About eight years ago, I ditched my job as a book editor, sold my house, bought a 40-foot, 30-ton steel trawler I had no idea how to run and went to seamanship school for nine weeks to figure it out. Then I brought my boat on her inaugural journey from Florida to Maine through the Atlantic, and published a book (The Cure for Anything is Salt Water) about it. And that might have been the end of my adventure, because I certainly didn’t have a plan for what would come next. Instead, what might have been just a glorious midlife crisis turned into a whole new career — I’ve been editing, writing and traveling for Yachting for four years now!
In the course of these travels, I’ve met a surprising number of people who were also compelled to walk away from “satisfactory” lives for something less safe, but more thrilling — making their love of the sea a part of their livelihoods.
This kind of radical departure isn’t for everyone, of course. But as journalist Sydney J. Harris put it, “Regret for the things we did can be tempered by time; it is regret for the things we did not do that is inconsolable.”
Drew Read, Marjorie McAllister:
Drew Read had grown up on the water and always wanted to work on it. But he became a sales rep for a paper merchant for 19 years, before trying his hand at several other sales-related business ventures. Still feeling that pull to the water, when his last job with a garage organizational company became less than thrilling, he called longtime friend Pat Kinnier at McAllister Towing in New York.
“What’s the chance of me working on tugs and becoming a tug captain?” he asked. Pat’s response was, “Sure, come up and take a ride for the day and tell me what you think.” Drew had just turned 50 and asked “Am I too old to be a tugboat captain?” Pat said, “Hell, no.” Drew gave his 2 weeks notice a few days later and never looked back.
“I was at McAllister for about a year when they pioneered a school called Tugboat University. I qualified and they paid for my mates’ schooling which took me 27 months to complete at the United States Merchant Marine Academy at Kings Point.” Five years later, Drew has a 1,600-ton near coastal mates’ license and is training on the Majorie McAllister to dock ships and push fuel barges in New York Harbor.
“During my schooling I was working on tugs, going to school, boating on the Chesapeake Bay with my wife, Lori, and trying to have a home life.” Drew notes that it wasn’t always easy but, “When the dream is big enough, the facts don’t count.”