"Live a good life, and in the end, it’s not the years in the life, it’s the life in the years."

Merrily, life is but our dreams

By on December 22, 2019 in Columnist with 0 Comments
Mike Cassidy

By Mike Cassidy


The little diesel engine on our sailboat had quit a couple of hours ago, our sail sagged against the mast on this windless late afternoon, an emergency boat towing company we had called was busy on another rescue and the rocks of Hat Island were getting closer, closer, closer.

By good fortune a Coast Guard boat was hovering not far away. The bad fortune was — as a dockside friend explained later — the Coast Guard would rescue my wife and me only once our boat smashed into those approaching shoals and our lives were in danger, but by law couldn’t tow us away to prevent grounding.

What kind of law is that, I wondered when I heard my friend’s explanation?

But I wasn’t thinking about the law as our boat neared those rocks. My mind was actually calculating at what point we must abandon ship.

Too soon would mean surrendering all hope, too late could lead to our dinghy capsizing in the choppy waters around the rocks.

It had been a gorgeous late summer Puget Sound afternoon when we motored out of the marina. 

A big bull seal was sleeping on the clanging red metal buoy as we rounded out of the channel from the marina into the wide, serene-on-this-day bay. 

We had purchased our sailboat shortly after my wife’s mother died. 

It was then that something we knew in theory — that life on this earth has a term limit — hit us in the nose. We had always talked about buying a boat so now we did it.

We could only afford an older boat, not one of those cool stylish boats you see on TV, but that was fine with us. We spent a fair bit of cash getting the boat “ready,” and dreamed of heading south: Mexico and the Panama Canal, or the South Sea Islands, or maybe push ourselves to New Zealand and beyond.

We devoured stories of night crossings of the open sea, days and weeks without seeing another human, where the stars are bright, close and countless.

Perhaps with all of that time, we could learn a musical instrument or finally read the classics. We would certainly shower on deck, try new recipes on the fresh seafood we would catch, watch the free wind in our sails push us across the oceans.

Oh, the mighty days and nights we would have. This would be living on a whole new level.

All of those thoughts were far away as Hat Island filled my vision and our engine stubbornly refused to restart.

Our options were few. We prepared to drop the anchor in hopes of holding our boat away from the island, but the water was deep up to the rocks and extra anchor chain was one of the few things we hadn’t yet spent money on. 

We would have to wait to get really close to those rocks before our anchor would be effective… maybe too close.

It was then my wife yelled, “He’s coming!” and pointed to a red rescue tow boat speeding through the water right at us. 

The day was saved. Whew!

And then the Great Recession came along and took away our boat and our dreams — at least this set of dreams.

I’ve reached a point in my life where I occasionally look back — say at my children’s younger years, or when my wife and I traveled around the world or even when we owned a sailboat — and wonder: “Was that really me, or just a story I read or watched?”

The past seems so unreal, with days, months, and years unrecallable from my memory. 

But I’m not a person who lives in the past. 

My life has always been more about the possibilities than the memories. 

Today, I have new dreams, and wonder: Where will tomorrow take us?

Here’s hoping you stay off the rocks in 2020, and enjoy The Good Life.

— Mike

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