A ‘deeply satisfying’ sail

Zeke Holland and his son Jesse aboard No Regrets. Zeke and two men he met on the internet bought the boat to circumnavigate.

If you’re a sailor, chances are you’ve thought about what it would be like to circumnavigate. The idea of a continuous voyage that lasts years, and involves exotic destinations – it’s heady stuff for the coaster, and there’s no shortage of literature on the topic, which makes for especially great reading in front of a wood stove on a snowy day.

But then there are the details. So many details. Forget the challenge of the sailing itself – where’s the money going to come from? How do you tell your boss you’re taking a three-year leave-of-absence? And, perhaps most importantly, how do you convince your family that this should be their dream, too?

In “A Satisfying Sail Around the World,” Zeke Holland, a software developer from Brunswick, Maine, outlines a different approach. Instead of laying waste to his shoreside life and encouraging family to pursue his dream, he uses the internet to find two other guys roughly his age with the same dream.

Zeke found Tim and Bill, and the three of them formed a limited liability company and bought a Chris White-designed Atlantic 42 catamaran, a boat that individually none of them could afford. They named the boat No Regrets. The partnership was formed with one purpose in mind: to circumnavigate. Circumnavigation (theoretically) completed, No Regrets was to be sold and the partnership dissolved. It was a plan in which everyone kept their houses, and partners could (and did) fly home for work. Meanwhile, the boat would keep moving westabout with at least one captain aboard.

Setting these wheels in motion was a benign comment one night from Zeke’s wife, Hallie. Zeke was talking about what he’d do on his circumnavigation – some day. “You’re not going to sail around the world,” she said, offhandedly. “You’re getting too old for that.” As Zeke writes in his book, “I said nothing. But her comment really got my attention. The idea that the option would expire soon was a wake-up call. Without her even looking up from her book, Hallie had just changed our lives.”

A lot of people, initially, thought Zeke had a screw loose. Who recruits complete strangers off the internet? It’s a bad idea, they said. It’s hard enough to get around with people you know and like! Zeke countered by saying his way wouldn’t put long-term friendships in jeopardy, or family in harm’s way. And, of course, it meant some of the money issues went away. “The partnership worked out extremely well, financially,” Zeke wrote from Maine. “Yes, nicer boat, and shared ongoing costs. Plus (initially) crew, and a “brain trust” that helped with preparations and troubleshooting along the way.”

Before they left, Zeke, Bill and Tim wrote up an informal contract regarding use of the boat and along the way discovered they’d left open a few exploitable loopholes. “I had a lawyer friend review our partnership agreement. His advice: get a lawyer to write it!” Zeke said. “Yes, we should have worked harder to craft language around ‘who’s responsible’ for damage . . . and yes, it would have been helpful if we had further teased out what expenses a member-not-present was responsible for. But, I still think our partnership agreement ‘worked,’ and next time I’d again try to keep it short, and keep lawyers out of it.”

Zeke, Tim and Bill joined Jimmy Cornell’s 2014 Blue Planet Odyssey, a cruise-in-company around the world, and away they went.

So how did it work out? For the most part, great. That is, No Regrets was one of only three boats to finish the 2014-2017 Blue Planet Odyssey, which started with roughly seven boats. More importantly, Zeke, Bill and Tim finished the voyage as friends. Not BFF’s, necessarily, but friends. At least 12 different acquaintances and family members cycled through No Regrets on particular legs, and the infusion of “new blood” kept the voyage fresh. Lifelong friendships were forged. Each of the owners had meaningful interludes aboard with sons or daughters.

I’d wondered about the use of the word “satisfying” in the title of the book, which in most cases hardly conveys excellence, but in the final chapter Zeke explains: “Sailing around the world was deeply satisfying – a huge project successfully completed; a dream realized; a source of a little swagger. But, in retrospect, I see that the journey was more than a sailing trip. It was a journey of the heart.” In that context, who can argue that “satisfying” isn’t the best adjective?

Using the internet, Zeke found a way to fulfill his dream.

The “deeply satisfying” part? That was all him.