One of the upsides of our stop in Grenada was meeting the like-minded crew of "Pelagic", people with whom we share some Alaska connections.
In conversation, Amy of Pelagic commented how an economist friend of theirs is horrified at the way they have gone sailing, and therefore foregone three of their "prime earning years". The opportunity costs! Unfathomable!
Alisa had the ready reply that perhaps that's why, while it seems impossible to get together any collection of traveling sailors that doesn't include an engineer or three, we have yet to knowingly meet an economist afloat.
Finally, it's been discovered! A class of people less romantic than the engineers! (My colleague and a reader of the blog, Alan Haynie, excepted, I am sure.)
Me, I'm more vulnerable to that talk of opportunity costs. I have this memory of the staff at a very good chandlery in San Diego that I cannot shake. The place seemed to be run entirely by people who had buggered off in their prime to go sailing, and were now passing their sixties working retail for none too high a wage, I imagine. I will admit to the occasional middle-of-the-night fear over the past nine years that that not be us.
And there is another sort of opportunity cost involved in a trip long enough to be measured in the lifetimes of our children. That's the what-might-have-been scenario that imagines us putting all the immense time and effort that has gone into the business of sailing across oceans into some other endeavor. While we've been servicing winches and slapping on bottom paint my sister has built a practice as a pediatrician and my brother in law has made himself a successful career in academia. Maybe we could have done something more concrete with our energies.
I think this is a big hurdle for a lot of people who consider the sailing life. We know people who could afford to take it on, and would like to, but I suspect are unwilling to make the commitment to giving up other endeavors in their lives.
You can only sit in one chair at a time, as the saying goes. And the sailing life, more than most, rewards the quality of being all-in.
(I might have some recourse to argument on this point, since I am the only full-time yachtie whom you will ever meet who completed a PhD while crossing oceans. Ironically, I likely wouldn't have done that if we'd stayed ashore.)
Ultimately, though, I think this "lost opportunity of endeavor" that is presented by the decision to go to a-rovin' on the oceans is a weak argument for your better sort of yachtie. There is a class of people, even in this post-post-modern age where screen time stands in for life experience, who believe that human endeavor is best measured at the scale of oceans, and in the experience of self reliance. For these people, going to sea isn't such a choice as a burning desire, to be realised if it at all can be. "The oceans are wide, but my ship is up to the task, and who knows what adventures I'll meet on the far shore?" If that idea doesn't at least occasionally strike you as enough meaning for life, if the rising tide and steady glass don't quicken your breath and make you long for the feeling of decks coming to life beneath your feet, well! Then why in the world are you reading this blog, anyway?
And it's those same people who feel that pull of an active and questing life, who know in their marrow that living for at least a few years in a way that relies on sinew of arm and speed of wits is to know what it was to really live when life's end comes, who have the most irrefutable answer to the economists' "lost opportunity cost".
To whit: what a circumscribed view of life, to see our arc of existence as nothing more than an economic endeavor! The real opportunity is to go sailing now, while you still can. Go while you and your kid are still able to have a civil conversation. Go while you still have enough adventurous spirit of youth that you might consider some daunting itinerary of remote navigation and decide you just might be up to it. Go, above all, while you're still hale and hearty. Regret what you did, and not what you left undone.
(I wonder if that's how the staff at that chandlery in San Diego see things?)
This post was sent via our high-frequency radio as we're far from internet range. Pictures to follow when we reach internet again. We can't respond to comments for now, though we do see them all!