Tuesday, August 19, 2008


I was reading an interesting article in Newsweek magazine about how owning a house, though the quintessential American dream, may not be such a good idea for many (if not most) of us. Houses are big, suck up energy, are empty much of the time and, even when we are home, a good part of them is still empty. They cost big bucks to finance, repair, and support, and chew up enough of a budget to easily make even a middle-class income family “house poor.” They can be hard to get out of once purchased. (A statement that falls squarely in the “No Shit Sherlock” department.)

I don’t know what “most” of us should be doing. Most of the time I’m not sure what I should be doing. But I felt a resonance with the author’s view of home ownership. Don’t get me wrong; I really like our house in the Central West End. As soon as we finish up the hard wood floor installation I suspect I will like it even more. But I can’t say I prefer the CWE to the marina. I can’t say that I prefer the sounds of the city to the sounds of the lake. (Carp noises aside; which are even more annoying then the howling of neighbor dogs.) The fact that the boat has no yard or grass is a huge plus for me. From an energy standpoint a house has no chance against a boat, particularly a modern boat with wind generators, solar panels and very efficient engine driven generators driving equally efficient appliances.

And, (a big thing for people like me) the boat can move. It isn’t rooted to a place. Any job within 20 miles or so of any ocean becomes a place I can move my home. Though my current bosses are first class people whom I enjoy working with and for, they are the exception to the rule in my life of aviation. How sweet would it be if no boss could have hooks deep enough into anyone that the anyone couldn’t just toss the job back on the desk and walk (or sail) away? How much better would we be as a society if most of us felt a little less “indentured." How much better would working people be treated everywhere if most really, really had the option of not going to this or that particular job every day? It isn't that we don't like to work. Most of us do like to work, we like to contribute, create, be involved, make a difference.

The other half of the quintessential American dream is to be independent, self reliant, and beholding to no one. We want to make a difference, but we would like to do it on our terms, in our time, and it our way. It is one of the things I love about being in the airplane. Once the wheels are in the wells it matters not who is sitting behind me; it is my show. The calls I make are the only ones that matter. The decisions, the responsibilities and the consequences are mine to make, to carry and to suffer; at least until the tires brush Mother Earth once again.

The fun of sailing, the enjoyment of learning a new thing or two, the smiles that come from seeing the world from a slightly different place and in a slightly different way, are big parts of being on the boat for me. But deeper maybe, more important though less noticeable, is the idea that when on the boat my life is mine to live as I choose. I pick the risks to be run and the ones to be avoided, the places to go and the places to pass by and maybe, with a little extra cash in my pocket that used to go to supporting a house, I have some other choices I don't have now.

Like I said, I don’t really know. But if I make it to the boat tonight I think I will sit in the cockpit, sip on a Rum-N-Coke, and enjoy living on a boat for a few hours anyway.

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