Earlier this summer, we enjoyed a visit from dear friends who came to Maine by boat. They aren’t ordinary friends, as we’ve known them for over 40 years, sharing life’s peaks and valleys, hopes and dreams. And they arrived in no ordinary vessel. It was a 42-foot Kadey-Krogen, a recreational trawler designed to go long distances at a modest speed in good comfort. Imagine an RV cruising slowly across the water.  

I first met Al Halverstadt in 1977 when he was serving as the rector at a small Episcopal Church in Maryland. He came late to the ministry, having decided that a Campbell Soup marketing career held no appeal.  At 6-foot-3, Al cut an imposing figure at the pulpit. But his sermons, not his height, set him apart. In one sermon, he talked about finding himself while riding across the west on a motorcycle. In another, he dressed up as a clown to make a point. At one annual meeting, every parishioner was asked to take the Myers-Brigg personality test, and then break into groups by personality type. In the early ‘80s, as the AID crisis loomed, Al stood tall for gay rights, much to the consternation of some parishioners and church higher-ups. 

Generous to a fault, Al sometimes let parishioners give the weekly sermon. I was so honored twice. Another parishioner who chose to share her thoughts was Susan Weeks, who openly talked about her spiritual journey.  

In the mid-’80s, Al and Susan got divorced from their respective partners.  Tina and I got divorced about the same time, so the four of us became, in effect, life transition soulmates. 

Al moved to Denver with Susan where he lead a very progressive church in the city. Susan began tapping her immense personal skills with leading groups and reaching consensus by serving as an organizational consultant. 

We have enjoyed many fine connections over the years. We attended their wedding in Baltimore in 1988. Al officiated at our wedding in the Bowdoin Chapel in 1989. They’ve come to Maine, and we’ve visited them in Denver. We’ve travelled with them in Europe, and connected with them in Florida for the past few years when they’ve docked in Sarasota.. On one trip to Greece in 2002, Al and I almost drowned trying — stupidly, in retrospect — to untangle an anchor which had gotten snared by a giant grappling hook on the bottom during a storm. (A French boat with the right equipment came to the rescue, noting that “Today everyone is an American,” shades of the good feelings aroused by 9/11.) I wrote about the cross-country cycling trip that Al took at age 74 for the Kenyon College alumni magazine.  

Whenever we get together, it’s as if we were never apart. Our conversations run the gamut, from kids and grandkids to books and politics to whatever. We never hold back because if you can’t be open with good friends like Susan and Al, you’re missing out on one of life’s greatest offerings. 

Al retired in 2000, but he soon felt adrift, unsatisfied, bored. After going out with a friend on a sailboat, he decided that the idea of adventuring on the water held great promise. He knew nothing about boating, so he went to Florida to take a seamanship course and ultimately got his captain’s license.  

Meanwhile, he and Susan conducted extensive research to decide the “right” boat. That proved to be a Kadey-Krogen, because it was stable and safe and could be handled by a husband and wife. They bought their boat in 2004 and have been cruising for 4-7 months every year since, with the exception of 2018 when Hurricane Florence hit the Carolinas, where they put up their boat in the fall.  

During their yearly cruising exhibitions, Al and Susan have experienced many highs, such as taking in glorious sunsets and watching dolphins ride beside the boat. They’ve also faced some perilous moments, par for the course for anyone who spends extended time on the water. 

Still going strong at age 84 (yes, 84 – that’s not a typo), Al has no thought of giving up their annual self-planned cruises on the water, and Susan remains up for the adventure, always eager to learn new things. He loves tinkering around on the boat and keeping it ship-shape.  Susan is skilled at navigating, provisioning, planning stops and doing all things required of a first mate. They both enjoy meeting other “boat people,” never a problem as Al is prone to chat up anyone about anything at any time. 

“Life is about becoming, and we’ve had the ability to reinvent ourselves and stay engaged,” Al explains. “When you travel along under the stars or see dolphins frolicking alongside the boat, you realize that you’re a part of the world, not just observers. 

“Being on the boat helps you live in the moment,” says Susan. “Life slows down, and you can just be.” 

Tina and I treasure the moments when we can “just be” with Susan and Al. 

David Treadwell, a Brunswick writer, welcomes commentary and suggestions for future “Just a Little Old” columns. [email protected]. 

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