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A Challenge That Put Wind in His Sails
Old 10-08-2007, 10:51 AM   #1
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A Challenge That Put Wind in His Sails

Not RE, but still a great post-retirement story.

A Challenge That Put Wind in His Sails

John Atkisson Took a Transatlantic Route to Post-Retirement Fulfillment

By Ken Ringle
Special to The Washington Post
Monday, October 8, 2007; Page C01


The first thing you need to understand about John Atkisson is that he doesn't think what he's done is any big deal.
It's a big deal to him, certainly. No one can sail a 32-foot sloop from Deale, Md., to the rockbound cliffs of Ireland and Scotland, weathering storms, tidal whirlpools and a mid-ocean collision, and then sail her down to Spain, Portugal and the Canary Islands, back across the Atlantic to the Caribbean and north toward home -- no one can do that without a pretty fair sense of accomplishment. Particularly at an age (he's 66) when most men won't even carry their own golf clubs.

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Old 10-08-2007, 10:56 AM   #2
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Sounds like a Joshua Slocum wannabe. But Slocum did it 100+ years ago and went around the world.
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Old 10-08-2007, 11:06 AM   #3
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Sounds like a Joshua Slocum wannabe. But Slocum did it 100+ years ago and went around the world.
I met the youngest person to circumnavigate single handed. Tania Aebi did it, starting her sail at 18 yo in 1984. She did it without even knowing how to sail when she started. Her dad put her in a Contessa 26 off Sandy Hook NJ when she didn't know what to do with her life. He told her either college or circumnavigation. Sounds pretty irresponsible to me, but she was able to do something nobody else has ever done at that age. Her story is incredible, as told in her book "Maiden Voyage."
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Old 10-08-2007, 11:36 AM   #4
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That is a great book by Tania Abei! Also loved Dove by Robin Graham and his follow-up, Home is the Sailor. Good to see someone on the other end of the age spectrum making news, though!
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Old 10-08-2007, 11:38 AM   #5
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I read Tania's book and enjoyed it.

Quote:
The first thing you need to understand about John Atkisson is that he doesn't think what he's done is any big deal.
I have to agree with John on this.
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Old 10-08-2007, 11:42 AM   #6
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Also check out Tristan Jones' books.
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Old 10-08-2007, 12:16 PM   #7
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I have to agree with John on this.
Well, I've done a 500 mile offshore passage under sail and for me it was a big deal, especially swatting the biting deer flies that found my boat in the ocean out of sight of land. I counted 115 confirmed kills. Still don't know how those little bast buggers got there.
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Old 10-08-2007, 02:46 PM   #8
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T-Al, you should read Wayward Sailor, the biography of Tristan Jones. It is pretty eye-opening about the veracity of some of his stories. And a great book!

Soon, that is awesome--where'd you go? In what? Jealous, big time! Gawd I hate being boatless!
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Old 10-08-2007, 03:04 PM   #9
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Soon, that is awesome--where'd you go? In what? Jealous, big time! Gawd I hate being boatless!
Wow, if you're jealous about getting bit by deer flies on a boat, you're really missing having a boat I thought you said you guys had a boat in Charleston.

I did a 500 mile circumnavigation of the Delmarva, really not a big deal, but as I said for me it was. I'm mainly a racer, so for me any cruise is a difficult thing. Went down the Bay from Annapolis, then offshore off Norfolk and up the coast about 20 miles offshore, headed in at Dewey Delaware, up the Delaware Bay, through the C&D canal, and back to Annapolis. I was in an Island Packet 38, beautiful boat. Last two weekends a couple of friends and I took the same boat from the mid Chesapeake up to Baltimore, then across to Rock Hall Maryland, and back. Sailing into the Baltimore Inner Harbor is very pretty.

Other memorable cruises have been around the British Virgin Islands in a Benneteau 40-something with two other couples. Went around Tortola, Peter Island, Jost Van Dyke, Virgin Gorda -- the usual rounding for bareboaters.

DW and I did a week by ourselves on a Freedom 30 from the Bitter End Yacht Club in Virgin Gorda in the mid 90s, that was awesome. We had a fast tropical storm go over us in the middle of the night while at anchor, shut down all electricity on the island, high winds and lightning all around, and swamped our dinghy. The storm went on to become the first hurricane of the year.

