Happy Holidays

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A voyager’s Christmas tree. We bought all ornaments during our travels and most are handmade by local craftspeople.

Phyllis and I wish everyone the very best for this holiday season. Here’s hoping the world will be back to some semblance of normal by this time next year. Or maybe a better new normal. Read on for more on that.

We are thinking and talking a lot about those who have not been as fortunate as we have been through this pandemic. Those who have lost their livelihood, many with no idea if they will ever get it back, those without enough to eat or a decent home to live in, and most of all, those who have lost loved ones to Covid.

The big things Phyllis and I were reminded of this year, and have committed to focus on this coming year, are:

  • Paying our taxes without evasion, or even aggressive avoidance or complaint.
  • Supporting politicians committed to narrowing the currently ever-widening gap between rich and poor and slowing climate change, the two most pressing problems of our age.
  • Giving to those less financially fortunate than us.

By the way, some may be surprised by my first item on the above list. And, yes, it’s strange coming from a Bermudian who paid no income taxes until his 58th year. That said, here are a couple of links to things that influenced me:

Off Topic, I Know, But…

Some will feel that airing such views at Christmas is inappropriate and/or that I’m wrong to use my privileged position—having an audience, no matter how small, is a privilege—to air off-topic personal opinions.

I get that, but I also think that there are times where those valid concerns are transcended, and this is one of them. The world is at a crossroads where we can either let the Covid disaster and its aftermath further exacerbate wealth inequality and climate change, or we can speak up and make lasting change together.

I also need to make clear that I’m not trying to tell you what to do or think, but rather just sharing what Phyllis and I are thinking and talking about this holiday season, just as we do with friends over the dinner table…or on zoom this year.


In case you are wondering what set me off, it was receiving a charity appeal letter from a prominent international yacht club soliciting tax free contributions to a foundation set up to fund a major ocean race.

Although I firmly believe that attempting to source tax free dollars to support a predominantly rich, predominately men’s, sport, at a time when so many need those tax dollars and/or charitable donations for necessities of life, like food and shelter, is evil, I know that the people behind the appeal are not evil. They just didn’t think of the implications. I have done as bad or worse.

So perhaps if we all write and talk about these issues more, we will make less mistakes of that kind, particularly if we come at it as a process of shared exploration, rather than winning or losing arguments.

One more detail. If you are a member and feel angry because you are paying to read my personal off-topic views, don’t be. This free post is in addition to the content you pay for, not a replacement.


Anyway, feel free to express different ideas, but let’s be kind to each other, regardless of our conflicting views. Maybe that’s what the world needs now more than anything else, and the cool thing is that the comments here at AAC have generally been kind, thank you all. Let’s keep it up, and even improve, going forward.

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Michael Lambert

I heartily agree on the taxes. As a boatbuilder then arborist who married into a very wealthy family, I’ve seen firsthand how much less the wealthy pay. It’s sick. And happy various solstice celebrations!

Dick Stevenson

Hi John,
And our very best wishes to you and Phyllis in this holiday season and here is hoping for all to have a great start to the New Year.
Agree completely about taxes: perhaps the energy that goes into complaining and/or dodging them could be spent appreciating all they do and helping the good that is done unfold more efficiently.
For US people, a great appreciation of the various gov’t departments can be had with Michael Lewis’ book “The Fifth Risk”.
Our best, Dick & Ginger

Bill Hoyne

Hi John and Phyllis!! Best wishes for for the holidays and the new year!! After a rather slow start to the winter you will be happy to hear Canmore and surrounding area just got a nice dump of snow (50+ cm’s). X-C Skiing for the rest of the winter should be amazing! Come and enjoy!
All the best,

Colin Palmer

John & Phyllis, thank you for saying what you did. In these times of rising populism it is ever more important that we stand up for views like yours. In my business world of renewable energy I see a lot of hope for the future. Couple that with the environmental awareness of my grand children and I think things will get better in 2021. With very best wishes and thanks for all your provide through this site. Colin

Scott Grometer

First, I want to wish you and Phyllis the happiest of holidays. Discovering this site has been one of the best things that happened to me this year, and I have to say that it is one of the absolute best values anywhere. Thank you for all the work you have – and continue to – put into this. It has already saved me countless dollars and probable mistakes, and I have only just scratched the surface!

