About four years ago, during a meal at anchor in a cove in the Balearic Islands, I told the family of the shipowner – Herr Schiffseigner – for whom I work that I intended to retire as soon as the legal time came for me to do so, in about four years, and that my project was to sail around the world single-handed. I don’t remember if I mentioned it directly to the owner at any time, I don’t think so, nor if I discussed the subject with his eldest son, who manages the yacht’s company. But what I am sure of is that I had a long conversation on this subject with his sister. Did she pass on the information to the rest of the family? I don’t know; I never got any echo of it. Did she forget about it? Most probably. The fact is that last Saturday, October 15, 2022, when I was invited to a dinner at the owner’s house, I told him the date of my retirement, July 28, 2023, that is, nine months and two weeks from that very moment. Fair play.
Photo taken in the work environment and provided to Tad by its author.
Photo of two of Herr Schiffseigner’s grandchildren having fun on board. Photo provided to Tad by the author.
“What do you mean you are going to retire? And what are you going to do, just sit on the sofa at home and watch TV?” His first reaction was quite violent. “No, Sir,” I replied calmly, “My intention, as soon as I retire, is to set sail on my sailboat to sail around the world solo.” From that moment on, he completely changed his attitude and accepted the inevitable. Well, he got it half-heartedly. Herr Schiffseigner doesn’t take no for an answer, not easily. What followed were some highly emotional moments. A few tears were witnessed to this.
The truth is that we have been working for Herr Schiffseigner and his family for a long time, about ten years or so, and the affection is mutual. Muriel, who is bilingual in German, speaks to them in their language. I can only do it in English. And it is in Shakespeare’s language that Herr Schiffseigner and I communicate. One day he said to me, “You belong to the family.” I never really knew if he was expressing a feeling of belonging or possession, but mutual affection and respect are evident. We are class enemies, of that there is no doubt, but that does not detract from the fact that we are both human beings with noble feelings.
These last two months, every time we met, Herr Schiffseigner insisted that we stay a few more years, two or three, to which I replied that no, that in a few years, I would no longer have the physical capacity to carry out my project, that for me it was now or never…, and that it would never, as I have already stressed on another occasion, be too late.
Photo taken by the blog author in his work environment.
However, every time we met, Herr Schiffseigner insisted that we stay a few more years, two or three, at the most, to which I invariably answered no. Finally, however, last Saturday, December 17, he invited us to dinner at his house in Palma, and, as it could not be otherwise, he insisted again that we should stay. He argued that at his age, he no longer wants to have to look for a new crew for his boat, that he will sell it, and that his grandchildren will be left without a yacht, all with great emotion, his eyes moist, “even if it is only two or three years more” he insisted. And again, with Muriel’s support, I refused flatly.
That night, neither Muriel nor I were able to sleep. Without saying a word to each other, on Sunday morning, as we looked at each other over breakfast, we already knew that we would talk about it, reconsider our position, and partially sacrifice our freedom. But not at any price. We evaluated the pros and cons of a fanciful solution that had come into my head during the night, and I sent a WhatsApp to the Owner: “Could we meet tomorrow?” He answered me without delay, with a laconic: “Tomorrow. Six P.M.”
At six o’clock on the evening of Monday, December 19, Muriel and I were sitting in the living room of Herr Schiffseigner’s mansion in Palma, next to the fireplace, and I explained my idea to him. At first, he didn’t seem to understand it very well; he raised his eyebrows and sharpened his ear. “What?”
Gif created by the blog’s author.
“Herr Schiffseigner, we agree to continue in your service aboard the yacht, but with some changes. I will remain in command of the yacht, but in the low season, from October to April, I will do telework while sailing aboard my sailboat. In high season I will return on board the yacht, as before. Muriel will be my eyes and ears on board during the low season. She will supervise the maintenance work on the yacht, be in permanent contact with me, and see her salary increase in proportion to the new responsibilities she assumes. Thus, you will continue to have us at your service, and I will go around the world, albeit in stages. Instead of the three or four years, I had planned to circumnavigate the planet, I shall need five or six.”
The shipowner abruptly lifted his Teutonic ninety kilos of weight and 83 years of age from the sofa and embraced us, Muriel and me, à tour de rôle, with tears in his eyes, and immediately went to fetch a bottle of wine from the kitchen, which he brought with three glasses. Muriel tried holding him back so she could convey the wine and the glasses, but he told her to sit down: “Today, I’m the one serving,” he said.
That’s how things stand today: for the time being, I am not retiring. On the contrary, I will carry out my project in stages by teleworking, as in a pandemic, while continuing to pay social security contributions and receiving my full salary. Muriel, younger than me, still has to work for seven more years before she can think about retiring, and she will have to postpone sine die her project of moving closer to her children in Luxembourg and doing a quieter job… However, we both believe we gain from this trade union commitment. Fair play.
The next day, Tuesday, we flew to Barcelona, and on Wednesday, I underwent successful prostate brachytherapy. We were back in Palma on Thursday, finally satisfied with how the year was closing.
Freeware image extracted from Wikipedia (https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/6/6c/21-01-242-chain.jpg).
In the meantime, my commitment to all of you remains intact.