Options for Late in the Day
There will come a point, if everything goes well, when the toll of years will curtail our sailing.
While it's easy enough to imagine scenarios, it's very difficult to foresee which will pertain. Will our capacity - in the sense of ability to sail nearly as we have - ebb like the tide? Or will incapacity ambush us from one day to the next? Will the vigor of one linger? Or will we decline as one? The answers will affect our choices, of course, assuming any are left us.
Many of our older friends and relations have described aging as a process of one's world shrinking. They have outlived most or all of their contemporaries. Their senses - especially vision and hearing - often diminish, drawing inward. Their reach - and ours - grows shorter.
With all respect for the choices others make, withdrawing to a marginal living on some urban fringe has no attraction for either of us. Even less does institutional care. When the prospect for life more or less on our own dwindles to nothing, we're done.
But there is that time between the twilight of ability and the end. I see our options of interest boiling down to one of three...
Longer term anchorages - We might limit our major moves to the occasional transition. Meanwhile, the anchor goes down in a rich environment, and we putter together a mix of resources, on board and ashore.
Move ashore with the boat - At some point, even the short commute across the water might be too much. We could pull the boat ashore and 'terraform' it... make it more accessible for elder access by land. A side door, say, that allows us to board with a single step or low ramp.
Move ashore (possibly) without the boat - If, by some miracle, we could be of some use to some form of intentional community and were offered shelter and sustenance in return, we'd consider it. It would surely be interesting. As things stand, the possibility seems remote, but who knows how the world will go?
I see three things necessary to these first two options:
1) A capable, small boat - This would be an adjunct to the bigger liveaboard we no longer sail regularly. Able to be sailed and rowed with little effort, beachable, have shelter for overnighting, and be manageable with our remaining strength.
I see this as necessary since no place (in SE Alaska) we've come across has all necessary resources in one spot. From the First Peoples on, mobility has played an important role in obtaining sustenance from a range of resources.
2) A garden - This can be a purely indigenous Guerrilla Garden, which has the advantage of requiring very little physical input. Merely concentrate productive strains of local plants within easy reach would enrich our diet. Add spuds and we're golden!
3) A larger community - Among all the Oldsters that lived along our shores, even the most independent were abetted by younger, or at least more able folk. Often, firewood was cut and chopped, a bag of grain or coffee gifted, a roof leak patched. The very gift of company was cherished. One can survive without these friends, perhaps, but they helped the Old Ones to thrive.
Making new friends from across the age spectrum has always seemed a habit of the most vital elders I know. These interactions stimulate and involve the aged, and entertain and educate the young. These relationships carry on with gifts flowing each way.
Such elders partake in a multi-partner dance in which it is a joy (as a relative youngster) to participate. Such elders inevitably, one day, bow out of the dance. But they dance to the end.
Something to keep in mind!
To prepare for old age, we pretty much need to live our lives.
Have a boat in hand, and learn how to live aboard. Live in a region from which we can subsist, and learn its ways. Make friends and cultivate relationships.
Anke and I aren't among those who think old age is merely a state of mind. We see it as one stage in a beautiful journey which eventually winds to its end. We love it, from its beginning to that end we face without regret. Oh... perhaps a hint of anxious wonder. But that's only natural.
It's all good.
For more thoughts on aging sailors, see this related post.