Sailing with Charlie: Boating & The Golden Years

Graphics by Anouk Sylvestre

Sixty-five is the normal retirement age – the rest of your life is popularly known as the Golden Years. It’s that time when you are supposed to realize your life long dreams. It could be sailing the Eastern Caribbean.

Nobody would deny that the Golden Years are more realistically the Rusty Years – old age doesn’t improve as time goes by. It’s also necessary to acknowledge that the boat, perhaps an ageing classic, is likely entering its rusty years too – especially if it’s over 20 years old. So, mitigate aging problems to you and your boat. Do lots of sailing and get lots of exercise. Swim half a mile a day. Clean your bottom (boat) once every two months, dive up conch, spear a fish or two (if allowed), take a hike, enjoy a soak under a waterfall and have a dip in a freshwater pool. Make every day count – they’re numbered.

Diet is important – fresh fruit and vegetables are paramount and buy local. Rice and beans are filling and nutritious. Beans will likely make you fart like a trooper, but so what. Urrm, to be fair, I just followed up this comment by some research and it seems that troopers have been unjustly maligned – they don’t fart any more than anyone else. Interestingly, on average, a person farts about 15 times a day. So, to all you aristocracy, like Camilla Parker Bowles, who pretend superiority and decorum, now we know…

Sixty-five is the normal retirement age – the rest of your life is popularly known as the Golden Years. It’s that time when you are supposed to realize your life long dreams. It could be sailing the Eastern Caribbean. Graphics by Anouk Sylvestre

Now Joe and Ellen (60s) are setting off on their first cruise on their newly acquired 37-footer. Clear of the harbor they raise sails; John stubs his toe on a deck fitting; he trims sails for close haul; Ellen screams abuse as the boat heels a bit; John eases sail and luffs the main; another boat overtakes and points and laughs; they finally manage a reef and trim in.

The sailing is spectacular and finally they arrive at their chosen anchorage. They find a good spot and manage to anchor perfectly but Joe pinches his finger while deploying the snubber line. They finally relax in the cockpit whilst Ellen arrives from the galley with two rum punches. ‘Cheers,’ he says, while clinking glasses, ‘This is the way to live, remember, we almost bought that cheap condo in Florida – that would have been the way to die.’ Ellen silently nods as she wipes up blood from the cockpit sole.

Charlie advises: Cruise an archipelago like the BVI or the Grenadines or Guadeloupe and The Saints for a month or two. You’re in no rush. You’ve bought a couple of GPS systems, one portable and battery operated. Nowadays chart plotters are cheap and plentiful but you don’t really need one. A couple of good guide books and nautical charts to cover the eastern Caribbean and you’ll be good to go. Learn how to read depths, make sure you have the best anchor out there. Clean your fuel tank and change your filters. Take your blood pressure meds – your health and the boat’s health are equally important.

Then there’s the social life; boaters are the most friendly group Charlie has ever come across. Don’t hesitate to dinghy over to a neighboring cruising boat in the anchorage and have a chat. A chat might well lead to cocktails in the cockpit or a potluck barbecue on the beach with other boaters. One or two might bring an instrument, a band might develop.

Joe and Ellen decide to join an impromptu bash. There’s tons of delicious food with every boat trying to outdo the other. Wine and rum are flowing like water. Before long, happy revelry is taking place. Wild cavorting and dancing with merry abandon go hand in hand with the sunset. Ellen is finally loosening up and getting into the swing of things.

Note to Ellen: Beware of the single hander who may well have designs on pretty ladies like you. Charlie remembers well a beach party in New Zealand where a beer saturated, middle-aged, single-handing matelot, was seen running down a path after a sheep shouting, ‘I love you; I love you!’

When all is said and done those Golden Years can be the best time of your life… Make every day count. And sorry for being corny but – ‘today is the first day of the rest of your life.’ Go for it!

Julian Putley is the author of The Drinking Man’s Guide to the BVI; Sunfun Calypso; and Sunfun Gospel. 

Julian Putley is the author of ‘The Drinking Man’s Guide to the BVI’, ‘Sunfun Calypso’, and ‘Sunfun Gospel’.