Dawn on the morning of my 40th birthday, singlehanding 300 miles offshore, I had just wrapped up an ambitious, five-year work stint that provided for the sailboat of my dreams plus a kitty to take her cruising. Now Sparrow and I were beginning a six-year voyage that would eventually carry us 30,000 nautical miles and halfway around the world. I stepped into the cockpit, inhaled a deep draught of pure ocean air, and thought, “This is what they mean by ‘life begins at 40!’”
Just then I lifted my eyes and there, arced across our course line not a mile ahead, was a magnificent rainbow, dense and rich, splashing every nuance of the spectrum across the mottled sky. It hung there, neither moving nor dissipating as we drew closer. To port where one end plunged into the sea (the other was lost in cloud), I was astonished to see the water, churned and frothed by wind and waves, glowing and pulsing a great, radiant corona of pure gold. I had one hundred thousand miles under my keel by then and never saw anything like it. Gold! I’d always assumed it was a metaphor, but now I understood. Sailors of old had seen the same thing, and from their literal description came the fanciful promise: There’s a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.
That rainbow held even as I sailed beneath it, arching right over the masthead, a heavenly gateway to whatever lay ahead. “Happy birthday, skipper,” it seemed to say. “Here’s to your new life, your true pot o’ gold.”