CHAS­ING But­ter­flies

Cruising World - - On Watch -

Istill get but­ter­flies. I’m 64 years old and have ac­tively lived aboard and cruised off­shore for 56 of those years. just wrapped up my third cir­cum­nav­i­ga­tion, yet I still get flut­ters in the pit of my stom­ach when I ut­ter my two fa­vorite words: “Cast off!” Why? It isn’t that I’m scared. I’m less fear­ful off­shore than I am walk­ing down the streets of my na­tive Chicago. It isn’t that my boat isn’t prop­erly pre­pared, be­cause I know she is sea­wor­thy within the ra­tio­nal pa­ram­e­ters of time and money. Sure, my wife, Carolyn, and I could al­ways be more pre­pared if we post­poned our de­par­ture to spend ad­di­tional time and money — but then we’d never ac­tu­ally leave, would we?

The but­ter­flies cer­tainly aren’t be­cause I don’t know what to ex­pect at sea. I fully an­tic­i­pate en­coun­ter­ing a strange mix of men­tal ec­stasy, te­dious­ness, stark ter­ror and phys­i­cal or­deal con­tin­u­ously mixed in odd pro­por­tions.

Let’s face facts, the cruis­ing life­style is amaz­ingly di­verse. Your pay­off will be di­rectly re­lated to your pay-in. Part of the charm of sail­ing off­shore is its amaz­ing dif­fi­culty. If not, a sailor step­ping off a cruise ship and a sailor step­ping off a small cruis­ing ves­sel would have the same sense of ac­com­plish­ment. They do not. The cruise-ship tourist watches the world go by; he is a voyeur and risks noth­ing. The off­shore sailor, how­ever, risks it all:

his life, his pride and, most of all, the lives of those he loves the most. The off­shore sailor cre­ates his en­tire wa­tery world, along with its myr­iad chal­lenges. He is an ac­tive par­tic­i­pant, not a rub­ber­necker.

This is eas­i­est seen in sec­ond­gen­er­a­tion sailors. While our daugh­ter, Roma Orion, was grow­ing up aboard, her best friend was an­other cruis­ing child named Kylie, who lived on the sturdy wooden ketch Gau­cho with her father, “Speedy” John Ever­ton, and her mother, Roni. Kylie was a won­der­ful girl and a great daugh­ter, though she was of­ten bored at sea, just as our daugh­ter, Roma, was. But re­cently Kylie and her long­time part­ner, Wil, sailed over the hori­zon on

“Noth­ing is lightly done

when it is your hand on

the tiller. But as a re­sult of

that, the pay­off is all the

sweeter too.”

their own boat, a lovely twin-masted cowhorn, and her whole per­spec­tive on the cruis­ing life changed.

The first thing that amazed Kylie was all the hard work and re­spon­si­bil­ity in­volved. “I just let my par­ents do ev­ery­thing, like any boat kid does. It never dawned on me how many dif­fer­ent, dif­fi­cult lev­els they were work­ing on.”

The sec­ond thing was the vast dif­fer­ence be­tween hav­ing some in­put into a nav­i­ga­tion de­ci­sion and ac­tu­ally mak­ing that de­ci­sion — ac­cept­ing re­spon­si­bil­ity for it, putting your life on the line with it.

“The first few days off­shore, it seemed like we had to make a mil­lion de­ci­sions, and each one was vi­tally im­por­tant. It

sort of freaked us out for a while,” Kylie told me.

Grad­u­ally, she and Wil be­came more con­fi­dent and bolder in their choice of des­ti­na­tions. They have now sailed the Caribbean, the Ba­hamas, Florida and are cur­rently gunkhol­ing along the East Coast of the United States.

“The sense of ac­com­plish­ment is to­tally dif­fer­ent be­tween adult cap­tain and child pas­sen­ger,” she says. “Noth­ing is lightly done when it is your hand on the tiller. But as a re­sult of that, the pay­off is all the sweeter too. I now sa­vor the pas­sages, just as my par­ents used to. Our pride isn’t merely in reach­ing our des­ti­na­tion but in the sea­man­ship re­quired along the way. Yes, it’s true: The dif­fer­ence be­tween or­deal and ad­ven­ture re­ally is at­ti­tude!”

I pre­dict that Kylie will never, ever be bored at sea again.

I still re­mem­ber row­ing away from El­iz­a­beth, our fam­ily schooner, for the first time. Ditto the first time my father rigged Lil’ Liz for me and I went dash­ing off through the Vi­noy Basin in St. Peters­burg like a scared cow­boy on a ru­n­away horse. Both ex­pe­ri­ences were thrilling and em­pow­er­ing. But they were noth­ing com­pared to the gulp I took when buy­ing my own boat at age 15. I knew even then that a boat owns you as much as you own it. And this pur­chase, made in iso­la­tion, with­out parental con­sent, would ei­ther go down in my per­sonal his­tory as my first major fail­ure or my first big suc­cess.

