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Throw off the bowlines

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Adventure. Is there anything better? For starters, it is readily available.

As Gilbert K. Chesterton said, “An inconvenience is an adventure wrongly considered.” I’ve tried to remember this over the years, when fate seemed to annoyingly interrupt a perfectly good plan with a massive obstacle. Sound planning is a must, but the unanticipated challenges are what elevate the trip between Point A and Point B from mundane to adventurous. There are few surprises in a straight line. Set and drift, high seas, even outright miscalculations keep the journey interesting.

Did I ever tell you the story about trying to find a dock after dark on the St. Johns River in Jacksonville, Florida? I was a newly minted Chapman graduate, running my 40-foot steel trawler on the outside for the first time. Bad weather created rough seas and delayed my arrival. After more than 15 hours underway, utterly exhausted and struggling with the many shoreside lights of an unfamiliar port, I looked at a slim window of stars above me — I may have been looking up in supplication — as massive cargo ships passed to port and starboard. Adventure sometimes materializes in hindsight. The tribulation survived (bonus points for not whimpering) is transformed in memory, and Chesterton’s admonition wins the day. (That wasn’t a terrifying ordeal — it was an adventure!)

Adventure is also intensely personal. Daniel J. Boorstin, noted historian and author of The Discoverers, distinguished between the traveler and the tourist: “The traveler was active; he went strenuously in search of people, of adventure, of experience. The tourist is passive; he expects interesting things to happen to him. He goes ‘sight-seeing.’ ” For some, small deviations from routine are daring enough — trying a new brand of toothpaste or parting your hair differently. You are probably a tourist, rather than a traveler. I get it, but don’t expect a dinner invitation from me anytime soon.

Adventure isn’t merely physical. The best of these journeys involve voyaging inward. It’s amazing what you learn about yourself when you’re challenged by the unknown or unexpected. Adventure changes you by revealing what you’re made of and what you’re not, and I have learned that on five-week trips around Cape Horn as well as day trips off Sag Harbor, New York.

Sometimes the actual adventure doesn’t even have to be yours. A storm may rage outside as a fire crackles in the hearth, but your imagination can transport you to Ernest Shackleton’s epic struggle to survive or Joshua Slocum’s solo circumnavigation. Armchair travel and vicarious feats count in their own way because adventurous minds change their owners, and sometimes the world.

In the end, the best thing about adventure is that it’s all in the attitude. Steve and Linda Dashew have spent their lives designing boats that have carried them all over the world. On Page 52 you can read about a recent shakedown cruise that went so well, they just kept going — from Raiatea to Panama! Al Grover (Page 48) scratched a midlife itch in 1985 by taking a 26-foot outboard-powered skiff across the Atlantic. It doesn’t get more adventurous than that. Who hasn’t dreamed of quitting the rat race and heading for the horizon? Brian Trautman (Page 40) did it eight years ago, and he’s turned it into a living — and a way of life.

If you’re hankering for a voyage of your own, pick a boat from one of the three we examine on Page 34. Your adventure could take you to the next town up the coast, to offshore islands or around the world — what matters is how it makes you feel. To paraphrase Amelia Earhart, adventure is worthwhile in itself.

Go have one.

This article originally appeared in the March 2017 issue.