.... do we do this? I'm sure the question occurs to everyone out on the water, from the Newfoundland freighter captain in a north Atlantic blow, far from his family and loved ones, to cruisers like myself, who find themselves thinking how nice it would be to be out dancing on a Friday evening with a special lady - rather than fighting 20 knot winds and a foul tide in the moonless dark (that was last night!) to make it to a chosen anchorage, only to spend the night worrying if the anchor will hold, and will that boat over there come loose and run into us at o'dark thirty in the night?
For that Newfoundland freighter captain, it's a time honoured way of life, one well understood and accepted by those who live it and (hopefully) by their families who are left behind. For those who do this for recreation, or as a lifestyle, the answers are not nearly so simple.
The question struck me most forcefully however, the day I found myself on a beautiful beach in the Bahamas, waves lapping at my feet, while small fish nibbled at my toes, the boat I was delivering floating fifty yards away in the turquoise waters. It occurred to me how fabulous it would be to share beautiful moments such as these with a special someone...
Of course, most people my age continue to work, to accumulate wealth towards their retirement. I think of my friend Jim and his wife Julie, who bought a beautiful cruising boat, a Cabo Rico 38, with plans to work and save, then head off for the islands. Time went by as Jim worked on, their boat sitting in its slip in Tampa Bay, ready to go whenever Jim and Julie decided it was time.
Then...cancer struck. Instead of endless days in the sun exploring the islands they came to, or strolling on sandy beaches in paradise, Jim found himself lying in a hospital bed, doing chemo, and dealing with estate issues, in case the worst came to pass. Eventually, against his doctor's advice, Jim and Julie chose to take the boat to the Bahamas and on into the islands. Jim would fly back for treatment, chemo and radiation, as required.
This went on for about three years, until finally, Jim's strength waning, they sailed the boat back to Florida where they lived. A few month's later, Jim was gone, leaving Julie a widow at 48. Eventually, the boat was sold, and Julie went on with her life.
But they'd lived their dream, together, even if it wasn't for as long as they had hoped. They had at least had that.
Only a few of us know of Jim's thoughts however, when it became clear that his days in the sun were not going to be the endless series of beautiful sunsets he and Julie had envisioned for themselves.
"I didn't have to work as long as I did. We certainly didn't need as much money as we made. We should have, could have, left sooner, long before the diagnosis in fact. We could have enjoyed life more." Jim's sole regret, other than leaving his wife alone, was that they hadn't lived their lives more for each other, rather than for others who clearly didn't matter as much.
His former employer, for whom he'd worked for over twenty years at a senior level, didn't even send a wreath.