Our lives, to an amazing degree, are within our control. We have choices. We can, for example, play it safe. We can spend our lives preparing for our eventual retirement—that we may, or may not, be alive for.
No one will criticize you for not living fully. In fact, it is the accepted, most direct, least confusing route to death. The current conventional wisdom is that we are born, grow up, learn to become consumers, consume, and die.
Of course, we can reject this path, and—even more audacious—chart our own course in life.
At an early age I decided I wanted to be the freest man in the universe. I kid you not. That was my Overall Mission Statement—To Be the Freest Man in the Universe.
I realize that this is an audacious goal—but hey, why not aim high?
So the first thing I did was attempt to define—in a very subjective and personal way—what freedom is to me.
This wasn’t easy. But I kept at it, and eventually I decided that freedom is the right to control your own destiny, to empower yourself, to go and do and think and write and say what you want, when you want, how you want. It is also the right to pick and choose cultures and lifestyles and professions. It is the right to say no to almost anyone about almost anything.
It is, first and foremost, the right to refuse the cultural blinders and self-imposed limitations of your fellow man.
It quickly became apparent to me that many things limit us. Our poverty and our wealth, for example, both limit us. Our country limits us. Our religion limits us.
I decided to opt out of my tribal branding—of being a Christian American who eats at McDonalds, watches MTV, and labors daily in the corporate vineyards to pay all the monies demanded by various governments and global conglomerates.
In order to do this in the most fun, convenient way possible, I realized I needed my own private kingdom, my own small country, my own tiny universe.
That’s right—I decided to buy a sailboat.
This was an easy choice for me because I grew up aboard the 52-foot John G. Alden-designed schoonerElizabeth.
My childhood was one long idyllic Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer adventure—until my father got Parkinson’s disease, we moved ashore, and my life became hell-amid-the-dirt-dwellers.
Thus it was only natural that I wanted to escape from the drudgery of shore and experience the freedom of the sea once again.
So I did.
At the age of 15, before I owned a car or could legally drive one, I purchased a cedar-planked William Atkin-designed 22-foot double-ender named Corina for $200.
Once word got out that I was King of My Own Kingdom, girls flocked. One of those girls, a lovely Italian lass by the name of Carolyn, came aboard to sew up my curtains. She’s been sewing love into my life ever since. We’re now on our 41st year of living aboard together.
So far, so good. I was King. I had a Kingdom and a Queen. But I soon realized that there was no personal freedom without economic freedom.
The standard solution to this was to work hard and earn a lot of money—and eventually retire. But I neither wanted to work ashore nor amass money. And besides, it seemed to me that money (and things) had a way of owning their owner. I knew a lot of wealthy people and many of them spent an awful lot of time servicing their money.
After much thought, I came up with a complex, highly sophisticated (if short) literary essay to explain my feeling on this intricate monetary matter.
“Fuck money!” I shouted with a giggle.
But alas, a man has to pay his own way in the world or he is someone’s boy.
I did not aspire be to anyone’s boy.
So I decided to be a writer. I’d live a life of rare adventure—physically, mentally, and socially—and write it down. I’d kiss life full on the lips. I’d grab every day of my life with both hands and shake it. And my faithful readers would shower me with coins—not a lot, perhaps, but enough to get by.
This was around 1968, a magical time in American history.
I also decided that nationalism was just cultural egotism run amok. I needed to see who my fellow human beings were and how they lived. So I decided to make the entire world my classroom. I’d travel to its farthest corners to quench my thirst for knowledge.
Of course, the greatest adventure in life is family. And every kingdom needs a subject. Thus our daughter Roma Orion was born.
We sailed away. We not only sailed away from home and country, we sailed away from All the Rules. We took an entirely fresh look at Life, the Universe, and Everything. And we put it back together in a logical, natural manner that made sense to us: with art and music and literature and friendship and adventure and learning ranking far above material things.
We soon found our watery tribe: the international sea gypsies who are constantly passing through Panama, Tahiti, New Zealand, Thailand, Cape Town, and St. Thomas. They are from France and England and Africa and Asia and Germany and Scandinavia. They don’t care one iota where you are from or what you own or who you know—only what is in your heart.
Do you know how to laugh? Smile? Are you honest? Can you be trusted? Are you in the moment? Can you fix an outboard, tie a bowline, and catch a fish? Can you endure without complaint? Do you know how to spin a yarn? Do you know how to give as well as take? Are you a good shipmate?
Respect in the offshore cruising community has nothing to do with money or plastic toys—and everything to do with your true worth as an individual.
Or, as one cruising friend put it, “All the money in the world won’t help during an offshore gale.”
All my life I’d prayed there were other free-thinking people who’d grabbed the tiller of their own life and were living it to the hilt—and now I was surrounded by them. And they welcomed me with open arms.
We lavished the few pennies we earned on buying experiences, not trinkets. We didn’t measure ourselves by the physical stuff surrounding us, but rather the spiritual stuff filling us with joy.
We became unabashed hedonists.
Above all else, we strove for balance: love and lust, work and play, swimming and hiking, travel and learning, earning and spending, eating and exercising, running and meditating, thinking and doing.
I’m now 59 years old. I’ve lived 51 glorious years afloat. I wouldn’t change a thing. For me, the life of a modern sea gypsy is unparalleled in its many diverse freedoms.
I feel I am rich in everything that truly counts: friends, family, and freedom.
The physical key to this freedom is the boat. Without the boat, the rest can’t happen. The boat is the magic carpet.
