All my life I’ve had choices to make. A handful of those being more memorable than others. Some most definitely life-changing. During my high school years, before I could even drive, my parents would drive me to the lake, I would help crew on weekend races, and then I’d crash on their San Juan 23 for the night, Or during the summer, a few days. My parents thought it was a pretty good deal. They would show up and I would have the boat cleaned up and ready to take out. Eventually I became brazen enough to start taking their boat out by myself. My dad found out when he called once and heard the outboard running in the background. Oops. However, both my parents’ nerves were quickly settled when fellow marina members started rattling off their disbelief about how well I could manage the boat singlehanded. Eventually, it got to the point where everyone thought the boat was mine; one afternoon when my parents went up to go sailing, another club member went up to them asking why they were getting into my boat. Needless to say, I grew up on that boat. But that was only the beginning.
Towards the end of high school, I ruled out swimming competitively in college and started racing with a friend onboard his J24 and Viper 640. I learned so much during those years and had so much fun. My choices may have taken me out of the water, but they only further settled my need to be surrounded in my element. Additionally, they caused my dream of sailing in deeper waters to grow.
When deciding on a career choice, I was torn. I looked into the merchant marine field but was too unsure about the decision. Being the eldest son in a Midwestern family, my dreams are considered at best, strange and at worst, psychotic. Additionally, I was young and unsure. I only knew I wanted to be able to help others. My mother, a nurse for over 30 years, led me towards the field of radiological sciences. I ended up with a degree in radiation therapy. But, When I graduated I started searching for a boat of my own.
That autumn, my dad and I were at the marina checking out the resident derelict boats when our eyes settled on the Dehler. She was sitting on the corner of the lot. Dirty, plain and neglected it was obvious she was on a course towards the junkyard. But beyond her chalky hull, blisters, and rusted hunk of keel, there was a beauty that shined the filth and dust that had been collecting on the boat the 10 years that it sat in the same location. The boat looked strong and fast despite her condition. I remember climbing up the open transom and sliding the companionway hatch open and seeing the vberth bulkhead. I sent a few pictures to Emily who became immediately interested. And before we knew it we were up to our elbows in fiberglass, resin, and wiring. It was the best and worst decision we could have ever made to purchase the boat.
We could have waited a few years and bought a newer boat, but then again, we wouldn’t have gained the invaluable knowledge rebuilding every part of the boat from bottom of the keel to the top of the mast. But then again, it has always been in my nature to find the diamond in the rough. I guess I can blame my father for that. My dad has this ability to take engines that were once beaten and useless and bring them back to life with more efficiency and power than when new. Which leads me to my life.
I have spent the more than a decade in the field of learning how to help others. I feel that I have truly helped touch others lives, and at the same time, been touched greatly by those that didn’t even know. Before I make my 30th trip around the sun, I plan to live, explore, discover, and spend time with my lovely wife, whom I feel like I barely see. From the age of 10 I always dreamed of sailing off into the sunset, wind on my beam and salt on my face aboard my own sailboat.
Fortunately and unfortunately I have been confined to the grasp of the Midwest all my life. I have however had the wonderful ability to travel around not only the country, but the world sailing and exploring which only fueled the enduring need to venture further. Which has led me to my most recent and possibly most significant choice over the years. I would like to share a short excerpt from my resignation letter which I feel helps the transition to the next stage in our lives.
“My reason for leaving is atypical. From a young age I always dreamed of venturing south aboard my own sailboat. Realistically, this is difficult to make happen. However, with hard work, motivation, and an understanding spouse I find myself able to make this dream a reality. Over the years working and studying at this fine institution I have seen many success stories. Likewise, I have also been witness to the struggles, pain, and suffering of lives cut short by cancer. All of these experiences leave me with a greater need to fulfill my dream now while I can.”
On April 18, Pascagoula Run will be lifted from the midwest soil she has been sitting in for 15 years and journey South to Bradenton Florida. From there I will be sailing single handed with occasional crew towards the Bahamas where Emily will join me for an adventurous 3 months. Starting after next hurricane season, my friend Kacey plans to join me as we attempt to sail farther south through the Caribbean with Emily joining on her breaks and weekends. In the cruising world, plans are more like guidelines and goals. We don’t have a set schedule, itinerary, or cruising outline. We merely will sail where we want, when we want, and how we want. And that is the beauty of life. Being able to make choices.