sail on

Not my cup of tea – although I did like “Cheeseburger in Paradise”, it is understood how popular Jimmy Buffett was among a segment of the sailing crowd. – ed.

My mate Jimmy Buffett died on Friday evening. I use the word mate loosely. I did meet him back in 1980 in Saint Barts but, like many of us mourning his death, we all felt like we were his friend. 

When I met Jimmy he was playing in a bar of a hotel that he would one day own; to his regret. Jimmy was after all a musician, well a whole lot more than just a musician, but he was not a good hotelier. He admits that in his memoir so I am not out of line here by stating that. He was playing to a small crowd of sailors, and this, by the way, was long before Jimmy Buffett was Jimmy Buffett. He was just a troubadour with a guitar and a pretty good voice, but his songs captivated the audience and if I am to be honest, changed many lives, mine included. 

For us sailors, and I know that you wouldn’t be on this site if you weren’t a sailor, his songs became a soundtrack to our lives. How do you write a song that starts, “Mother, Mother Ocean?” For those of us who have seen some blue water, we understand that lyric. And there were many, many more. “A Pirate looks at Forty.” Who among us does not feel themselves a pirate in some way even if it’s only just having a margarita for breakfast? And, well, what can I say, who else could write a best-selling hit about a cheeseburger?

Jimmy Buffett captured the essence of what it means to be a free spirit who found the open ocean as an outlet to sail away from our day-to-day traffic and jams of life. The steel drums, the beautiful lyrics, the tailgate parties. Jimmy gave us an outlet and I speak for most of us, he gave us hope and a sense that life is just better than OK. 

He was also a better-than-good sailor and owned many boats of all kinds including his innovative powerboat “Last Mango” and his even more innovative (in my humble opinion) sailboat named “Drifter.” He sang about the sea but you can’t write and sing that well about something you don’t feel or understand at a core level and it’s clear that he understood not only sailing but the sailing lifestyle and all it entails, more than just a good salt-rimmed margarita and a lost shaker of salt.

Sail on buddy. There are so many of your songs that I love but perhaps the one most fitting for this sad time is “I have found me a home.” I hope that you have found a good home and I hope that it’s a place named Margaritaville. – Brian Hancock.