Also took an Oceana 52 off St Martin with two other couples for a week around Anguila, St Barts, Saba, and back to St Martin. Plus some 2-3 day cruises around the Spanish Virgin Islands off the east coast of Puerto Rico.

You know, when I list all this stuff I sound like a cruiser but I'm really not. It's always a struggle for me to figure out all the boat systems, get the boat stocked, routes plotted, etc. I would much rather race, though the older I get the more of a cruiser I'm becoming. Better stop before I bore you to death, nothing gets me going like boat tales. Hope you get back on a boat soon!
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Old 10-08-2007, 04:19 PM   #10
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T-Al, you should read Wayward Sailor, the biography of Tristan Jones. It is pretty eye-opening about the veracity of some of his stories. And a great book!
Thanks, I've put it on reserve at PaperBackSwap.com -- looking forward to it.

BTW, when I said "no big deal" I meant in terms of world news. For example, personally it's a big deal to run a marathon, but in terms of world news, it's no big deal.
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Old 10-08-2007, 07:33 PM   #11
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Part of the dream includes a 20'-24' trailerable, double-ended sailboat and lots of travel.

Highly recommend "The Self-Sufficient Sailor" by Lynn and Larry Pardey. I've gotten overdue fines on it three times already in the last ten years at the the library.
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Old 10-08-2007, 08:27 PM   #12
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Part of the dream includes a 20'-24' trailerable, double-ended sailboat and lots of travel.

Highly recommend "The Self-Sufficient Sailor" by Lynn and Larry Pardey. I've gotten overdue fines on it three times already in the last ten years at the the library.
This couple are my heroes:
Microcruising in the Bahamas
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Old 10-09-2007, 09:26 AM   #13
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think i read this guy made a bunch of early money trading commodities. don't know if they consider themselves retired but they certainly are off to some fun adventures chronicled here: bumfuzzle.com

& here they outlined costs of their circumnavigation (looks like averaged about $3k/month):

bumfuzzle sailing costs
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Old 10-09-2007, 09:42 AM   #14
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think i read this guy made a bunch of early money trading commodities. don't know if they consider themselves retired but they certainly are off to some fun adventures chronicled here: bumfuzzle.com

& here they outlined costs of their circumnavigation (looks like averaged about $3k/month):
Wow, what an adventure! They really documented that trip. They say they hadn't sailed before they set out, as dangerous as that is, that's probably the way to do it. I might have attempted that when I was beginning to learn how to sail, not knowing all the things that could go wrong (and have). Now that I know better, I don't have nearly as much fun as I used to have. Thanks for the link!

I note that during the Atlantic crossing at one point they had 35 knots wind and were doing 14.5 knots double reefed. They're lucky they didn't pitchpole down a wave and capsize. Usually catamaran sailors use a drogue chute or at least drag some lines behind to slow down.

My hat's off to this couple for accomplishing quite a feat, and remaining together while doing it :-)
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Old 10-09-2007, 09:55 AM   #15
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Soon, how did you learn to sail? I am getting interested, although I have no time at present.
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Old 10-09-2007, 10:25 AM   #16
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Soon, how did you learn to sail? I am getting interested, although I have no time at present.
That was my problem, I had wanted to sail all my life but never had time. After I retired from the Air Force, 20 years ago, DW gave me sailing lessons for my birthday at a local sailing school in DC. I took a three day course, passed the written and on the water exam, and thought I was an expert, but I soon learned that I knew just enough to be dangerous, and sailing is a lifelong learning experience. I rented a sailboat a couple of times a week that entire summer, an hour here, 2-3 hours there, and found it a relatively inexpensive way to gain skill and it doesn't require a lot of time.

The next summer I joined a club that had a racing program on 22 foot boats on the Chesapeake, and raced once a week, that's when I really good hooked, and learned the intricacies of making a boat sail well. I've owned a few boats since then, and have sailed on lots of others. You don't need a lot of time or money to sail, in fact, sailors are the cheapskates of the boating world, unless you want to race and actually do well.

