Article in West End Word - Written by Jeff Fister - October 11, 2006

This was written for the West End Word in St Louis and Jeff wrote about Jim and Deb "dropping out" and leaving. Are we crazy or what?

Ever have one of those days when you feel like quitting your job, selling everything you own and go sailing around the world?
Jim Faughn had one of those days Feb. 24.

Debra (Deb), Jim’s wife stated, “My husband Jim called and said ‘I’ve quit my job.’ That’s when it hit me what we were going to do.”
Sometime this month, Deb and her husband Jim will get on their 34- by 14-foot catamaran with their parrot named Jimmy Buffett. They’ll begin a six-year sailing odyssey. They might not go quite around the world, but they do plan to visit Key West, Australia, the Galapagos Islands, the Bahamas and South America.

“So many people talk about their dreams, but we’re actually going to do it,” said Jim.

From appearances, the Faughn’s look like many successful urban professionals; not exactly the types to “drop out.” Jim retired at age 51 after 28 years at Ranken Technical College. When he retired, he was Vice President for Institutional Advancement. Deb, 53, has a PhD, and for the past six years she has taught marketing and has run a leadership program in the business school at St. Louis University.

But what would drive this couple to sell their CWE condo home, most of their possessions and leave family, friends and career to live on a boat?

“You have to find a passion, follow it, and achieve it,” said Deb.
But this is hardly a lark. The Faughn’s began planning their trip more than ten years ago when a friend “stole their dream” bought a boat and sailed away. “We decided we wanted to retire when we were young enough to enjoy it,” Jim said. They took sailing lessons and eventually bought a boat.


The years of planning required the couple to save as much money as possible and to alter their lifestyle accordingly. “Basically whenever we got raises at work, we’d just put the extra into the bank,” Jim said. “We didn’t take many expensive vacations.”

What about leaving family behind? The Faughn’s explained that they don’t have children and both are younger siblings. “We don’t have much family left and we don’t feel bound to shore by them,” Deb said.

Jim said that selling most of their possessions was difficult but ultimately rewarding. “When it comes down to it, physical things and possessions can trap you. All we really need is each other and our boat.”

Deb said the hardest thing for her was the reaction from some of her friends. “I didn’t understand my value to them; some were really upset we were leaving.” Some called her to ask if they could have “one last lunch together” before they left.

Some of the responses have been amusing. “The question I got most often at work was, ‘is Deb going with you?’ Or, ‘how will you be able to spend that much time together?’” said Jim.

Some of Deb’s friends doubted she could withstand the rigors of the journey. Deb, who is small in stature, said one friend told her she was “too prissy to sail.” But one of the requirements was that both Jim and Deb would be able to pull the anchor and put up the sail by themselves. Some of the open-water parts of the trip will take up to two weeks at a time and the couple will have to trade three-hour watches around the clock. “We won’t leave unless I can handle it,” Deb said. “I’ve been working out.”

The itinerary for the trip isn’t completely firm, but the Faughn’s will shove off from their dock in Kentucky Lake and follow the inland waterway to Mobile, Alabama. They will then travel down the west coast of Florida and have Christmas in Key West. Next, they will sail up the east coast of the U.S. to Chesapeake Bay, where they will cruise for the duration of the hurricane season next summer. From there, they will head back to the Florida Keys and at some point sail the Carribean to the Panama Canal. Once in the Pacific, they will visit the Galapagos Islands and head southwest to the Marquesas islands and eventually to Australia.

After time in Australia, Jim said they’ll probably have the boat shipped back to San Francisco, and then travel down the California coast back through the Panama Canal and toward Florida again. After that, who knows? “One of the goals of the trip is to decide where we want to spend the rest of our lives,” Jim said. “We’ll have seen quite a bit of the world by then.”

So, what scares them the most? Typhoons and storms? Getting hurt out in the middle of nowhere? Moby Dick? “Actually the thing we fear the most is fog,” Jim said. “Off the coast of South America, large oil tankers plow through the water at 20 or 30 knots, and we’re puttering along at a few knots. If you don’t see them in time, those boats can swamp you in an instant.”

Jim said being successful is all about preparation and managing risk. “One of my favorite sayings is that ‘it’s not the strongest of the species nor the most intelligent, but it’s the ones who are most responsive to change’ who survive and prosper. We just need to be ready for anything.”

The couple has made numerous training trips chartering boats in
Florida and with their own boat on weekends at Kentucky Lake, trying to anticipate every emergency. “We’ve even practiced ‘bird overboard’ drills in case our parrot falls off,” Jim laughed.

So, like the mountain climber, the question is: why?

Jim, who’s also a musician, quoted a song by the rock group Crosby, Stills & Nash: “Whey you see the Southern Cross for the first time, you’ll know why you came this way.”

Deb said she’s realized she doesn’t need much to be happy. “In the work world, I used to worry about titles and ambition and what my bosses thought of me. Now the biggest questions I’ll have are ‘what’s the weather?’ or ‘when’s happy hour?’” 



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