I had never been interested in boats until a few years ago. Not that I didn’t have the opportunity to sail, but the North Sea isn’t a friendly body of water, not to mention the weather.. My first day on a boat was out of Dunkerque (WWII buffs know the town) in a heavy chop and rain. We didn’t even hoist the sail. I used to think of sailing in terms of wetness and hypothermia. That and the fact that I didn’t know anyone else who owned a boat kept me away from marinas for many years. Moreover, owning a decent boat in France is for the rich, thanks to socialism.. You could also encircle the globe with the red tape associated with boating, in France that is..
Fast forward about seventeen years.. An older gentleman, friend of mine whom I met at the airport (he was a P-51 pilot in WWII) invited me to sail around Sarasota. I had the feeling that it was going to be a whole different experience than Dunkerque.. We didn’t go very far, but when the old Atomic 4 engine was shut-off, I was in heaven. We were moving at a decent speed it seemed, even though the scenery wasn’t quite flashing by. Time slowed. If you ever sat in front of a fire in the woods and watched it, the feeling is somewhat similar. There is a sort of fascination about being driven by the wind. The wine and cheese helped quite a bit too.
These days, we fall under the control of many. It isn’t something you really notice until you start wondering about what freedom really is. Politicians love the word, but they never seem to define it. After the advent of the industial age, big money and large goverments, freedom’s definition became a bit fuzzy.
Take your house for instance. You really only own it after it’s paid off, and only if you pay your property taxes. Even after you die, your kids will have to pay an inheritance tax. Which by the way is the biggest racket I ever heard of. You can’t leave and take your house with you. That’s fine if the city or country you live in is heaven on earth, forever, but things change. Many people have been reminded of it in our present economy. You can’t find a buyer in a down market. Boats don’t have that problem. Sure, they lose value every day spent on the water, but a well kept boat can last a lifetime. You get waterfront property for free and pay no property taxes. If things get iffy, you can sail away in the sunset. You’ll never be bothered by Jeovah’s Witnesses either! Those who say that a boat is too small have never seen the inside of a fifty footer. A well ajusted family of six could live well on such a large boat. I would own a house, don’t misunderstand me, but I would also own a boat, be it a small one if that is all I could afford. My Dagny is 32ft on deck, enough for probably four for extended periods of time. I plan on building a bigger one if I can.
Traveling in a post-911 world is more of a hassle, to say the least. You get patted down, scanned, IDed, and arrested for carrying so much as a pocket knife. Hell, you’ll get arrested and jailed for raising your voice in a plane. Don’t shrugg, it has happened. God may have mercy on you if your name happens to be on the terrorist watch list, as this eight-year-old found out. If there ever was a large scale evacuation, or some sort of country-wide lock down, you might not even be able to leave. A sailboat gives you that option.
The first time I lost sight of land while at the helm was in a plane, flying to the Bahamas. It lasted all but ten minutes before I spotted West-End. I wasn’t concerned, but found myself checking my oil temperature and pressure guages a bit more often. I imagine that being away from land for days or weeks in a boat is not for the faint of heart. You can get used to almost anything though.. You are after all traveling in your own house. There is plenty to do on a boat, and you can always load-up on books, musical instruments, DVDs, video games and fishing tackle. How else could you travel around the world for a reasonable amount of money?
Sailboats are not just toys to sail around the ICW. They give you global mobility if you ever need it. Once you get into international waters, you are your own master. A boat can take you and your family out of a bad area to safety. More than powerboats, sailboats can become a lifestyle that might be the only way to truly be free in this world. And of course, it is always nice to go out for a day, drink wine and eat cheese while anchored near a local uninhabited tropical island..