“O world, thou choosest not the better part!
It is not wisdom to be only wise,
And on the inward vision close the eyes,
But it is wisdom to believe in the heart.
“Columbus found a world and had no chart,
Save one that faith deciphered in the skies;
To trust the soul's invincible surmise
Was all his science and his only art.
“Our knowledge is a torch of smoky pine
That lights the pathway but one step ahead
Across a void of mystery and dread.
“Bid, then, the tender light of faith to shine
By which alone the mortal heart is led
Unto the thinking of the thought divine.”
- George Santayana, Sonnet III
Slaying the Dragons (of Sloth)
During my youth, several times each summer my Dad would be away, plodding beneath a ponderous backpack while scaling some rugged and interminable trail leading into the high Rockies. His objective: angling in Colorado's inaccessible, alpine lakes. And almost invariably my brothers and I would be found following close behind, toting little knapsacks of our own. Consequently, my youth was blessed with backpacking and camping adventures galore, and they imbued me deeply with a love of the outdoors.
As a young man, one of my favorite pastimes was reading adventure books, including those of sailing the high seas. Emulating those hearty souls, vicariously, I envisioned that one day I, too, would undertake an around-the-world quest. But because we lived nearly mid-continent, my seafaring had to take place solely between the covers of those books.
In 1967 I graduated from university with a degree in Astronautical and Aeronautical Engineering. Then for three-and-a-half years I worked as a Systems Analyst for a major aerospace firm, while specializing in computer-simulated space flight. During the off hours I could usually be found with a rope tied about the waist, scaling some rocky height. With the passing of time the engineering profession and its confining office cubical began to seem less inspiriting, and the climbing proportionally more so. Eventually I exercised a leave of absence and joined a mountain climbing expedition to the Peruvian Andes. The spirit of the Great Unexplored prevailed, and a month later I returned to the aerospace firm no longer an engineer at heart, but an adventurer.
Quitting the sedentary profession, I began rock climbing full time. As a means of replenishing my coffers I taught happily for Outward Bound for seven summers. Between those summers, and between the intervening spring and autumn rock-climbing seasons in Yosemite, I made winter pilgrimages to the warmer climes of Mexico. There, with various companions I undertook a total of eight sea-kayaking expeditions, paddling typically hundreds of miles per excursion while plying the Baja shoreline fronting the semi-protected waters of the Sea of Cortez. These ocean forays provided an opulent introduction to the ways of seafaring, and one well saturated, (sometimes literally), with the occasional hardships and with the abundant vivacities of maritime roving.
With rock climbing interests and a mathematics and computer programming background, I had invented a climbing safety device I called "the Friend." This later formed the basis for a mountain climbing equipment-manufacturing company called Wild Country, based in England. The product found wide acceptance, and for several years I owned and managed its US distribution.
One evening while relaxing in my Southern Californian apartment an event occurred that instigated an important pivot in my life's story. I was reading Maurice and Katy Cloughley's "A World to the West," a lustrous account of their sailing circumnavigation. At one point Maurice wrote that after a particularly grisly passage between landfalls, he and Katie sailed their ketch into some tranquil lagoon - out there in never never land it seemed - and anchored in its crystal, warm waters. "How good it was to be in," he wrote, "we felt fabulous."
My back-burner dreams of emulating such wayfaring ignited, and the words "we felt fabulous" evoked long-overdue introspection. At the time, my feelings were not quite so ebullient. As an example, while seated in my flashy new sports car, waiting interminably for a traffic light to change at some frenzied intersection, like a hostage I listened to the high-tech stereo blaring interminable advertisements in quadraphonic sound. Despite the air-conditioned comfort, "I felt frustrated," would have been about all that I could have reported. The comparison between the vivacious lifestyle I was reading about, and the lackluster one I was living began urging me out of my prosaic rut. Even though my business was bristling, the unbounded struggle for financial success and security, I had to admit, was not fulfilling any deeper needs.
What would it be like, I pondered dreamily, to leave it all behind and to sail away into the setting sun? Of course, such dreaming was but a chimera, considering my personal exigencies that barred the way. My business, for one, was important; and considering its profitability, turning my back on it would have been an irrefutable act of idiocy.
“I decided to buy a boat and sail it around the world”
Each person navigates through life according to his or her deepest priorities, and mine had begun shifting once again. The call of the Wild was beckoning ever louder. And despite any financial success and its attendant luxuries (and potential ulcers), the coming years threatened to slip past not fully lived. Not to belabor the hackneyed truth, but life is too short. Rather than allow the years to slip past not lived, I owed it to myself to slam my fist onto the proverbial table and to set a goal or two - to pursue something that could make me feel fabulous.
I decided to buy a boat and sail it around the world.