While reading an obscure book about retiring early to a life at sea — Voyaging on a Small Income by Annie Hill (1993) — I discovered a short story from a man named Joseph Weston-Martyr.
First published in 1932, The £200 Millionaire reads like “Mr. Money Mustache at Sea”. It's fascinating. Because today I start a ten-day Mediterranean cruise, I thought it'd be fun to share this story at Get Rich Slowly.
This is a long story. It contains 8001 words, which is 32 printed pages. I've formatted it for web-based reading (I don't think you want to read a 500-word paragraph on your phone!), plus added images and hyperlinks. Please enjoy it as weekend reading!
Some images are obviously meant to illustrate the text. Others are from Michelle at Making Sense of Cents, who graciously agreed to let me use her photos here. She's been living on a sailboat since May 2018.
The £200 Millionaire
My wife and I were sailing a hireling yacht through the waterways of Zeeland last summer, when one day a westerly gale drove us into the harbour of Dintelsas for shelter.
It was blowing hard, and the little yacht ran down the harbour at speed, but when abreast of us she luffed head to wind, her violently flapping sails were lowered with a run, and she brought up alongside us so gently that she would not have crushed an egg.
We took her lines and made them fast, while her owner hung cork fenders over the side and proceeded to stow his sails. Urged by a look from my wife which said, “He is old and all alone. Help him,” I offered to lend the lone mariner a hand. But he refused to be helped.
Said he, “Thank you, but please don't trouble. I like to do everything myself; it's part of the fun. But do come aboard if you will, and look round. You'll see there's nothing here that one man can't tackle easily.”
We went aboard and found the green sloop to be one of the cleverest little ships imaginable.
Aboard the Green Sloop
It is difficult to describe her gear on deck and aloft without being technical; suffice it to say, therefore, that everything was very efficient and simple, and so designed that all sail could be set or lowered by the man at the helm without leaving the cockpit.
The boat was 30 feet long by 9 feet wide, and my short wife, at any rate, could stand upright in her cabin.
Her fore end was a storeroom, full of convenient lockers, shelves and a small but adequate water-closet. Abaft this came the cabin, an apartment 12 feet long, with a broad bunk along one side of it and a comfortable settee along the other. A table with hinged flaps stood in the middle, while in the four corners were a wardrobe, a desk, a pantry and a galley.
Abaft all this was a motor, hidden beneath the cockpit floor. A clock ticked on one bulkhead, a rack full of books ran along the other, a tray of pipes lay on the table, and a copper kettle sang softly to itself on the little stove.
“What do you think of her?” said our host, descending the companion.
“Before you tell me, though, I must warn you I'm very house-proud. I've owned this boat for ten years, and I've been doing little things to her all the time. Improving her, I call it. It's great fun.
“For instance, I made this matchbox-holder for the galley last week. It sounds a trivial thing; but I wish I'd thought of it ten years ago, because during all that time I've had to use both hands whenever I struck a match.
“Now I have only to use one hand, and you know all that implies in a small boat, especially if she's dancing about and you're trying to hold on and cook and light the Primus at one and the same moment. Then there was the fun of carving the holder out of a bit of wood I picked up, to say nothing of the pleasure it gives me to look at a useful thing I've made with my own hands. The carving brought out the grain of the wood nicely, don't you think?
“Now I'm going to make tea, and you must stay and have some with me.”