A Dream Outside the Box
How many times have you dreamed
about giving it all up and
floating away into a fairy tale---where time is not of the essence
and all things are possible? Your day is not dictated by a strict
system nor is your mind occupied with responsibilities. You awake
with sheer enthusiasm; dinner with friends may linger for hours
and wine is free flowing. There is no schedule---just the adventure
of a new day. Only a dream you say? Perhaps not.
Annapolitans Andy and Amanda Fegley along with their two children,
Aurora and Alexander, made their dreams a reality. For 23 glorious
months they cruised 3,800 miles through Holland, Belgium, France
and Spain aboard a Dutch fireboat, immersing themselves in spectacular
scenery, unforgettable experiences and an itinerary navigated
by free spirit. How did they make the dream happen?
"By making a decision to do it, then remaining confident and committed
to that decision," says Amanda Fegley. "We were completely determined."
They also did a great deal of research to familiarize themselves
with the task by reading books and surfing the Internet. "Once
we had an overview, we made a five-year plan and set goals for
everything that needed to be dealt with," says Andy Fegley.
They made a financial plan, researched educational options for
their children (ages 10 and 7 at the time), contemplated how to
responsibly and tactfully put a thriving boat electronics company
on hiatus without upsetting clients, and then they went boat shopping
on the Internet.
"What we found was that boats in Europe were fairly priced and
beautifully suited to the purpose," says Andy. A major concern
was the limited dimensions of the French canal system. "We needed
a boat that met the restrictions of the canals yet was seaworthy
to venture into the open waters for some coastal cruising."
They decided to purchase a European vessel and fly over to Holland
to begin their adventure. The vessel that won their affection
was the Joanna, a 1948, 53-foot steel hull, Amsterdam
fireboat that had been restored for yachting. The Joanna
was a Dutch beauty, her 11-foot beam and 41/2- foot draft would
be canal friendly, and her structure was tough enough to endure
the open waters.
They agreed the children would be home-schooled using the Calvert
School curriculum. "The Calvert School has a phenomenal home schooling
method and literally provides you with an entire year in a box,"
explains Amanda. "They work it out to such a degree that it is
easy for a parent to become the home teacher."
Then on May 29, 2000, Andy departed to do some work on the Joanna,
which was anchored in the Dutch harbor of Vlaardingen near Rotterdam.
On June 14, the rest of his family joined him to commence their
The Fegleys were well-received by locals in Vlaardingen and they
began making friends immediately---some would come to visit them
in Annapolis after their return. "Interacting with the local people
was a rich part of the experience," says Amanda. "We were very
open and receptive---we allowed ourselves to take part in the
local culture and that was really rewarding."
The first couple of months of their voyage took them north to
the sandy islands in the Waddenzee, then to Amsterdam and an eventual
return to Rotterdam where they regrouped and prepared to head
south. "We said okay, we've learned something about the boat in
the country in which it was built and we have learned something
about living together on the boat---now it's time to go south."
And south they went. "In August, we descended into Belgium, through
Leige," Amanda recalls with dreaminess in her voice. "It was spectacular."
Meandering at a speed of 8 knots, they journeyed on the Meuse
River, absorbing its sites and sampling its towns.
Home schooling was also under way. "For several hours each day
Alexander and Aurora were schooled at the table in the wheelhouse
aboard the Joanna while Andy drove," Amanda says. "We
were surrounded by open windows, so we could watch the world pass
as we completed our studies." And when the opportunity presented
itself, "on location" history lessons were conducted as Alexander
and Aurora learned about the French Revolution.
The Fegleys shopped for groceries on market day in the town d'jour,
bought fresh bread daily from local bakeries and purchased French
wines from the distributors for---are you ready for this---one
dollar per liter. "Meals were mostly prepared aboard," says Amanda
who is a wonderful cook, according to her family.
Some family members took trips to Europe and joined the Fegleys
to sample their newly acquired lifestyle. Others were updated
via e-mail with descriptive accounts of cruising down the Rhone
River through Lyon to the south of France, frolicking in the Mediterranean,
and celebrating Aurora's birthday in Barcelona, just to name a
The Joanna proved her seaworthiness and the Fegleys their
seamanship as they ventured bravely into the Bay of Biscay and
negotiated 36- to 40- foot tides which are "the second highest
in the world," says Andy.
Then there was Brittany, the Channel Islands, Normandy---and a
three-month rendezvous in Paris. "It was fabulous to awake each
morning with the Eiffel Tower in view," Andy recalls.
As a grand finale, they explored Holland in detail, then returned
to that one particular harbor in Vlaardingen where it all began.
For seve more months, they lived aboard the Joanna before
reluctantly selling her and, on May 14, 2002, they returned to
their lives in Annapolis. Quite an itinerary, wouldn't you say?
These days, Andy's Yacht Electronic Systems on Second Street in
Eastport is back in full swing, and he's once again playing trombone
with Them Eastport Oyster Boys. Amanda is contemplating writing
a book about their adventures, and Alexander and Aurora are back
in school. The Fegleys may be back, but memories of their 23-month
cruising adventure live vividly in their minds and their hearts.
What was the greatest lesson taken away from their adventure?
Andy responds, "A complete vision of an alternative lifestyle
to working every day of your life until you're 55---that is not
Amanda agreed, "We have to be able to dream and be willing to
venture outside of the box---because once you're outside, horizons
broaden and all things are possible."
And so the next time that seemingly impossible dream sneaks into
your thoughts and teases your reality, perhaps you should not
rule it out-you too can make it happen.