If you tuned in to CWW to find out where the best Margarita in Isla Mujeres is, you'll have to check back next month. Once a year I do a column about the bigger picture, the sweeping issues that affect cruising most. This is it, one man's perspective.
Beth Leonard, cruiser extraordinaire and author of Voyager's Handbook wrote, "Going cruising separates your many many wants from your very few needs, and in getting down to those needs you discover what it is that defines you as an individual. You let go of all the things you've been told that you should want, you should have, you should need and you find out who you really are and what you really want to do and how you really want to exist on the planet."
At the peak of my pre-cruising rat-race daze I drove an old full size Bronco. I worked all week and stole away on the weekends to whoop it up with friends, water skiing Pyramid and motocrossing the hell out of the foothills north of LA. I had a beer belly cookin', I was living the good life. Still, there was something missing, something unfulfilling about my chock-full motor-head/work guy calendar.
It was cruising that exposed me to things more real; real adventure, real intrigue, really living. My small world was subjected to a broader perspective. Ripping along a tree lined path at a 110 decibels had it's moments but what was the point, where was the challenge? Hiding in my helmet I was isolated from the best part, the stuff along the trail itself. Cut ahead to my first open ocean squall – dizzy with distress in the face of a force greater than any I'd experienced, violent wind and waves ripping and tearing at our vessel as we lay in submission, far too far offshore to swim to the safety of the nearest beach, to far even for an ego as powerful as mine. Combine that experience with a hundred tropical island landfalls, amazing reefs snorkeled and evening sunset coldies with new friends in odd places and I was hooked on a different kind of living.
I've since developed an affinity for a new way of living, one molded from a few blissful cultures I've witnessed while cruising other countries. Work less, own less, and enjoy more. It's how I live now. Quality is the object of this alternative way of life. New Zealand comes to mind as an example. Have a look around and you'll find that the houses there are mostly simple one-story 50's looking abodes. Like their simple vehicles their homes are clean and well maintained. Small homes and simple cars mean more disposable income but also bigger yards and gardens. Quality time outside abounds. "Does your food travel more than you do?" Here in the states the answer's a resounding yes! Not in NZ. And who needs a big house full of flatscreens and gadgets when you are traveling all of the time. Kiwi's are rarely home. They take long-ass vacations, sometimes for months. And they don't have to leave the country. Like us, they live in an amazingly diverse place.
It is a thing that often seems just out of reach. In my 39 years, Quality is what I have grown to understand to be the object of this game we're playing. The one who wins the game isn't the one with the most toys. That's what the corporate version of the American dream would have you invest in. If you expose yourself enough to true living you can see that the real object is to notch up more and higher Quality experiences. We dance around it, pretending that other things are more important. Quality is not so elusive. It can be found in everything we do from the simplest of life's chores, to watching your kids play, to a grand exploration of an uncharted island. Quality, alongside balance, are the elements that provide a steady flow of intuitive answers to the hard questions that cross my path.
It's tough at the top. That's where we still are as a nation, if by a shoe string now. It's hard to see the cracks in the wall as you stand up there but come on down for a minute, head out to cruise other countries and you just might get far enough away to notice. From the start, Cruising has given me a strong dose of reality and I have been courting Quality solutions for our big picture ever since.
I've been back long enough this time around to get a good dose of the malcontent circulating my country. All of the petty bickering is not helping our situation. I've learned that the extremists, on both ends of our political spectrum, aren't going to solve our problems. They are too far gone. Those that spend their days bashing the other side, denigrating their fellow Americans, do their country a disservice and we should turn a deaf ear to them. What is needed now is for you and me to come together in the middle. All of us giving a little.
Our national standing in the world may not mean anything to the permanently shorebound but to a cruiser, the way we are perceived and received abroad means a lot. From where I stand, four issues separate us from national, and in turn, cruising bliss. They are all four connected and they all have solutions found in cruising.
Do we continue to beg for oil at the peril of our troops, our economy and our planet or should we finally step up and field the permanent solution. Don't let them convince you that our nation and her people are too weak to build an independent renewable energy future. It is well within our fortitude and skill set and we are ready. It's time to own instead of rent.
Energy crises you say? Not if you live on a cruising boat. If you pulled the plug tomorrow, cruisers all around you would continue to live nearly unaffected. We would flip on our windgenerators and angle our solar panels to catch the drifting sun. And we would conserve. We would try to help the people ashore because that's what cruisers do. In the evenings though, as the shore-bound panic for lack of front yard floodlights we would insist on a sundowner, if just to increase the day's dose of Quality.
Like on a cruising boat, our nation's energy options are vast. Wind power, solar power and ocean energy alongside conservation make cruising remote paradises feasible. On land we can benefit from a few bonus energy producers, among them: geothermal and hydroelectric. Of course we shouldn't leave out ethanol from surplus plant matter, biodiesel from algae and discarded cooking oil and alcohol from food waste as transitional fuels and for those new multifuel engines. Hydrogen production and storage have just had major breakthroughs. Let's not forget the no gas station, no tune up solution to transportation: the electric vehicle. Where I live we already have lightweight electric trucks and cars zooming all over the place. Oddly, most are imported from China as GM considers bankruptcy (why are they stalling on electric cars?) As I write this, the electric powered sloop across from Low Key is silently motoring out for a sundown sail. Low Key's next for that program.
"May you live in exciting times," as the Chinese curse goes. This is an amazing time to be kickin' around this little blue planet. We are at the end of an era, one way or another. As cruisers we know all too well how precious the environment is. We live in the country that is best suited to lift humanity out of the carbon age. We were designed for this challenge. Enough motoring into the wind, it's time to change course. It's time to set the sails.