Making the move from a waterfront home to a home on the water

by Phil Burgess, Unabridged from the Life section of the Annapolis Capital, Sunday April 6, 2014

Unabridged from my Bonus Years column in the Lifestyle section of The Sunday Capital, Annapolis, Maryland

Ben Franklin’s many gifts to the world include words of wisdom such as, “Wise men don’t need advice. Fools won’t take it.”

Because I am neither wise nor foolish, I am always seeking and taking advice. Nearly two years ago, when I had just finished the first draft my book, “Reboot,” I asked people from different walks of life for their feedback, criticism and advice. One who agreed to serve as a reader and critic was Lee Scott, a business woman I’d come to know at Annapolis Rotary.

After several encouraging reviews, I received Lee’s. “I really like the book – and have liberally marked up the pages, both the parts I like and the parts that need some work. But,” she added, “WHERE ARE THE WOMEN? Women retire, too, you know. Women have issues, too, you know – not the least having to deal with a man around the house, a ‘used-to-bee’ who is also retired.”

Well, she was right, so I went back to the drawing board to incorporate challenges that women face in their bonus years. When I asked my own wife for help on this, she said, “I thought you’d never ask.” Hmmmm.

Fast forward three years. Last week I received an email from none other than Lee Scott, the first I’ve heard from her in months. She wrote about the bonus-years journey she is taking with her husband Jim.

“I have thought of you often over the past few months. At the grand old age of 60 – after 23 years in banking as a lender – I have taken the leap to reboot.” Lee is doing it in stages she invented:

Stage 1: Shut down the multiple systems – work, home, volunteer activities, etc.

Stage 2: Take a time-out to enjoy life without the daily stress of deadlines.

Stage 3: Explore those areas of interest you never had time to do.

Stage 4: Start reprogramming the brain and expectations around new ways of living.

Stage 5: Embark on a new adventure.

She continued. “We’re already at Stage 5. This past winter we sold our Annapolis home. We then drove down to Portsmouth, Va. where our 44-foot power boat was moored and headed south down the Intra-Coastal Waterway. The past 60 days on the ICW have been invigorating, taking us through Stages 2-5.”

“I never considered myself much of a camper, but living on a boat is like camping – without the pup tent, sleeping bags or kerosene lamps. We’ve graduated from a 3,600-square-foot waterfront home to a boat that’s more like a small two-bedroom condo. But this one has waterfront on all four sides. It’s the waterfront that helps connect the new life to the old.”

While moored in St. John’s Yacht Harbor, a marina in Charleston, S.C. a week or so ago, Lee wrote, “It’s like a floating campground.”

She continued, “Many of the people here are ‘used-to-bees.’ I used to be a banker, I used to be an account executive, and I used to be a marketing rep. We discovered a new subspecies of bees!”

“Someday,” she says, “We’ll all be ‘gonna bees’ – doing something else. In the meantime, we are discovering new people, places, things, activities, ideas. People go fishing or bike riding; some explore the museums, others seek great places to eat, run 5K walks, ride motorcycles, do some sailing, travel around the countryside, practice photography, keep up with others on the Internet. Very few just chill out, unless it’s to enjoy a book. This is not a sedentary lifestyle.”

Lee and Jim were always active. Jim had his own business for 40-some years. He always had some project, a sailboat race or work at home on sales, bookkeeping or some other task required to run a small business. As Lee told me, “The man worked seven days a week.”

Lee was no different. Her children saw her work full-time even as she put herself through school, eventually earning her master’s. Like so many other busy people, Lee also found time to volunteer in addition to attending the kids’ sports and extra-curricular activities.

Lee says, “I’m sure the kids think we must be bored with our new life.” But they are not. Lee explains, “I have more day-to-day chores than I had in my Annapolis home. On the ICW, there is no housekeeper to clean the head and galley. Instead of shopping once a week, we shop every other day. The boat requires regular washing due to the salt water, and it took Jim three hours to change the oil in the engines and do some other maintenance chores this morning as I filled the water tank, bought groceries, checked our post office box, walked the dogs and connected with friends.”

“One learns how to adapt to the environment. It is part of the adventure.”

As I read Lee’s long and endearing email about the joys as well as the trials of the Scott family reboot on the ICW, I thought of the insightful remark of G.K. Chesterton, who said, “An adventure is only an inconvenience rightly considered.” I think I understand that much better now.

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