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Posted on Jan 31, 2014 | 0 comments

Strictly Sail Chicago 2014

Frozen Lake Michigan at Sunrise

Welcome to Chicago! Looks like those boats will have to be trucked in!

As part of a much needed vacation from house hunting and work, Dan and I spent last weekend at Strictly Sail Chicago. Our 3rd year attending, we were really looking forward to the show as we had saved the more “in-depth” seminars until we would be close to leaving. We figured that we would want the very practical information still fresh in our minds when the time came to actually start cruising. I’m glad we did because the classes we attended this year felt like they were tailor made for us!

View of the main exhibition hall

It took us 2 days to get through all of the booths

Everyone has a different view about cruising, especially those who have been doing it for many years. The more seminars we attend and individuals we talk to, the more we realize there is no “right” way to cruise. While much of the speakers’ experiences were similar, many times they gave contradictory advice! We have quickly learned that we find the best value in listening to people that we respect and adapting their lessons to our own budget, knowledge, and comfort level.  No matter how well a particular tactic has performed for another person, it may be completely useless to us.

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Learning to splice

An unexpected benefit of this year’s show was the networking with other bloggers and editor’s from sailing magazines. In fact, a big thank you to Kevin over at SailFarLiveFree.com for a set of free tickets to the show!  Everyone was extremely friendly and welcoming and we are hoping to be able to work with many of them in the future. Lin Pardey herself introduced us to Herb McCormick, the editor of Cruising World, saying “These guys will certainly make some good pictures, don’t you think?” I couldn’t agree more, Lin!

Carter and Dan sanding a toy boat

Now if we could just get him to stop making this face when we tell him to smile!

Now that the show is over, I can tell that both Dan and I are really starting to feel the excitement build. We’ve been sitting on the tarmac for a long time, but we are finally taxiing towards take-off. And let me tell you, it feels pretty good.

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Dan and Carter on inflatable slide

Mom and Dad weren’t the only ones having fun!

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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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Posted on Feb 27, 2013 | 0 comments

Stop Being and Start Doing

I don't think that smile could be any bigger.

I don’t think that smile could be any bigger.

Our son Carter has had an obsession with toothbrushes since he was six months old. Not trucks, helicoptors, or trains…toothbrushes. He wants to hold them and brush his teeth, carry them around the house, and he knows exactly which brush belongs to which person. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard someone say, “That kid is going to be a dentist someday.” Being a dentist would certainly not be a bad career path for my son to aspire to in the future, but my real hope would be not just that Carter would find a profession he wanted to be, but find something he loves to do. 

I believe that our culture is a little too stuck on this idea of being. I am a Mom, Engineer, Waitress, Police Officer. I want to be a Ballerina, Teacher, or Baseball Player. What if instead of aspiring to be someone, we aspire to do something instead? What do you want to do? Teach, scuba dive, sail, help people, save lives, play baseball, dance…you name it. Now, instead of trying to fit your actions into your label, just forget the label and do the actions. When you are doing what you love, who you are to other people becomes a lot less important all of the sudden.

That’s all nice and fluffy to think about, I know. What about food, and house payments, and my student loans to get that label, you say. Well, the beauty is that usually the people who are really loving what they do are the ones who are the most successful at it. And, unless what you want to do is own a fancy sports car and million dollar yacht, you probably need a lot less money than you think. So let me ask you, what do you want to do? Then go do it.

Follow your Dreams. Follow the Horizon.

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Posted on Feb 14, 2013 | 1 comment

Midweek Musings: Sacrifice

Is this worth it? We think so.

Is this worth it? We think so.

Between New Years resolutions (those that have survived this long) and the beginning of Lent, this is the time of year that everyone is trying to straighten up their act. Some people are giving things up, i.e. fast food and cigarettes, and some are adding something like a new exercise routine. Whether the change is meant to be permanent or temporary, it is always a struggle to change old habits and the way we think about them.

