They've already sold their home and moved onto their boat. And come September, Sam and Amy Cauley will do what many people only dream of doing: They'll quit their jobs and sail off into the sunset aboard their 41-foot sailboat, leaving the rat race far behind. Their destination? No place in particular. Over a couple of beers at the Topsider Bar in Galesville, not far from where their boat is berthed, they cheerfully discussed preparations for the adventure of their lives.
Sam, 38, a surveyor and weekend sailor for the last 18 years, has long dreamed of an extended getaway. Amy, his 30-year-old wife of two years and a phlebotomist with the American Red Cross, grew up motorboating and fishing on the Chesapeake Bay and found Sam's dream just too intriguing to shrug off.
Q: Tell me about this dream.
Sam: It started when I was 18 and read about Robin Lee Graham, a boy sailor who went around the world. I've dreamed of doing that but jobs always got in the way. Amy and I were just coming back from a Florida vacation 2 1/2 years ago and we hatched the 30-month plan: Sell everything in the world, save our money, be able to pay off a nice big boat and have enough money to cruise a couple of years.
Q: Sounds like a leave of absence from life.
Sam: Yes, we're taking a midlife break. I'm taking my profit-sharing, my retirement plan, my pension fund and cashing it in. The general plan is to go down the Intracoastal Waterway and then to the Bahamas. We're gonna have to go back to work, but we have enough money to keep the dream going for three years.
Q: Is this the smart thing to do? Leaving your job in a recession and going off on a dreamy little trip?
Sam: It's not a dreamy little trip. It's a major life steppingstone to head off into something else. We're going for something, not running away from something.
Amy: You could go around and around saying, "Well, if we wait another year we'll have more money." That's what people do their whole lives. They say one more year.
Sam: This is something we want to do, we can do, we can afford to do, and we dreamed of doing. So why not do it?
Q: You have no kids?
Sam: Just two psychotic cats.
Q. Do they know about this trip? Sam: Uh, we're keeping it till the last minute as a surprise.
Q: What do your friends and family think?
Sam: A guy this weekend said, "Man, you've got a lot of guts."
Amy: My parents said, "Do it." I thought they'd think "oh God," but they're all for it. We're doing what they would like to have done. I think everyone dreams a little of giving it up and going off, whether sailing or whatever.
Sam: The thing is, a lot of people could, too. But a lot of people wait till everything is in order. A lot of people today have equity in their homes, they have pension plans, things they could cash in and go and do it. But they're not that secure.
Amy: One thing hits home. I have a girlfriend whose father climbed the corporate ladder. He retired at 65 and died of cancer six months later.
Sam: If you wait until you retire to do this, you might not make it.
Q: Would you describe yourselves as burned out
Sam: Ready for a change. I've been getting up in the morning at 5:15 every day for 11 years and I'm ready to do something different.
Q: Are you both pretty adept at sailing?
Amy: I don't know how to sail at all.
Q: Ah, I see. I think I see. No, wait. I don't see.
Amy: Sam has hooked me on doing this. I first went sailing when I met him four years ago. I feel very confident with him. I've been boating and fishing on the bay since I was 5.
Sam: Amy's a great first mate. She's sailed all over the bay under all conditions.
Q: What about 800-foot waves?
Sam: Those are for guys like you that saw the movie "Jaws" and don't want to get in the water. They don't exist like that. Besides, we're gonna go coastal cruising in the islands. We'll be harbor-to-harbor rats. We can take our time and choose our weather. And if it's a bad day, you find a good place where you can anchor near a good bar.
Q: What about your friends? Will you miss them?
Amy: My best friend is Sam. And the subculture of people around boats is fantastic. You get the millionaires, the hippies, the normal guys, the eccentrics. They're all there. When you live on a boat, it's all different. You never know what boat's gonna be tied up next to you. It could be from anywhere in the world.
Q: What do you think you get on a trip that you can't get living in a marina?
Sam: It's the spirit of adventure, the takeoff to new frontiers. You kind of test yourself.
Amy: I've lived here all my life. I want to see something different.
Q. What keeps most people from doing something like this?
Amy: The security.
Sam: Health benefits, the job, a steady paycheck. But think about it. There is no security about not getting in a car wreck or dying of cancer. People think of reasons they can't do something. Why not think of reasons you can?
Q:. You're 38. What kept you from doing it until now?
Amy: He hadn't met me.
Sam: The thing is, time slips by. You get into a job and a mortgage and payments and time slips by so very fast. What was a reality check for me was some friends who died. I went to their funeral and decided I was gonna take a midlife break. I don't want to wait till someday when I'm 65 and say let's go sailing. Man, there are no guarantees you're gonna get to 65. I can do it now. We're going out with bells on our toes, man. We're heading out the door, man. We're going.