For a total of 78 days, Manry and a tiny 36-year-old sailboat battled one of the toughest stretches of saltwater on earth. The boat was blown on it’s side several times. Manry tried to nap during the day and sailed at night so that he could try to avoid being run down and chopped into chum by the great ocean-going steamers. On several occasions, he was washed over the side in heavy seas. Each time he would haul himself back aboard by a lifeline he kept tied to himself in the boat. He suffered terrible hallucinations, the result of having to take so many pep pills to stay awake during the long nights.
Why? What made him do it? It wasn't publicity; he went about the whole thing so quietly — practically no one knew what he was up to.
He thought no one would pay attention to him, and that was fine with him.
The reason was that he had dreamed of sailing the Atlantic ever since he had been a small boy. I read that he bought the dinky old boat for $250. He proceeded to completely rebuild her, taught himself navigation, and practiced long-distance sailing on Lake Erie.
He told his wife the real reason for his embarking on so incredible a journey in so vulnerable a craft. He said to her, "There is a time when one must decide either to risk everything to fulfill one's dreams or sit for the rest of one's life in the backyard."
Now this is why Mr. Manry went sailing over mountains of deep water in a boat only about twice the size of your bathtub. Think about that next time you sit down for a soak.
This is why he sat in his tiny open cockpit and weathered storms that caused passengers to clear weather decks of ocean liners.
He was fulfilling a dream he'd carried in his heart since he'd been a small boy.
Ironically, as a result, offers for books and magazine articles poured in to him. The article I read outlined how Cleveland gave him a hero's welcome, as did some 20,000 people who cheered the successful end of his voyage when he arrived in Falmouth, England. It's recently been proposed to Congress that Manry's boat, Tinkerbelle, be placed in the Smithsonian Institution alongside Charles Lindbergh's plane, Spirit of St. Louis.
So here’s the thing: all this fame and sudden stature in the eyes of the world — that wasn’t why he made the trip.
It was because he believes that there is a time when one must decide either to risk everything to fulfill one's dreams or sit for the rest of one's life in the backyard.
Courage, the courage to finally take one's life in one's own hands and go after the big dream, has a way of making that dream come true. It seems to open hidden doorways from which good things begin to pour into one's life. But that happens only after we've made the journey in our own way. For Manry, who was 47 years of age, it was sailing 3,200 miles of the North Atlantic in a bathtub, basically. Each of us must make his own voyage to those beacons in the distance, whatever they may be.
In this week where we pause to give thanks for what we have and then begin to look forward to the coming new year and a “fresh start”, it’s prudent to consider whether it’s time to “soak or sail.”
Your choice. A journey to fulfillment ... or sit in the backyard.