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Captain Fatty's Message In A Bottle

LIANE HANSEN, host:

This summer, we've been receiving communiques from Captain Fatty Goodlander, the editor-at-large of "Cruising World" magazine. He's continuing to sail his boat, the Wild Card, with his wife across the seas. This weekend, he sent this message in a bottle.

Captain FATTY GOODLANDER (Editor-at-Large, "Cruising World")" You know, I'm astonished how often people ask me if we anchor at night while on ocean passages. The answer, of course, is no. The ocean is very deep, in places over 30,000 feet deep, about the height that a jet liner flies, which is far, far too deep for a recreational sailboat to anchor in.

We just keep sailing all day, all night, occasionally for months in a row without stop. We don't have to steer. We have a mechanical wind vane to do that, and it steers us flawless without any external power source. But we do have to keep a watch out for ships. I am on watch while my wife, Caroline, sleeps. At regular intervals, I wake her up, and she is in complete charge of the vessel while I nap.

I don't find it boring at all to be on passage. Besides sleeping and keeping a look out, I do navigation. I keep a log. I maintain the vessel. My wife Caroline cooks. We read a lot. We make love a lot. We argue. We laugh. We get naked. We shout aloud at God. We sing joyously His praises at the top of our lungs. We act like complete and utter fools in deep ocean. We act like the happy, delirious children that we are. Mother nature herself entertains us, clouds, birds, waves, stars, planets, meteors, rainbows, moon bows, lightning.

We listen to our shortwave radio, mostly the BBC, but we listened to NPR as we sailed past the U.S. military base on Diego Garcia in the middle of the Indian Ocean. How strange to hear All Things Considered so far out to sea, like a lost century-old radio signal emerging from the ether.

It is hard for me to get my head around the fact that America goes on and on and on as I sail. I don't feel like an American anymore. I don't feel like a Chicagoan or a southsider or someone born at the Lying-In hospital on the lip of Lake Michigan on Groundhog's day, February 2nd, 1952.

I feel like a sailor. I feel like a seabird. I feel free, utterly, completely, deliciously free. I live in the last place without fences, without rules, without cops, without social restraints of any kind. I am free, free as any man can be, as free as any man ever was, almost continuously. Sure, I have to occasionally stop, touch land, mingle with dirt dwellers and their slick, glad-handing politicians and of course, the related uniformed power thugs which anxiously encircle them.

You know, they don't talk about extortion these days. Nah! That's not PC. They don't talk about strong-arm tactics or intimidation. Nah! We're far too civilized for that. Instead, we call it taxes and universal healthcare and my favorite, paying one's fair share. Whenever I hear that phrase, I think of it being uttered by Tony Soprano.

No, you know, I'm far happier at sea. The rules are plain. God is strict. You goof up, you die. That's plain enough, isn't it? It's easy for me, a guy like me, to be happy offshore. You soon realize that all the happiness you'll ever need is already inside you. That happiness isn't something you'll ever find, but something you already have plenty of. That there is no path to happiness, that happiness itself is the path. And thus, I sail and sail and sail.

HANSEN: You can track Captain Fatty's progress on the Wild Card and hear more of his essays at our website, npr.org. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

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