What makes a hero?

27 Dec

Noumea beach
About two months ago, an unexpected email landed in the Totem inbox. It was from Jessica Muffett, founder of Yachtworld, informing us we had been nominated for a 2013 Yachtworld Heroes award for our part in spreading the joy of boating by inspiring others to make the leap and embark on the cruising life.

You know the cliche- it’s an  honor just to be nominated? There is absolutely no cliche here. I look at the inspiring people nominated for 2013 Yachtworld Heroes, and don’t feel worthy. They are my heroes: people like Jeanne Socrates, who continued undaunted to complete her solo circumnavigation goal this year; Matt Rutherford, who used his solo circumnavigation of the Americas in a 27′ boat to show people, particularly those with disabilities, that there are no limits to what can be accomplished in life, and now works to make ocean research more affordable; David Rockefeller Jr, who founded ocean conservation organization Sailors for the Sea.

You see where this nomination might make me feel a little out of my depth.

The beautiful thing, though, is that someone did find us worthy, and the good folks at YachtWorld were inclined to agree. And as much as this kind recognition feels undeserved, it does nail the motivation to continue to write this blog: to inspire others to live their cruising dreams. And wow, it is immensely gratifying!

Tahuata bodysurfing
Bodysurfing in Tahuata, French Polynesia

When I started the blog in 2007 at the behest of a friend, it was a public update for friends and family on our progress to cut the docklines, and then a place record for ourselves the evolution of our journey. In the early cruising period, it became an essential outlet. The blog was where I could share the sharp realizations that a radical lifestyle change brings: how little we really need, how grateful we were for friends and for our time together, the struggles and joys that make up the extreme swings of the cruising life.

making friends
New playmates in Tonga

With the fresh perspective of early cruising days a distant memory, the drivers have shifted. While I still seek to create a kind of family scrapbook of memories, it’s also very much about the connections with perfect strangers. It’s messages via email or Facebook from would-be, gonna-be cruisers, expressing gratitude that we help them stay motivated towards the goal of realizing their dreams. It is feedback like this, shared on a soon-to-be cruising family’s Facebook page earlier today: “These guys are “our motivation” and we keep saying “If they did it… we can do it”.  ….  they continue to be our inspiration.” Reminders that pile up to bring me back to the keyboard, sharing the everyday cruising lifeanswering questions sent our way, and making friends with perfect strangers in the process. It’s not hard at all to remember when those were my questions, too, and the sources for answers and accessible models for people living the dream were harder to find.

Parting is such sweet sorrow
A dinghy full of new friends: Jayapura, Indonesia

This is all a roundabout way to say thank you, Cheryl Tilly, and thank you, Jessica Muffett. We are so very grateful for this recognition! I’m still not sure how we made the cut, but truly, we are honored just to be nominated.

Goodbyes with James & Apii
Taking leave of the much-loved rangers on Suwarrow, Cook Islands


  1. Emily Fagan (RoadsLessTraveled

    Congratulations — but it’s no surprise! You have a fabulous blog that makes your cruise so real and tangible for the rest of us. Thanks for sharing your adventures so vividly and for inviting us all to come along for the ride via your photos and gifted writing!!

  2. warren young

    Enjoy your post. Found them last night. Read all I think. 07-14. Wish I would have had the todo to have tried your life style when I was young. 67 is a little old to start it now.

  3. Ellen Anderson

    Much deserved,Behan, for all the wonderful descriptions and stories of your life. Congratulations but also, thank you. Reading your words is always a full experience. And…Happy Birthday today to you, dear friend!

  4. Normandie Fischer

    So pleased for you, Behan. Since we met over books and sailing, I’ve seen nothing but positive, upbeat posts from you. What better representation of the cruising life can there be than your joyful anecdotes as you and your family seek the best from your experiences? Some of us had our around-the-world plans curtailed by circumstance, and yet now, as armchair voyagers, we can peek with you into other cultures and have our world enlarged. Brava!

  5. Kathy Stanley

    Congratulations, Totem! A well-deserved recognition. Even your old land-based friends enjoy a vicarious sail around the world. Thanks for sharing and best wishes for all of your (and, vicariously, ours) future adventures!

  6. Carolyn Sasek/NomadicJesters

    Congrats!! You’re awesome Behan! I’m so happy that you share about your journey and adventures! You’re an inspiration to many!! I so very much look forward to crossing paths somewhere along the way!

    Enjoy your b’day!! We look forward to reading all about it! ;)

    Blessings to you and yours…


  7. svceolmor

    Yippee! I am so happy for you and the crew! How terribly exciting. It must make you feel slightly glamorous…for a minute or two until the head needs attention. Congratulations again!

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