Hugh Howey

Bestselling author of Wool and other books. Currently sailing around the world.


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.



38 replies to “Wayfinder”

All the best, Hugh. Looking forward to hearing about the adventures! Oh, and please post some pictures of Wayfinder when you get the chance!

Happy to hear! After 18 years of not flying due to boring adult responsibilities I am getting my medical on Monday to pick up the dream, not where I left it off as my earnest self, but as you know the dream never dies…just waits. Happy sailing…can’t wait to come along on your adventures.

Hugh, congratulations on finally finding your way back. We’ve owned a sailboat for several years, sailing Casco Bay off Portland, Maine, and exploring dozens of islands and small beaches. Many times the winds didn’t take us to our planned destination, resulting in an incredible stopover at an overlooked cove or lonely mooring. You captured the essence of sailing. It’s not about the destination at all. I’m just as happy tacking and jibing all day, as I am napping at anchor. I hope you find a beautiful boat. I suspect you will.

Ah, this post reminds me of the little home-made sailboat I had in college. It was a beauty. I traded a ham radio for the boat, which a master carpenter had made. Sailing is indeed a dream-like experience, and very conducive to daydreaming or alert meditation. If I were rich, I’d still prefer a little sailboat to a power boat.

I’m so very glad that you are living your dream. I could never do that.

I guess I have a too-vivid imagination, fired up by all of the “giant-monster-from-the-sea” movies I watched as a kid. As a Scorpio, I love water, and would happily live my life near bodies of water.

But I won’t go in. Not over my head. And I won’t sail over if I can avoid it.

I keep picturing something speeding up from the deep, with these huge jaws full of sharp teeth, waiting to snatch pieces of my boat, or me, away as I flounder helplessly without any land nearby.

I envy you, Hugh. At least, you can enjoy sailing. ;o)

Congrats on everything Hugh. Sounds like an ideal existence. My ship was sitting in lake Fayed during a Suez transit this summer and I could see dozens of big sailboats parked around all the big freighters. Must be quite the experience, all the best with it.

Hey, what about the two 50′ catamarans you said you were already getting? Are you starting a charter business?

This is so exciting! From dream to reality in 60 seconds (time to affix a couple of signatures to the bill of sale). Fair winds, Hugh and family. I’m looking forward to reading many articles about your travels. And when your journey takes you anywhere near Seattle I’ll pop a cork and lift my glass in your direction.

Congrats Hugh, this is inspiring. I can’t wait to read your, “random thoughts about life and what-not.” I’m ready to buy that one as I’m betting they’re not so random :)

I read your story, and I long for the life of a boat bum again.

Very much interested in reading about your past sailing adventures and a travelogue of your new journey and the people you meet along the way.

Fair winds and following seas.

Very inspirational Hugh.

I think you can look back at your 30’s and be very proud of what you have accomplished. I’m sure you have more goals to achieve, but it looks like you’re happy; and that’s ultimately what everyone aspires to be!

Happy Birthday whenever it comes, and happy adventures.

May your flagon, belly and purse be forever full.

Great news. And it’s awesome that you get to choose your lifestyle that way.

And hey, if you ever happen to make your way to Europe and Kiel, it would be great fun to meet. And Kiel Week is quite an adventure.

magnificent publish, very informative. I’m wondering why the other experts of this sector don’t realize this. You should continue your writing. I’m confident, you have a huge readers’ base already!

I just saw you’re going to be at Comic-Con with one of my favorite artists, Luis Royo. I’m so jealous! All I can say is, befriend the guy. See if you can’t get him to do one of your book covers.

Get going on those memoirs, Hugh!
I don’t think I’ve ever been so eager to read someone’s life story and the adventures it contains!

I still have the seriously worn copies of National Geographic featuring the story of Robin Lee Graham and his round-the-world voyage on the Dove. I read and re-read those stories as a kid and always dreamed of doing what he did. The dream is still alive some 45 years later, although the likelihood of it becoming reality fades with every passing year. Not for want or desire, but it’s hard to make the case to my wife that I’ll need to take off for a couple of years! She is not a seafaring woman, so doing it together isn’t an option. Best of luck to you in your future voyages.

Congratulations on finding your way to your next home! Seriously, I’ve never been much inclined to be on a boat (though I loved reading about other people on boats; I wore out Kon-Tiki’s cover and spine), but the way you put such love and life in your description makes me want to tentatively set foot on one to see if I can find the magic you describe.

I hope that one day your boat drops anchor in our little Cove on the North Coast of California. We have lovely views and a small population of writers who would welcome a visit. Thank you for keeping us updated on your voyages.

My good man, when you were a child, did you ever here adults say “life begins at 40” and you thought WTF? It’s true! You are in a good place. Onward and upward!

Fantastic Hugh ~ Such great news for you and your better half (!) and following dreams which is always the best way to live life! Something tells me that you are going to write and share how we can all live life to the fullest and follow and become our own Wayfinders in life – wow, what a cool adventure. Life is so good. Keep in touch, can’t wait to follow your adventures.

Good for you. As hard as you work, you deserve something this cool. Looking forward to hearing more about Wayfarer.

I’ve been reading your posts for the better part of the last year, and I can appreciate a thread that seems to run through the stories that you tell about your life: You tend to focus on the things you have without worrying about the things you don’t. That’s a good way to be, I think so, anyway, and I wish I had my head screwed on a more like that because I wouldn’t have half of my problems (real and imagined).

That being said, it’s time to heed your best advice and get back to writing.

Good for you! Very inspirational to read about your sailboat dream. Reminds me to keep my focus on what I want in this life.

Agree. Drop it. Rather, read following article, “The Real Housewives of Wall Street.” You’ll enjoy. Always good to know what you missed on – you guessed it – the TV. Best

Hoping that in July, you will have a San Diego Comic Con meet up on your Sailboat. Wouldn’t that be cool (well for me it would be)!!

Curious to know what boat you end up with and what you’re decision-making process was re: size, open deck vs. upper salon, galley up or down, and so on. My wife and two friends and I sailed from Kauai to Newport, Oregon last August on a 35′ open bridgedeck Shuttleworth. Very roomy and comfortable and nice to be out in the fresh air on deck instead of behind a condo wall like on a Lagoon. We own a Corsair tri and will be sailing in the Keys next year. Maybe Varakai will anchor near Wayfinder some day.

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