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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 Jan 2, 2014 | 0 comments

Start Your Engines

Toy cars on the coffee table

Cars, trucks, and motorcycles. What more could a little boy want?

The new year has begun and we are hitting the ground running. We’ve made some huge progress towards our cruising goals in only a few days and the realization has finally sunk in. Things just got serious, folks. All of a sudden Dan and I have become somewhat overwhelmed by the amount of work that must be done in a relatively short time.

Let’s back up a bit. A few weeks ago, we were working on our financial plans trying to figure out what exactly still needed to be done before we could attain our preferred amount of savings (i.e. $10,000 kitty; $3,000 per house rental reserves; and $40-50,000 in total boat purchase/refit allowance.) Our goal was to purchase at least 1 more rental house so our total could be 5 houses producing around $1,500 a month in total profit. To do that, we would either need to buy a 5th house out of our current boat savings (boo!) or sell our owner occupied house for enough to pay for 2 house down payments (yay!) 

We decided to talk to the realtor who sold our last house as well as showing our house to a coworker of Dan’s who said she might be interested. The realtor quoted us a very healthy number that would far outweigh the cost of purchasing 2 additional houses, but it turns out that listing it wasn’t even necessary. Dan’s coworker loved our house so much that she made an offer one day after seeing it and our tentative scheduled closing date is February 3rd! Talk about a quick sale from thinking about selling to sold in a week! The only downside is now we have to get another house purchased ASAP or we might be out on the street in a month. Packing and house shopping is on the menu for sure!

In addition to working out our housing issues we also decided now would be a good time to start actively searching for our boat. We want to have plenty of time to find the best boat for us for the right price. I’ll go into more detail on that search in another post coming soon, but the important thing is there has been a major shift in mindset occurring in our plans. We are no longer looking at boats as prototypes or theoretical options, now every boat we look at has the potential to be the one. Serious scrutiny of each boat and the options available takes a lot of time and effort to get right, but it’s crucial that we make good choices in the beginning to allow ourselves to stay on track for cruising this year.

That’s right, I said it: WE’RE CRUISING THIS YEAR! Happy 2014!

 

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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 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 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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