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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 Sep 18, 2013 | 0 comments

A Different Kind of Preparation

Carter has been getting his workouts in too!

Carter has been getting his workouts in too!

Over the last few months, Dan and I have been doing a lot of brainstorming about unfinished business. Once we have the cash for our boat, we want to be ready to go. That means taking classes and doing research like we talked about in Look It Up, fixing our current house to be ready to rent or sell, and working through the process of eliminating items in our house that we don’t plan on bringing with us and aren’t currently using. Another area that I was particularly concerned about was my personal level of fitness and more specifically strength.

Basically my entire life, I have been abnormally weak. In high school, I literally failed the hand strength test in gym class. I have had to ask other women at work to open jars for me before. I certainly have never been able to help Dan move furniture or other heavy objects around our home. However, in my normal life, my lack of strength has never been more than a modest inconvenience. Someone stronger than I is pretty much always available to lend a hand.

Not so in our new life. When we are on the ocean, the only hands available will be Dan’s and mine and to be perfectly honest that was a humbling realization for me. need to be able to raise the mainsail, need to be able to hold the wheel steady, and need to have the strength to lift my husband or son out of the water or my weakness could become a life threatening issue for our family. I truly hope that Dan and I are never in a situation where one or both of our lives are dependent on the strength in my body, but I can’t consciously go into a life of such high potential danger without being better prepared.

For the last three months, I have been using body weight workouts to increase my strength. We both decided that using these types of exercises (push-ups, pull-ups, squats, etc.) were our best choice since we didn’t want to spend a lot of money on equipment or gym memberships when we wouldn’t be able to use those things while cruising anyway. Even in this short amount of time, I’ve noticed a major difference in how I feel, how I look, and most of all, how much I can do. I wouldn’t go so far as to call myself a lean, mean, fighting machine, but at least I can open my own jars and pull off a few push-ups.

I still have some way to go before I can beat Dan in an arm-wrestle. (Okay, let’s be real, chances of that happening are probably somewhere in the range of less than 1% and he would have to have mono or something.) The good news is that I have the right tools to get the job done and the confidence that I will be ready when my family needs me. 

 

*Here are a list of resources that I’ve found to be helpful:

  • NerdFitness.com  This is a great website for any level of fitness. I am also part of the forums and participate in the 6-week challenges. In the first challenge, Dan and I completed our first 50 mile bike ride! Not that I’m bragging or anything…
  • NiaShanks.com  This site is very strength focused and much more female-centric. I’m currently working through her Beautiful Badass Bodyweight Workout program.
  • StrengthPLUS.ca  Rebecca from ZerotoCruising.com has a site specifically dedicated to working out on-board.
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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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Posted on Aug 7, 2013 | 0 comments

Look It Up

Don't know what kind of moth this is? We didn't either so we looked it up!

Don’t know what kind of moth this is? We didn’t either until we looked it up!

Dan and I like to be thoroughly well prepared for big changes and new possibilities in life. When we have a problem, we search Google and figure out how to fix it. When I was pregnant with Carter, I spent hours researching online exactly what to expect and prepare for multiple different outcomes to the point that my doctors were always surprised that I knew exactly what they were talking about and had almost no questions at any of my appointments. Dan visited countless websites and forums along with talking to other landlords before we were confident that we could make well informed decisions about buying rental properties. What can I say? We like to be educated.

Recently, we realized that we had been somewhat slacking in the cruising education division. Sure, we read a lot of other people’s blogs and had spent a lot of time reading cruisersforum and other boating sites when we were first making up our plans, but we hadn’t done a lot of in depth training because we were so focused on the financials of making sure we could get going. That mindset has been able to shift over the last few weeks… We have now reached the point where our rental reserves (six months of expenses per house) and the initial cruising kitty (10k to start, but it will be replenished each month from our various income sources while cruising… think of it as working cash) are established. Now we move into the boat savings stage. It is exhilarating to know that every dollar saved will be building towards a new home. That might not seem like a big deal, but for us it has been a major eye opener. Now we need to make sure that we are ready when the money is!

To start things out right we purchased the full pack of NauticEd* Captain’s courses and have both been working through them together. These courses cover a huge range of topics from diesel engine maintenance and proper sail trim to safety at sea and storm tactics. We have been very impressed with the quality of instruction and depth of information provided from these courses and both of us feel a lot more confident that we will be able to sail our boat safely when the time comes. They even have nice PDF graphs and quick reference guides to laminate and keep on your boat with you as well as practical exercises that we’ll be able to work on together once we get our real boat.

