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Posted on Apr 9, 2014 | 2 comments

Introducing Horizon: Our Irwin 37

Horizon under sailLet me start by saying that I never expected our 100th post to include the introduction of our boat. When we first started almost three years ago, we didn’t really know where to begin. We Learned to Sail the Hard Way and then decided it would be better to just take some lessons. Dan got certified as a Dive Master then Instructor, and we also learned that it’s better to just pretend to be a Rescue Victim. The Search was on for a boat this year but some days it felt like we might never get to this point, especially when we received the call from our broker that the Cabot 36 had sold. With a little luck and a lot of prayer, we’ve made it to the next stage of our journey.

We spent nearly 8 hours in the boatyard this last Saturday looking at boat after boat, but none of them felt like home. That is until we looked at the last one on our list: the Irwin 37 center cockpit. To be completely honest, we had all but written off this boat during our search. Generally, they are known for being a mid-range quality production boat from the 70s and 80s and frankly didn’t have the best online reputation. When our broker mentioned that he had one he would like us to look at, Dan and I basically just did a bit of an eye-roll and shrug “might as well look at it”. Little did we know.

Let me stop here to say that we had a fantastic experience with the broker we used but by request have not listed his name, since he would like to go cruising eventually as well and would prefer not to be known as the “broker guy”. He was extremely professional, very easy to get a hold of, and has a true passion to help people get into boats that they are going to love. His listings are some of the most thorough that we have seen throughout the country. If you are looking for a boat or thinking of selling yours in South Florida,  just shoot us an email through the Contact Us page and we would be happy to recommend him.

As the broker described Tortuga (current name until we can close the deal), the one word he kept using was anomaly. This boat may be nearly 40 years old, but every major system on the boat had been completely redone in the last 3-4 years. New rigging, new masts (its ketch-rigged), new staysail (make that cutter-ketch), brand new full suite of sails, top-of-the-line electronics, new beefy windlass, dodger and bimini, and the list goes on. Over $100k of upgrades and renovations really sweetens the honeypot when our total budget for boat and outfit is only $50k.

What’s the ketch you ask? Okay that was bad. Well, the person who did all of these upgrades (the owner of a major sail maker company we found out later) decided after pouring in all of the money that he actually wanted a bigger boat. So he dumped it before the interior was completely spruced up. Some of the cabinets need to be rehung, the headliner needs old holes filled and painted, the wiring needs to be organized, and some of the plumbing needs help. Luckily, everything that needs to be done are fairly easy and cheap fixes but they currently make the interior somewhat less than desirable to most buyers, especially when compared to what you expect to find after seeing the immaculate exterior. Bad news for the seller, great news for us.

Some people might be wondering right now what happened to our Blue Water Boat criteria? Well, the fact of the matter is, we’ve come to realize like so many others that every boat is a compromise. After seeing what types of boats were available in our price-range we quickly came to the conclusion that the heavily built offshore cruisers just were not going to work for our family. With our short to mid-range plans being to cruise the Bahamas and Caribbean, we believe the Irwin will be a safe and functional home for the three of us. If in the future we decide to head offshore, we will meet that challenge head-on as we always do.

We hope you will continue to Follow the Horizon with us as we continue into the next exciting stage of our journey.

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Posted on Mar 20, 2014 | 0 comments

The Search is On

Oceanis 38 at Strictly Sail

This Beneteau didn’t quite make the price cut.

The search for our boat and new family home has officially begun! In fact, we started looking online in earnest in late February. It wasn’t until we closed on our final rental property this Tuesday that we felt comfortable about possibly shelling out a large portion of our savings for a boat.  Now that we are preparing the house for rental status, we have a firm grasp on our financial situation and can go into negotiations with confidence.

To start our search, I began with a list of potential blue-water boats that I had created over a year ago and discussed in my post Blue Water Boats. I essentially used the boat list provided from Mahina Expeditions and narrowed that down substantially based on our budget restrictions and preferred layout choices. I used this updated list to search every online source I could think of including Craigslist.com, Sailboatlistings.com, and Yachtworld.com primarily.

Trust me when I say that the search process takes hours, even with a limited list of boats. Try typing in “Morgan 38” into yachtworld and you’ll see what I mean. Our next step was to narrow down these potential boats by sifting out those that looked in decent condition and had as much updated gear as possible. I created a spreadsheet of “required” vs “optional” gear including estimated costs to help us evaluate each boat objectively, and get a general idea of how much each boat would cost us overall.

