Living By Water – End of year thoughts by Marilyn Michael

At years end, many of us are drawn to introspect. I thought I would share with the women who follow and participate in Northwest Women in Boating some of my mind’s wanderings about life with boats and the gifts it has brought me

Vivian Strolis and I have enjoyed keeping the organization thriving since 2007. She’s done regional cruising on two powerboats and now enjoys introducing her Grandchildren to life on the water with local trips onboard her Maxim 42. I’ve lived aboard my 42 Chirs Craft Commander for many years after regional cruising on sailboats. We met through our draw to the water, we care about enriching other’s lives and that led to a commitment to keeping Northwest Women in Boating afloat to enthuse, instruct and inspire other women also drawn to the water.

Whether you dream of owning a  boat, are a pleasure boater, race sailboats, do long range cruising or liveaboard in an urban environment, something led to that inner compulsion to be on the water. Sometime in your life you knew that a part of you would feel unfulfilled without an attachment to the water. Pacific Northwest writer, Brenda Peterson’s book Living By Water, takes a philosophical look at that draw. She went inside and examined what it was that caused the water environ to have such a hold on her life. She wrote of how it has enriched her life.

My draw to the water and the hold it has on me is complete.  A boater since 1983 I’ve owned two sailboats and a powerboat, on which I liveaboard. I’ve made “living by the water” my life. Not only do I live in a different way than in my previous small town and urban homes, I am different now. Being drawn to the water has played a role in molding my character and my aspirations.

How I live is not the “back to basics” image some have of people who have chosen to dwell on a boat. I live in a comfortable and respectable vessel. My “dwelling” is paid for and I have had an interesting and fulfilling career. I have often said that my chosen life is like living a vacation.

Though I own my boat, I live with less security. I am a renter at the whim of changing business and political philosophies. Choosing to live with fewer guarantees, though, has strengthened my willingness to take risks in other areas of my life. When a person is on a desperate search for security, they too often let opportunities pass that may have helped them grow; that may have enriched their lives. Sadly, they may still awaken one day to see that the security they sought was an illusion.

I chuckle at complaints of lack of space I hear among land-dwelling friends. They stop and smile sheepishly when they remember where I live. Many people’s lives often seem to merely expand into greater complexity. The smaller amount of space in which I live has demanded that I simplify my life and pare my belongings to things truly meaningful to me. That would stop many from choosing life on the water, but I have found it a blessing. I’ve lived daily enjoying things I truly care about. I understand the wisdom in the words of philosophers who remind us “things we own are not what build a happy and meaningful life.”

The people around me; who are in my life are interesting. Many are people who, like me, are passionately drawn to the water. It reminds me that being passionate about something nurtures the soul. I remember the joy of a sailboat-owning neighbor when he successfully installed a new refrigeration system. I don’t know about or much care about refrigeration, but I care very greatly about people feeling joy.

I understand part of the draw to my life on the water. For years, my career involved helping people who were dying. Many people dream of spending more time on the water in the future. I chose to live those dreams earlier in life partly because of the reminder that life is short and time may run out for “future” dreams.

At the holiday season it is traditional to reflect on our lives and give thanks for what we have. I am thankful I’ve had freedom from the yoke of the need for security. I am thankful for truly understanding the wisdom of philosophers who teach that meaning is not found in the things we own. I am thankful for being drawn to interesting, passionate people and sharing in their joy. I am thankful for being able to help nurture an organization that helps other women find the joy being on the water can bring. I am thankful that “living by water” became my dream and that I chose to live it, not waiting for a future that I could not guarantee would be there. These are a few of the gifts I’ve received from being drawn to the water.

If you dream of owning a boat, do everything you can – find a way.  If you boat for pleasure, cruise as much as you can and share the boating life with many friends. Race faster, better and more if that is your passion. Don’t put off your long-range cruising dreams, there are many who have done it with less than you may think you will need. There will always be ways for those who are “drawn to the water” to realize their dreams.

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