It must have been Winter when he first started talking about moving south. He was a sailor who lived on his 27-foot sailboat in Annapolis, Maryland. I could understand wanting warmth, year-round sailing, sunshine and palm trees. But I had to overcome feelings of sorrow and loss. He had already moved 500 miles away and now it would be 1200 more.
I promise that’s the last sad thing you’ll read here.
Maybe it was my enthusiasm for sailing or the dreamy-eyed look I got at the boat shows, but he decided I was sailor material and asked if I’d like to come along.
“Yes you will. You can cook, do dishes, do the laundry and clean the head.”
(No, he didn’t say that! He doesn’t see boat chores in blue and pink.) He wanted me to take a safe boating course, learn to tie basic knots, and be able to plot a course on a paper chart if all electronics failed.
It didn’t seem much like sailing weather when I started my once a week course in boater safety. It was March in New Hampshire. Luckily, this was all classroom work and I loved it. I learned about PFDs and fire extinguishers, what to do if your boat is burning (call for help, don your pfd, then jump!), what to do if a humungous barge is bearing down on you and you are the stand-on vessel (get out of the way – it takes him a mile just to slow down and two miles to stop).
The geek in me couldn’t get enough of charts and straight edges and angles. I got a small length of rope and practiced knots. Even now, there’s a perfect bowline around my bedpost (stop thinking about that) and a clove hitch securing the salt shaker. I got a 98 on the final exam, and it would have been 100 except for my laziness in reading all the answers:
Q: When is the appropriate time to wash all vegetation off of your powerboat?
a. As soon as you get home
b. Right before you enter another body of water
c. It depends on the type of boat you have
d. As soon as you pull away from the boat ramp.
Okay, I thought (a) was right and I didn’t even read (d). But 98 is very respectable and a few weeks later I got a shiny plastic card saying I’m certified. It doesn’t mean I’m a sailor. It just means I know the rules and the markers, and I won’t embarrass my captain on the radio. (I will probably embarrass him in so many other ways!)
Being a marketeer by profession, I’ve had a fair amount of sales training. In every sale, a good salesman anticipates the objections and has an answer for each of them. In order to sell myself on a five-week journey on a sailboat, I had to overcome a few objections: what about my job, who will feed my cats, and the big one: will I be able to afford it?
My son and I were talking about this as we wandered along Hampton Beach, weaving in and out of beach shops with t-shirts and towels. It was a hot summer day and we had gone to see the sand sculptures. As we made our way back to the car, we saw a bright yellow t-shirt in the window of one crowded little shop. It said simply, YOLO. I looked at Anthony. He gave me the “what cave have you been living in” look, and said, “You Only Live Once.”
I asked for a leave of absence from my job at a small manufacturing company. It seems no one had ever asked before. I said, think of it as maternity leave, and I got it. My other son Donald will drive for an hour two or three times a week to feed the cats. “You have to do this trip, Mom,” he said. And out of the blue, I got a check from my 85 year old mother who didn’t yet know I was thinking of sailing south. “My tax adviser tells me I should start giving some away,” she said. Objections? Gone.
And so, in a few short weeks, we will sail Catmandu under the bright yellow banner of YOLO and out into the Chesapeake, heading south.