We're Going Sailing

By Bernadette Bernon
December 17, 1999
Newport, RI

For the past few years, we've been fortunate to share with two good friends their front-of-the-house season tickets to Boston's Handel & Haydn Society concerts. Over time, as we've been inspired by Easter and Christmas oratorios, uplifted by summer chorales and symphonies, and — I'll admit it — as we've nodded through the occasional baroque opera, we've sat next to the same people to the left and right of us, strangers in every way except for our shared love of this music played on antique instruments.

Over the first year, we exchanged pleasantries with our seatmates. Over the second year, during the odd intermission, we eventually made loose acquaintance on either side, occasionally venturing a comparison or two to the season before.

Photo of Bernadette and Douglas Bernon
We're cutting the ties to our land-based worlds, and we're going cruising.

During the third year, we were unsettled to notice that our seatmates to the left appeared to have split up. "The divorced guy" — as Douglas and I began to refer to him after that — began showing up with different younger-looking women, each wearing short, black dresses, and he appeared to have lost about 20 pounds. One night in our third subscription year, seconds before curtain time, the woman who sits to the right of us noticed the magazine logo on my jacket as we slid by her to our seats.

"Do you know someone at Cruising World?" she whispered.

"Yes," I whispered back. "I work there." "Oh. My. God!" she gasped, as the hall darkened for what would be a particularly long performance of the opera Julius Caesar.

During intermission, she burst into a story about her son who, after finishing college, had rebuilt an old 30-footer, was now single-handing around the wilder parts of the world, and hoped to be a writer. This got my attention. "Your son doesn't happen to be in Chile right now, does he?" I asked.

"Yes!" she said. "How did you know that?"

"I think I just received a letter from him. From what you're saying, it has to be your son. I just wrote back to him this afternoon. Wow," I said. "Small world."

"Oh. My. God!" she said.

"He's a good writer," I said. "I encouraged him to do a story for us." It looked like she was going to cry.

Photo of Ithaka
Ithaka (with her old name Slithermoon still gracing the bow) under her winter cover in a boatyard in Portsmouth, RI. (Photo: Michael Savage)

A few months later, it was our turn for another H&H concert. By then, seeing our seatmates was almost as compelling as listening to the music. As usual, we arrived from Newport at the last moment before the curtain. Over intermission, "The Cruising-Guy's Mom," as Douglas had begun to refer to her, pulled out from under her seat a shopping bag containing photo albums of her son's voyage so far. As other concertgoers began to look over our shoulders, she gave us an update on his adventures. We all agreed that the young man was indeed a breed apart and very impressive.

It's serendipitous moments such as this that I've come to treasure while being Editorial Director of Cruising World, a position that affords the opportunity to meet some amazing people.

The next time we go to a concert, I'll tell The Cruising-Guy's Mom that Douglas and I have made a decision — to head out into the cruising world ourselves. That we hope to cross paths with her son, and many others, to listen and learn from them. That it's time for us to leave the comfort of the campfire and venture into the unknown forest. That we know how freaked-out and excited her son must have been when he was on his countdown year before going, because that's how we feel right now. I think she'll understand, because she's a sailor herself and the mother of a cruiser. I can't wait to ask her how best to help my dad cope with the fact that we'll be gone for a while. She'll know. After all, she's been going through it herself.

Yesterday, I announced to my staff that I'm resigning in the spring, that Douglas and I have our house on the market, that we're moving aboard our boat this summer, and that, by God, we're going cruising. After months of quiet planning — just to make sure we could really pull this off before we told people about it — it's a relief finally to be able to share the news with our friends.

Over the next few months, I'll share with you through this column some of the challenges we're facing as we get ready to go. I'll show you our new (old!) boat and the modifications we're undertaking to make her into what we think we need for a life afloat.

I'll also introduce you to the person who'll be taking over Cruising World. All that's ahead. Right now, if you'll excuse me, Douglas and I have a concert to attend. This time we don't want to be late.

This article was first published as an editorial in the February, 2000 issue of Cruising World Magazine.