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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 Jan 23, 2014 | 0 comments

So Close and Yet So Far: Morgan Out Island 372 Review

Morgan Out Island 372

Not exactly her best side.

With the sale of our house pending and the realization that our current savings was adequate for a boat purchase, I decided to start digging through Craigslist and Sailboatlistings.com to explore the for sale by owner boat market. And by digging, I mean a solid 4 hours endlessly scrolling through terrible listings trying to discern which ones were even close to what we were looking for. I mean, come on people, a few pictures of the interior and an actual description would be nice. In the course of this mind-numbing search, I came across what seemed impossible…a Morgan Out Island 372 for sale in Peoria, Illinois. Not only that, but the pictures looked okay and it was listed in our purchase price range at $26,000. I instantly sent the listing to Dan to take a look at and contact the seller.

I’m not going to lie, I was so excited I could hardly sit still. I mean, how perfect could it get? A boat that we would like, in our price range, literally 5 minutes from home? I was starting seeing a Great Lakes route to the Atlantic, a going away party with friends and family that ends with the casting off of lines, the luxury of working on the boat ourselves while still being able to work full time…I have an active imagination. I just knew this had to be the boat for us. We heard back quickly from the seller who provided us with a fairly recent survey that looked decent, another bonus. It was time to see her in person.

Aaand we were severely disappointed. To be fair, it seemed that the bones of the boat were in good shape, no major structural issues and all that. In fact, we really liked the layout and overall set-up of the boat. However, this boat had so many terrible modifications that just made us go “why did you do that!” over and over again. The water heater had been removed and sold, along with the gimbaled stove which had been replaced by a portable cooler. The icebox refrigeration had been sliced and diced to make way for a dorm sized front loader that had to be held shut with a bungy cord. The cabin sole was badly damaged and covered by ugly carpet. One of the settees had been modified into a pull-out bed with a spring support system… effectively eliminating any potential for storage space below. Trust me, I could go on. Not only were there so many cosmetic issues to be dealt with, but there were many safety issues evident as well such as the gooseneck on the mast being replaced with a “custom-designed” piece by a welder friend because it was too difficult to find the actual part. Um yea, not going to go there, thanks though. I guess the search continues.

Want more pictures? Check out the Morgan Out Island 372 photo set on flickr. While you’re there, check out our flickr photostream to see what we’re up to!

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Lovely anchor and rotted bowsprite

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I almost forgot to mention the dogder and bimini with ripping seams and fogged windows.

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If you look closely, you can see the awesome caulk job on the portholes.

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The seller told us “Not to worry, all British engines leak oil!”

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Most of the original teak cabin liners were rotted and covered over by similarly bad choices of wall coverings.

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You can see here the huge icebox…destroyed for a dorm fridge.

 

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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 Aug 14, 2013 | 0 comments

Good Things Happen at Night

Though we didn't take this picture, we did see this meteor ourselves. It was stunning!

Though we didn’t take this picture, we did see this meteor ourselves. It was stunning!

As a teenager I remember hearing a statement by well-meaning adults that went something like “Nothing good ever happens after 10:00 PM.” Well, no offense to those people but this last weekend was yet another example of how there are always exceptions to every rule. (I’ve never really understood why adults feel the need to impart statements that only serve to elicit eye rolls and intentional contradictions from teenagers but that’s another issue entirely.) Last Friday and Saturday night were late ones for us but very rewarding in that we were able to spend some real quality time with Dan’s brother Kyle and his wife Becca.

Partially due to our influence Kyle and Becca have been putting a lot of thought into moving somewhere warmer with a better quality of life. Kyle has recently graduated with a bachelor’s degree in engineering and has quickly come to the realization that the promises made by college recruiters a few years ago weren’t all that they were cracked up to be. Friday night at around 10, he called us up and they came over to get some advice on budgeting and planning for their future goals. (After we got out of bed… yes we are the 20-something, old people who are in bed on Friday night at 9:30.) We talked with them at our kitchen table until 1:30 in the morning about dreams and goals that they have and how to figure out where to start. They left with plans to come back the next night and start by finding their baseline…where are they now? where do they want to be? and what to they need to do to get there?

After dinner together on Saturday night of the fabulous grouper that Kyle speared in Panama City (remember the Most Beautiful Beaches?) we jumped right in and started sorting through the last six months of bills, bank statements, and credit card purchases to find a complete understanding of their current spending and to build a good budget that will let them save the kind of money that they hope will get them where they want to go. For anyone who has never done this before, you should because it can be eye opening to see how just rearranging your spending a bit can significantly impact your goals. I have no doubts that if Dan and I hadn’t done the exact same thing 2 years ago at the start of all of this that we would be nowhere close to the financial situation we are now in. It was immensely gratifying for both of us to see Kyle and Becca getting that same kind of focus and understanding together that we have shared.

After working hard and getting to a good stopping point, we decided to reward ourselves with a night of spectacular star gazing. Every year at the beginning of August is the Perseids meteor shower, the most active one of the year. We bundled up the sleeping baby into the car with the four of us and plenty of blankets to lay on and headed out of town to a camp about half an hour away. The sky was free of so much light pollution and with no moon to hide them, the stars were out in force. We trekked down to a small valley with just the five of us in the large prairie and spread our blankets out to watch the show. Nothing can compare to watching shooting stars with people you love.

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