"How does a circumnavigation begin? It begins
with a dream."
--"First Steps", September 1993
The Story So Far
Sometime back in 1990 or so, I decided to sail around the world. "Hah!", you say, as did many people, "dreams are all very well, but what about earning a living?" The truth was that for me at that time, what most people called "a living" I called "dying". One more day, one more step toward the grave - and nothing worthwhile in between. I decided that I'd rather starve on a beautiful island somewhere in the Tropics than blow my brains out due to terminal boredom in a gray-walled cubicle...
I didn't starve. In fact, I'm fighting off a weight problem right now, brought on by my lack of attention and an ex-girlfriend's greasy cooking.
The life of my dreams turned out to be there, just beyond the horizon; reaching for it was the hardest part of achieving it. Not to belittle the difficulties that I've run into along the way - and there have been plenty - but what life has no problems? The only choice we have is what set of problems we choose. My choice is the Sea.
(Extra! Extra! Read all about it! <grin>)
Due to request from a Net friend - you know who you are! - I'm including a fractal "hurricane" graphic that I used on my old Web page. For those of you who'd like to see a pic of a real hurricane that I got whacked by, (IR photo, actually), click below... (Note - those vertical divisions that you see are more than 300 miles apart!)
I'm a big believer in minimizing repeat tasks - that's one of the reasons I like computers - so, below, I'm going to list some standard questions that I get asked and my answers to them. If you don't like my `reusable rants', fine. I assume you know how to hit the "Page Down" key or the "Back" button...
"But what about storms?"
Well, what about them? I've been through some hellacious ones, mostly while solidly attached to a piece of land by lots of lines and anchors - but facing them at sea is just something you do. For that matter, it's far less dangerous, given a strong ship and sea-room, to be out at sea in a gale or a storm - land (rocks, shoals, reefs, sunkers...) is what kills sailors! Like anything else worthwhile, you face it down and power right through in low gear; ending up on the other side of your fears is worth any considered risk, in my not-at-all-humble opinion.
`Because you never chose your life, Dickie! You never asked for change, you never asked what you loved and you never found it, you never hurled yourself into the world that mattered most to you, never fought dragons that you thought could eat you up, never inched yourself out on cliffsides clinging by the tips of your skill a thousand feet over destruction because your life was there and you had to bring it home from terror! Choice, Dickie! Choose what you love and chase it top speed and I your future do solemnly promise that you will never die from so what!'
-- Richard Bach, "Running from Safety"
Storms can be handled. Whether near land, where you secure the boat as well as you can, or at sea, where you secure ship and heave to (lying so that the ship slowly drifts to leeward under minimal sail), there are ways to survive. I've experienced a number of "Ultimate Storms" (hurricanes), some of them dead-on hits - and have never taken any damage from any of them. It's a matter of knowledge and preparation; as in anything, there's some luck involved - but knowledge and preparation are what make up 99% of what most people call luck.
Storms are only a tiny part of cruising. According to my logs, less than 1% of the time that I have spent at sea has been in 25 knots or greater - and 25 knots is merely a strong sailing breeze, far below storm or even gale conditions. The rewards of cruising, for me, are much greater than any hesitation that could be caused by the possibility of storms.
"I know by now that the glitter of romance as seen from afar often turns out to be pretty shoddy at close quarters, and what appears to be a romantic life is invariably an uncomfortable one; but I know, too, that the values in such living are usually sound. They have to be, or you don't survive. And occasionally you are rewarded by an insight into living so splendid, so wholly magnificent, you can be satisfied with nothing less ever after, so that you go on hoping and searching for another glimpse for the rest of your life."
-- Ann Davison (first woman to cross the Atlantic single-handed), "My Ship is So Small"
Click to see a full-sized pic
"But you should get serious about your life, get married..."
Brother, I am serious; serious as a heart attack. My life, to me, is far too valuable to waste on the daily grind, doing something I hate: I do something I love, instead. I work hard, play harder, and love hardest of all - and my life is as rich and satisfying as I would wish it to be.
I would fight and die, if necessary, to do and keep doing what I'm doing. Can you say the same about your 9-to-5 existence? Which of us is the more serious?
As to getting married, it hasn't happened yet. When it does, I will marry because I love the woman that I'm with, and want us to stay together - not due to somebody's nagging or "because it's time". I don't do that kind of shit to myself - or to anyone else.
"Isn't a 37-foot boat too small to be out in that big ocean?"
First off , see the "storms" question above. Second, I've seen the Big Ships take a pasting in what, to me, was just heavy weather - they sit there and get smashed, while I ride up and down with the waves. I bought the strongest boat available, a Dutch-built steel ketch - and I inspect and maintain all my equipment religiously. As to everything else - I have emergency food stocks aboard to last me for a year (rice and beans stretch a looong way), know how to rig a solar stove so that I'm not dependent even on gas, can easily make two quarts of water a day using a variety of methods (all actually tested), and can keep going, under power for over a thosand miles and under sail forever. I know how to "hand, reef, and steer", can navigate without any fancy gadgets (a plumb bob, or a piece of string with a couple of knots in it will do), know how to jury-rig a broken mast - and have two masts besides - and am mentally and physically prepared for whatever I may need to do.
By the way, check yourself out - are you anywhere near that state of readiness and competence in regard to your environment? Can you deal with an armed mugger, a corrupt cop, a drunken idiot about to run you down?... "Isn't your apartment a little too small to be in that big city?"
"Don't you get bored?"
<Loud laughter> You must have never been out on the ocean, if you can ask that kind of question. Bored? Between being surrounded by constant but ever-changing beauty, I get to see sunsets like the one above, night skies like impenetrable black velvet with infinite numbers of diamonds prodigally scattered on it, sunrises like red thunder, swordfish erupting out of the water like a Polaris missile rising from the depths, dolphins surfing my bow wave, mysterious unexplainable lights glowing in the deep, bioluminescent jellyfish lighting the track of my passage like a huge green exclamation point, new people, new places, new ways of living... Bored? Friend, I've forgotten what the word means. Perhaps you could clue me in.
"Some people are so lucky... I wish I could live like that, but I can't! (Can't afford, have kids, hydrophobic, blah-blah-blah...)"
No, in fact you can't. The life I'm living is mine, and you can't have it. But, and this is a big one, you can have one of your own - if you're willing to pay the price. That means: opening up your eyes, your ears, and your mind; taking a 'fearless personal inventory', as the folks in AA say, and deciding what is right and important for you. Then, (listen up; this is the good part) having the courage to drop whatever doesn't work for you and do only those things that do. Keep on doing this until your life is what you've always dreamed of, "a pearl beyond price".
Is that too hard for you? Oh well - I guess you're right; you certainly can't do anything like this. Go away. I have no time for whiners.
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