I totally concur with your sentiment on taxes and the dual issues of wealth distribution and climate. Thank you for having the courage to say it here.

With Gratitude,
Scott Grometer

Stein Varjord

Hi John,
As I see it, you’re basically saying that it’s nice to help people that need help, and that contributing to society is an effective way to do that. Simple and obvious truths. Disagreeing is no proof of an evil mind. I don’t really believe that exists. Someone seeming to fit the description must surely be the victim of misinformation.

We’re living in an ocean of noisy misinformation, designed to change our behaviour towards serving some person’s or entity’s selfish interest. General media, and even more social media, contain almost only twisted information. Traps laid out to lead us in directions serving some often hidden interest.

To navigate this ocean of twisted information, we have to use the simple obvious truths as a compass. I believe those simple truths are not very different between us humans. In this Christmas time, compassion is a core message. I’m not religious, but I still embrace that essential idea.

I see plenty of massive problems in the near and far future, without solutions I believe in. Still, I’m an incurable optimist. I really think the simple basic truths will gradually work their magic. We humans do frequently make the wrong conclusions, or even behave like absolute morons, myself included, but that tends to dawn on us, so that we can try to improve.

The words “try” and “improve” are beautiful. They contain the space to not be perfect. We just have to make some level of effort with the intention to make things gradually better. Aim for smarter and nicer. It’s so simple and easy. Improving is hope. Hope is optimistic and happy. I’m really looking forward to the future!
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Lee Corwin

Hate unnecessary, wasteful but necessary activities. Think about the skills, training, education and money spend totally unproductively on accountants, tax lawyers, estate lawyers, financial planners and others whose careers are based on tax avoidance.
Initially taxes were raised to fund government. Now they are used to change behavior. Sin taxes and tax incentives has given rise to another secondary industry of questionable contribution to the public good-lobbyists.

Graham Burrell

Wonderfully said John, I totally support all the sentiments you have expressed here. Merry Christmas. Graham

Reed Erskine

Taxes of one sort or another have been around ever since mankind refined its social instincts into collective activities for mutual benefit. When I was a kid after World War II, people still considered paying taxes a patriotic duty. I still do, but affluence seems to make people selfish. They become blind to the cost of shared benefits, assuming that roads, bridges, national parks, schools, etc. are simply there for their use. It’s depressing to hear American politicians yammering on about the evils of “socialism”, when Socialism is already such an important part of American life in the form of Social Security and Unemployment insurance, not to mention public education. I’ve always admired the good sense of Europeans who rarely complain of their high taxes, but appreciate the quality of life that universal health care, generous public amenities, subsidized universities, etc. provide for everyone. It’s expensive, and the refugee/immigration crisis is challenging its viability, but American is being torn apart by a crisis of inequality, which could be cured by the intelligent distribution of wealth, which would require more good will and common sense than is currently available.

Ralph Rogers

Thanks for having the guts to stand up and say something positive and meaningful while using your “privilege” John. Now some of my privilege, Merry Christmas and happy New Year to all of you!

Ernest E Vogelsinger

Hi Phyllis, hi John,

best wishes for a peaceful and troublefree christmas to you across the pond, looking forward to continuing learning and becoming better with help of all you and the community write and talk about at AAC. Biggest wish for the coming year, may it come through for all of us, is staying safe and staying healthy.

The next year will be a special year for me as I found “my” boat in November (actually in Sept but finalized in Nov), and a lot of thoughts and ideas originating in AAC (at least for me) will help to make it better as it already is.
Curious? Steel Van de Stadt 36 Seal, it is, and actually no rust, really none. Now I only need to be able to get there…

Happy Christmas and a wonderful New Year!

Scott Grometer

Congratulations, Ernest! Wishing you some wonderful voyages worthy of that boat!

