Go Before It’s Too Late

I’d bet the majority of people who click into this site have the dream of going cruising. Unfortunately most will never do it. They’re probably a lot like I was 30+ years ago. Stuck in a job they aren’t really happy with if they have a job at all in this economy. They read the magazines, they drool over new boat designs, surf the internet reading cruising logs of people that are actually out there doing what the reader wishes he/she was doing.

I did all that, except for the internet thing…we didn’t have it back then. One day I realized that 1) I was never going to earn enough money to buy one of those shiny toys in the magazines working as an assistant public relations director at a hospital. 2) I wasn’t willing to do what one needs to do in order to earn that kind of money, and 3) if you ARE willing to do what it takes to earn that kind of money then you don’t have enough time left over to spend the time needed to enjoy the boat in the ways you dream about. If you don’t believe that, then just go down to your local marina for a few consecutive weekends and see how many of the boats are in the same spot week after week after week.

So I found another way of achieving the dream. When I got divorced, and having dodged the kid bullet, I was able to do whatever I wanted to do with my life. I got a second chance to create myself. Having wanted to “mess around on boats” from the time my father built a little eight-foot pram when I was about seven or so, I got a job as a deck hand and worked for next to nothing the next couple of years until I acquired enough sea time to sit for my 100-ton license. I then found people who were willing to do all the work required to buy that boat and then pay me to play with it. The down side is that most of those people are real assholes that you don’t want to be around in the first place and you don’t get to choose where you go or when you get to go there.

At the end of my career working yachts and small commercial craft I finally bought my own small boat and took off after rereading Don Casey & Lew Hackler’s wonderful book Sensible Cruising:  The Thoreau Approach.  “A Philosophic & Practical Approach to Cruising.” Thoreau, as we know, was heavily into what we know refer to as “simplified living” and Casey and Hackler have distilled his philosophy and applied it to the idea of cruising.

I must warn you. This is a dangerous book. It can change your entire life. Below are some excerpts. The italicized portions are from Thoreau.

“We have seen too many perfectly good little cruisers sitting at the dock or on a mooring while the owner struggled and sweated to get the right boat for his dream cruise.  More often than not, it is not the sea that beats back the would-be cruiser; it is his attitude.

“…Thoreau in a very real sense tells us if cruising is what we want, then it is what we should be doing.  Take the boat you already have and go.  If you do not have a boat, then buy one you can afford and go.  Life is too short and too full of wonder to spend the mass of it:…laying up treasures which moth and rust will corrupt and thieves break through and steal.

“Cruising is a lifestyle, an attitude, a state of mind. Contrary to contemporary wisdom, a cruise can be just as successful in a 20-footer as a 40-footer, most likely more successful.

“To postpone cruising indefinitely in order to earn enough money to purchase just the right boat is to risk missing them altogether.

“Far too often, recent cruising books of an instructional nature have assigned a length of 40 feet or longer to the ideal cruising boat.  If you read that opinion often enough you begin to believe it, no matter how happy you may be with your current 28-footer.

“The fact is there is no ideal size for a cruising boat. The ideal size depends upon its intended use.

“You need cruise only for a short time to recognize that, given seaworthiness, a smaller boat with its shallower draft actually opens up more of the world to the cruiser than the larger boat.

“Many of the world’s best cruising areas can be fully explored only with a shallow draft.The most often mentioned (point of comparison between large and small boats) is that larger boats are more comfortable for living aboard is entirely true. … For cruising, however, the cost of such comforts may be far greater than their value. Most of the luxuries, and many of the so-called comforts of life, are not only indispensable, but positive hindrances…

“We have no guarantee of tomorrow.  If you dream of cruising, start today.  Take the small cruiser you have now and go cruising.  Buy the small cruiser you can afford now and go cruising. No wealth can buy the requisite leisure, freedom, and independence which are the capital in his profession.

“The perfect boat is not the one you dream about.  It is the boat that takes you cruising. We seem to linger in manhood to tell the dreams of our childhood, and they vanish out of memory ere we learn the language.

“Think of cruising sailors you have read about.  How many bought a boat, then waited five years to go cruising?  The dream is difficult to sustain that long. If you wait too long, you will never go.  It is as simple as that.  If you want to go cruising, find a way to do it now. This is the only way, we say; but there are as many ways as there can be drawn radii from one center.

“Make your plans and go cruising now.  If what you have ashore is keeping you from going, store it, sell it, or give it away. I see young men, my townsmen, whose misfortune it is to  have inherited farms, houses, barns, cattle and farming tools; for these are more easily acquired than got rid of.

“Possessions have a way of owning you instead of the other way around; it is a difficult bond to break.

[Here I would like to insert a quote by Betty Wilson from her book Away From It All: “If we’re really going to start a new life, we have to kill the old one. That’s why most people never really start anything new. They’re claimed by old lamps and bureaus left to them by their grandmothers.”]

“The day-to-day cost of cruising is no more, often a lot less, than the day-to-day cost of living ashore. Why do you stay here and live this mean moiling life, when a glorious existence is possible for you?  Those same stars twinkle over other fields than these.

“Calculate the cost of the cruise you have in mind – sensibly- then dedicate yourself to earning and saving.  When the bank account hits the magic number, do not delay another day.  Load the boat and go. There is no glory so bright but the veil of business can hide it effectually. With most men life is postponed to some trivial business…”

I would also offer this, from Richard MacCullough who wrote in his book Viking’s Wake

And the bright horizon calls!  Many a thing will keep till the world’s work is done, and youth is only a memory.  When the old enchanter came to my door laden with dreams, I reached out with both hands.  For I knew that he would not be lured with the gold that I might later offer, when age had come upon me.

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One response to “Go Before It’s Too Late

  1. joycepa

    Richard, I’m contacting you this way in sort of desperation. Your email address has disappeared from my address book, and I’d like to get in touch with you. When you have a chance, could you please email me so i can re-instate your address?