While thousands of commuters stuck in Washington this month climmed into their hot cars at 5 p.m. yesterday to begin the long, sweltering drive to the suburbs, Joe Boyer soaked up the cool, offshore breeze at a dock at Fort Washington Marina and prepared to go sailing.

And he was getting paid for it.

A retired Air Force lieutenant colonel since 1975, Boyer says he has given up the regimen of commuting, paperwork, office politics and other Washington realities in favor of the sun, water and wind of sailing.

Boyer commuted from Maryland to the Pentagon each morning for 12 years of his 32-year stint with the Air Force -- and upon retirement, he said, he swore never to do it again.

"I've got a fetish -- I determined that I didn't want to be a necktie slave, the guy strapped to a desk, hide-bound to commuting," Boyer said.

So he dedicated his new life style to a hobby he picked up in 1939, when he began teaching boating to Boy Scouts.

"I love to sail -- anything to do with sailing, I do it," said Boyer, who holds high-ranking offices in two sailing associations, is a sales representative for three firms and gives private sailing lessons as well.

Boyer's postretirement life style apparently has been good to him. At 55, he looks at least 10 years younger and knows it. He is tanned and lean.

Other Washington residents push papers in stuffy offices, manhandle jackhammers on the street, and lay bricks or drive buses in the sweltering August days as they earn their living. But Boyer, who enjoys a comfortable pension that is supplemented by the teaching income of his wife, prefers the breeze of sailing -- even if it brings in only $5,000 a year.

"My vacation is every day," Boyer said. "I don't do anything I don't want to do." Boyer taught two would-be sailors, Dave Leister and Bill Dawling, the ropes yesterday. The white sail of his 15-foot boat that he uses to teach bobbed lazily against a background of faraway shade trees, as Boyer glided back and forth on Piscataway Creek, patiently demonstrating sailing techniques.

Dawling said he had pondered the sport of sailing for awhile before deciding to take lessons to see whether his interest was serious. "it doesn't take gasoline, the wind blows free," Dawling said. The lessons cost $82 for three 3-hour sessions.

Cruising sailing," Boyer told his new student, "is great fun for dates -- but if you don't know what you're doing, it'll ruin your social life."

The most serious things in Boyer's life these days are the regattas he attends each weekend in the Chesapeake Bay from March to December. This Sunday, Boyer is to race his 8-foot El Toro across the bay, he said.

But Boyer said he's unsure which part of his life style he likes best -- selling, sailing, racing or teaching.

"I don't have to pick -- that's the beauty of retirement," Boyer said.

Boyer flew a B29 bomber in the China-Burma theater during World War II, but that is over, he said. "That's one thing I don't talk about much anymore. I'm now out of the Air Force, and I'm a sailor." CAPTION: Picture, Joe Boyer mans the tiller of his 15-foot sailboat and explains maneuvers to two students. By Joy Heiberger -- The Washington Post