ISBJORN Trans-Atlantic p. 3 // Rut or Groove?

NOTE from Andy, Feb 14, 2019: I’m hesitant to publish this, for risk of it being too personal, causing too much interference with the public persona I’ve created about myself and of the business. But you know what - f&%k it. If I don’t publish this, anything I do publish would just feel like propaganda. Yes, there are certain things I’ll never publish - to this day there doesn’t exist an online photo from our wedding, for example, and while I talk all the time about the decision to have kids or not, you can safely bet that if the day comes, you won’t read much about it here. That said, re-reading this now, which I wrote over 3 weeks ago while tired and just getting started on the trans-At…well, as I sit on the new Swan 59 publishing this, all the feelings I describe below are basically gone - I’m STOKED! But, this is how I felt then…here goes.

I listened to a great ‘Dirtbag Diaries’ podcast on day 1 of this trans-Atlantic passage, where the host of the show, Fitz Cahall, wondered, at age 40, if he’d gotten into a rut with his life and career, or if that ‘rut’ could simply be redefined as a ‘groove’, depending on your perspective. I can relate.

In the episode, Fits & his wife, who work together running their own business (very similar to how Mia & I work together), decided to give themselves each a one-month sabbatical, where they could leave work & family behind and go do something they were passionate about, no strings attached. The other would stay back and tend to their 3 and 7-year old kids, and run the business in their absence. To make a long story short, Fits went on a one-month bike-packing trip, solo across Oregon, riding his mountain bike through the wooded trails and camping, sans tent, along the way. He concluded the journey, and the episode, with what I thought was a kind of corny, but mostly true analogy about how bike pedals work - that they’d always in opposition, and that opposition is precisely what translates into forward motion. Just like life - one foot up, one down, the bike moves forward. Life in turn, is made up of a series of ups and downs, emotionally, of worries and confidence, of grooves AND ruts.

I understand this. While Mia & I have not gone so far as to call them ‘sabbaticals,’ just this past fall we each took a week away to travel with friends, independent of the other person. Mia went to Rome and I went to Norway, and we both returned refreshed.

Rough seas on part of the crossing, and moody weather.

I wrote in this morning’s blog that I felt weary, down to lack of sleep from last night. Which is true. But my weariness also stems from that groove/rut feeling. The business is going great guns - we get the new boat on arrival in Antigua, we’re selling bunks like crazy, we’ve got other people involved now on several levels (as crew, skippers & behind-the-scenes helpers), a farm to call home, no debt, personal or business, and plenty of money in the bank to continue refitting and updating both ISBJORN and soon ICE BEAR.

And yet...doubt remains. I don’t doubt that we CAN do all this. We’ve proven that, to ourselves if no one else. Confidence in our business plan is higher than ever, and if we stay committed to being the ‘best’ at whatever new ideas we introduce, I’m sure we’ll find success. No, the doubt creeps in from inside. As much as I LOVE being offshore, sharing this wilderness with the people who sail with us, part of me can’t imagine still doing this for another 10, 20, 30 years. Then what? I have no idea what else I’d do, and therein lies the doubt.


And then there’s the kid thing. I turn 35 in three days (by the time you read this, when we’re back ashore and I’ve had a chance to publish it, I will BE 35). That number means nothing at all to me, and I feel like I’m 18 (genuinely), but it does mean something biologically, and sooner or later if Mia & I keep putting it off, this kid decision is going to be made for us, cause the longer we wait, the higher the risks involved in even trying.

So I doubt being able to put the two things together. Family life and the sailing/traveling life we love so much. I doubt even wanting to put the two things together. I like working and traveling with Mia, and I don’t care what anybody says, having kids WILL change our lifestyle, at least for a few years, because one of us will not be able to be on the boat. That’s a fact.

Then there’s the business thing. I spoke to David Hows the other day before leaving Las Palmas for his Ocean Sailing Podcast, and I told him that part of my motivation for getting the second, bigger boat is this idea that I want to live up to my potential. All through high school and college I just drifted. School and sports (golf) came naturally to me, and I didn’t have to study or practice much to be successful. I recall some of my better teachers recognizing this and telling me about it - that gosh, I had so much potential - if I could succeed without even trying, just think what I could do if I applied myself?!

I started this sailing business by following the parable of the fisherman, to an extent - work only as much as necessary doing what I love to pay the bills and “get paid to sail.” By expanding, I’m breaking that original rule I set for myself, and justifying it because I feel like I have more to give. That I’ve not yet reached my potential with the business, that there’s more on the table, that I can create some kind of legacy, create a handful of dream jobs that my 21-year-old self would have been so excited for. I’m justifying it too because I know if I don’t try, it’ll always be there in the back of my head, and will always have wondered if it’d have worked or not, if I’d have LIKED it or not.

Surf’s up.

So when I’m in the groove, all of this is extremely exciting and the future is bright. When doubt creeps in, usually when I’m physically & mentally tired, that groove feels like a rut and I wonder why I’m putting the added pressure, risk and anxiety on myself when what we have now is pretty darn nice. Ups and downs, all moving forward.

Now, the question is - by publishing all of these thoughts, does that help or hurt the business? Do I need to present myself as the un-feeling, hard-nosed sailorman to inspire confidence in those who choose to sail with us? Am I, by doubting my own motivations, inviting others to doubt my performance when it counts? I don’t know, but writing this just feels like the right thing to do. So f*%k it.

It’s going up.

How I feel today!