Boat Drinks


Last updated 9/5/2023 at 10:27am

Our first winter in Sisters in 1993-94 was rough.

My wife, Marilyn, and I were newly married and broke. We had plowed all of our sparse funds into moving to Sisters so that Marilyn could take a job working with Phil Arends at Desert Wings Travel. I didn’t have a gig.

We moved into a double-wide trailer across East Cascade Avenue from Sisters Elementary School. Through Christmas, it was all new and beautiful and magical. By February, we were thinking maybe we’d made a big mistake. I was piecing together a variety of odd jobs and had started freelancing at The Nugget — but money was real tight. And… it was February. It was cold and dank, and overcast all the time, the kind of weather that gets into your head. It seemed like we’d never see sunshine again.

Looking back, what got us through was music. Specifically, Jimmy Buffett. My work buddy Leith Easterling would come over to the trailer and we’d all sing “Boat Drinks.”

I gotta go where it’s warm

It may be no exaggeration to say that the only thing that kept me from shooting six holes in my freezer was singing about it…

This morning

I shot six holes in my freezer

I think I got cabin fever

Somebody sound the alarm

Things turned around. Marilyn’s job got going well, and I started working part time at Paulina Springs Books and churning out multiple articles every week for The Nugget. Pretty soon I was at the paper full-time. We tossed out our anchor, and here we are — in no small part thanks to Jimmy Buffett.

That kind of story isn’t uncommon. Jimmy Buffett’s music helped people make an emergency escape to some island in the Caribbean, or to that one particular harbor, for the past 50 years.

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Buffett made himself into a lifestyle brand, and it earned him a reported net worth of $1 billion. But the foundation was the songs. The penchant for novelty tunes and the Parrothead phenomenon can sometimes obscure the fact that Buffett wrote some really fine ones: “A Pirate Looks at 40”; “Trying to Reason With Hurricane Season”; “Tin Cup Chalice”; “He Went to Paris” — those songs stand up in any company.

The sun-and-fun image aside, there’s a certain wistful melancholy to Buffett’s best work, a recognition that the good things in life are fleeting and that life must be grasped while we’ve got it — not with frenetic energy, but with … I guess you might call it mindfulness. Be here in the small moments, because someday those moments will run out.

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Alone on a midnight passage

I can count the falling stars

While the Southern Cross and the satellites

They remind me of where we are

Spinning around in circles

Living it day to day

And still 24 hours, maybe 60 good years

It’s really not that long a stay

Jimmy Buffett’s stay on this plane ended September 1 at the age of 76. The news of his passing hit a lot of folks hard, because his music and that approach to living was so deeply interwoven into their own lives. I’ll admit that Marilyn and I both shed a tear in the kitchen, and I know we’re not alone. But I’m not sad, not really. Because we know that if we’re living right, we can look back like the old man who lives in the islands and fishes the pylons, drinking that green-label each day. If we’re lucky we can smile and say…

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Some of it’s magic, some of it’s tragic

But I had a good life all the way.

Author Bio

Jim Cornelius, Editor in Chief

Author photo

Jim Cornelius is editor in chief of The Nugget and author of “Warriors of the Wildlands: True Tales of the Frontier Partisans.” A history buff, he explores frontier history across three centuries and several continents on his podcast, The Frontier Partisans. For more information visit


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