Our last purchase was $64 worth of screws. The experienced sailors on the dock said we’d need them. Two women with only the most basic sailing skills setting out to sail an old boat – uh yeah, we’d need those screws – and a whole lot of luck, instructive chapters (with diagrams) of knots to use in rough weather, and generous people along the way.
Elizabeth, in her early 30s, figured an adventure at sea could help her answer some of life’s biggest questions: Who am I? What do I want? Where am I going? Her mother, Barbara, was stuck in a misty suburban comfort zone and sought a challenge.
After waving goodbye – three times – to concerned friends and family, we pushed through Pensacola Pass on a November afternoon following 9/11 in “Revival”, a 43-foot sloop. We hung a left and headed down the coast of Florida, through the Bahamas, then over to the Dominican Republic, the smell of cows and grass on our noses hours before land was in sight. It took three days to cross the Mona Passage, the world’s second-deepest body of water.
Then we scooted along the southern coast of Puerto Rico, pulling anchor each morning at 3 a.m. so we could take advantage of the night lees, before taking cover each afternoon. After the Virgins, we navigated the Anegada Passage to Anguilla and St. Martin. Almost six months and 2,000 miles later, our time away from business and land life was over.
We’re often asked whether we encountered bad weather. Yup. And did we get along? Well, since neither of us knew anymore than the other about sailing a boat, we didn’t declare a captain. That meant we had to figure things out together – confrontations, feedback, and honesty ricocheted through a space the size of the average kitchen. After a while, we got the hang of things and teamwork rose to the top.
Mostly, people ask, “What was the hardest part of the trip?” Navigation, night sailing, rogue waves, running out of water, gale-force winds, dodging coral heads in skinny water with a 6-foot draft, releasing fisherman’s pots from our prop in total darkness? Indeed, we were challenged and tested.
But the hardest part of the trip? Simple – getting off the boat. Just when we’d discovered new parts of ourselves – the ability to troubleshoot, increased courage and confidence, and newfound joy in the simplest of things – boom: We are out of money, out of time.
Our sabbatical has had lasting effects. Today, our business partnership thrives, in part, because of our co-captaining experience. We’re on a mission to ensure that other career-minded, successful people experience the power of time off. And we’re more certain about what makes us happy – fulfilling work, good friends, new adventures whenever we can, and, always, large expanses of water like a river, a lake, a sound or the sea.