Embarking on a whole new life

KALMAR NYCKEL's appearance is unique. She is the only Dutch pinnace to ply American waters.

KALMAR NYCKEL’s appearance is unique. She is the only Dutch pinnace to ply American waters.

Since I was 10-years-old, I quietly held a dream, which began to speak ever more loudly about a decade ago. In response to a question about which of two political aspirations I might have had, I blurted out, “Neither! I want to jump aboard a wooden ship, sail around the world, ride my bike through every port, and get paid to write about it.” At the time, I laughed at myself and wondered where that came from, but now I know it was my heart’s desire, making itself known. Since then, life pushed me in this direction at increasing speed, and I have finally taken the leap.

I began to make serious changes last September, after something in me snapped. I decided I could no longer spend my days commuting 2-1/2 hours and being chained to a desk in an increasingly toxic environment where there was no opportunity for advancement, only steadily increasing responsibility and workload. I had to leave that position well before I was prepared, with only a few weeks to plan a departure that served my integrity, as well as my personal safety. Having spent nearly five years looking for a good job in this Engineered Austerity Economy and submitting hundreds of applications, I recognized that “doing the same thing and expecting a different result” was futile, a mark of insanity, and determined it was time to make a radical change in course.

Preparations for My Whole New Life included putting a great deal of work into the house to ready it for sale, and getting rid of nearly all of my personal belongings. These I mostly gave away, for a variety of reasons, including that it allowed me to be generous in ways I could not normally enjoy. I found great satisfaction in giving meaningful gifts to friends, family, and even strangers–a few of whom became new friends.

In the past few years, I have had the pleasure of spending more than five weeks aboard tall ships, traveling nearly 2,000 miles. This included several days out of sight of land, island hopping in the Bahamas, traversing the lumpy water of Cape Hatteras, participating in the Great Chesapeake Bay Schooner Race, riding a Gulf Stream of sapphire blue, and crewing for schooner VIRGINIA in Norfolk during OpSail. I have seen dolphins riding the bow wave, heard the sound of flying fish gliding, watched the canopy of the Milky Way appear, witnessed a most remarkable docking maneuver, received a spontaneous champagne toast from a tall ship crew, and watched in horror as an enormous sail shredded to ribbons during a squall. I also climbed an 80-foot main mast off Hatteras, broke bread with a former rum runner, dove from a bowsprit into aqua blue water, downed a drink that had an outrageously explicit name, and woke in the wee hours to feel the ship making record speed of 14.7 KT as she plowed her way past the mouth of the Potomac in 30 KT winds. In addition, I met many interesting people, heard plenty of good stories, and gained new friends from various parts of the world. And I didn’t toss me cookies once.

Tall ship adventures and challenges feel like home to me, and today I head to Lewes, Delaware to report for crew training aboard the tall ship KALMAR NYCKEL, a reproduction of the 17th century armed merchant vessel that brought Swedish settlers to New Sweden, now called Wilmington.

I may stay aboard KALMAR NYCKEL through early September, and perhaps beyond. Other possibilities for fall and winter include crewing for other tall ships, or for a private yacht that will head to the Caribbean for winter. If all else fails, I can always go to Spain, because I hear that Barcelona is wonderful, and that Andalusia is a fine place to spend the winter with friendly people, great food, and…sailing. Right now, all I know for sure is that my house is on the market, I shall report to the ship for three weeks, and whatever comes will not be boring! There are many good stories ahead.

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