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Posted on Aug 7, 2013 | 1 comment

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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Posted on May 1, 2013 | 2 comments

Book Review: Once Upon a Gypsy Moon

onceuponagypsymoonOnce Upon a Gypsy Moon is not so much a sea-tale as it is a man’s introspective journey into his own motivations, actions, and dreams. While Gypsy Moon (his 32-foot sloop) carried Michael from Annapolis to Nassau and beyond physically, the time he spent single-handing her over that distance carried him much farther emotionally and spiritually. He started his journey lost and lonely after an ugly divorce and ended it as a man with hope for the future.

Here are a few of my favorite quotes from the book:

The world has a way of working itself out, in my experience. There are things unseen. Life is not always easy or pleasant, and it is often unfair, but it seems to unfold according to some plan of which we are only peripherally aware – like a dream, the details of which are vivid only when we are sleeping. We cannot remember- much less comprehend- that dreamworld with the powers of a rational mind.

Sailing has been a love of mine for almost as long as I can remember, and that love endures…But over the years, the idea of sailing long distances over oceans, unobliged to return, became for me less about adventure than escape- a kind of trapdoor beneath the uncertain footing of a marriage and a personal and professional life that seemed at various times to teeter on the brink of collapse… With no escape hatch, we have to face life head-on, admit our weakness, rely on our relationships, and trust others to catch us when we fall.

The insight in the book was compelling, though at times it did get a little dry. The boat journey was somewhat less exciting than the cover lead me to believe as it was mostly individual legs of a trip broken up by repair stops on his old boat rather than a continuous time line. The final chapter entitled “The Loss of the Gypsy Moon” was certainly the most thrilling of the book as *Spoiler Alert* Michael did eventually have to abandon ship during bad weather after a nasty knock-down and subsequent rescue by the US Coast Guard. Maybe someday she will be found and resuscitated but it seemed a fitting end to the tale of a man who no longer needed his escape hatch.

 

We would like to pass the book on to one of our readers in our first giveway! If you would like the chance to read Once Upon a Gypsy Moon yourself, there are four ways you can earn entries to the giveway:

  1. Subscribe to this blog via email (look for “Receive updates by email” in the right sidebar)
  2. Leave a comment on this post
  3. Follow us on Twitter @sv_horizon
  4. Like us on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/FollowTheHorizon

Each way gets you 1 entry into the drawing, for a maximum of 4 entries. We’ll do the drawing next Tuesday evening and announce the winner on the blog next week! Hope to see your name!

 (In March, we were contacted by Center Street book publishers to do a review on a new memoir that they released on April 16 called Once Upon a Gypsy Moon by Michael Hurley. We agreed, so they sent us a pre-release copy of the book that for some reason we didn’t receive until a couple of weeks ago. This is the first time that we have been contacted to do a review so we’re pretty excited that we are starting to pop up on the radar of the sailing blog world.)

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Posted on Apr 17, 2013 | 0 comments

Simplicity or Moderation?

 

Everything you need to know about cruising is in here!

Everything you need to know about cruising is in here!

So far in our month of finance posts, we’ve gone over our savings goals and reducing our current spending. But of course all of this is meaningless unless we have a plan for how much we will be spending while we cruise. People have asked this question on every blog and every forum available to cruisers of all levels and with something as individual as personal spending it is a fairly difficult question to answer. The most common response is “it costs whatever you have” or “that’s the same thing as asking how much it costs to live on land…its all up to you.”

While I appreciate the idea behind the answer, I also think that there is a way to generalize expenses for people. I can tell you that it is possible to live on $750/month or less for a couple in my town if you rent or own a one bedroom shack, eat peanut butter sandwiches every day and don’t own a car or have other insurance. You could spend $2000/month living in a small 3 bedroom home, eating good meals at home, driving one car rarely and being otherwise frugal. Or you spend $5000/month on a nice home in a good neighborhood, drive expensive cars that get terrible gas mileage as much as you want, and eat out for every single meal to normal restaurants. I can’t tell you how much it would cost your family, but I can give you the basis to help you figure it out on your own.

