Lately I have had to face the fact that not everybody thinks that what we are doing — selling everything, moving on to a boat with 2 small children, and eschewing the comforts of modern civilization in favor of a simpler, crunchier life — is as plain-as-rain normal as I think it is.
I first started thinking about cruising as a lifestyle when I was in my mid-teens. By 19 (when I met my future wife, Victoria) it had gelled into a Life’s Dream. I’m quite sure it was a formative topic of conversation because, although Victoria didn’t come into the relationship with a passion for cruising, she has since developed one that rivals my own.
We bought our first boat together on my 25th birthday and sold it the week our daughter was born. That boat provided us with 4 years of wonderful memories, and was where Victoria became enchanted with the idea of cruising. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the right boat for blue water sailing. Selling that boat was sad and hard and it motivated us to get serious about our dream.
So it was that in late 2004 we began to pay off our debt in earnest. Like anything we’ve been passionate about, we really committed ourselves to this goal. It hurt. We went through cycles of lean living only to binge when we felt the strain of our efforts. Slowly we adapted and learned to ration. We gave ourselves each a very small allowance but that was usually enough to keep us from binging. We taught ourselves to buy only what we had earned. Finally in 2007 we were free of all debt. And with that, we set about saving.
Initially we intended to save $140,000. That, we hoped, would be enough to buy a boat, outfit it, and sail for 2 years without working. We expected that would take another 5 years. We intended to leave California for warmer waters in October 2012. That was a great idea and $140k probably would have been close to enough.
Unfortunately the itch got us before we had met our goal and we spent all of our savings on closing costs, shipping, and initial outfitting. In April of 2010 we had a dreamy boat, 2 years worth of projects, and (once again) debt. We also had a plan.
The plan was to pay off the boat while living on it, and then save our kitty with the remaining months. On paper it looked great. Paper lies. Not only did the project list take on its own personality, but it turns out that living on a boat (in the San Francisco Bay Area) while acting like a normal person is quite time consuming and expensive.
The New Plan
We had been living aboard for a few months when we met the crew of s/vBritannia. Krister and Amanda, in the course of a few margarita enhanced evenings, convinced us to leave for Mexico with them (2 months later) and buddy boat through the South Pacific with them in 2011.
At the time it seemed like the most sane course of action. So we got out the lying paper again and started working backwards from the new launch date. No matter how I tried, the facts could not be manipulated to make the new date workable. There were too many details (passports, immunizations, mail forwarding, boat projects) to do and too few days. We relented to the facts but the mental exercise gave us a new appreciation for what was possible.
The New New Plan
… is to leave in October of 2011. This is a year earlier than our pre-Britannia plan, but still in the realm of possibility. Well, it’s in the realm of possibility if we abandon hope of a secure retirement. In order to equip the boat and prepare to sail, we have made the (some will claim foolhardy) decision to liquidate some of our retirement. In lieu of a explanation for this decision I will submit that parents who are coming from the place that we are coming from will just get it, and everyone else will know that we have lost our collective marbles. If you are one of the folks that get it I beg you to follow your instinct.
So, with marbles scattered to the wind, we approach our deadline. At the writing of this post we have 16 weeks until departure. We will leave in October and it will be the best possible choice for our family. I’ve never been so sure of a decision. But still there are the fears, doubts, and uncertainty.
For example: there is the razor sharp certainty that we will be living on a diminishing kitty for the next 12-18 months (until we reach New Zealand or Australia). Will it last? There is the omnipresent possibility that our tiny home and everything that we own might be destroyed by a force of nature. And there is the nagging doubt that comes with walking away from a career and an organization that I have worked with for 10 years. I will almost certainly work harder for everything that I earn from here on out.
So while I do recognize that many of our friends and colleagues view the 10 years that we have spent dreaming, paying off debt, saving, pouring over lying paper, and working on boat projects as perhaps insanely tedious, misguided, or whack-a-doodle; to us, it just seems like living the life we were made to live.