Routine is Heaven and Hell

Lionsmane Jellyfish

A Lionsmane Jellyfish bobs in the water near the dock.

Fear has been gnawing at me like a rat in the wall. When I pay attention to it, it scurries away and hides in some deep recess of my mind, only to later reappear on a near subconscious level.

I woke up early to pack my truck for a trip to Friday Harbor. I was at the top of the dock, walking back to my boat for another load when the sunlight played out over the hill and crashed into the dock like a tsunami. Suddenly the chrome and water of the marina sparkled like fireworks. Kingfishers chirped insults at one another from across the docks. Lionsmane jellyfish bobbed in the placid water. It was like a cover had been flung off a masterpiece painting. A wave of serenity washed over me. I thought to myself: How much more valuable is it to experience this as often as possible, than to make money. How many of the conveniences of money am I willing to shed in order to have more of this?

Now that the voyage is over, I feel conflicted on what to write about. Voyaging is exciting. Readers live vicariously through the adventures of sail bloggers. I understand this.

But now I am about to embark on a much more perilous and personal journey: walking the fine line between poverty and voluntary simplicity. Warrior Presence is my key to riding the knife edge. In the book Twelve by Twelve, William Powers writes this about the topic of Warrior Presence:

“In twenty years of meditation and spiritual search I’ve noticed that the people who really “get it” in the sense of beautifully blending inner peace with loving action have something in common. …they face larger problems just as they face their personal problems. …those with warrior presence maintain beauty and control in their interior space, through being fully present in the moment.”

“…inside each of us is a place of absolutely no connection to others. That place is like a bottomless open well. We try to shine floodlights into the well, fill it with toxic rubbish, or board it over with activity and routine. But if we don’t befriend the well – if we’re not strong in solitude – then on one level our relationships can be tinged with insecurity.”


Day sailing is so much funner than sailing with a compass heading.

My fear of poverty is greater than its actual threat. In reality the risk I’m taking is very small because of the great strides I’ve taken over the last two years to mitigate it. I can live at a level of frugality that is impractical for most people. My mind understands this. My emotions however are tainted by that subconscious rat.

The chapter on Warrior Presence speaks highly of a person’s strength in solitude; a strength which I possess in spades. It also speaks of a person’s ability to maintain an inner peace in the face of the daily stresses of everyday life. That is what I have yet to achieve. Yes, I can feel peace on the water. No, I can’t find it in a cubical. Over the next few months I hope to find my way to the Golden Mean between them. I believe the key to that Golden Mean is routine.

In the past, the source of my disgruntlement hasn’t been my boss, or my coworkers, or even the work itself. The routine has been hell. I have hated my alarm clock with the fiery passion of a thousand hells. I’ve been ground down by the daily grind.

Natural Aquarium

Living at the dock is like living at an aquarium. The wildlife and fish are abundant and active right now.

And yet, I now say that routine will be my savior?!

It’s been rejuvenating to find a dock slip. The constant vigilance required to live on the hook is taxing. What is the weather doing? What are the tides doing? Things are constantly breaking. Forecasts are constantly going awry. Life voyaging, enjoying quiet anchorages and sailing long distances, is a fairly sedentary lifestyle too. My daily routine now includes a morning jog in addition to six hours of highly focused work. I have ample time to listen to my body, mind, and to enjoy the vagaries of conscious, simple living.

In truth, my past routines were out of balance and that spun me out of balance. The next few months will be about perfecting a sustainable balance. A routine that enforces, rather than chips away at, my Warrior Presence. This may not sound as exciting as a voyage up to Desolation Sound, but far fewer people complete the journey I am about to embark on. I invite you to follow along with me.

Related posts:

The Lost Virtues of Logic and Emotional Control
Transitioning to a Liveaboard
Fiberglass Over Teak - Part Deux
6 Responses to “Routine is Heaven and Hell”
  1. liz piccione-volger says:

    Looking forward to it. You write well and live well and I will follow along. Cheers!!

  2. Kudos for looking the beast straight in the eye. Yes, I believe there is a balance to be had in our country, especially, between an honest day’s work for decent pay (whatever that looks like) and the freedom to go out and explore a wider world. It does feel as though people who make the choice to forego the 9-5 shackles are forced to be making a choice of voluntary poverty, as we define it in this country. Our oldest is finding her way in this same decision making process and while we support her vision and her decision 100%, it is with more than a little fear for her future. She has made it work thus far but all choices come with specific stressers and not having much money is a huge stresser where we live. In the end, we all have to look our own beasts in the eye and ask have we lived a life well-done?

  3. Todd says:

    Chris – many thanks for your sailing blog. Sent you a few beers via Paypal.

    I initially found it while researching boat insulation information and have come to truly enjoy your posts. Reading your thoughts helped me to see a path to living on the water. I don’t pretend to be enduring what you do, but just wanted to let you know that you helped inspire me to live my dream. I bought an older houseboat that is “partly” converted to year round liveability. Will have her done before snow starts falling on the Ohio River 🙂

    All my best to you in your journey Todd

    A great ship asks deep waters.
    George Herbert

    • Chris says:

      Wow Todd, thank you for the support! I’m touched that I could inspire you to pursue your own happiness. Best of luck on your jouney!

  4. Andy Cross says:

    Great post Chris. Enjoy the journey! We look forward to catching up with you when we’re back in the San Juans.

  5. Alex says:

    Hi Chris, great insight and I love how you tell it like it is, even if the truth hurts sometimes. I think it’s easy to get focused on a goal so much that you think everything will be puppies and rainbows if only that goal can be attained. Only to find out once the goal is met that not much has changed, and the steady progress toward the goal was the fuel that kept us motivated and happy, as opposed to reaching the goal. And now that the goal is met there is an emptiness.

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