Next, we started calling brokers and were honestly shocked at how unresponsive most of them were. More than one took several days to respond to our questions and a few never responded at all. You would think that a person on commission would be a little more excited about someone trying to buy their boat, but I guess maybe our price range doesn’t quite arouse their interest like a $200,000 sale. In any case, for anyone out there trying to sell a lower end boat, be choosey about your broker because you might have missed out on a sale due to their inaction.

In our first round of searching and after (finally) hearing back from brokers, we found a few good choices and 1 that is a true stand-out in our opinion. Unfortunately, that boat is halfway across the country; I guess that’s the downside to living in Illinois while trying to find a blue-water ready boat. We are convinced enough of its potential that we have officially made arrangements to see the boat and are hoping to get some good results. It’s nerve-wracking to spend $1,000 on flights and hotel to go visit a boat we’ve never seen and can’t be absolutely sure will still be available when we get there. At this point we are just praying that 2 weeks is a safe bet.

Keep your fingers crossed for us that everything goes well and I’m sure we’ll be posting more on this topic soon!

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Posted on Feb 27, 2014 | 0 comments

Review: Mahina Expeditions Seminar

Sunrise on Lake Michigan

We got to the seminar a little earlier than we planned…

 

For the last couple of years, Dan and I had been planning to attend a Mahina Expeditions Offshore Cruising Seminar at Strictly Sail Chicago. We believed that the information we would obtain would be exceptionally helpful to us in preparing for our time cruising, however we wanted to wait until the year that we intended to start so that the information would stay as fresh in our minds as possible. This year we finally decided to pony up our $300, arrange for a babysitter, and spend the whole day in the company of John and Amanda Neal.

So, was it worth the price? I’d say “yes” with a few caveats. First of all, the seminar was extremely well done. The Neals have had more experience on the water than most couples in the world and the do an excellent job of imparting their knowledge to others. On the flip side, one day is not enough…period. We knew that it would be a lot of information in a short amount of time, but by the end of the day I literally left with a headache, feeling partially brain dead. For anyone who might be slightly (or more than slightly) on the A.D.D. side, this may not be the best way to process the information for you.

Luckily, they’ve written the companion manual (included in the course) to have all of the information and much more so we have been able to reference it and process everything slowly over the last few weeks. They sell the Offshore Cruising Companion on their website www.mahina.com*. I can unequivocally recommend this book, even at the $50 price point. An unbelievable amount of useful information is contained in the book, everything from recommended equipment lists (with specific brands and prices) to how to clear into a country properly to dealing with fears and uncertainty about cruising. I believe that it is one of the best resources available in sheer volume of topics covered, and they’re covered well.

An unexpected benefit of the seminar was the number of field experts we were able to meet and talk with during the breaks throughout the day. John and Amanda were readily available to answer individual questions and their colleague Pete McGonagle was very informative about the current boat market as a broker and fellow cruiser. George Day of Blue Water Sailing, Nigel Calder (highly respected mechanical and diesel engine author), and Paul and Sheryl Shard of the Distant Shores TV show also stopped by to add their expertise.

IMGP1510

We won a West Marine gift card for being the nearest to leaving on our cruise…or maybe just because we were the surprise “youngsters” in the room!

If I were to say one thing about this course, it would be that I wish we wouldn’t have waited so long to take it. Because we have already spent so many hours researching a good portion of the topics ourselves, a lot of the information was no longer new to us. Especially because the manual so thoroughly covers the topics, we could have taken the seminar a year or two ago and then used the manual as review once we actually got closer to “go time”. We recommend the same for others who want to get the highest value from the course.

 *We are not currently affiliated with Mahina Expeditions in any way. We just think their book is worth sharing!

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Posted on Nov 14, 2013 | 0 comments

Horizon Healthcare

Luckily, we aren't planning a revisit of this trip anytime soon!

No plans to revisit the maternity ward anytime soon!

With the recent public concern over the new healthcare law coming into effect, it’s no wonder that Dan and I have fielded many questions about what our plans will be for healthcare and health insurance while we are cruising. Spend any time on forums for cruisers and you will find the same questions. It is a legitimate concern considering we will no longer have insurance available to us through our employers, private insurance (up until this point) has been known to be extremely expensive in the United States, and that expense certainly would put a big kink in a limited cruising budget.