Most cruising and simple living literature on the market today have the same advice for people who are thinking about drastically changing their lifestyle: start small and work your way up. Can’t give up your fancy car? Start by making your own coffee instead of going to Starbucks every morning. Maybe you’ll find that you didn’t miss Starbucks after all, especially when you see how much extra money is in your pocket by the end of the week. Here are just a few of the items and activities we’ll have to relinquish when we move onto a boat:

  • Cars
  • TV
  • Frequent eating out
  • Easy internet
  • Steady income
  • Family nearby
  • And many more…

Some of these things will be easier to give up for us than others, like watching TV (we don’t). But others will have a major impact on us that will be felt more acutely. I’m sure when we are walking uphill to the grocery store, the eating out and lack of a car will burn a little more (mostly in our thighs!) and it might get frustrating if we can’t find good enough wifi signal to Skype with our parents on Christmas day. So, why would we go through all of this if we have to sacrifice so much? Because we think the reward will be worth it.

If you are thinking about cruising, and even if you’re not, I would encourage you to think long and hard about what you could give up that would produce a greater reward. Spend a whole weekend without your cell phone…yea I said it, give up the cell phone. Checking Facebook every five minutes really isn’t that crucial to your survival. Try turning off the TV for a week and go to the park, read a book, or learn something new about your spouse and kids. Ride your bike or the bus to work for a month, and save the money you would have spent on gas on a weekend away (yea, you probably spend that much on gas.) You might be amazed at how much you didn’t miss the things you thought would be a sacrifice.

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Posted on Jan 30, 2013 | 0 comments

We Interrupt This Winter…

Strictly Sail Chicago 2013Whoever first started scheduling Strictly Sail Chicago in the middle of January was a genius. Winter has never been our favorite part of the year (hello, planning to move to the Tropics for more than just the piña coladas) but this year has been doubly hard with the knowledge that we could have moved to Florida instead of staying here to pad our purse a little more. This past Saturday we were able to leave winter behind for a few hours and spur the excitement we’ve been missing for the last couple months. Just one day of being able to talk openly with people about our dream of cruising does wonders for our attitudes.

Three Cruising Budgets, Snapshots from the Life of Jimmy Cornell, and Perspectives from a Cruising Couple seminars filled our schedule. These seminars weren’t really intended as fact finding for us, in fact we hardly learned any really new information at all. What they lacked in new information, they made up for in validation and motivation. It’s one thing to read a bunch of cruising blogs and forums and compile a $1000-$1500/month budget that we think is realistic; it reaches the next level to hear the founder of Blue Water Sailing confirm that for us in his Three Cruising Budgets seminar. (He actually described four budgets, but the highest was labeled “Silly and Unnecessary” aka why are you even in this seminar, just go hire a 5 man crew for your million dollar yacht.)

The boats were what we really wanted to see. We won’t be buying a new boat when we leave, of course, and we probably won’t even be looking at buying a used version of any of the brands available to tour due to quality and dependability recommendations; what we wanted was to feel the size of the living space. Last year, we hadn’t done a lot of research into boats when we came and toured all of the boats. We left that day saying, “yeah, the smaller ones are okay, but I think we should look at boats in the 40-45′ range.” And look I did…at the price tag. There are hardly any good boats on the used market in the 40-45′ range that are under $50,000, and especially not ones that are close to being ready for ocean voyaging.

This year we needed to go in with the question “what can we do” instead of “what do we want to do”. It’s amazing how much that question changes your perspective, because we quickly realized that 30-35′ boats would probably do just fine for us and one little boy. (Depending on the boat, of course.) We are now looking for boats in that range with one cabin/quarter berth layout or two cabin layout (which is much harder to find in older boats that size). To be honest, I was a bit shocked to see how much that downsize of 5-10 feet slashed the price tremendously. If you search yachtworld.com for boats 38-45′ in the US between $30k-$50k, you get 197 boats boats to choose from. And let me tell you, they aren’t exactly the cream of the crop most of the time. If you search 30-38′ instead, you get 757. That’s a significant difference in selection, making it much more likely for us to be able to find what we are looking for in our budget.

While we had intended to stay for 2 days of the show, winter fought back and forced us to return home early with a nasty ice storm that came through Chicago on Sunday. We didn’t want to brave the ice in my mom’s car that she let us borrow – Thanks Mom! – because my brakes went out just as we were getting to their house Friday night. (Whole story in itself.) It seems that we will have to wait until next year to get a good second day, since last year Dan spent most of the day on his back on the floor outside of the bathroom of Navy Pier or puking his guts out inside of said bathroom. Even just one day though was enough to refuel our systems until the end of the dreariness when we can start sailing and diving again.

 

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