About a year and a half ago, when I’d just become eligible for Social Security, I realized it was time to undertake one of those Big Things we all think about but usually don’t do. In my case, I’d recently come into possession of a wonderful sailboat, thanks to an insurance settlement following the wreck of my earlier boat and an economy that still allowed banks to lend money without asking borrowers what they were going to do with it. “Going for a sail, eh?” I can imagine a steely-eyed loan officer saying today, peering over his glasses at someone (me) asking for a boat loan. “And just why should I assume you’ll ever come back, let alone repay your loan?”

But those were different times, and I’d found a boat to love, so of course they gave me the dough and I bought the boat. And in case anyone’s wondering, I’m making the payments, too.

This past summer, after a season’s sailing convinced me I had a vessel that would really get me places, I wrapped up my duties as editor of Working Waterfront and prepared to set sail. You see, my Big Thing has always been a voyage in my own boat; it’s a dream I’ve had for years and now, dammit, I’m off.

Preparing for a venture like this feels like getting ready to go to the moon. The boatyard folks and I have gone through the boat from stem to stern, replacing alternators, batteries, wires, hoses, rigging parts, filters, fittings and pumps, few of which were terminal cases, but which no one wants to fail at some critical time, say, in the middle of the Gulf Stream in the middle of the night. The image of such failures has enriched boatyards and marine suppliers for years; I did my bit for the waterfront economy this past year, I assure you. The yard had my home phone number and they knew where I was headed. “Mr. Platt,” they’d say, “that alternator’s got a chip in the paint and I think it would be prudent to replace it, and while we’re at it….” Happily, we did so. Ditto for lots of things, and I feel better for at least two reasons: because I’ve got a bunch of new, reliable equipment and because while the economy was tanking, I was able to help.

I bought books and charts, made shelves, added a new self-tending staysail, sanded and varnished lots of things, painted the spars, collected gear from friends, recruited crew for different parts of the trip, signed myself up for web e-mail, and issued regular memoranda to a wide circle of sailor friends who had expressed interest in coming along. I even threw out my back for a while, either because of all the stress or – more likely – by crawling around under the boat with a paintbrush last spring.

We launched in June; spent part of July at the yard doing little things; did some nice local sailing in August once it stopped raining. Recently I brought her back to the boatyard float (it’s near my house) in preparation for departure. More work, this time on the single sideband radio and radar. When it looks as if the cost is going over the top I try to keep my self-pity at bay by reminding myself how lucky I am; that my problems have to do with my own scheme to run away to sea aboard a yacht. I could be sick, or living in Haiti during hurricane season, or be dealing with some personal loss. Instead I’m off on an adventure, so I can’t complain. If I must complain I can’t expect anyone to be sorry for me.

Here’s the plan (I know, God will smile): sail from Maine to New York via the Cape Cod Canal and Long Island Sound; change crews, then sail on to Annapolis to visit the U.S. Sailboat Show in October; sail on to North Carolina via the Intracoastal Waterway; after a short Thanksgiving break, head offshore for the U.S. Virgin Islands; explore the British Virgins, the Leewards and the Windwards as far south as we can get; turn around and come home via the Virgins, the Bahamas and the Intracoastal Waterway. See you next spring.

That’s the idea. The reality? Breakdowns. Groundings. Weather problems. Crew problems. Disasters of all sorts. Anything can happen, so take that plan of mine with a block of salt.

Of course it’s the exercise, not reaching the destination, that really counts. As my hero Ratty puts it in that well-loved passage of The Wind in the Willows, “whether you get away or whether you don’t; whether you arrive at your destination or whether you reach somewhere else, or whether you never get anywhere at all” it’s the attempt that matters. “Worth doing,” is Rat’s philosophical take on boating. I wholeheartedly agree.