Why Worry When You can Sail or do Whatever Makes You Happy

Why Worry When You can Sail or do Whatever Makes You Happy

By David Himmel

If we had asked for a better day, the gods would have descended from the heavens and risen from the seas to pimp slap the teeth out of our mouths. We’d have deserved it. We’d have been greedy.

We bought a 28-foot Benetau Oceanis sailboat. Used. Old. Built in 1995. It's a beauty. The previous owner stored it in Kenosha, and Dad and I were bringing it home to Monroe Harbor via an estimated 10-hour trip straight south along the shoreline. (We made it in just under 10 hours. Neat.) The sky was cloudless. The water was without swells. The wind, however, was blowing northeast, which was the opposite direction of where we were headed. So we motored most of the way. I’d have preferred to tack up to Muskegon then head straight into the harbor but Dad was right in suggesting we use our time to get our new boat home. Tacking would have filled our Memorial Day Weekend, and I have a wife and an infant, and Dad has a wife who loves having him around. Oh well. 

“If you don’t have a destination, sailing is the way to go,” he said.

“Tell that to Christopher Columbus,” I argued.

“Columbus missed his destination point,” Dad countered successfully.

"And then he ruined everything," I said rightfully like a smug SJW.

Though I would have preferred to be under sail rather than motor, it was 10 hours of the most incredible hours of my life.

 The author as the sailing director and waterfront director at Lake of the Woods & Greenwoods Camps mapping out a lesson plan.

The author as the sailing director and waterfront director at Lake of the Woods & Greenwoods Camps mapping out a lesson plan.

I’m made for the water. Made for a life at sea. It runs contrary to my decade living in the desert, and a life resigned to typing on a plugged in MacBook Pro in Wicker Park instead of eeking by as the captain of a chartered schooner in the Caribbean. But I grew up on boats. We had a small outboard speed boat when I was a little kid. At summer camp, I preferred lakefront activities like canoeing, skiing and sailing to the land-based fun like golf and basketball. I taught sailing at that same summer camp and was waterfront director for two seasons. Sailing is me at my most Zen.

It calms me. The quiet noise of the wind filling the main and jib. The creak of the hull as it heels. The splashing of the water against the hull as you cut through on a broad, beam or close reach. And my god… if you can run with the wind… I have a wooden sign that has hung in every home I’ve had since 2003 that says, “Why Worry When I can Sail.” That’s the truth. Even when things go awry, I’m calm. Problem solving at sea is my forte. To be one with the elements, to be among the waters and sun and my own thoughts is to be happy.

Cue Christopher Cross, or N’Sync, if you prefer that jam.


 Boat artwork by  Michelle Lukezic .

Boat artwork by Michelle Lukezic.

We named the boat Knot Write. Because boat names are best when they’re puns. It’s not the only boat we own. Dad’s got a 38-foot Carver cruiser he keeps in Hammond Marina. It’s a beautiful beast and one could easily live on it, if one is OK to forgo all the crap landlubbers tend to collect and hold on to. Dad finds calm and happiness in boating, too.

Lucky us. Because everyone should have something that makes them happy. Something that brings them joy. Something that calms their nerves and pushes out the constraints of the anxiety and depression that haunts daily life. For me, that’s sailing. And I’m fortunate that my daddy earned enough money in his career as an attorney and slum lord to purchase such pleasure. Yeah, I’m one foreskin away from being a rich WASP.

Dad and I always had an unspoken agreement that he would buy the power boat and I’d buy the sailboat. When we purchased Knot Write, I was gainfully employed at a company that paid me enough to be Boat Rich. The layoff that occurred a month after we signed the papers put a damper on that agreement—as if my father would let me pay for anything anyway. Just as I won’t let my son, Harry, pay for anything as long as I can afford it. Providing joy, monetarily or otherwise, to a child is a father’s job.

And I realize that not everyone is as fortunate or privileged as I am. Not everyone has a Boat Rich daddy. But everyone should find the thing that gives them the kind of calm joy sailing gives me. It doesn’t matter what it is.

 The author's father, Admiral Jim, at the helm of Knot Write.

The author's father, Admiral Jim, at the helm of Knot Write.

If you’re unemployed or underpaid, maybe you scrounge together 50 bucks for a bit of weed, get stoned and read the work of Lewis Carroll. If you’re trapped on Chicago’s Westside, maybe reporting Chicago Police squad cars parked illegally while the officers eat lunch at Chipotle is your thing. I don’t know. I can’t speak for you. I don’t know your situation, and frankly, I don’t care. All I want is for you to have something, anything, that you can do that takes you away from your troubles and brings you a grin wide enough to make you look like a stupid idiot. Because when we’re really, really happy, we all look like stupid idiots. Want to see Don Hall look like a stupid idiot? Go on a road trip with him.

Granted, I might sound like a spoiled, entitled white boy with a rich daddy. But I’m not. Spoiled, entitled, rich kids don’t appreciate their fortune or luck. And all that fortune and luck I have is not lost on me. I'm ever grateful for all I have and has been provided for me. Boats, summer camp, college, good health, a hot wife, a kid better looking than yours, a mom hotter than yours... We use our boats for good when we can. Both the power boat—Son Spot, Too—and, already, Knot Write are offered up as auction items at charitable organizations' events. Four-hour cruises on Lake Michigan tend to bring in lots of money for good causes that help those who cannot help themselves. And we invite friends and family out for Navy Pier fireworks and the Air and Water Show, and beautiful, summer days on the water with nothing to do but kick back, relax and coast along the Third Coast.

If you’ve read this and are thinking, “David Himmel is a prick. Rich, Jew prick,” well, OK. But fuck you. Because you’re missing the point. I’m simply telling you about my thing that gives me an escape and brings me happiness, and I am encouraging you to do the same. You want a sailboat but can’t afford it, OK. Set a goal. Be my dad. Be me, I guess. Every dollar I earn and try to earn is so I can pay for a boat, and house and feed my family. Be the person who wants something and gets it. It doesn’t have to be a 28-foot 1995 sailboat. It can be a Sunfish. Those are much more affordable, though we did get a killer deal on Knot Write. Or, and here’s where shit gets real exciting, ask me for a boat ride. What good is a boat if you can’t sail with friends? No good, that’s what.

Otherwise, or in addition to, find your thing. Do your thing. Escape. Make yourself happy.

And now that I’ve come clean about this whole Boating is Life thing, perhaps you’ll understand why I’m such a miserable cunt during the winter. And that’s why I tell myself, “Why worry when I can sail.” You should tell yourself, “Why worry when I can do whatever it is that makes me happy.” There’s always something. There’s always a way. You need to be fortunate or wily enough to find it, and when you do, you’ll find your way to true joy.

BONUS CHRISTOPHER CROSS FEATURING MICHAEL MCDONALD!

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