30 July 1953 - 3 July 2013
If there are two things the sea has provided man throughout history, they are the abundance of wealth to be found within its waters, and the ability to travel long distances. With the proper tools and skills, man has lived from the sea since time began, and he will continue to do so as long as he survives on this watery planet.
How to live lightly on the earth, how to convert energy efficiently, how to minimize needs for expensive resources and how to reduce unrenewable energy requirements - these are the basic questions we must answer to attain greater levels of self-determination and control. These skills will determine our fate and destiny as humans.
I'd rather have a well stocked sailboat and the ability to sail it anywhere in the world than money in a bank that might fail, a job from which I might be laid off, a government pension that might dry up, insurance policies, etc.. The ability to carve your living out of the raw earth is the best security you could have anywhere at any time.
I have learned from many years of sailing that the ocean is the safest place on the planet - but the shore will ruin you.
-- From Sailing the Farm by Ken Neumeyer
Thank you, Ken Neumeyer!
And Fare Well!
A young man wrote the words above, and a younger man read them.
In 1981, Ken Neumeyer wrote Sailing the Farm: A Survival Guide to Homesteading on the Ocean (see note following post).
Four years later, I was embarking upon my adult life without a clue as to what to do with myself.
I'd done some hitchhiking... and loved the drifting, dreaming nomadics of the Road. But the warm glow of the '60s was fading fast as the nation took a flinty right turn. I saw no future in the mainstream; nor were the backeddies to my taste.
But then - in the discarded freebies from a public library - I stumbled across... Sailing the Farm! [BOOM] A Guide to Homesteading on the Ocean!! [BOOM] Independence on thirty feet!!! [BaBOOM]
I could feel my heart thunder in response to the mere titles! Sensed synaptic conflagration; the shift of paradigm... the very snicker-snack of a thousand, disparate pieces falling into place.
A boat! A sailboat!! A seastead!?!
Ken's words granted me satori. My aha! moment. And... well... you can see where it led me. This blog is a part of my token attempt to pay that gift forward.
The book is a classic.
Virtually sailor afloat knows of Sailing the Farm. There's a well-thumbed copy on many the cruiser's shelf. Many swear by the spirit - if not the letter - of the approaches Ken pioneered and championed.
There's even a group of young, international, passionate farmers who take that name and are building their own sailing seastead!
He wrote up a brainstorm of ideas toward thriving at sea on one's own terms. Ways of survival at sea which render the approach to land elective, rather than compulsory. Ahead of many who followed, he foresaw the moment of Peak Everything, and offered an alternative.
More than anything, he conveyed an attitude... Courage to find one's way. Faith that obstacles can be overcome. Tolerance for mistakes along the way. Confidence in one's self.
Ken did far more than write... he was out there.
Living and learning; sailing and seasteading; granting the concept its clearest expression since Cap'n Nemo. Delivering it (unlike the NAUTILUS) into the hands of small-pocket dreamers.
He took his best shots and some hard knocks. Sifted through the workable and the unworkable, the wise and the foolish, the beauty and the beast.
Yet Ken wrote no sequel. His exploits didn't appear in the rumor mill or weigh in at the forums or show up at rendevous. The sailing community is a small 'hood, especially in those early years, yet no one seemed to know his whereabouts.
His silence and absence were conspicuous. To the larger community of sailors, it was as if one of our luminaries had sailed over the edge.
I fondly imagined him permanently at sea aboard his latest generation seastead. Too busy and engaged to drop a postcard.
It happens, but not this time.
In 1982, Ken's car crashed into a cradle that toppled a thirty foot sailboat onto the roof of his vehicle. He suffered serious brain damage, ending his years of sea-faring. His family and friends provided on-going, loving care throughout the next three decades.
In July of 2013, they saw him off on his Last Voyage.
Of all those who have inspired, taught and mentored me - of all the giants upon whose shoulders I climb - I owe the greatest debt of thanks to Ken.
Without his words - reaching me at the crossroads of life - I might well have trudged, head down, into a rut for which I was nowise fit. Might well have walked right by the open door that leads to the sea.
Now, belatedly, I've heard his story. It saddens me, but reminds me once more that there are so many ways to live well, especially when surrounded by those who love you.
Ken, for all the many sweet years at sea to which you opened my eyes, I thank you! For love I found along this path you set me on, I thank you! For the very life for which your words were catalyst, I thank you!
Fair winds and fare ye well!
Sailing the Farm can be found on-line here.
Ken's memorial (original found here):
KENNETH W. NEUMEYER July 30, 1953 to July 3, 2013 In the last days of Ken's life, a bouquet of caring persons surrounded him with love yet gave him space to experience his own journey with dignity, softly listening to the sounds of ocean waves and seagulls and Susan Boyle singing "Somewhere over the Rainbow." These friends and family, and the professional staff of Hospice, cared for his comfort on his last adventure. And then, in the quiet of the late night, with his sister Susan, his niece Phyllis, and his faithful dog Min Min Feedlets quietly encouraging him to embrace the warm light of the Lord and those loving persons who had gone before him, he set sail. Ken, "Kenny", was and still is, a free spirit. He is survived by his dad, Fred Neumeyer, "Good bye, son!", and recently predeceased by his best friend and mother, Phyllis Neumeyer, who for 30 years after a car accident which left Ken head injured and handicapped, championed each and every resultant surgery and challenge Ken faced with passionate determination. Along with his sister, Susan Morgan, they worked tirelessly one step at a time, one day after another, to encourage him to reach his maximum potential. He maintained many friendships from before his accident in 1982 and was cherished by many who met him and got to know him from that time forward. Two months prior to his devastating crash into a cradle that brought a 30 foot sail boat down upon the roof of his small car, he had published a sailor's bible called "Sailing the Farm", a survival manual on how to live aboard a... thirty foot sailboat independently. Reviewed by the likes of Tristan Jones, who nicknamed him "Noomie", he welcomed Ken to sail with him anytime. Ken received letters from all over the world sharing with him opinions and sailing stories. He was hoping to publish these reviews and letters in an anniversary edition, and his family will now help him finish this dream. "Uncle Kenny" to Thomas Morgan, Phyllis Stewart and David Stewart, and great Uncle to babies Kayla and Tommy Morgan, Ken was blessed with each of these children in his home to delight in their growth and be a part of their lives, with his intact communication and charming sense of humor raising them with a natural acceptance of a handicapped person in the family, community and universe. His caregivers and friends, Janna Rastrelli, Victor McNulty, Nick, Gary, and Marie not only prayed with him during his final days but had just provided a special new environment for his healing. His sailing buddies Robert Steinberg, David Cook, David Weisenbach, Tom Sheridan, Susi Walsh and Debra West maintained lifelong friendships. His cousins, especially Walter Neumeyer, his Aunt Lassie, friends Rachel Wray, Shay Ford, Clare Hanks, Laurie Nezbeth, the Becker boys and Mark Stewart were a constant source of strength. Ken was also predeceased by his big brother and big sister Freddy and Karen Neumeyer. At the age of 14 he endured their loss in a canoe accident. Ken responded with a will to make a difference. From fixing and selling bigger and better sailboats, leading to the loss of a fifty footer on the rocks of Baja California, to relearning how to talk, walk, write, and sing time and time again, his will and determination is an inspiration to all who knew him. "and, oh, the difference to me!" Fairwell to you, Captain Courageous, darling Ken, with enduring love from your soul sister and adoring crew.