Yes, I had but­ter­flies in my stom­ach when I told Mr. Joyce I’d buy her. Al­most im­me­di­ately after shak­ing hands, how­ever, re­al­ity set in. I’d just bought a boat with no rig, no run­ning en­gine (it was dis­as­sem­bled and rust­ing in the bilge), and which had been bro­ken into and used as a gang hang­out for months.

None of this dam­age would fix it­self. Only I could make it right.

I re­built the Uni­ver­sal Atomic 4 with $45 worth of used parts, then, with my best friend Ge­orge Zamiar, pow­ered her over to the dock at the just-opened posh Ma­rina Tow­ers on Chicago’s river­front. I strolled up into its fancy restau­rant in my work clothes, grabbed a ta­ble, or­dered two Cokes, looked down with pride at Co­rina and loudly said, “Now that’s the life!” “Ain’t she pretty!” Ge­orge replied. At that mo­ment, I be­came a man, mean­ing I fully ac­cepted re­spon­si­bil­ity, both good and bad, for my ac­tions.

Soon I found where the rig was stored ashore and pur­chased a used jib for $10 and a main­sail for $15. That sum­mer, at age 16, Ge­orge and I cruised Lake Michi­gan and were both for­ever changed. We be­came (briefly) the toast of Sau­gatuck, Michi­gan, in­vented the Green Slime re­li­gion, made a ton of money in the jew­elry busi­ness and were ar­rested (again, only briefly) for cor­rupt­ing the morals of ev­ery kid un­der 21 for a hun­dred miles around. Guilty!

I never had so much fun, and I re­al­ized I owed it all to my boat. Sud­denly, I knew

it wasn’t just a tiller that I had in my young hand, I had my des­tiny. At an early age, I re­al­ized that the but­ter­flies were my friends; they her­alded a mil­lion things that could go wrong — or right!

I had the but­ter­flies at 19, as Carolyn and I checked out Howard Chapelle’s book on boat build­ing from the Bos­ton Pub­lic Li­brary, but there was no doubt we de­served the cheers three years later when we splashed Car­lotta, our 38-foot, 20,000-pound Peter Ibold-de­signed ketch in the Fort Point Chan­nel.

And I had but­ter­flies in my stom­ach when my wife non­cha­lantly men­tioned, in Be­quia, that her bi­o­log­i­cal clock was tick­ing. But we worked it out nine months later when Roma Orion was born and I ripped out the dark­room in the fore­cas­tle to con­struct a teak nurs­ery.

I had a belly full of but­ter­flies when I asked Carolyn if she’d like to cir­cum­nav­i­gate a time or two. And ditto when I told her I was go­ing to earn our liv­ing as a writer.

Ul­ti­mately, I’ve come to un­der­stand that those but­ter­flies in my stom­ach aren’t har­bin­gers of fear but rather the de­light­ful tin­gles of change. I’m an ad­ven­turer. In my mind, rou­tine equals rut. My goal is to do some­thing, any­thing, even if it is wrong. And amaz­ingly, I have found a life part­ner who agrees.

“I’ve of­ten been hun­gry but I’ve never been bored,” Carolyn tells peo­ple. “I never met any­one who dreamed as big as Fatty.”

This past year, we em­barked on a 6,000nau­ti­cal-mile pas­sage from South­east Asia to Cape Town, South Africa. And from there, we set sail again, bound for the Caribbean. We left know­ing that th­ese oceans, the In­dian and then the At­lantic, would test our ves­sel, our rig, our re­la­tion­ship and our love to the max. There would be mo­ments of stark rav­ing ter­ror and long spells of ex­treme dis­com­fort. There would prob­a­bly even be mo­ments dur­ing which I’d think I’m out of my depth, that I’m too old, that I’m too se­nile for the im­men­sity of the chal­lenge. Mo­ments might even oc­cur when I’d re­al­ize that my wife is a bet­ter sailor than I’ll ever be. So be it. I’m not ready for the rock­ing chair yet. I do not as­pire to ad­dress yacht clubs. I still live to see God’s face in ev­ery ocean wave. How do I know this? Be­cause my but­ter­flies tell me so!

The Good­lan­ders are cur­rently flut­ter­ing some­where to­ward a wa­tery way­point in the Lesser An­tilles.

Car­lotta, the Good­lan­ders’ fer­ro­ce­ment ketch, was launched in Bos­ton and was soon Caribbean-bound.

Fif­teen-year-old Fatty works on his first boat, Co­rina (above). With a fine set of used sails, the cap­tain and Co­rina owned Lake Michi­gan (top). In Bos­ton, circa 1972, Carolyn works on Car­lotta’s ar­ma­ture (left).

When Roma Orion ar­rived on the scene, Fatty got to work build­ing a nurs­ery aboard Car­lotta.

Carolyn is on watch as Ganesh sails south along the coast of Malacca, a pas­sage that of­ten in­spires but­ter­flies. Kylie Ever­ton, left, and Roma Orion Good­lan­der were both raised as boat kids but didn’t al­ways ap­pre­ci­ate the finer points of the cruis­ing life.

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