We spent one week every summer at a family beach house in North Carolina. All I could think about on the interminable drive to the sea was the small SunFish sailboat sitting in the garage of that house. Kicking off my shirt and shoes as soon as we arrived, I would drag the small boat to the sound at the back of the house and spend the next week tacking and gybing. If there was no wind, I worked the tiller back and forth to barely make way. As a very young boy, sailing made me feel free in a way nothing else could.
I read about Joshua Slocum’s adventures sailing around the world alone. I read about Sir Francis Chichester, Robin Knox Johnston, and Bernard Moitessier. I read about an amazing teenager named Tania Aebi who sailed around the world by herself on a dare from her father. When I moved to Charleston, I readily took any offer to get out on the water. Several of my friends had boats. When I met people who lived on small sailboats, I started looking into costs. It turned out that I could buy a boat for $10,000 — not much more than a decent car — and make it my home. So I did.
My best friend and I nearly killed ourselves bringing the boat down from Baltimore in January of 1996. I lived on the boat for the next five years. Three of these were while attending classes at the College of Charleston. One year was spent in the Bahamas, where I cruised off to after dropping out of school (why get a degree and slave away for 40 years to one day retire on a boat when I was already on one?) When my funds ran out, I realized the error of my calculations, so I started working odd jobs on other people’s boats to get by. This led to a career as a yacht captain, which kept me on the sea for the better part of the next decade.
I left the water years ago to follow my better half inland. Since then, I haven’t stopped planning and dreaming of getting back on a boat and sailing around the world. Or just sailing up and down the coast. The destination was never the thing, only the lifestyle. Meeting new people. Shifting horizons. Adjusting latitudes and attitudes, as Jimmy Buffett would say.
I am currently in Miami for the Sail Only Boat Show. It’s my third boat show in the last two years, as I’ve narrowed down on the make and model of my future home. But this is the week. In the next couple of days, I’ll put down a deposit, and by this summer, I’ll be living aboard again. If you see a catamaran named “Wayfinder” bobbing at anchor, that will probably be me. It’s a name with deep significance for me, something I’ll be writing about at length.
And that’s the miracle of working as a writer: I can do it from anywhere and everywhere. The past few years, I’ve done a lot of writing from airplanes and airports while on business trips abroad. SAND was entirely written overseas while traveling through seven different countries; I think it’s a better story because of those inspirations. In upcoming years, I may be writing near your home port.
In addition to my usual mix of fiction genres, I’m also working on a series of pieces about my past sailing adventures, my random thoughts about life and what-not, and a bit of a travelogue of my new journey and the people I meet along the way. Right about the time I make this transition, I’ll be turning 40. Age has always been a number to me, but this will be a birthday to truly celebrate. It marks the end of one chapter and the beginning of another. And you know me, I’m a fan of cliffhangers. I can’t wait to see what happens next.