Philip Wilkie

Agree with the sentiments entirely John. Too often we’ve lost the balance of the middle path, the idea that our personal freedoms can only exist in the context of a healthy, functioning society. That both the individual and the society they live in are mutually interdependent on each other.

Otherwise thanks for all the work this year, MC remains my go-to sanity check for all thing nautical. Enjoy the break and best wishes for the New Year.


Iain Dell

On a lighter note, I recall when serving at Faslane submarine base in Scotland that the Commodore was asked by a Glasgow newspaper what he wanted at Christmas. Despite the nature of his job, Eric Thompson was known and loved by his crews as a most humane, witty character yet with a very strong moral compass. Given that organisations like newspapers often did send presents at Christmas as a form of PR, Eric just answered, with his typical quiet modesty, that he’d like a box of chocolates.

The next morning’s headlines were stark. ‘The Pope asks for peace on Earth, millions pray for an end to hunger, while the commander of the biggest nuclear arsenal outside the US able to obliterate the entire world in minutes, just wants a box of chocolates’.

Merry Christmas to you and yours!


Alastair Currie

Best wishes to all in 2021 and may the wind be at your back and the sun on your face.

I am less sure about the legitimacy of paying taxes as I believe the political classes in the world are struggling with relevancy, conditioning, bias and self serving agendas; I simply don’t trust them to spend the money I have earned wisely. I have always voted and will continue to do so, even when the choices are difficult for me, after all compromise is essential for a society to work. I also pay my taxes and agree that they should be paid. However, I witness massive inequality and wasteful spending of tax receipts on subsidy, war mongering and cronyism. I live near a housing scheme that is the most deprived in Europe, unemployment was very high when I was child and it is still very high, some 50 years later, with drug addiction and health issues that poverty brings; politicians have come and gone, 7 governments have passed since I was allowed to vote (11 since I was born), yet nothing has changed for these people. That is repeated all over the UK. Government spend has been focused on one region to the disadvantage of others for decades, despite formula to delivery equity to the regions. I see similar in Europe and the USA. I have witnessed the quality of politicians decreasing as the older and more principled politicians have retired or departed to be replaced with fickle, shallow, sound bite speaking, unprincipled people who will adopt whatever single issue is popular as advised by their focus team. I believe that there is an elite, who have very powerful tools and methods at their disposal which influences the political classes to deliver what is best for them, not in a mad conspirator way, but simply because they can. I have noticed changes for the best, the young are far more aware of bias, inclusiveness, inequality, waste and the environment than I was at that stage of life. They are actively trying to influence environmental change and challenge the wastefulness that consumerism has delivered. They appear to be more determined and critical of their elders but through education and knowledge rather than conflict. I therefore have hope, but it is tempered as there are very real threats facing all our societies that could quickly deliver a fatal blow through war or ecological catastrophe. Our coats are hanging on a slack nail, which is why John, your points are very relevant, especially to the established generations.

Philip Wilkie

Big government is by it’s nature an unwieldy, unattractive beast (but I temper this with the thought that the only thing much worse than clumsy government, is weak or even no government). Smaller nations have had an inherent advantage in this respect; small isolated nations even more so. And as a kiwi (we use a variation of the German MMP system) I can only agree with your second para wholeheartedly.

Another weakness is that nations with highly fragmented, commercialised health systems struggled to build coherent co-operative responses despite having any amount of individual expertise available to them. The USA being the stand out example of this.

In a few years time I think we will look back on all of these events with a lot more clarity. And the complex mix of scientific, political and cultural missteps that have led to COVID so disproportionately impacting North America and Europe will come under a lot of scrutiny.

Marc Dacey

All the best to you and Phyllis for your good and helpful work with this site. Hope to see you in the yard sometime given our accidental proximity, and have a happy New Year.

P D Squire

I don’t think the taxes of A40 aspirants will do much to close the wealth gap. I agree we should pay them, but to have any impact its the superyacht aspirants who need to change.

