How far out can you get? With a sailboat and plenty of time, the planet is yours.

Some of the greatest personalities in history have taken to the sea. Jack London sailed throughout the Pacific on his yacht, the Snark, and General George Patton, between the two world wars, of course with not much to do, bought a boat, taught himself to sail and took his family to Hawaii aboard his boat, named When and If. Many sailors make the journey, like the clip featured below.

Indeed, sailing is a grand and romantic thing, but it’s also brutal and cold and exciting and precise and jaunty and relatively inexpensive. I recommend anyone who has the means to get into this fine outdoor activity.

Not everyone can manage a Joshua Slocum style voyage, making 30-day passages to exotic islands and spinning the yarns that come from such adventures, but just about anyone can get their hands on a used sailboat and learn the arts of the sailor.

Generally, a trailer sailor is a good boat to start with. These are boats between 17 and 23 feet, which can be launched from a trailer, of course. And to learn on one of these is not as difficult as it may seem. In virtually every city, including Phoenix, Ariz., a brave new sailor can find water and a place to learn.

Some of the best elements of sailing as an outdoor activity can be found in the simplicity of it. When you’re underway, making maybe seven knots in a stiff breeze, the boat held tight by the water, leaning hard against the wind, rising and crashing as she plows forward, there’s a sense of being strapped into the planet that is unrivalled. Of course, also, there are many things to watch out for: What if that shroud breaks? Will an accidental jibe send me over? Will the boat tip too far and be swamped? These are the parts of sailing that make it a sport: That things can go wrong very quickly. This, to me, is the essence: Sublime and silent travel on wind and water, and a very real possibility of getting into serious trouble. What could be better? And of course, the adventure gets folded into a journey. On the other end of the voyage lies a new port worth exploring, or a hidden cove waiting for discovery. It’s the stuff of legend, really. And any sailor will tell you that Jimmy Buffet’s “Cheese Burger in Paradise” is not at all about the cheese burger. It’s very much about the trip itself.

An intrepid new sailor can get into a seaworthy boat for just a couple thousand dollars. If you like to work on boats (which as a sailor, you should), then you can find one for a smaller investment.

Photo credit: Bento Potosi