My recommendation to begin sailing is to start early in the summer, May or June, and take a certified sailing course at a local sailing school, either ASA, US Sailing, or Red Cross. The smaller the boat you learn on, the better, because you will get a good feel for the boat's balance, sail trim, winds, and water. Then spend the rest of the summer renting a sailboat a few times a month for a couple of hours each time. Most large cities close to water have local sailing clubs that are inexpensive, and you can use their boats or rent from the local sailing school.

After a year or two of doing this, if you really like it, then you can think of getting your own boat, but be aware that the expenses can pile up if you're not careful. You can do it cheaply with a trailerable boat if you can keep it in your back yard.

If you want to PM me what part of the country you live in, I might be able to point you to a local school.

Edit: Just saw from your profile you're from NJ. Here's a certified school:
sailing schools New Jersey. ASA certified school of sailing in NJ.
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Old 10-09-2007, 10:35 AM   #17
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Thanks. We actually have friends who own a sailboat and are members of the local yacht club. But I don't dare bring the subject up unless I am ready and able to commit the time.
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Old 10-09-2007, 11:29 AM   #18
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Soon, thanks for the sailing bio! I'm in love with the Island Packets--what a beautifully put together boat! We ate a memorable meal aboard a 38 in the Abacos with some newly made friends when we were sailing down there on our little Morgan O/I.
We sold that boat a few years ago, but I do have full access to the boss' nice new Cobia that is docked right at the Yorktown--sweet!

I know a lot of racers, my old boss is a nut on the Melges 24. You guys keep the chandleries in business, unlike the cheapie cruisers! I'd like for DH to get into the racing series here as crew, I think he'd have a blast and maybe even a shot at crewing in the Charleston to Bermuda Race. Since he'll be ER in 5 yrs (I hope) and I won't be ER for another 5 beyond, I'm hoping that he'll do more of this sort of thing.

We're still not sure if our FIRE boat will be a sailboat or a trawler--speaking of lazy cruiser-types! I'm trying to keep him boatless for the next 5 yrs and it is a chore!

Mike, all of the Pardey books are great--there is another cruiser/dreamer one I just re-read recently called the Cruising Life, by Jim Trefethen.

Soon, your adventures make me restless! Deer flies and all!
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Old 10-09-2007, 12:35 PM   #19
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Soon, thanks for the sailing bio!
Sarah, that was just the executive summary. Let me know if you want the full bio with the Power Point slides

Morgans are beautiful classic boats. Used to race on an older Morgan 1 ton, beautiful but a real handfull. Bet it was beautiful in the Abacos, have not been there but have seen the crystal blue water as we fly from Miami to our winter place on the east coast of Puerto Rico. Did you sail your boat over to the Abacos?

If you want to ER make sure DH stays away from racing his own boat, especially a Melges. I rarely race my own boat any more, OPBs are a lot cheaper and more fun. I hate to say it, but I don't even sail my own boat much anymore, have only taken it out 3-4 times this year. I get too many offers that I can't refuse to sail and race on gorgeous boats. DW loves to sail with me, but it's getting harder since we're home caring for MIL.

Even though I'm a sailor, I like trawlers, if I were to get a power boat that's what I would have. Then I look at the price of fuel and I stick with the sailboat. Another option is a catamaran sailboat, though some people don't consider them "real" sailing.
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Old 10-09-2007, 12:49 PM   #20
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Ditto on the constant trawler/sailboat battle--fuel!
We had the ugly Morgan, the Out Island, a 1974 28' that was perfect for our trip to the Abacos in 2003. DH sailed down to Florida from Charleston and then across with some good buddies while I, sailor-girl supreme, flew in! We stayed for the whole summer, beautiful wonderful sabbatical where we learned that we would like to spend more time together in small enclosed warm spaces that lack showers.
So that sailing trip started our journey to FIRE!

I do love the classic boats, but yeah, I'm with you on those tricky little racers! And the cats, I'd love to have one in the islands, but not here, too expensive to keep on the dock. We had a mooring for our Misty (just to the left of my avatar picture) in front of my parents house, so we spent nothing on dockage.

This would be a good time for you to post some pictures from your trips--like giant waves or something with a fruity cocktail in it!
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