That’s exactly what Beth Leonard has done in this fantastic article entitled “How Much Will Cruising Cost You?” and also in her book The Voyager’s Handbook. She details the spending habits of three fictional cruising families: the Simplicity’s in a 33 ft cutter, the Moderation’s in a 40 ft catamaran, and the Highlife’s in a 54 ft ketch. In my opinion, this is the best document on cruising budgets that I have found in any of my research, and is what Dan and I based many of our calculations on when trying to figure out how much we would need monthly and yearly to live at the level we desired. We believe that we can budget somewhere between the Simplicity spending of 8,000/year and the Moderation level of 20,000/year leaving at somewhere in the $1000-$1500 per month range. This budget was also verified by a seminar called Three Cruising Budgets given by George Day of Blue Water Sailing magazine at Strictly Sail Chicago this year.

Obviously, we don’t know for certain yet how much we will spend once we start sailing, but it is important for us to have some sense of direction to work with while planning. No one else will have the same budget as us (and certainly not one man on a forum that told us we would need at least $50,000/year…he and his wife spent $1500/month on food alone!) but we think that using a generalized picture has given us pretty realistic expectations. We’re always open for comments or suggestions, so leave one for us below!

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Posted on Mar 21, 2013 | 0 comments

A Fresh Start

Each one of those is about 21 seconds of cruising. Start counting!

Each one of those is about 21 seconds of cruising. Start counting!

I am a sucker for new beginnings. New Year’s, birthdays, and even Mondays can generally make me feel like this time is going to be different. True, I’m usually right back to my normal routine by Wednesday, but there’s always next week, right? My most recent enthusiasm for new beginnings has been brought about by finally moving into our new house this last weekend. I mean, I love Dan’s parents for sure and am super grateful that they’ve welcomed us into their home for the last 2 months, but there’s just something about having your own space.

We’re hoping that with a new house will come some new habits and a new budget to go along with them. We’ve developed some habits in the last few years that are hard to break and hard on the pocket book, namely eating out almost every day and constantly being out running around for entertainment. You wouldn’t think that the running around part would be that big of a deal, but with $3.50/gal gas prices mingled with the propensity to buy random stuff we don’t need when we’re walking the mall for fun and then the  added likelihood of eating out if we’re already out of the house, and maybe you can see how kicking that habit could add almost $1000/month to our cruising kitty.

So how do we plan to change our bad habit? Well, first we have to start by wanting to be at home and therefore having plenty of entertainment for ourselves, sans television preferably. If the only thing we have to do at home is chores, then we don’t exactly want to spend a lot of time there. That means games, books, and possibly a new garden in a nice spot in the backyard. Also, our new neighborhood has sidewalks (yay!) and is fairly close to a couple of different parks, so walks and bike rides are definitely in our future – assuming of course that the future is warmer than today. Thirty degrees in March is precisely why winter is on its way out of my vocabulary.

I’ve also found a new meal planning subscription that we are trying out called 5 dinners 1 hour. One of my biggest problems with cooking at home is planning what we are going to have before I want to make it to ensure that we actually have the food on hand. No one (in our family at least) wants to go grocery shopping after work and then still come home and make dinner. 5 dinners 1 hour is a subscription service that provides 5 dinner recipes a week with a full grocery list and advanced preparation instructions to have all five of your entrees ready to go in an hour over the weekend. Then all I have to do is heat it up and whip up a side dish during the week. There are even 3 separate menu types to choose from: classic, clean eating, and gluten free (we chose clean eating) so you can find the right plan for your family. We just started this week, so I’ll try to post an update in a couple of weeks on how we like using it.

Do you have any suggestions for us to try? Games or great books to read? A recipe that your family loves? Leave a comment and let us know!

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