Wednesday, January 5, 2011


On the road, Philadelphia, PA
High of 40*, Low of 30*

For the past few years one of my favorite reads has been the blogsite of Bill Dietrich, skipper of the sailing vessel Magnolia.  At the age of 41, Bill decided to retire from his job as a computer programmer in California.  He moved to Florida, bought a boat and went cruising.  That was 9 years ago.  He has sailed the Gulf, from Key West to Texas; the Atlantic to the Bahamas and Bermuda; and the Caribbean from Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, the BVIs and as far south as Guadeloupe and St. Martin.  Each year he leaves his ship for a few weeks and flies home to the NJ/PA area to visit his mother and brother.  I have corresponded with him via email a few times, shared what a big fan of his writings I am and lived vicariously through his travels.  Today we had lunch together, in person.

He turned out to be just the guy I envisioned he would be, albeit taller than I thought.  A really nice guy, whom although lives a nomadic life in frequent solitude, is really a people person.  He loves to hear where others have lived and travelled, what got them to where they are today and where they want to go from here.  He finds people a very interesting study.  He loves to read, as do I.  He's a big fan of National Public Radio but can spend weeks at a time without hearing another speak English.  Even though he lives his life as an expatriate, he still votes and pays his taxes.  He lives alone on a 1973 Gulfstar motor sailor.  It's 44' boat but he says he could be just as well comfortable on a 35' catamaran.

We talked of the places he has been, where he'd still like to go and much about the people he's met.  It's one thing to read it on the blog but quite another to hear it from the skipper himself.  His biggest advise to wanna be cruisers...keep reading.  Read everything about boating, sailing, cruising, mechanical systems, medicine and health, finances and fix its.  He has turned the guest shower on the boat into a library of his books.  One of his favorite things to do in far away ports of call is to find and use the book exchanges.

He lives aboard, anchors down in the harbor and doesn't pay marina fees.  He eats and drinks aboard, most of the time and does his own maintenance and repairs whenever he can.  For the last few years, he's survived spending less than $5,000 a year.  After 9 years he has determined he could just as well live out the rest of his days on the boat, as long as he can take a few weeks vacation to sleep in a real bed and enjoy some creature comforts of "home."

I can only imagine the tens of thousands of readers on his blog, which has topped a quarter million hits.  I'm sure less than one percent of those readers will ever get a chance to meet the man in person.  Yes, this was  a pretty big deal for me.  For me, it was lunch with a legend.

Bill Dietrich's blog can be found at
and he is also on Facebook
Bill meets Bill

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