A Time to Risk or Sit
In 1965, Robert M. Manry, a copy editor for the Cleveland Plain Dealer, sailed from the United States to England in a 13-foot sailboat – 3,200 miles across the North Atlantic in a boat so small you’d hesitate to take it out on Lake Michigan or Long Island Sound as small-craft warnings were flying.
For 78 days Manry and his tiny 36-year-old sailboat battled one of the toughest stretches of saltwater on earth. Gales blew the boat on its side. Manry tried to nap during the day and sailed at night so that he could try to avoid being run down and chopped into kindling and hamburger by great ocean-going steamers. On several occasions, he was washed over the side in heavy seas. Each time he would haul himself back aboard by a lifeline he kept tied to himself in the boat. He suffered terrible hallucinations, the result of having to take so many pep pills to stay awake during the long nights.
Why? What made him do it? It wasn’t publicity; he went about the whole thing so quietly – practically no one knew what he was up to. He thought no one would pay attention to him, and that was fine with him.
The reason was that he had dreamed of sailing the Atlantic ever since he had been a small boy. He bought the dinky old boat for $250. He completely rebuilt her, taught himself navigation, and practiced long-distance sailing on Lake Erie.
He told his wife the real reason for his embarking on so incredible a journey in so vulnerable a craft. He said to her, “There is a time when one must decide either to risk everything to fulfill one’s dreams or sit for the rest of one’s life in the backyard.” Now this is why Mr. Manry went sailing over the mountains of deep water in a boat only about twice the size of your bathtub. This is why he sat in his tiny open cockpit and weathered storms that caused the passengers to clear the weather decks of giant ocean liners. He was fulfilling a dream he’d carried in his heart since he’d been a small boy.
As a result, offers for books and magazine articles poured in to him. Cleveland gave him a hero’s welcome, as did the 20,000 people who wildly cheered the successful end of his voyage when he arrived in Falmouth, England. It’s been proposed to Congress that Manry’s boat, Tinkerbelle, be placed in the Smithsonian Institution alongside Charles Lindbergh’s plane, Spirit of St. Louis.
But all this fame and sudden stature in the eyes of the world – this was not why he made the trip. It was because he believes that there is a time when one must decide either to risk everything to fulfill one’s dreams or sit for the rest of one’s life in the backyard.
Courage, the courage to finally take one’s life in one’s own hands and go after the big dream, has a way of making that dream come true. It seems to open hidden doorways from which good things begin to pour into one’s life. But only after we’ve made the journey in our own way. For Manry, at 47 years of age, it was sailing 3,200 miles of the North Atlantic. Each of us must make his own voyage through darkness and danger to the light that beacons in the distance. A journey to fulfillment … or sit in the backyard.