Another course that we are planning to take is the Mahina Expedition seminar that is given at Strictly Sail every year. This seminar is highly rated and addresses a lot of the logistical issues of living on a sailboat. Provisioning, safety, clearing in and out of countries, and having pets on-board are just a few of the topics covered in the all day seminar. The Blue Water Boats list that we’ve been referencing in many of our posts is also created by the Mahina team. These people have a lot of experience under their belts and we’re hoping to take some of that and put it to use on our own journey.

Two other big areas of focus for our studies will be first aid skills and Dan’s SCUBA instructor course. We feel that Dan getting his instructor certification could be a major benefit to us in the future and could potentially give us some additional income throughout the year. The first aid classes we are a little less sure about where to start. Dan is currently EFR/CPR certified as part of his rescue diver certification last year and plans to get his EFR instructor certification at the same time he finishes the PADI instructor certification, which would make it easy for me to get EFR certified as well (which we plan to do.) However as anyone who has taken EFR or the Red Cross first aid class will know, these classes are designed to stabilize a patient until an ambulance or other trained medical staff can reach the patient which usually only takes a short time in comparison to the days it could take if someone was seriously injured at sea. We are currently trying to find other options that would give us a more thorough training, but are having a hard time finding something reasonably priced that we could both be trained in. The most promising so far has been the Wilderness First Response program but that is about $800/person and requires a week of hands-on training so we aren’t sure if we want to jump into that without more … research.

Do you know of any other classes we should consider taking in the next year of preparation? We’d love to hear from you! Leave a comment or shoot us an email from the Contact Us page.

*Use our coupon code followthehorizon at NauticEd to get $15 off any classes! (Full disclosure: we get a very small credit to our NauticEd account when you use this code)

We’ve also done some major updates to our To-Do List page! Click on over to check it out.

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Posted on Jul 22, 2013 | 0 comments

A New Car with a Side of Friendship

Small but mighty!

Small but mighty!

Over the last few months, several times Dan and I have brought up selling our GMC Jimmy and buying a vehicle with better gas mileage. Though we had only owned the Jimmy for a little over a year, we’ve had multiple repairs that we’ve had to make in addition to only getting around 15 mpg on average. We figured out that even though we only are planning to own our cars for one more year or so, there was still significant savings to be made so we starting searching for a reliable car with good gas mileage. We got a little help from the financial blogger Mr. Money Mustache who has a list that we used of the top rated small cars for reliability.

We quickly found that we really liked the look, efficiency, and pricing of the Scion xD and xA hatchbacks. These cars are stylish and fun while getting great gas mileage and having plenty of interior room for the three of us. (Note: they are still pretty small cars so anything more than 2 adults and 2 small kids is going to feel cramped.) We found an xD on craigslist only about 45 minutes from us and decided to check it out.

As Dan went on the test drive (we had Carter with us so I stayed behind) I started talking to the couple that currently owned the car, Kyle and Becky. The conversation sounded something like this:

“So, why are you selling your car?”

“Well, we’re pretty much selling all of our stuff because we are moving to Belize.”

“Really? Are you going there to do anything specific?”

(apprehensive pause) “We’re planning to be self-sustaining farmers and work at an orphanage there.”

How cool is that! Just in the course of a few minutes I got to hear about how this couple about our age are getting ready to head out on their own epic journey and follow their hearts off of the well worn path. Even though I could tell Becky was obviously nervous about telling us their plan (as I understand completely) I’m so glad she broke the ice. We were able to share some of our experiences in trying to plan for the unknown and made new friends. Most of all it was so encouraging to meet other people who share in common with us their belief that we are not prepared for our current life to continue on without change. Their journey will be very different from ours, but it comes from the same desire to live more extraordinary lives while we have the opportunity.

We were happy to be able to help fund their goal in some small way by buying their car (which we love by the way) and if you would be interested in buying their house in Lincoln, Illinois here is the listing. We wish the best of luck to Kyle and Becky and hope that they see their dreams come to fruition very soon. Maybe if we make our way over to Belize in the next few years we will meet up with them again.

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