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A New Year on the Water

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For many, the first day of the year is like a re-launch – an opportunity to make resolutions for self-improvement in the coming 12 months, a chance to make big plans for accomplishments to come. I’ve never been one of those people.

For me, life is like the cruise my wife and I took. We did have plans, or we never could have left the dock. We planned upgrades to the boat and systematically made them. We determined what skills we needed and planned how to acquire them. We planned to sell our house and the majority of our accumulated belongings, and did it. And we planned to save enough money to quit our jobs and leave. That we did.

But the cruising itself was almost completely unplanned. We would explore places we’d never been. We had a vague idea of heading for the islands for a year or so and seeing how we liked it. Circumnavigate? Maybe; maybe not. It was a lifestyle choice rather than a plan to travel from point A to points B, C and beyond.

We were a few weeks into our new adventure with the Texas coast and New Orleans in our wake when our Perkins diesel began overheating. We were “planning” to cross the Gulf from New Orleans to Apalachicola, Fla. Instead, we ended up in a yard in Pensacola. A bad oil line repair led to a complete engine re-build.

For the first week, we were depressed, sweltering in a run-down marina attached to the yard with no indication of how long the project would take. This was not our dream hiatus.

Then we unloaded our bicycles and started exploring. We found the world’s whitest beaches and drank bushwhackers on the boardwalk while listening to free concerts. We explored a couple of Civil War era fortresses and the Naval Air Museum. We climbed 177 steps up a lighthouse and took in the view. Downtown, we enjoyed a gallery night, the Pensacola Art Museum, some history museums and a top-notch show at the Pensacola Little Theater.

I wrote freelance stories about the local seafood industry and boatyards. When we became bored again, we found a bus that whisked us off to the casinos in Biloxi, Miss., although we spent our time in the town’s maritime museum.

Our detour stretched into an entire month before the engine was dropped back into its compartment. When we continued our cruise, it was like an entirely new journey.

Although we hadn’t even planned to stop in Pensacola, we’d ended up appreciating the many attractions it has to offer. And from that experience, we resolved to go slower on our cruise. We resolved to really explore the coast as we hopped along from one place to another.

It wasn’t a New Year’s resolution, but it became a guiding principle for nearly three years as we cruised the Southeast and Caribbean. It is similar to the philosophy Fatty Goodlander shares in his story this month (see pg. 22) when he writes, “The true magic of offshore cruising is entirely unpredictable.” You just need to get out on the boat, head somewhere new and allow it to happen.

I hope you enjoy plenty of boating in 2013. We offer some suggestions of ways to start your year on the water in our New Years Traditions feature (see pg. 38). If you simply must have a resolution, then resolve to discover new ways to enhance your boat time this year. The accompanying story by Glenn Hayes offers suggestions for doing just that.

Happy New Year, and thanks for sharing some of your precious time with us.

 

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