June 1, 2010

It’s choice, not luck

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.


Today’s Thought
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.”


Mike said...

I just came across your blog from a post on Boat Bits:


Very well said!


oztayls said...

You're so very right John. I think that many people, myself included, have made all sorts of excuses which invariably all relate to family and job commitments. The trouble is that most of us don't realise that it's all because of our programming, until it's almost too late. But even if you were wise to what is happening, it takes a huge amount of guts to actually hit the “cancel” button and do it.

When I turned 50 I seemed to wake up from some sort of foggy dream, and the “bump on the head” realisation of what all the sacrifices we made for the kids over the past 25 years had really meant. I never before understood why perfectly sane “50-something” people suddenly bought Harley Davidson motorcycles, got themselves tattoo'd, or did other crazy, out-of-character things at that age, but now I do!

I quite like Duncan's approach (see link), as it makes a lot of financial common sense.

…..a retirement lump sum of $525,000, plus an extra distribution of about $28,000 a year for four years? Now THAT'S what I'd call luck for most 50-somethings.

Erick said...

I also came across your blog from Bob: http://windborneinpugetsound.blogspot.com/

great post!

Oded Kishony said...

Right you are if you think you are

enjoyed the blog.....

Drew Frye said...

There is a flip side seldom discussed on sailing forums, and it goes like this: "Though I'm an addicted sailor, there is too much I like on land to feel any desire to leave it all behind. I am an engineer and I enjoy building things. I go rock climbing, ice climbing, and mountaineering. I go skiing. I wouldn't want to raise my daughter on the sea; although there is plenty out there, there is plenty here on land that we have come to overlook. I refuse to let it be said I was cowardly in not going cruising. I want the things I have and like the community of people I live with.

No excuses. I keep few items on my bucket list - when attractive items come up, I tick them off."

A challenge, while maintaining a career? Yes. Media advertising convinces us to spend too much, and conventional careers don't tolerate time off well; they take it as a sign that you are uncommitted. That is too bad.

The Armed Canadian said...

If someone came to me with that offer, they would be handing me my dream on a silver platter! Bank $450K, spend $70K on the boat plus fit out and I'd be gone! Wouldn't even be a question. After four years you could continue on just on the interest alone.

The only obligations you would have are the ones you make for yourself. He's very lucky indeed.