A sailor without a boat is helpless. A sailor with a boat is Master of His Universe.
As I’ve said, I purchased my first boat at 15 years of age for $200. I also built a 36-foot ketch at 19 years of age—and started her with $600 in my pocket. In 1989, in the aftermath of Hurricane Hugo, I purchased salvage rights to the severely damaged 38-foot fiberglass sloop, Wild Card, for $3,000.
Wild Card, a Hughes 38, is a modest boat with much to be modest about. She lacks refrigeration and running water, doesn’t have an electric autopilot or watermaker and, with only 10 feet of beam, has little interior room compared to most modern cruising vessels.
Still, we’ve managed to sail her around the world twice over the course of the last 21 blissful years of ocean wandering. I feel it is fair to say that she has given us good value with an initial purchase price ofthree cents a mile (initial $3,000 price divided by 100,000 ocean miles).
How did I manage to buy a boat for $3,000 and sail it around the world a couple of times for almost nothing?
The answer lies within these pages. To explain my “sea gypsy” concept (that any working man who is handy and is willing to work hard can inexpensively and safely buy, outfit, and sail a small vessel around the world) is the exact reason I wrote this book.
This book is a step-by-step instruction manual to help you accomplish your dream of going to sea—inexpensively and safely.
…notice I didn’t say easily? If all you have is sweat-equity, it takes a lot of sweat to sail around the world.
Parts of this manuscript may strike you as a tad loony. That’s fine. I’m a high school drop-out. I’m a rebel. I’m a non-conformist. I don’t give a shit what most landlubbers think. And I’m loony. Example: Most authors would not admit to being loony in the first few paragraphs of their how-to book. I can. I do. I just did. And you’re still reading, aren’t you? The sky didn’t fall. Yes, I have a strange and twisted sense of humor—for better and worse. I am proud of being forthright. I like blurting out what other writers would not dare whisper.
Above all, I prize honesty and truth.
I will make sweeping statements in this book that will shock you—hell, they will shock me!
The reason they will shock us both is because the truth is so rarely told. Money isn’t everything. In fact, it is almost nothing. Often, it is an impediment to freedom. Piles of stuff mean little.
I did not write this book to show you how to save 10 percent while circumnavigating. I wrote it to help you buy, outfit, and sail a boat around the world for 10 percent of what the guy currently anchored next to me spends—while having twice the fun.
The ideas expressed within, however, are not utopian or pie-in-the-sky. They are practical, tried-and-true techniques that work. I live them every day—and have for over 51 wonderful years.
Is it easy? No.
I won’t kid you.
It is easier to vegetate ashore—to drift—and to allow life to pass you by.
But the trick is, according to my friend Bob Taylor who has circumnavigated three times, “to live while you’re alive.”
That makes sense, doesn’t it?
Your friends and relatives won’t criticize you for not living—only for attempting to live. Why? Because they are experiencing, as Henry David Thoreau pointed out so many years ago, “lives of quiet desperation.”
They have failed to achieve their dreams. Reality got in their way. Their cherished dreams turned to chalk. They have given up. They have their blinders on. And sadly, it pains and threatens them to come across someone who has not.
You’ll be shocked at their vehemence, if they think there is the remotest possibility you may escape and break the velvet chains of their video-screened, air-conditioned, Facebooked existence.
They will also strongly criticize me for even suggesting you do anything but work/consume, work/consume, work/consume/die.
Of course, ocean sailing is but one way to break free. It is the particular route I have chosen to my personal, private Nirvana. There are many others—in wheat fields, atop mountains, in Siberia, on the equator, at the South Pole.
It isn’t important what your dream is—but that you begin right now to accomplish it.
My friend Jim Sublett lived far above the Arctic Circle in the vast, uncharted wilderness of Alaska. He made his living hunting and mining for gold. He couldn’t swim a stroke and didn’t know how to sail. One evening (it was 40 degrees below outside) he read my story The Sea Gypsy’s Guide to Circumnavigating in Cruising World magazine—and became inspired. He sold this and he sold that—and hopped on a plane to New Zealand. He purchased a 30-foot locally-built steel sailboat, anchored it next to Wild Card in Opua, and asked, “Where to next, Cap?”
At first, I thought he might be nuts—until later, I realized he was nuts. But he was a real fun nut, Jim was. We had a wonderful year together cruising to Tonga, Wallis, Samoa, Fiji and numerous other bits of Paradise in the South Pacific.
Jim lived his dream—and discovered the wonders of the Land of the Long White Cloud as well. He is currently mining gold in South Island, New Zealand—in preparation for his next waterborne adventure.
Basically, a penniless sailor with no boat can think one of two things: “I will never get to sea.” That’s the conventional, shore-hugging wisdom. Anyone who thinks that is absolutely right. They won’t. I repeat: A person who sells himself short is always proven correct. Or, to put it another way; can’t never did nutt’n!
Or the potential sailor can think: “I, too, can get to sea. Others have—with far fewer advantages than I have. It just takes hard work, focus, and tenacity. Will it be easy? No. Could it be fun—absolutely!”
If you currently have a job, a place to live, and drive a presentable car—basically, if you are a reasonably sane, reasonably intelligent American—you can inexpensively buy, outfit, and sail a small boat around the world safely. I have—and many of my friends have. All it takes is hard, sustained work.
I and my friends are no smarter than you. We’re just more effective at accomplishing our dreams.
I will show you, step by step, how to join us.
This entire web page (except where noted) is copyrighted by Cap'n Fatty Goodlande