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It’s not the size of the boat that matters; it’s the memories

2012 May 4

Ever so rarely, an e-mail arrives on my desk that not only makes my day, but my week, month and year. This missive makes it seem that the stars have lined up and all is right in the heavens. An e-mail of such simple clarity that it took my breath away, while bringing tears to my eyes at the same moment.

As any writer who voices his opinions in public, I get my share of the mean and the angry, those who want to gather outside the walls of Castle Caswell with burning torches and pitchforks.

But this stopped me in my tracks. And so I think it really important to pass along, because it perfectly captures the ideas that I try to share on these pages about what sailing can mean in a person's life.

To Chris Caswell,
I am a faithful reader of your columns and of your approach to sailing. I came late to sailing; I was 50 and my husband 56. We had owned a powerboat, which had been our vacation home while we were raising our seven kids; college expenses however took their toll and the boat was the first to go. We both wept when we said goodbye to it at the dock.

Then a "funny" thing happened seven years later. I won $40,000 in the local lottery and after straightening our finances we were left with the down payment for a sailboat. Why a sailboat? Well, that's another somewhat synchronous story, but to make it short I was invited to a weekend sail from Fajardo to Culebra to help out my very pregnant friend. We returned under a full moon, Vivaldi playing softly on the speakers and a blooper pulling us along. Utter bliss!

At this time in my life (78 and widowed), my memories are inextricably tied to sailing all over the Spanish Virgin Islands, U.S. Virgin Island, and British Virgin Islands with my husband and one or another of my children or grandchildren (even a great grandchild). Sailing with my husband alone, though, were the best times. I kept logs (diaries), which I read often and I have prepared slideshows and movies of those times to leave to my children. We never had money to spare but we were truly wealthy and what's best we knew it.

Thank you, and God bless you.
Myrsa Landrón-Bou
San Juan, Puerto Rico

If that doesn't make you consider your own blessings and step back to appreciate the simple truths of what Myrsa says, well, you have no soul.

All of us, if we are lucky, will have just such an evening sail under a full moon, moved along by a warm wind we can't see, with favorite music playing softly in the background and a loved one by our side. Those are the memories that give us the momentum to get through the bad times, and they are what pull us forward in our daily lives.

And I loved that she has kept logs of her sailing and is preserving them to pass along to her children. My father, as a young man, had run away to sea, doing the rolling-down-to-Rio thing on tankers and freighters before moving on to luxurious Matson Liners on the route to Hawaii. He kept a diary with photos and I have always blessed him for it, because it gave me insights into a father I never knew when we were in the father-son relationship.

That Myrsa is going to pass these sailing memories along to her children is a wonderful thing, and I hope more parents will make the effort to capture their moments for future generations. In this digital age, capturing and storing photos and movies is just a click away.
But what appeals to me most about Myrsa's email is the simple truth: "We never had money to spare but we were truly wealthy and, what's best, we knew it."

Is Bill Gates happier aboard his 200-footer than Myrsa and her husband aboard their much smaller sailboat as they sailed around the islands? I think not. It's not so much about the boat as it is the sheer joy of sailing, of being able to get away from daily life and into a world of freedom, sun and wind.

I can only hope that when (if?) I reach the age of 78, I'll be able to look back on my life and savor those moonlit sails all over again. As Myrsa alludes to so poignantly, sailing transcends everything else and fills your life with a wealth and a joy that can never be purchased with a credit card or a bank full of money.

Myrsa clearly loves sailing for what it has brought to her life and the poem she sent, "Sailing with the Wind in my Face," is so evocative:

Only sea, breeze, sun and movement
The lashing of the waves silences
The incessant babble of demanding voices,
The "I have to," the "when," and the "how."

I am left with the now, the moment.
I am, yet I am not.
There is only poise and balance
Time disappears.

Oh, to sail with the wind in my face!

Without a doubt, Myrsa is truly wealthy.