Changes in Attitude
Maybe a good small boat and a quiet lake are all you really need
One sunny Saturday afternoon found me trailering my O’Day 192, a nineteen-foot sailboat, to a nearby lake for an afternoon sail and an overnight stay. The lake was an hour’s drive away, so I passed the time with Jimmy Buffett crooning on the car stereo and the windows rolled down. Normally, this ride would induce in me a carefree, tranquil mindset and a perfect layup to a stress-free weekend, but this time, I found myself becoming agitated.
Several years ago, I discovered A Salty Piece of Land, a novel Jimmy had written about a rancher who tells his boss where to shove it, picks up and moves to the tropics for a relaxed (if predictable) lifestyle that features women, booze, and the sea. After that, I read more of his books, which similarly espoused a life free of cares and responsibilities.
Listening to Jimmy’s island-infused tunes, this theme started to intrude as I drove, and I wondered if I was letting life pass me by. Here I was, 50-something, doing the daily commute to a stressful job, paying off a mortgage, putting kids through college, slowly building a 401K, and watching friends retire and move south. The past couple of Pennsylvania winters had been more brutal than most, and I longed for those “changes in latitude, changes in attitude” that Jimmy so famously sings about.
I switched off the car stereo and rode the rest of the way to the lake in silence, the sun on my dashboard but a cloud over my head. Once at the lake, I quickly packed my gear into my boat and paddled out from the dock to open water. I had a motor, but we had a strained relationship and currently were not on speaking terms.
Winds were light, but sailing progress was steady for a couple of hours. The major impediment to an enjoyable sail was the cloud that had continued to gather moisture over my head as my lifestyle contemplation brought lightning bolts of anger and thunderous rolls of jealousy to the leading edge of my darkening emotional cumulonimbus.
As the wind died, I was nowhere near an anchorage, and I cursed my obstinate motor and pulled out the paddle. I left the sails up, hoping some light wind might reduce my labors…