One of my coworkers, soon after I started my first job after school, owned a sailboat. He took me out several times and I fell in love with the feeling you get when you're out on the water with very little noise to distract you. There's something special about being out in nature and feeling her caress you.
After nine years of working with that same company, I was getting burned out and knew I needed something different in my life.
My epiphany came while driving home one night. The radio was playing music from my mp3 collection and a quiet song started wafting from the speakers. Reflexively, I turned up the volume so the sound would actually mean something during my drive. I heard the sounds of Crosby, Stills, and Nash singing "Southern Cross" and my mind left the traffic around me. Instantly, I was back in the sailboat, feeling the wind on my face and the shore leave me far behind. I hadn't a care in the world.
Thinking of sailing my troubles away, I realized that I wanted a sailboat. I needed the freedom that comes from having the ability to sail away.
I listened to that song over and over on my drive home, living the dream in my mind of sailing in my own boat or flying a plane, another dream of mine.
When I got home, I told my girlfriend of my epiphany and she immediately doused the my dream with the icy waters of reality, reminding me of my debts and how there was no way I'd be able to afford a boat at that time. There's nothing quite like the support of loved ones.
Unfortunately, she was right. I wasn't quite prepared to buy a boat. I did, however, have the desire and started putting money away immediately to satisfy my dreams. I started watching the local paper for boats that were for sale and checked internet sites for options. I looked into getting a loan from my bank and found that it wouldn't be too difficult. Though my debt was high, I had a long history with the bank and had not had any problems in the past, so they were willing to work with me.
To my surprise, I found a really nice looking, 26-foot sailboat for sale in South Carolina for only $13K. That was well within my price range and I knew I just needed to get out there and take a serious look. I contacted the seller and made arrangements to visit with them at their marina the following weekend. Then I called and made the appropriate flight and hotel arrangements for my visit.
Throughout the following week, I couldn't stop thinking about what I had taken to considering "my" boat. I made the appropriate arrangements with my bank so that I had funds available should I decide that I wanted to buy the boat when I got there. I found that the cheapest way to get her out to me was to have it hauled from Miami by truck. That meant I would get to sail her down from South Carolina to Florida as a maiden voyage. I made the arrangements for her delivery and downloaded a lot of pictures of similar boats so that I could tell what I was getting into with this purchase. I researched and studied as much as I could about this type of boat and the best way to handle her. I searched for any pitfalls that come with operating a boat like mine. I thought I was ready.
When the time came for me to go, I kissed my girlfriend good-bye at the airport and walked with a spring in my step towards the security check. Even the silly checks that had been in place in the airport for the past several years didn't get me down.
The flight was uneventful. I used the time to go over my research again, trying to be absolutely sure I was really ready to make the purchase.
I checked into my hotel and then went out to walk around. I was too excited to go to bed right away. I ended up in a small, seafood restaurant near the beach. While I ate, I kept looking out the window at the boats in the nearby marina, wondering which one was mine. The restaurant wasn't too busy, but there were some attractive women there. Even in my state of excitement over the boat, I couldn't help but notice them. I suppose I should have felt guilty that I had a girlfriend at home and I was checking out other women, but things had been strained at home and I needed something different. After enjoying my meal, I went back to my hotel room and phoned the current boat owner to verify that we were, indeed, on for our visit tomorrow. When I knew that was settled, I sat back and watched a little TV, then went to bed.
The next morning, I woke up early. I had the hotel's continental breakfast and then walked down to the marina. I knew I would be a bit early, but I just couldn't wait any longer. I wandered along the piers looking at the various boats, letting my mind drift to what it would be like to actually be out on the water in them.
Jim, the owner, showed up about half an hour after I got there and showed me to my boat. She was absolutely beautiful. It sure looked like he'd kept good care of her. He talked about the maintenance history, showing me the log he'd kept of everything that was done, and it looked like he must have really loved her. I asked why he was selling her and was told that his life had taken some turns recently that made it impossible for him to keep the boat and his family together. I felt for the guy. He obviously loved the boat, but sometimes family just doesn't make a boat possible.
I was just about to tell him he'd sold the boat when he offered to let me take her out in the bay to make sure that I understood how she worked and to make sure I was pleased with everything. I jumped at the chance. We motored away from the pier and then he helped me raise the main sail. We figured that was all we'd need in the bay, but he also showed me how to raise the jib so I was better prepared. We sailed around for about 45 minutes, just enjoying the wonderful weather and the feeling of being on the water. I realized he was saying his good-byes so I left him to his reverie for a while. Once he'd finished, he seemed to snap out of it and suggested we take her in. I'd found that everything felt natural and that I was really comfortable in my new boat.
We stowed everything where it needed to be and got the cabin closed tight then stepped onto the pier.
With a catch in his throat, Jim asked me what I thought of her and whether I wanted to make the purchase. Though I felt bad for him, I knew I needed her at that time and told him so.
"I'm glad she's going to someone like you," he said sadly. "I wish ... well, I'm glad she's going to you. The slip is paid up through the month, so you don't have to worry about leaving her here until you're ready to ship her out. I hope she gives you as much enjoyment as she's given me."
We completed the sale and then Jim walked away looking much sadder than when he came down to meet me that morning. He had money, but that only gets you so far. I really felt sorry for him and hoped that I would never have to sell something I loved that much.
I walked back to the hotel feeling much more free than I had in a long time. I was a boat owner. My smile must have been huge and it felt like my feet didn't touch the ground as I walked.
I checked out of the hotel that morning and walked to a nice restaurant nearby for a celebration lunch. The restaurant patrons were all enjoying their meals and I took time to examine them. I'd always been a student of human nature, enjoying going to the mall and watching people do their thing. I have learned a lot about what makes them tick, often imagining why they were there and doing what they were doing. People are generally really easy to figure out if you take the time to watch.
There was a couple there that appeared to be on a date. They were dressed for sailing. From what I could hear of their conversation, she seemed a little nervous at the prospect of sailing. She seemed to have a fear of the water, but she didn't feel comfortable enough with him to share her true feelings. She was trying to be strong for him. He seemed oblivious to her feelings and was so caught up in regaling her with stories about his prowess that he was missing the boat with her entirely. At one point, she looked around the restaurant as if looking for reassurance from somewhere. Our eyes met and I smiled at her with understanding in my eyes, trying to project that reassurance she craved. She held my gaze for a while and then slowly started to smile back. The tension seemed to leave her shoulders and she took a deep breath. She smiled a thank you back at me then looked back at her date, reassured and ready to continue the charade that she was ready to sail.
After eating, I went back down to the marina to begin my maiden voyage. I couldn't wait to get out on the water in my new boat.
I stowed my gear in the cabin, donned my life vest, and did a last check of the boat to make sure I was ready to sail. It was at that point that I realized that I would probably like to have some food on my trip. I had to remove the life vest, get things locked up, and ask at the marina for a nearby store to stock up. I felt so foolish that I'd forgotten something so basic, but chalked it up to my inexperience.
After obtaining what I thought was a good, two week's worth of supplies, I went back to the marina and went through my mental checklist one more time to prepare for my trip. Things appeared to be in order so I cast off and motored my way away from the slip. As my boat cleared the last pier, I shut off the motor and raised the main sail. It was a little different doing it by myself, but not too bad. It felt really strange moving up to the front to open up the jib since nobody was manning the tiller, but it went quickly so I could get back to steering before anything went awry.
.... There is more of this story ...