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Posted on Aug 27, 2014 | 0 comments

Downsizing for the Boat: Part 2

Some games come in more travel friendly shapes and sizes. This is our Battleship game.

Some games come in more travel friendly shapes and sizes. This is our Battleship game.

In Downsizing for the Boat: Part 1, I talked about how we downsized our big ticket items. Today, I’ll show you something even more critical to living on a boat…entertainment! Board games, DVDs, CDs, and books all have the challenge of taking up a lot of space. I know some people with personal libraries at home that almost require half of their house in shelving (or have to be stored away in boxes)! How do you bring along plenty of entertainment for long days on the water without overwhelming your space requirements?

Most of the books we decided to bring were reference guides of some type.

Most of the books we decided to bring were reference guides of some type.

First, let’s talk about books. I am a total book lover, bordering at times on serious addiction. Someone on an online forum recently asked the question, “Could someone recommend a good short book that can be read in about 2 days?” I couldn’t help but laugh, as I had just devoured an entire series in the past two days. The problem with that habit is buying books is expensive and they take up a lot of space. Luckily, with the advent of the ebook (and libraries renting them) my appetite can be sated without breaking the bank or sinking the boat. Most libraries now have the ability to rent a large collection of ebooks at no charge to members, just make sure you have your account set up before leaving and your library card is not going to expire soon.

Before moving aboard, we went through each book in our physical library and asked the tough question, “Are we going to use this while cruising, or not?” If the answer was no, we attempted to sell it on Amazon and eBay. Most got bought up within a month or so and the rest we donated to our local library. (With the exception of our Harry Potter series. Too big for the boat, but no way we could get rid of a collection we grew up on…it’s now taking up precious space in our 2 trunks left behind.) We have 2-Nexus 7 tablets on board as well as a ink-reader Kindle for reading in bright sun. Ebooks are definitely the way to go whether you pay for them or not, as buying and storing books just doesn’t make sense even on a large boat.

Fitting all of our movies into one case...Inconceivable!

Fitting all of our movies into one case…Inconceivable!

Movies and CDs are a lot easier to downsize, as the main goal is to eliminate the overly large plastic jewel cases and consolidate the discs to a case. Another option is to eliminate the disks all together by transferring all of the movies and songs onto portable hard-drives that you can plug into a computer. We chose to just store our discs in a case since it really didn’t lose a lot of space overall to keep them, plus updating our music collection on our phones (default mp3 player!). One large case and a full recycling bin later and we’ve downsized without actually getting rid of anything. Once again, we couldn’t quite get rid of our collector’s edition Avatar case, because well…its Avatar. So yea.

From all of those boxes into the bags. Saving space has never been easier!

From all of those boxes into the bags. Saving space has never been easier!

Finally, we wanted to bring some board games along, but knew that we didn’t want to store huge game boxes. Luckily, most board games take up very little space once taken out of their original packaging. A few Ziploc bags of varying sizes changed a huge stack of game boxes into one tote bag of fun! Now we have all of our favorite games, i.e. Settlers of Catan, easily available with using up precious space on the boat. All part of the art of downsizing without dumping!

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Posted on Aug 22, 2014 | 0 comments

Downsizing for the Boat: Part 1

Even this set had been paired down by a few pieces before we moved aboard.

Even this set had been paired down by a few pieces before we moved aboard.

One of the biggest challenges when moving into a small space is trying to decide what to get rid of and what to keep. Over the course of our preparations, each time we moved we would slowly eliminate a few more items. Once we moved onto the boat however, we realized that even some necessary items were too big and bulky for storing on the boat. The top storage issues on the boat currently center around cooking and tools. Over the years together, we have gotten into the habit of purchasing high quality tools when needed and have accumulated quite a collection that is hard to downsize due to the amount of money we spent and the fact that we still need some just not all of them.

From sprawling to compact!

From sprawling to compact!

The biggest space consumer was our cookware. Full sized pots and pans just do not work well in tight spaces, regardless of how much you paid for them! We decided pretty quickly that we needed a better solution and decided on a nesting, nonstick cookware set from Magma. Suddenly, we went from filling up a huge cabinet to having all of the pieces in one small package. After a few months of using them, I am still impressed with the quality and the ease of cleaning. At first I thought that having the pieces nested would get annoying, but it really hasn’t been a problem in use.

 

We received this set as a wedding present. Great for a house, not so for the boat.

We received this set as a wedding present. Great for a house, not so for the boat.

This set is perfectly sized for our cabinets...small!

This set is perfectly sized for our cabinets…small!

We also found that our traditional dining dishes were too bulky and heavy, not to mention glass! When we first moved onto the boat we figured that the no glass rule was a little too harsh, but fragile things just don’t survive a moving environment. And so, we have officially replaced the dining set we got as a wedding present with a 4 person camping set from Bass Pro. Because they are designed for campers in mind, the entire set of plates, cups, mugs, and bowls all nest well and fit into our kitchen cabinets much better. We’ve only used them a few times so far so the durability is still unknown, but we like the turned up sides for the plates and the sip-top lids for the mugs for sailing.

The throw pillow in the picture gives you an idea of the size of these babies. Small but mighty!

The throw pillow in the picture gives you an idea of the size of these babies. Small but mighty!

Dan got some new compact tools as well. We decided to replace his large 18-volt set with a new 12-volt set from Milwaukee. The tools and batteries are much more compact and easier to store. While Dan has noticed the reduction in power from his drill, it hasn’t been a big detriment to the jobs he’s been doing. Unlike the kitchen items that we are in process of selling though, we’ve decided to keep his old power tools, but down into deeper storage. That way, if we need one of them in a pinch, we aren’t stuck without a way to fix the boat.

