"To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths of all the western stars..."

It was a little over a year ago that I picked up Master and Commander, the first book in the Aubrey-Maturin series by Patrick O’Brian. Two nights ago, I read the final pages of Blue at the Mizzen, the 20th book in the series and the last book O’Brian finished before he died. As I closed the book and stared at Geoff Hunt’s gorgeous cover art, a wave of sadness washed over me.

Lunenburg Harbour For the past year, I’ve read at least a chapter or two of the Aubrey-Maturin series almost every night before going to sleep. It was something I looked forward to. No matter how dreary, boring, or tiresome my day was, I could always take joy in knowing that I’d soon be back on H.M.S. Surprise, living vicariously through the semi-fictional adventures of Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin. I took the books with me on business trips. I even crammed a few of them into my luggage on Pie Trip II and read them by flashlight in the tent. While waiting for Amazon to ship me new batches of Aubrey-Maturin books, I read Moby Dick and started on the Horatio Hornblower series.

My blood has turned salty.

As I stared at the cover of Blue at the Mizzen and realized that, no matter how many times I reread the books, I would never feel quite the same sense of adventure and delight, I began to formulate a plan. At first it seemed silly, but the more I thought about it, the more sense it made. I talked it over with Felicity the following morning. She was shocked at first, but it pretty quickly became as clear to her as it was to me that it was something I needed to do.

“You only live once,” she said. “Well, unless you’re James Bond. Or Buffy.” I couldn’t have agreed more. So I put the plan into action.

The first step was a phone call to Picton Castle Voyages, the US office of The Barque Picton Castle. My goal: to beg, plead, sell my soul and, if necessary, perform sexual favors in order to reserve a trainee berth on the Picton Castle for its 2005-2006 world voyage. By some incredible stroke of luck, they still had a berth available and, pending the captain’s approval, I’ll be on the ship when it sails from Lunenburg, Nova Scotia on May 14th.

A voyage on the Picton Castle isn’t exactly cheap. Even after scraping together my savings, I didn’t have nearly enough. Luckily, my bank has been dying to loan me money for ages, and with just one more phone call I was able to take out a loan to cover the fee. Repaying it will be an adventure in itself, but it’ll be worth it.

The third step was infinitely harder. Yesterday I gave my boss notice that I’ll be leaving my job effective May 1st. I’ll be able to wrap up the project I’m working on now, so I won’t be leaving the company in a pinch, but it was still a hard thing for me to do. I’m going to miss my job and I’m really going to miss getting paid, but I should be okay if everything works out. I hope.

Next Saturday I’ll fly to Nova Scotia for an interview with the captain of the Picton Castle. Assuming I don’t totally disgust him, I’ll sail with the barque as a trainee for all four legs of its voyage, circumnavigating the globe and returning to Nova Scotia in mid-June of 2006; an entire year at sea, after which I hope to find a long-term position as a crewmember on the Picton Castle, the Tenacious, or another tall ship, assuming of course that I find life at sea agreeable.

I’m not sure yet what will happen to wonko.com. I’ll probably try to keep it running for the next year or so, although I’ll have to mail my posts to Felicity via snail mail since I won’t have Internet access. After that, we’ll see.

I’m excited. It’s a huge change — pretty much a complete reformatting of my entire life — but it feels right. As Felicity says, changes move in packs. And, hey, what better way is there to get in shape and undo twenty-two years of being a lazy-ass than sailing around the world for a year?