Thursday, June 6, 2002

Research and Development

I spent a lot of time thinking about what my brother-in-law had said about 'working anywhere' on our recent vacation to the Florida Keys. I thought of our favorite vacation spots, the island chains of Northern Lake Michigan, the islands off the coast of Maine, the Mexican coastline. Could it work? Could I manage to continue working and earning a living whilst travelling around? Could we pack up and sell out and live aboard like our friends had done years before? I didn't even dare bring up what was going through my head with Terri, at least until I had looked into the idea a bit further.

2001/02 saw a lot of trips to the library, and a big pile of sailing literature. Some of the books I enjoyed the most, and really fueled the fire were "The Cruising Life" by Ross Norgrove, "The Intricate Art of Living Afloat" by Clare Allcard, and Joshua Slocum's classic "Sailing Alone Around the World". I marveled at tales of men and women singlehandedly sailing to exotic ports of call, of whole families (including young children) living for years hopping from island to island, sailing across oceans, watching dolphins jumping through their wake, hearing the calls of whales, of night sailing and bioluminescent trails . . . Of course, I also read of less enthralling adventures, of shipwrecks, of being cast adrift for months, of the sailors from the Whaleship Essex reduced to cannibalism, of piracy, of sharks; books like "Adrift: Seventy-Six Days Lost at Sea" by Steve Callahan, or "Survive the Savage Sea" by Dougal Robertson. But for every book of disaster there were inspiring books of triumph, like "Maiden Voyage" by Tania Aebi about a female single handed sailor who travels around the world with only a cat for company, or "Wanderer" by the actor Sterling Hayden who defys a court order declaring his ship 'unseaworthy', and takes his kids to the South Seas on it.

I read through nearly the entire 'sailing section' of our local library, from personal sailing accounts, to disasters at sea, to how-to guides, to technical manuals, anything related to ocean travel.

The idea that you could travel to practically anywhere on earth under your own power I found extremely appealling. The idea of getting out of this dreary treadmill, this seemingly endless cycle of work/spend/work/spend appealed to me on another level. The feelings of peace that we used to find backpacking on remote islands, the escape from the din of civilization, at least for a little while, was a siren call to my psyche. I guess I sort of envisioned us taking an early 'semi-retirement', somehow continuing work, but at a slower pace, and hopefully a slower pace to spending and acquisition as well.

Eventually Terri started noticing a trend in my reading, and I had to 'feel her out', tell her what crazy scheme had burrowed into my brain. I was surprised that her immediate reaction wasn't 'not no but hell no', but a more reasoned response. She, of course, saw the more practical side of things (school, college, family commitments, health issues, friends etc), as she tends to do in everything, but it wasn't long before I found her reading a few sailing books as well.

We thought the first step ought to be familiarizing ourselves with sailing a bit more than just out of books. Perhaps take a class, try it out, see if we even take to it. Perhaps we'll really hate it after all. We began looking into where we could get sailing lessons, preferrably for all three of us. We started hanging around over near Lake Michigan, walking the docks, peeking into other people's boats, inquiring at different marinas about sailing instruction. We eventually happened on Torreson Marine's Sailing School in Muskegon, and signed up for a class in the summer of 2003.