Posted by: oldsalt1942 | October 23, 2009

Minimalism

I wish I’d kept track of how many times I’ve started on this thread only to abandon it. Minimalism encompasses so many different themes…art, tiny houses, cruising boats, an attempt to simplify one’s life.

Some seek out minimalism in their lives. Some have it thrust upon them. I seem to fall into the latter category. A couple of years ago I had more money in the bank than I thought I would ever have in my life. Today I’m worried about coming up with the rent for November. What happened to that money? Life interveined.I only bought a few things when I first received the inheritance from my Dad. I bought myself a new car (used but nicer than what I had ever had except for once), I bought some furniture for my bedroom, a bought a lower-end flat-screen t.v. and I had some long-neglected dental work taken care of. Essentially I ate the rest of it.

As so many people are learning lately, once you reach a certain age the job market for your skills diminishes rapidly and the older you get the smaller that market becomes. In order to survive without depending on a job bagging groceries at Publix you have to go out and create your own job.

For a while I worked as an “independent contractor” for a limousine company ferrying people to and from the three large airports here in southeast Florida. I liked the job. Actually it was the people I dealt with that I enjoyed the most and I built up a list of people who would request that the company would send me to drive them. One was the CEO of a large international corporation who did a lot of traveling for his job. He once said to me “you’re an intelligent guy, why are you doing a job like this?” My answer was, “how many job openings are there in your company for 60 year old white guys?” “I see your point,” he said.

I drove for nearly 2 years until the price of gas (which we had to pay for) rose faster than the fares did to compensate for our increased expenses. The last three weeks I drove I didn’t even make the pitiful minimum wage people at Wal Mart receive.

Two opportunities opened up at the same time towards the end of my driving days. I was offered the position of Associate Editor for Southern Boating Magazine and a long-time friend received his General Contractor’s License and asked me to be his office manager.

Actually it was the second time I’d been offered the magazine job. I turned it down the first time because they were located at the extreme southern tip of Miami Beach and I lived north of Fort Lauderdale. The money they were offering wasn’t enough to compensate for the hour plus drive each way plus the cost of gasoline.

Presented with the choice of the two jobs I weighed the options. Did I want to help start something new or did I want to face the prospect of the third annual update to generators for cruising boats? I chose to throw my lot in with my friend.

We did fairly well at first, and in January of 2008 we had over $2.5 million in bids out for new work. Then George (putting the W into AWOL) Bush’s economic program and the inevitable bursting of the housing bubble went in to high-gear. My  traditional investments tanked. We didn’t sign any new work and I was forced to live off of my inheritance.

Now I subsist on Social Security and am struggling to sell my Boston Whaler so I can get down to Panama where I have a Pensionado Visa and will be able to live better than I can in my own country. I keep dropping the asking price of the Whaler (to no avail) and so the boat that I thought of buying or building a year ago has dwindled in size and so I keep tweaking the dream and downsizing the boat. This has lead me to thinking along minimalist lines.

A decade and a half ago when I had the burning desire to cruise to Belize I said I’d use the money I had to buy a boat to do it in and I wasn’t too picky about how big it had to be. As long as it would be big enough that I could lay down in and keep myself dry in a storm would be sufficient. Currently I’m back in that mode. I delight in the exploits of Dylan Winter in his 19 foot boat and his circumnavigation of England chronicled in his YouTube videos “Keep Turning Left.” I devour Duckworks Magazine and when I see some of the designs think to myself “That would do.” I regularly visit Craig’s List, Sailboat Trader and eBay looking for something that I could afford and make that great adventure down to Panama. Robert Manry crossed the Atlantic in less than 15 feet. I could certainly get to Bocas del Toro in something a bit bigger.

You just have to think of all the things most people want on their boats and then decide what you can really do without.

As Thoreau said, Simplify, Simplifiy.

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