June 15 , 2007
Many Thanks And Fair Winds
By Douglas Bernon
She was the editor of Cruising World magazine, he was a psychologist in private practice, when they bought a 39-foot Shearwater cutter named Ithaka, quit their jobs, sold their house, and set off on the cruising adventure that would change their lives. In the six years that followed, Bernadette and Douglas Bernon sailed Ithaka from Newport, Rhode Island, up to Canada, down the American coast, along the coast of Central America, down to South America, and finally back up through the Bahamas and home to Rhode Island.
As you read their highly entertaining blog, at first it seems as though they are destined to learn everything the hard way. But through the laughter and tears, the broken gear, the magnificent landfalls, the storms, adventures, fears, joys, and all the excitement, they became seasoned cruisers, and took us along for the journey.
In truth, several times we thought we’d turn back. Sometimes we felt overwhelmed — not up to the task before us. Many times in the early days of our voyage I felt frightened and unsure that I could handle the boat or the maintenance, the responsibilities or the intense relationship that is inevitably a part of a couple spending 24/7 in a small space and needing to rely on each other. But we persevered. We learned. We survived intact. Bernadette and I know how lucky we are to have had the health, the resources and the support to manage this experience.
When people ask us now how we’re different, I am immediately at a loss for words. I don’t think we’re very different, really. If change were that easy, all of us would be vastly different people. But change is always hard-earned and rarely major. Who we are as people is pretty well formed by the time we’re in our fifties. That said, I think Bernadette and I both have re-ranked some priorities. Surely some of this is inevitable as one gets older, but more importantly, our experiences cruising have also led us to re-examine what’s key for us.
In 2007, Douglas and Bernadette returned home to Rhode Island, to family and friends, and to a land life they found somewhat more hectic than the cruising life theyd left behind. Returning from cruising was such an adjustment, said Bernadette. Everything and everyone seemed to be moving so much faster. The cable news stations seemed so loud. Everyone had smart phones, and were in touch with everyone else all the time. Wed come from such a quieter life paradise, really and a rare community of people who all helped and supported each other, no matter what our differences were. It was hard to leave that, and start fresh again. But we were excited, too, and knew how lucky we were to have had that adventure.
Over time, Bernadette and Douglas carved out new and very happy lives back at home. Today, Douglas teaches at Brown Medical School, and has a private psychoanalytic practice. Bernadette, after working as a freelance travel and adventure writer for several national magazines including Islands, Forbes Life, and others found the perfect job. Shes now the Editorial Director for BoatU.S. Magazine, steering our Associations flagship publication and our growing media department, making all our magazines more exciting, inspirational, and vital for our active Membership. The Bernons still love sailing, and make it a point to travel to some interesting corner of the world for a month every year, where they charter a boat, and explore to their hearts content.
The Log Of Ithaka is a blog that tells a timeless story about real cruising, relationships and characters, boats and technology, best Caribbean destinations, travel tips, and learning to live together in 39 feet 24-7. If moving aboard a boat and going cruising is a dream youve harbored, welcome to the world of Ithaka, and to two people who will make you believe that if they can make their dream come true, than you can do it, too.
Over these six years we’ve heard from many hundreds of readers, and we’ve always been touched that you’ve let us enter your lives, that you’ve taken us into your homes and offices on a regular basis, and that you’ve included us in your dreams and sometimes also your prayers. When we write a log — and more often than not the logs serve as a way for us to make sense of what it is we’re doing and experiencing — we send it off into the ether, not knowing at the time how it will be received, what people will think, how they will respond and why. Often we’ve then heard back from people that something we said touched them or amused them or brought up memories of their own. I had no idea that the Internet would offer us such intimate dialogues, that it would bring so many people aboard Ithaka. Yet that’s been the case. As much as we’ve provided a glimpse into our world and our cruise, BoatUS readers have offered us stunning invitations into their lives as well. In many ways this give-and-take has been the most satisfying part of writing these logs.
Bernadette and I sat down the other night to talk about this log in particular and asked ourselves if there was any advice we thought we wanted to offer in a last essay. Other than to encourage you to live your dreams, that if we can handle something as challenging as cruising, than you can too, not surprisingly we have no boating suggestions whatsoever. There are plenty of other people who can do that better than we. But there are a couple of notions we want to serve up for your final consideration.
First, despite a great deal of practice in our lives, from the earliest moments on, saying good-bye is inherently difficult. There’s something so wrenching in separation that people beseech their deities for enough strength to accomplish the painful separation. Think of the words you know in various languages for good-bye, which is a contraction of “God be with you.” Via con Dios (meaning, “go with God” in Spanish), adieu and adios (both meaning “with God” in French and Spanish), and my favorite, the Hindi word Namaste, spoken with a slight bow while one’s hands are fused in prayer, translates as “I salute the soul within you.” Inherently, cruising is often about saying goodbye, and it’s been one of our most challenging experiences out there. This goodbye, to you, is one of the most difficult of all.
Second, i t doesn’t matter a whit whether or not you ever go cruising on a boat. But it does matter in so many ways whether or not you will let your mind travel, whether you will permit curiosity — that most beguiling but subversive of tendencies — to lead you to places and thoughts that you do not now know. Wherever that turns out to be, we hope you go there with safety, with grace, and with good health.
Be well, and stay in touch. From both of us, thank you, and Namaste.