Death of A Dream

Posted on Friday 14 March 2008

Heather Neill announced her plans to circumnavigate the globe in s/v Flight of Years, a Pacific Seacraft Flicka last year. This was a rather unusual announcement, given that Heather was not a sailor, and had relatively little experience sailing at the time of her announcement. You can read about her and her preparations at her website.

Here is the introduction of Heather and s/v Flight from her website.

The years for each of us do indeed fly, and there comes a time when you have to reach out, like for the brass ring, and grab a strong hold on the remaining few.

This is my brass ring. This is my dream. This is my Flight of Years.

“Flight of Years” is not just the name of a boat. It is a lifetime, the journey of a lifetime, and a dream.

Some dreams are born in an instant; others mature over time. My dream, my Flight of Years, began nearly forty years ago and has grown quietly ever since until, finally, it is no longer a dream.

Now it is reality.

Join me on the journey. It is only just beginning.

Her departure date, at least when she announce her intentions was January 1, 2008. However, things did not go quite as she planned. Her preparations, while expensive and relatively thorough, failed to prepare one crucial element—the captain of the s/v Flight of Years.

After leaving Steinhatchee, Florida, on January 3rd, she had to damage the companionway or hatchboards on Flight after she was locked out of the cabin—something that was not discovered on the few preparatory shakedown cruises. Heather was also injured in that time and made the hard decision to head back. She and s/v Flight were towed back into Steinhatchee two days later.

While I sympathize with Heather and her current bout of medical problems, I am just wondering how it went from being a dream of forty years to this:

The weeks since returning have been, and remain, the most difficult of my life. I have not been able – and will not now – relay to you all that has happened. There is no sense in it. It is taking everything I have to write these few words to you.

My medical bills have escalated and I now face the probability of surgery on my declining hand. My funds are dwindling and I have returned to work in a real estate market which is not currently meeting the bills. I am in the process of relocating to Gainesville, where I will rebuild my life anew, continuing to work in real estate, and probably, for a time, a part-time job as well to make ends meet.

I am therefore forced to sell Flight of Years. I will not itemize here all the costs and work which have gone into her over the last year. Suffice it to say I have countless hours of work and some $100,000 in her (provable by receipt), including thousands of dollars for rigging, equipment, the Monitor self-steering wind vane, the Air-X wind generator, satellite phone, dinghy and motor, as well as $14,000 for custom-built Ultimate Offshore Sails by the German company, Schattauer Sails. You have only to read the months of preparations on this web site to see the work, love and money which have been lavished on her.

in such a short period of time. Her dream, in her own words, slowly grew over nearly forty years… and died in just two short months.

I think the costs to Heather, will go far, far beyond the mere financial costs of preparing and outfitting s/v Flight of Years for the voyage that is no longer going to happen. I think there will also be costs to her spirit and her life as a whole.  I think part of the problem was that this dream may not have really been Heather’s alone.  Given the tone of her father’s letters and posts—it seems this was his dream as much as, if not more, than it was Heather’s.

I wish Heather well… and feel sorry for the death of her dream. I had hoped, just following her return to Steinhatchee, that she would have been able to sail and cruise in s/v Flight of Years—slowly gaining the necessary experience and skills to allow her to resume her circumnavigation. It does not look like s/v Flight of Years will be taking any journeys, any time soon. The brass ring is tarnished, and her dream appears to have died.

This, to me, is just yet another argument for going sooner rather than later, and not waiting until some day. Fate and time have a funny way of intervening if we don’t grab our chance while it is still within our reach, and this also shows just how quickly our dreams can be pulled from our reach.

Maybe, the Sailfar crew have the right idea….as their mentors, Larry and Lin Pardey would say: go small, go simple, but go now…

I don’t have much more work to do on s/v Pretty Gee. I think she needs to spread her wings soon, as do I. Stay tuned.

2 Comments for 'Death of A Dream'

    August 16, 2009 | 3:37 am

    Thanks for the reminder of the Pardeys’ advice, on sailing simply but sailing NOW. I am very much am armchair sailor. I found your blog by looking for Sailing Directions that I can use on my Linux laptop. But what good are sailing directions to me? I have been out sailing two evenings this season.

    It si 25 years since I first thought that I might like to try cruising as a lifestyle, but I have not made a whole lot of progress on that goal. High time for me to do more than read about sailing!

    April 5, 2010 | 7:58 pm

    Try as I might, year after year, I can not seem to get my boat out and accomplish my goal, my dream, to sail from Cape Cod to the Pacific Islands. It would be a worthy adventure and if nothing else provide material to write the end of that novel, heal the wounds left by the war, and help me to find myself again. When dreams die it is hard to find purpose again. I hope you get that chance agin, Ms. Neill. If you happen to come across this comment I would love to hear from you, or any sailor for that matter.

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