"You probably got caught up in that cultural change in the early '70s," said Zeke Floyd. "Well, I'm still in it. I never came back."
Eight years ago, when Floyd had a regular job back in Elkhart, Ind., he and his girlfriend had a vision of sailing off into the sunset. They knew nothing about the sea but they saved their money anyway, and bought a 26-foot Columbia sloop, sight unseen, and paid for it with cash.
They picked the Columbia up in Portsmouth, Va., took off into the sunset and wound up a few months later in St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands.
"We had nothing," said Floyd, who is 33. "No depth-finder, no radio, no lifeboat. Nothing."
With nothing to start with, Floyd has been working ever since on getting less.
He sold that boat quickly. He didn't like its complexity. There were too many fancy fittings that depended on each other, he said. "If one thing went, everything else would go with it."
He built a better boat. When he came back north the next summer, Floyd got a job in a ferro-cement boatbuilding outfit in Mayo, Md., near Annapolis. In his spare time, he built a 20-foot ferro-cement cruiser for himself, simpler than the Columbia. But it was still too complicated.
He sailed his cruiser south several times, finally selling it in Florida.
Last summer, he built a boat he figures will be his last. It has no roof or top or cabin or berths. It has no radio. It has nothing electric. It has no jib and no boom -- just one simple mainsail and a place for him to sit.
These days, Floyd has sort of a job, working with a machinist at Calvert Marina near Solomons, Md. He works when he feels like it and relaxes when he feels like it.
He's developed a pattern for life. In the summer, he stays here aboard an old engineless cabin cruiser he bought for $100. And when the cold winds start to blow, he heads south in his tiny 16-foot open boat.
Last October, when he'd finished beefing up the hull of his Swampscott dory, he departed Solomons on a breezy day.
He returned seven months later but $1,000 poorer, the $1,000 representing his total expenses for wintering in the Bahamas.
Why so small a boat?
Floyd lives mostly on a diet of celery, apples and peanut butter. When he needs something, he'd rather build it than buy it. He is not a fan of fancy marina slips. He keeps things simple.
With his little boat he can sail until he's tired, then pull it up on a beach and go to sleep for free. He logged 3,000 miles last winter, sailing down the coast and then across the Gulf Stream to the Bahamas.
He encountered trouble only once. Caught in a powerful norther on the Bahama bank, he had to make for safety.
The nearest safety was a barren island called Great Isaac Rock. It was empty, save for some abandoned buildings. He spent five days there until the storm blew through. He had no food and had to break his commitment to vegetarianism. The only thing to eat on the island was snails, which he collected and steamed in beer cans washed up on the beach.
"Man," he said, "I ate some snails." It was, said Floyd, one of the happiest times of his life.
"I think when people go sailing in these big boats, they lose something," said Floyd. "I like the experience of feeling the real force of nature."
And when the forces of nature die down, he has some force of his own to apply -- through a pair of oarlocks mounted on the gunwales.
On a day when there's no wind, Floyd can eke out 20 to 25 miles with his oars. When the wind blows, he can do much better.
"Here," he said, "I'll give you my typical pose."
In the soft, hot breeze of July in Solomons, he slid down against the transom of the little boat named Hannah, stretched his legs out before him, draped an arm over the oak tiller he fashioned by hand with a spoke shave, tipped back a bottle of German beer, set his sails and was off.
This fall, Floyd will set off in earnest again, this time with a plan to cruise down to the Okeechobee waterway in Florida, out to the western shore of the southernmost state and on across the Gulf of Mexico.
After that? Who knows?