Voyage planning 101

Laurie Thyrre’s Nordhavn 64 Gratitude in Kas, Türkiye.
Laurie Thyrre’s Nordhavn 64 Gratitude in Kas, Türkiye.
Laurie Thyrre’s Nordhavn 64 Gratitude in Kas, Türkiye.

One of the lessons a new pilot learns is to never let the airplane take you somewhere your mind hasn’t gone before. New pilots often spend more time on the flight planning than they do actually flying. I would have no sooner flown without a solid flight plan, including weather along my route as well as at any place I may stop, than I would have set out on a cross-country drive without gas. Which is to say, the planning was as important as the execution. 

Voyage planning books in Gratitude’s pilothouse.
Voyage planning books in Gratitude’s pilothouse.

I’m not sure if our early training in planning led us to living on our boat in a foreign country or if we could have done it without the training. But for Alec and me, the planning was nearly as much fun as the doing. In our jobs as airline pilots, we used to fly with old crusty captains who wanted to fly the airplane until they were put into the ground. I suspect it was because they had no plan for retirement. They had no follow-on adventure. This is another benefit of how planning eases transitions in life.

We have discovered that there are four main steps involved in planning a new adventure.

1) Long before we ever have the plan, we have the dream. Dreaming is one of our favorite pastimes together and we can sit for hours talking about what we would like the next five months, years, decades to look like. It is in this process that the blueprints of our life form. Long before we retired, we dreamed about living on a boat and traveling the world. We talked about it, we examined what our boat might look like, we followed blogs and we even plastered charts all over the office. All these things fueled the dream until we were ready for the next phase. 

2) Each of our plans involves a period of trying on the dream. This may include imagining your dream boat, fantasizing about living aboard, really feeling in your body and mind what it would be like. The trying on is a crucial aspect for Alec and me because it is in this early time that our bodies will let us know if we are on the right path or not. It may be that I’m ready to cross the Atlantic on the southern route, but Alec isn’t feeling it. So, we go back to the planning and try to come up with an alternate way of meeting our goal by a different route that is comfortable for us both, or perhaps scrap the goal altogether and come up with another plan. 

Each phase happens in its own time and each big plan moves at a different pace but after a period of living with a dream and a goal that we both like, and to which we want to commit, we shift into the next phase.  

3) I can’t tell you exactly when the process shifts from dream to plan but perhaps it lies somewhere in the next part of the process which for me is crucial: There comes a moment in your grand plan when you must make some decisive leap. 

Most often, that leap makes your heart beat a little faster, it can create some discomfort but for me it involves a feeling that I’m on the right path. Chills, excitement, a little bit of fear but a quite honest belief that this is the right thing – even if it is something that I don’t entirely think I want to do. 

The decisive leap is throwing your hat over the fence and creating a paradigm that demands you go after it. The decisive leap for you might be something huge, such as buying the dream boat or selling the house to prepare for the move. Maybe retiring early or quitting your job – although my personal experience indicates that the right decisive leap is never something that will put you in danger. It will involve sacrifice and a sometimes a little discomfort, but I have never had a decisive leap put me or my family or finances in jeopardy. 

My most powerful decisive leap was retiring from a job I loved. It was my dream job and involved countless hours of dreaming about the career milestones I would achieve. Alec and I had decided that financially we were safe in making this decision, but it remained a turning point that I was pained to make. I felt in my bones that it was right. There was no denying I had to do it, but I honestly didn’t want to. I have never regretted, only blessed this decisive leap, but it was a hard one to take.  

In each of my leaps, it was as though the forces in the universe all aligned to allow my dreams and plans to come to fruition. Effortlessly and seamlessly, the stars align to create opportunities that had never existed. Doors open while the momentum takes over and things start evolving in ways that point undeniably to the realization of this goal. Often this results in a moving up of the timetable, as what we thought would take years is now taking weeks or months. We often feel ready for the transitions in life faster the more we talk about the progress of the plan and the movements of the universe. This is another wonderful affirmation for us that we are on the right path. 

4) The final step is the actual implementation of the plan. Sometimes the plan works perfectly just the way it is, but far more often, it requires a re-visit to adjust for life circumstances which are constantly changing.

Having the initial plan gives us the confidence to make small tweaks as necessary. When  changes are required, the mental energy that we don’t have to put into “winging it” can be spent on methodically choosing another course of action. Also, a plan that needed to be scrapped due to timing may come back around in a more appropriate ortime. We had planned to summer in Norway and Denmark on our second summer in Europe when the Corona Virus first appeared. Realizing that no Northern European countries were permitting arrivals, we scrapped our whole plan for the north and went into the Med instead. With our current plan, it will be four summers later that we finally make it up to Norway and Denmark. As I sit here writing this, Alec is up to his elbows in research about Norway and Denmark and we have several friends compiling “must see” lists for our trip up the west coast of Scotland planned for the spring of 2023.  

Whatever your personal style, why not try on a few different plans and see if it doesn’t catapult your next adventure?

Laurie Thyrre, a retired airline pilot, voyages with her husband and son aboard their Nordhavn 64 Gratitude.