Sailing with Charlie: The Renaissance Man

Graphics by Anouk Sylvestre

“What do you want to be when you grow up?” This meaningless question is often asked by adults of five year olds at family gatherings with a comical response expected, or at least a response that would lead to further conversation. The answer from the five year old might be “I wanna be an astronaut,” or “I wanna be a fireman,” or “I wanna be a sailor.” The latter response may be because little Sinbad had just watched a cartoon of Popeye (sans Olive Oyl or spinach, I suppose). The answer from the child would likely have no bearing on a career choice in twenty years’ time but what the question might do is plant the seed in the child’s mind that perhaps he/she should start examining the future. In today’s world it is expected that a child of say, 16 years, should know the answer and then direct his time, his energy, his learning towards achieving that goal of becoming a surgeon, a lawyer, a banker … following a narrow path dedicated to a specific career that would eventually lead to fame and fortune.

However, many young people don’t have a single-minded goal or passion – or at least they haven’t realized it by the time they get to college. Some may have several passions and can’t decide which career choice they should pursue; it can be confusing. There’s a term for a person with many interests, passions and talents – he/she is a Renaissance man, more recently described as a multipotentialite. A successful cruising sailor may be described as a Renaissance man; Joshua Slocum was one, so was Bernard Moitessier, Blondie Hasler and Harry Pigeon – they were navigators, explorers, shipwrights, mariners, writers and psychologists. Their lives were rewarding beyond measure.

Charlie often gets students who aspire to be a Slocum or Moitessier but all too often they have left it too late. These folks are often the surgeons, lawyers and bankers who have led successful lives in their one track existence. This is not to say they can’t have a rewarding time sailing but it takes years to gather the confidence to enjoy world cruising in all latitudes. Charlie’s mantra is: don’t wait till you’ve got five million in the bank – just do it NOW. Sailing is like sex; don’t wait until you’re retired, do it now and do it often. And the more you do it the better you become and the more you enjoy it. Then one day in that pretty, secluded bay, watching the sunset while swinging to your anchor, you’ll meet young Sinbad. You’ll tell sea stories, laugh at shared experiences and eventually you’ll wonder how the hell he ever got to live his sailing life without working for a living – and then you’ll realize that it’s just another facet of the skill of the modern Renaissance man. Then you’ll probably go below to open another bottle to celebrate the diversity of life.

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Graphics by Anouk Sylvestre

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