“Life-lanes” by Progressive Insurance asked me to answer a few of my most common questions. A very common series of questions sounds like this… “What did you get out of it? What did you learn? Why would I want to do it?” Every – damn – time I freeze up because the answer is lengthy, intense, and actually requires emotional effort to respond in a fashion that I care to have it understood.  I stutter at the task of trying to sum it up. Most people regret asking this question because I either A) Go on a tangent or B) tell them that I perfected shitting into a bucket.

Anyways. Here is my response in a nutshell. Or in a bucket.

There is something to be said about traveling slowly. Something magical. Something that as far as I am aware, can be not be earned elsewhere. There are many ways one could choose to travel slowly, and in this particular story it was by sailboat.

It took my best friend and I 87 days to get from Northern Michigan to the boarder of Florida in a 27 foot sailboat. Averaging 25 miles a day and 4.5 knots. Together we sailed down Lake Michigan and entered the seam of America, stitching our way south along the Illinois, Mississippi, Ohio, Tennessee, and Tombigbee rivers until we met the Gulf of Mexico. I could have driven that distance in 18 hours. I could have flown it in 4. I could have roller-skated faster.

I would spend 8 hours a day sitting in the cockpit holding a beautifully handcrafted wooden tiller, doing absolutely nothing but steering the boat and dodging unidentified floating objects. Months passed. The time that passed had absolutely nothing to do with having to be at a certain place at a certain time, but everything to do with substituting the the only way in which I ever knew how to spend time (work, family, friends, relationships, school, recreational activities, other miscellaneous non-sense like shaving my legs and organizing my underwear drawer) with the following :

Time to think back // You have time to rewind. Push play. Think back to all the reasons you are where you are. Think through all those decisions you made in the past that were never actually thought through. You get stuck on the things you hate thinking about the most. The things you stowed away in a very secure place years ago, with no intentions to ever look at them again. You peel back the years, the layers, and toss the clutter you no longer need. You recognize your wrong doings and rejoice your attributes. Clearing space in your mind for the following :

Time to be present // You don’t miss a beat. It’s merely impossible. You see every bird, every animal, every type of tree, every cloud formation, every bend, every movement of the water. You look at it for more than seconds, because you have minutes, maybe even hours. And you don’t just look at it because it’s all that’s in front of you, you even have time to be fascinated with it. With the fascination comes curiosity. With curiosity comes questions. Your still left with time to try and find the answers. Are you catching my drift? The art of being present is rather educational. Your mind has then made room for the following :

Time to discover // By being in a constant stream of odd situations, you discover things you’re great at and things you’re horrible at. You discover Resource management. You discover how to budget. You discover how to be a jack of all trades. You discover the side streets. You discover how to talk to strangers. You discover beauty in everything- even mud. You discover your priorities. You discover exactly how little one requires to be happy. And eventually you discover this large compartment stocked with the following :

Time to appreciate // And I mean truly appreciate. Allow me to take the word appreciation to a whole new altitude. I am taking it off a rolling hill in Iowa and putting it on top of Alaska’s’ Mount Denali. From the simplest of amenities like running water, electricity, refrigeration, controlled climates, and plumbing. To the clouds that block the sun even if it’s just for a moment. The brief rainfall that is your only means of cleanliness. The wind that cools you off at night and moves your house free of charge by day. The spider who lives in the cockpit and feasts on intruding insects. The power-boater you met that day who offered you ice. The couple anchored next to you who has the right size wrench. The family you met while aimlessly wandering town who took you in and offered a square bed and a hot meal. You get caught up in a state of gratitude and can’t help but to start thinking about the following :

Time to pay forward // I began a list while traveling down those rivers, and keep it going till this day. I wrote down every person that went out of their way to do something for us. Whether it was lending us a tool, cooking us a meal, towing us off the ground, passing down their charts, or spending hours in our ridiculously small engine room we referred to as “the basement”. The list is long. There is a good chance we will never be able to re-pay favors to these particular people. Helping hands, encouragement, and willingness to teach can be passed on. The rest of my time on that boat entailed trying to figure out how I was going to spend the rest of my life – doing exactly that.


Thirteen states, three countries, and nearly two years later I was still sitting in that same cockpit. Holding the third beautifully handcrafted wooden tiller (after splitting the first two) dodging unmarked rocks in Canada and days away from sailing into the same bay in northern Michigan I once left from. One huge circle taught me everything I ever wanted to know.

5 things before take-off-7citybest & worst -2Trent-Sev-35storm-53home stretch-33C-O Canada -5city-58Lord of the Flies-11Coast-28Benjamins-23Plane ride-6

Disclosure: I was compensated for content provided to Life Lanes from Progressive. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

17 thoughts on “Five. Miles. Per. Hour.

  1. I think that, by far, this is my favorite post that you have made. However, my only question is…when the heck are you going to get back out there??? Find a neglected boat, fix her up, and go! Go solo…go the opposite way, go somewhere else, but go!!! We need more of your stories and adventures!

  2. Nice hearing from you, you shure no how to wright, tom the trailer sailor

    On Sun, May 15, 2016 at 7:59 PM, KATIE & JESSIE ON A BOAT wrote:

    > katieandjessieonaboat posted: ““WHAT I LEARNED TRAVELING AT 5 MPH FOR TWO > YEARS” “Life-lanes” by Progressive Insurance asked me to answer a few of > my most common questions. A very common series of questions sounds like > this… “What did you get out of it? What did you learn? Why woul” >

  3. Have I ever told you how much I like your photography? Your writing aint all that bad either 🙂

  4. Whoa! Awesome! It’s hard to believe the influence a passing cloud has on a hot day with no wind. Much appreciated.

  5. Wonderful post. It’s apparent that you learned a lot about life and what’s important on your journey. We had a similar epiphany when we sold everything and wandered in an RV for 9 years. The important things in life have nothing to do with money or objects. We’re only sorry that we didn’t do it 40 years earlier.

  6. Congratulations Katie and Jessie. I have been following your progress ever since I briefly met you at church on Daufuskie Island over a year ago. Well done!!

  7. Hi there! Loving your blog! Kennard put us onto it when we met him on Frankfort. I think he saw some similarities. We are a family of 4 from Peterborough, Ontario, Canada, travelling the loop on a 1973 Catalina 27! My husband and I, our two sons, aged 7(as of today!) and 9 left Peterborough on July 28. We are in grand haven right now. We hear your dad has a store here and might try to check it out later today and hopefully meet him. My husband is the experienced sailor, I’m learning.
    Anyway, we can really connect with your blog! Thanks so much for sharing!

  8. I loved your pictures and I love this blog. Especially the part about all the people who were helpful to you. That’s what it’s all about, isn’t it? I’ve been sailing for most of my life, but now at 91 I have only the writing, photos and memories of those years. Out of our family of 5, 3 were sons and when they were teens I took them with me on a flying and sailing vacation to the Bahamas. We will never forget it. I had many adventures with my daughters, too. Bravo to you!

    1. Bruce, thank you. When I think back to how we ever pulled off our voyage, the list of people who helped along the way is endless. Couldn’t have done it without them. I have a lifetime of paying forward to do.

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