Beatle Paul McCartney’s 1967 paean to aging, “When I’m Sixty-Four,” envisions a quiet, uneventful retirement: “You can knit a sweater by the fireside, Sunday morning go for a ride. Doing the garden, digging the weeds. Who could ask for more?”
Baby Boomers are asking for more. Sixty-five percent of them expect an adventurous retirement, according to a 2005 study led by the research group Age Wave. Steve Black, a boomer and organizer of offshore cruising rallies to the Caribbean, says his experience suggests the research is on the money. A lot of boomers are looking for adventure and new experiences.
“They are all watching the clock,” says the owner of the Hampton, Va.-based Cruising Rally Association (www.carib1500.com). “They may be at or near retirement age — 60 or 65. They know they’re not going to start on an adventure like this at 75.”
So they dash off an application to sail in one of his offshore rallies. Many of his applicants are experienced smaller-boat sailors who may have cruised the Caribbean once or twice with several couples on a larger yacht. Now ready for retirement and eager to fulfill a lifelong dream, they have bought a new 50-foot sailboat, and they want to go bluewater sailing.
They often come to Black as novices, but they usually are quick studies. “An awful lot of these people are used to running their own businesses,” he says. “They are a more adventurous group.” They sign up to crew on someone else’s boat in a rally or two. They attend seminars. They take classes. They bring experienced crew with them on rallies. “The experience issue has not proven much of a problem,” says Black. The ones who really want to cruise offshore do it.
Charter operator Barb Hansen has seen the same single-mindedness among trawler owners. “We get people who think they want to go cruising, but they don’t know anything about it, so they go to our school,” says Hansen, co-owner of Southwest Florida Yachts in North Fort Myers, Fla. (www.swfyachts.com). Sometimes they charter a few times and like it, decide to buy a boat, then put it into charter until they retire.
For many who are about to retire, their dream is to work up to cruising the Great Loop, an adventurous 5,000-mile circumnavigation of eastern North America that includes the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway, Hudson River, Great Lakes, Canadian Heritage Canals, Illinois River, Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway, Mississippi River and the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway. “If all the people who say they’re going to do the Great Loop go ahead and do the Great Loop, it’s going to be very crowded,” Hansen says.
One couple who have set their sights on the Loop are Bill and Amy Denison, who live along New York’s upper Hudson River near Hopewell Junction. Bill Denison, 57, an aircraft technician for 30 years, planned to give his retirement notice the day after he spoke with Soundings in March so he and Amy could move forward with their plans to go cruising. The couple have owned ski boats for 18 years, using them mainly on lakes in the Adirondacks. “We always wanted to get something larger, something we could sleep on,” Denison says.