Luckily, there are some factors that help mitigate the need for expensive health insurance for us. First (and biggest in our opinion) is the fact that we do not intend to use the healthcare system in the United States almost at all once we start cruising, as we will no longer be located here. Anyone who has traveled abroad extensively will tell you that healthcare costs outside of the United States are significantly lower than here at home. Regardless of the reasons why that is true, it means that having insurance isn’t really a huge necessity like it is here. In fact, most international health insurance providers charge significantly discounted rates for plans that include everywhere in the world other than the U.S. With almost $75,000 in our own personal emergency funds, self insurance while abroad makes the most sense to us.

We are (currently) young and healthy with very little risk that any major health costs will be popping up over the next 5-10 years. However, we do plan to carry Divers Alert Network (DAN) coverage for all three of us. Their particular plan will cover our #1 greatest risk factor: scuba diving. We’ve already had a good experience working with DAN during my Rescue Victim episode and the coverage is highly rated. Basically, DAN covers any diving-related injury fully including recompression chamber visits and even repatriation to the United States from anywhere in the world if necessary. Not only that but it also covers up to $10,000 for any other non-diving medical expenses, plus even coverage for loss or damage of our equipment (like if our dive camera got flooded or we accidentally drop our gear into the abyss). I’d say that’s a pretty good deal for only $600/year.

There is one little catch in this plan that you may have noticed. What about the healthcare mandate starting in 2014? Well to be honest…we don’t really know. We haven’t gotten any satisfactory answers about what our legal status actually will be once we start traveling permanently; resident/non-resident – its somewhat unclear. Fortunately, we do know that according to all of the income charts (and assuming we don’t get filthy rich from writing this blog) our yearly taxable income should put us firmly below poverty level in the United States. Great news, right? In this case it is, because that means that even if we are required to get health insurance it will be free. We would become part of the <insert random percentage here> of people who receive assistance from the Federal Government. Isn’t that something…

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Posted on Apr 17, 2013 | 0 comments

Simplicity or Moderation?

 

Everything you need to know about cruising is in here!

Everything you need to know about cruising is in here!

So far in our month of finance posts, we’ve gone over our savings goals and reducing our current spending. But of course all of this is meaningless unless we have a plan for how much we will be spending while we cruise. People have asked this question on every blog and every forum available to cruisers of all levels and with something as individual as personal spending it is a fairly difficult question to answer. The most common response is “it costs whatever you have” or “that’s the same thing as asking how much it costs to live on land…its all up to you.”

While I appreciate the idea behind the answer, I also think that there is a way to generalize expenses for people. I can tell you that it is possible to live on $750/month or less for a couple in my town if you rent or own a one bedroom shack, eat peanut butter sandwiches every day and don’t own a car or have other insurance. You could spend $2000/month living in a small 3 bedroom home, eating good meals at home, driving one car rarely and being otherwise frugal. Or you spend $5000/month on a nice home in a good neighborhood, drive expensive cars that get terrible gas mileage as much as you want, and eat out for every single meal to normal restaurants. I can’t tell you how much it would cost your family, but I can give you the basis to help you figure it out on your own.

That’s exactly what Beth Leonard has done in this fantastic article entitled “How Much Will Cruising Cost You?” and also in her book The Voyager’s Handbook. She details the spending habits of three fictional cruising families: the Simplicity’s in a 33 ft cutter, the Moderation’s in a 40 ft catamaran, and the Highlife’s in a 54 ft ketch. In my opinion, this is the best document on cruising budgets that I have found in any of my research, and is what Dan and I based many of our calculations on when trying to figure out how much we would need monthly and yearly to live at the level we desired. We believe that we can budget somewhere between the Simplicity spending of 8,000/year and the Moderation level of 20,000/year leaving at somewhere in the $1000-$1500 per month range. This budget was also verified by a seminar called Three Cruising Budgets given by George Day of Blue Water Sailing magazine at Strictly Sail Chicago this year.

Obviously, we don’t know for certain yet how much we will spend once we start sailing, but it is important for us to have some sense of direction to work with while planning. No one else will have the same budget as us (and certainly not one man on a forum that told us we would need at least $50,000/year…he and his wife spent $1500/month on food alone!) but we think that using a generalized picture has given us pretty realistic expectations. We’re always open for comments or suggestions, so leave one for us below!

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