It is one of those peculiar things that we never feel more proud of being Canadian as when we are far away from home, so we decide to dress our ship in all her signal flags and our biggest Maple Leaf ensign to celebrate Canada Day. This soon lures a couple of Canadian ship`s officers from the cruise ship moored nearby and after they leave, Heather and Anne go shopping. I sit on deck and eventually meet three American men who are off the cruise ship. A little older than I, they are on a retirement cruise with their wives (who are also shopping). They stand on the dock and take it all in: varnished wooden masts and bowsprit, the shiny figurehead, the upended dory on the cabin roof. Shiriri is most men`s ideal image of a sailboat in the South Seas and represents many long lost dreams of youth.
We get to talking and they are so interested in our voyage and boat that I ask them aboard to show them how the boat actually works with all its systems designed to support us and to allow us to move across the ocean with the wind. I tell them that Shiriri and all the sailing ships of the explorers of the past are themselves the prototypes of the spaceships of the future, that have to be self supporting across the great oceans of space between the stars. My audience is fascinated by the gaff sails, watermaker, steering vane and" how we manage to keep sailing all night!". They thank me as they step back on the dock and one says wistfully, "This is the first real thing we have seen on the whole cruise!"
The three old men walk back toward their luxury cruise ship and another round of fine food and entertainment. They have bought a fantasy and are feeling that they have missed out on something big. I blink to realize that these elderly guys are maybe just five years older than I am so why the difference? The difference is not something they could buy or would actually care to experience except in a movie presentation; in the final analysis it is all those daily experiences as we have struggled to get to this place that give our lives validity and vitality. They have been flown here and stepped into an orchestrated group experience where all the real stuff of life is filtered out. A life spent drinking cream without doing the milking is bound to kill you after a while and seem very dull while it is doing it. This is something I have been telling myself for some time ("This is good for you, Billy!") but only now, thanks to this meeting with an alternate version of myself if I had chosen a different life path can I see it so plainly. I must remind myself how fortunate I am as I fight to get the sails down during the next big squall!