In Part 2, I’ll talk about how we downsized our entertainment items without actually eliminating them.

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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 Jun 27, 2013 | 0 comments

Boat Review: Morgan Out Island and Cape Dory 33

While we were in Panama City we decided we should take a look at a few boats that were potential candidates for us in the future. Most likely none of these exact boats will still be on the market in a year from now but it was important for us to get an idea of what condition boats were actually in that would be in our price range. It’s one thing to tour beautiful, brand-new boats at a yacht show and something else entirely to get a look at what we could realistically expect for $50,000 or less. We were a little apprehensive before going in though cautiously optimistic due to the amount of research we’ve already put in.

First up was the Morgan 41 Out Island. We have seen a lot of these on the cruiser’s forums as recommended family liveaboards (though it didn’t make the Mahina list). It has two good-sized staterooms and a nice big settee as well, so I can certainly understand why families with kids would like it so much. The center cockpit was also large and spacious and would certainly make a great space for entertaining. There was a lot of storage space throughout the cabins and the extra living space in the aft master stateroom would make for a relaxing retreat.

There were only a few negatives (in our opinion, they might not be for others) that we noticed about the boat. First, we aren’t very big fans of having 2 heads aka bathrooms on a boat. That might not seem like a problem, but we figure it’s wasted storage space and more hassle to deal with. Also, the walk-through hallway is pretty darn tight, as in Dan and I could not pass each other at all and we aren’t very big people. There is plenty of cabinet storage but I have a feeling that it would be somewhat cumbersome to use with how narrow the hallway is and it would be especially tight trying to work on the engine which is also accessed there. Overall, the Out Island was a very nice boat and one we wouldn’t be disappointed with, but we just weren’t really feeling it. (This particular one at least. The Out Island can be found in many different layouts and every boat is different.)

The next boat that we saw was a Cape Dory 33. To be honest, we really should have looked at this one before the Out Island instead of after. We came away feeling like it was just too small for us which was compounded by the fact that this specimen wasn’t very well cared for and had a lot of junk piled inside of it. I think even a nice one would probably be too tight of a squeeze for 3 people, but it could make a good cozy boat for a couple. The galley area was actually more spacious on the Cape Dory than the Out Island with more working counter space, but that’s about the only thing that was bigger. One of the most pressing issues that I would have living in this boat is not just the living space but the non-existent storage space. I don’t think that our SCUBA equipment would be able to find a home on this little boat and therefore neither would we!

Luckily, the next two boats we toured were ones that we would be thrilled to pick up when the time comes but we will save those for next time!

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Posted on Apr 24, 2013 | 0 comments

Margin of Error

A financial safety net is just as important as a physical one.

A financial safety net is just as important as a physical one.

Whenever we are dealing with finances Dan and I like to plan for a pretty decent margin of error. (Dan would appreciate it if I would practice this a little more in dealing with scheduling as well; I am consistently 5 minutes late.) If you could listen in to some of our mini-planning sessions we frequently have, you would hear the phrase “worst case scenario” at the beginning of most of them. We figure that if we plan for the worst case – within reason of course, we aren’t going doomsday here- then we will be left with a much higher comfort level and safety net in times when we’re living on the other end of the spectrum.

The margin of error is especially important when we are talking about making a budget for a lifestyle that we have never lived before. Sure we think that we will be fine living on $1000-$1500 per month based on our research, but that’s all it is right now, research. It’s crucial for us to know that if that doesn’t end up being true we aren’t left high and dry (pun intended). The whole basis of this adventure is our desire for freedom but you can’t have freedom if you are constantly worried about how you are going to pay for the next time your engine needs a tune-up.

There are a couple of big ways that we are dealing with the margin. The first is in how we are planning out our rental income. Dan has created a spreadsheet that we use to evaluate any potential rental properties that we look at which takes into account all expenses (including property management costs at the highest rate we’ve seen in our area) and also vacancy rates of our tenants. We have separate columns for vacancy rates at 0%, 4%, 7%, and 11%. The current accepted vacancy rate in our area is a very low 2-3% but we use the 7% rate as the amount that we use for budgeting purposes. We hope this will give us a very safe expectation of income from our rentals even if the market worsens a bit before we leave. Hopefully we’ll continue filling vacancies within a week or two as we have done with our first 2 houses and also find a manager we like at a lower price, but if we don’t we are still fairly comfortable.

The second part of the plan is maximizing our income earning potential while cruising. Dan is currently a certified PADI Dive Master and plans to become a PADI Open Water and Specialty Instructor as soon as possible. Because PADI is recognized worldwide we are hoping that this will give us a nice back-up option if our income falls short of expenses. We also intend to log our sailing time once we start cruising to begin the process of getting Coast Guard Captain’s licenses (6-pack at least) which would allow us to complete deliveries and also increase Dan’s marketability as a SCUBA instructor who is licensed to carry divers himself. Finally, investment income on other savings and maybe some future swing trading as described in Live on the Margin in addition to some small income from this blog (yes we have recently added ads to the site) eventually could all add to a few hundred a month for extra flexibility.

Best Case Scenario: our costs will not overextend our rental income, we will have renters who stay for years at a time and financial stress will be a thing of the past in our new life. Worst Case Scenario: we have crappy renters who tear up our houses, our boat breaks down too often and Dan has to take up part-time work doing his favorite hobby. Sounds like a pretty nice life either way.

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