by Tana March
People call him Captain Pat. The first time he saw the horizon, he wanted to know what was on the other side. Growing up in Anaheim, California, he wasn't really raised on the water, but since he can remember, he's been drawn to it. His childhood hero was Jacques Cousteau and he dreamed of becoming a marine biologist.
After high school, he spent four years at Maritime Academy. When he graduated, he landed a lucrative job on a commercial expedition boat. Looking back, he says "I always thought that success meant money and money meant success." But despite his healthy income, he didn't feel satisfied.
After seven years on the commercial boat, Captain Pat stumbled across a summer job on a 152-foot tourist boat called Special Expeditions. The boat offered weeklong tours for vacationers interested in more than just daiquiris by the hot tub. This was a nautical vacation that offered an enriching education in ecology, wildlife, marine life, and the environment. Led by expert naturalists, they would quietly pass through remote rivers, dock and hike around forests teeming with vibrant wildlife, and spend hours watching pods of dolphins lapping at the front of the boat.
Pat recalls his first impression of the ship's crew. "I was introduced to a group of people who were doing it because they wanted to, not because of the money." Despite his passion for the water and all it held, seven years of commercial boating had slowly erased his memory about why he so loved the water. "I started asking myself what I was doing."
After his summer as Captain of the Special Expeditions boat, Pat was offered a full-time position there. His job on the commercial boat was waiting for him, but he wasn't sure he wanted to return. The tug of money still pulled on him, but the tug of his passion pulled harder. He recalls the tough decision. "My sister helped me decide. She said 'I remember when you were just a kid and you were writing away to zodiac companies and spouting about Jacques Cousteau.'" After she reminded him of his passion, the decision was easy.
His time with Special Expeditions so re-ignited his love for the water, that after a year and a half, he left the tour to sail around the world with a maritime academy classmate. He sold his house, his car, and left his job. He said leaving behind these material possessions was both liberating and terrifying. But he knew it was right. When he really thought about what made him happy, it was seeing the horizon at sunrise. It was living off of the water, living simply, and with the liberty to travel.
He's off somewhere sailing now. When we last talked to him, he said that he isn't pressuring himself to actually sail the earth's circumference. He said he just wants to experience life on the water-that's all he's ever really wanted to do.