Reflections of Water and Memory
I felt like an ant swimming in a half-eaten bowl of cheerios, looking out over round, bulbous shapes sticking out of an otherwise flat, liquid horizon. I felt as though I could reach out to those distant lumps, seize them with my will, and drag my floating home to them; to all those endless islands. No matter how far north you go, there are still more islands.
The Road Less TraveledAlong the way I day-dreamed what it would be like to go sailing with my 12-year old self. I remember the wonder I felt when I would visit the San Juan Islands at that age. I can easily imagine him slapping me on the back, and with a wink, saying ‘ya done good.’
I remember an afternoon about five years ago, sitting in the sunny cockpit of Sea Muse, trying to puzzle out why my life felt so bipolar. How, in a matter of days, could I go from elated and content (on the boat) to feeling infuriatingly trapped (at work), and back again? That’s when I realized that, long term, I couldn’t continue to be a weekend warrior. I feel too strongly. I don’t have the temperament to constantly bounce between those two worlds.
At that moment my life was set up for a little slice of conventional heaven. I had a cushy corporate job, my wife and I just bought a house in a nice neighborhood, and we had even been discussing kids. My life was set up. The future would be easy and predictable. Very, very predictable.And here I was admitting to myself that I wanted to change all that. Here I was, imagining a future of uncertainty. I had been sailing for about a year and loved it. I loved it because it brought me closer to my first love: the islands. I received so much satisfaction from that, I was willing to give up the house, and the job, and eventually even the wife.
And how did it all turn out? April marks my one year anniversary of living aboard Solace full time. Now I am in Canada voyaging my way up the Inside Passage. I’ll take my time exploring the Gulf Islands, Princess Louisa Inlet, Desolation Sound, and the Broughton Islands. I’ve got a year and a half of living expenses saved up. I’m leaving behind some great new friends, and carrying some great memories forward with me. I’ve grown as a person and as a sailor, and thoroughly enjoyed my life this year.
The Stench of WealthMy first anchorage after crossing the border was Tsehum Harbor on Vancouver Island. After dropping anchor and making a quick dinner, I rowed the dinghy to shore in search of a celebratory beer. Despite it being 7:30 PM on a Friday night, the area was incredibly quiet. I meandered around Van Isle Marina for a while and finally found a restaurant.
As soon as I walked in I felt out of place. The small restaurant was packed with people in casual but expensive dinnerware. From a single glance I could tell this was the type of place where people come to be seen. I was inappropriately dressed in my stained blue jeans and hoodie. But the maitre de assured me that I was welcome to sit at the tiny bar and have a beer. Shortly after seating myself at the bar, a man and woman entered and were seated. The man was middle aged, with a large gut and a clearly sore back. The woman was at least two decades younger and clearly not his daughter.
I’ve been carrying two Canadian five dollar bills in my pocket for the last eight months in anticipation of heading back to the Gulf Islands. Tonight I finally got to spend them on a beer! I was back!As I sipped my beer I cast furtive glances at the diners around the room. If wealth had a smell, the stench in here would be unbearable. Are these the mysterious owners of all those shiny, glistening boats that never leave the dock? For the last few years I’ve felt trapped by a money system that perpetuates debt. I’ve sacrificed the majority of my time and money over this last two years to break out of that system. Are these the beneficiaries of that system?
Instead of resentment though, I feel pity. These gaudy baby-boomers have worked their entire lives to provide for their families and afford a ritzy retirement. Now they have achieved it, but lost their youth in the bargain. No one gets rich voyaging like I am doing, and no one has an authentic adventure in a cubical or corner office either.
It made me wonder: would their twelve year old selves be patting them on the back right now? Maybe. Maybe not. But I feel there is an important lesson hidden in the contrast between them and me.