Jim Schulz

Thanks for sharing your thoughts and these links John, and for all the work you and Phyllis do to keep up this site. We’re all in this together, and more importantly our children and grandchildren are all affected by the choices we make each day.

Best to all during this time of the solstice. Here’s to putting the dark days of 2020 behind us!

Brian Johnson

Phyllis and John for President !! I say this even though I disagree about reffing at the mast !!! Thanks you two for sharing the above thoughts and all the goodness you bring to our little online community.


PS Also thanks to those who take the time to add value to each post with their thoughtful comments. This is why I say community.

Matt Marsh

Taxes are the price of civilization. We may not enjoy paying them, but – at least where I live – we get a lot of value out of them. Certainly a lot more than we could hope to get by spending that same money privately, or hoarding it to ourselves.

This is probably not the place for a long treatise on monetary theory, but I do understand there’s now a pretty compelling case that – in the economic systems of most of the industrialized countries – national government spending, deficits, and taxes are all vital pieces in the carefully managed balance that ensures the stability of our currency and the health of our economy, and careless cuts to any of them cause deeper pains to spread throughout the economy. Spending is a brake on unemployment; taxation is a brake on inflation and is a powerful tool to force abstract externalities and adverse consequences to be priced into market decisions; and – at least assuming a moderately well run government, and assuming inflation stays reasonable – a federal deficit just means the government created more real economic activity than it consumed.

Many of my younger friends are certainly convinced that inadequate taxation of property, static wealth, laundered money, and non-salary / non-wage forms of income, weighed against higher taxation of hourly wages and necessities like everyday goods and utilities, is the underlying reason why their grandparents could pay off a house in 10 years with 1 salary while they are facing 35 years with 2 salaries to do the same.

Taxes aside, our family are doing quite well in this oddly isolated season. Two happy kids have been bouncing around the house and sliding down the hills, then helping with sail maintenance and wiring panel assembly, before curling up exhausted in front of the woodstove. It’s been about the best Christmas one could hope for in a COVID-shutdown world.

Neil McCubbin

There is a lot of good sense in this series of non-sailing comments.
The challenge is how to make a lot more people think that way, particularly in the US. We can all try in our circle of friends and acquaintances.
Happy New Year to all. (From Canmore. I see I am the second commenter from this tiny town. Pity Covid prevents us getting together)

Steven Hodder

I was considering not renewing my subscription this year because I’ve quit my job(covid related, no regrets),we’re scaling back a bit, farming more, not sailing as much and thinking about selling our beloved Alberg 30, Rumba. Didn’t get back to Nova Scotia last year and probably won’t this year and I’m missing family and friends there. Guess I’m stuck sailing the Gulf Island for another winter. Hope you and Phyllis have a great 2021. I know there will be great content forthcoming, but I’m renewing based on this article alone!

Marc Dacey

Well, we mostly agree about sailing, even when there’s a largely respectful debate, which is healthy and often a great opportunity to learn for your members.

And it is hard to challenge that the vast majority of people who can sail recreationally and certainly those who ocean cruise, must be considered very likely to have seen some decent earnings in their lives to get to that point. So questions of “where does the money go” in our society is being addressed to those persons who already enjoy more than the usual amount of privilege, irrespective of how they came by it. Therefore these discussions about savings and taxes are not unwelcome to me and I like to hear contending opinions, while always remaining conscious that most of those opinions are held by those already enjoying, or planning to achieve, the sort of lives of travel and adventure very few get to experience.

Personally, I was inspired quite a bit by the late Diane Stuemer, the author of the linked book, and whom I met giving a presentation at our YC just a few weeks before her death from melanoma. Stuemer made a point of giving away to the people she meand her family met in their sail travels simple items of clothing, office supplies for school and reading glasses for the older folks, items of “dollar store” expense to most of us, but which were often unobtainable in distant, poor destinations. Most of us prepare to issue bribes of tobacco or cash in many places as the “cost of doing business”, but fewer are prepared to “do humanity”, in my experience, an attitude that seems unworthy of those so otherwise fortunate. https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/1445826.The_Voyage_of_the_Northern_Magic