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Vive la différence!

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An escape plan is a natural temptation in a political climate that’s as rancorous and divisive as ours has lately become (not that I’ve ever needed any kind of excuse).

Some people buy chest freezers and stockpile canned goods in a subterranean lair that’s ready for anything. Others invest in mountain cabins or foreign bolt-holes. I prefer to imagine pushing off on my own self-contained island. Even if I never choose to cross the U.S. territorial boundary, there’s peace of mind in having options — or, at least, fantasies.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m as bound to hearth and home as most. I love my old house — it’s full of family, books, art and happy times. But I do sometimes miss the cozy simplicity of a gimbaled stove, with only one spot for sitting and one spot for sleeping. A (voluntary) lack of choices can be very liberating.

I just started rereading the great Bernard Moitessier’s The Long Way, and it has reminded me that there is no greater joy than making way on a beautiful day when it feels as if it’s just you, your trusty craft and the wide, wide sea. The sense of freedom is exhilarating, the endless horizon mesmerizing. And is there any greater luxury than being in charge of your helm and momentarily unconcerned with the “civilized” world? The priorities are clear: Steer your course, stay safe, enjoy nature’s majesty. When Neptune is feeling magnanimous, there’s no greater happiness — but he does have his moods.

If you’ve experienced a storm at sea, then you, too, are likely to put a lot of stock in good seamanship skills and above all a seakindly vessel. For many years a 40-foot, 30-ton steel trawler was my beloved base, but as my life and career changed she wound up tied to the dock and relegated to occasional use. A beautiful Cape Dory 28 Flybridge was my next boat; she was smaller but sturdy and very comfortable for weekend adventures. The problem was I lived too far from where I kept her and found little freedom to cruise as a result. (It’s not you, it’s me.)

I’ve been using the downtime of a Northeast winter to do a lot of online research on my next vessel. I’ve confirmed two things. 1) I have a boat addiction (gasp!) 2) I definitely want to go small — although I admit I am intrigued by wee boats that are seaworthy enough to go far, far away. The process of finding one to fit the bill will be a challenge, and of course the bill itself may change. This time I’ll be certain that my lifestyle and my boat align, and I’m not rushing.

All this research has reminded me: There’s more variety in the boat world than there is in the fishes of the sea. The perfect boat is merely a matter of personal tastes and priorities.

Spring will be here sooner than it seems. Make your list, do your online research, then get to a boat show. They offer terrific deals, but more important, shows give you a chance to go aboard and check sightlines, headroom, build quality. Imagining yourself underway lets you determine much of what you like and don’t like. You’ll find yourself that much closer to a smart decision — and realizing your own personal escape plan, whether that means weekends of lake water sports or a years-long circumnavigation. Vive la différence!

This article originally appeared in the February 2017 issue.