible job."
"You chose to do what other people expected of you," we pointed out. "You could have chosen instead to sail across an ocean." He got red in the face and very cross. "You don't understand," he said, "the social pressures left me no choice." He didn't speak to us again for the rest of the trip. I'm sure he thought we were very gauche and rude. But maybe he will see the light one day if he improves his ability to think.
We made the choice and we suffered financially, as we have done ever since. And at first we were afraid. Especially me. Very afraid. But the experience enriched our lives beyond all measure. It gave us great confidence in our ability to survive, not only in our dealings with Nature at sea, but also in our dealings with fellow humans on land, no matter what rough waters they might lead us into.
I understand that some people have commitments on land that they feel compelled to fulfill, and I respect their choice. But that's what it is: a choice. Don't let's pretend it's impossible to sail off into the sunset because of social pressure, or an insufficiency of money.
And when other people actually do it, don’t let’s pretend it’s luck. It’s not luck, it’s a choice. It does take guts as well, of course—you need the guts to make the choice.
Happiness in the older years of life, like happiness in every year of life, is a matter of choice—your choice for yourself.
— Harold Azine, The House in Webster Groves
Boaters’ Rules of Thumb #59
Dock lines. The diameter in the eye splice in a dock line should be at least three times the diameter of the piling or bollard it fits over—preferably four or five times. You might think this very trivial, but in fact the reason for this ancient rule is that a long eye splice lasts longer and is safer than a short one because a short one tends to pull apart at the throat when tension is applied.
Overheard in the ladies’ restroom:
“Would you believe it! A man actually had the nerve to try and pick me up in the middle of the mall yesterday. Boy, oh boy, you should see his luxury apartment.”