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Posted on Apr 9, 2014 | 2 comments

Introducing Horizon: Our Irwin 37

Horizon under sailLet me start by saying that I never expected our 100th post to include the introduction of our boat. When we first started almost three years ago, we didn’t really know where to begin. We Learned to Sail the Hard Way and then decided it would be better to just take some lessons. Dan got certified as a Dive Master then Instructor, and we also learned that it’s better to just pretend to be a Rescue Victim. The Search was on for a boat this year but some days it felt like we might never get to this point, especially when we received the call from our broker that the Cabot 36 had sold. With a little luck and a lot of prayer, we’ve made it to the next stage of our journey.

We spent nearly 8 hours in the boatyard this last Saturday looking at boat after boat, but none of them felt like home. That is until we looked at the last one on our list: the Irwin 37 center cockpit. To be completely honest, we had all but written off this boat during our search. Generally, they are known for being a mid-range quality production boat from the 70s and 80s and frankly didn’t have the best online reputation. When our broker mentioned that he had one he would like us to look at, Dan and I basically just did a bit of an eye-roll and shrug “might as well look at it”. Little did we know.

Let me stop here to say that we had a fantastic experience with the broker we used but by request have not listed his name, since he would like to go cruising eventually as well and would prefer not to be known as the “broker guy”. He was extremely professional, very easy to get a hold of, and has a true passion to help people get into boats that they are going to love. His listings are some of the most thorough that we have seen throughout the country. If you are looking for a boat or thinking of selling yours in South Florida,  just shoot us an email through the Contact Us page and we would be happy to recommend him.

As the broker described Tortuga (current name until we can close the deal), the one word he kept using was anomaly. This boat may be nearly 40 years old, but every major system on the boat had been completely redone in the last 3-4 years. New rigging, new masts (its ketch-rigged), new staysail (make that cutter-ketch), brand new full suite of sails, top-of-the-line electronics, new beefy windlass, dodger and bimini, and the list goes on. Over $100k of upgrades and renovations really sweetens the honeypot when our total budget for boat and outfit is only $50k.

What’s the ketch you ask? Okay that was bad. Well, the person who did all of these upgrades (the owner of a major sail maker company we found out later) decided after pouring in all of the money that he actually wanted a bigger boat. So he dumped it before the interior was completely spruced up. Some of the cabinets need to be rehung, the headliner needs old holes filled and painted, the wiring needs to be organized, and some of the plumbing needs help. Luckily, everything that needs to be done are fairly easy and cheap fixes but they currently make the interior somewhat less than desirable to most buyers, especially when compared to what you expect to find after seeing the immaculate exterior. Bad news for the seller, great news for us.

Some people might be wondering right now what happened to our Blue Water Boat criteria? Well, the fact of the matter is, we’ve come to realize like so many others that every boat is a compromise. After seeing what types of boats were available in our price-range we quickly came to the conclusion that the heavily built offshore cruisers just were not going to work for our family. With our short to mid-range plans being to cruise the Bahamas and Caribbean, we believe the Irwin will be a safe and functional home for the three of us. If in the future we decide to head offshore, we will meet that challenge head-on as we always do.

We hope you will continue to Follow the Horizon with us as we continue into the next exciting stage of our journey.

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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 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 Apr 12, 2013 | 0 comments

Digging a Little Deeper

Sure it can eat through mud and snow...and your wallet.

Sure it can eat through mud and snow…and your wallet.

Now that we’ve taken care of most of our “big-ticket” items to improve our savings, Dan and I are trying to tackle the smaller ways that we can find extra dollars in our budget. Not only is this important for increasing our savings to maximum levels but it also is helping to prepare us for living more frugally while cruising. If we want to have any kind of decent chance at living on $1000-$1500 a month than we have to get serious about knowing where each of our dollars goes and how to cut that down as much as possible.

The tracking part is made much easier by the online financial website that we use: Mint.com. We have all of our bank accounts, credit cards, loans, and investment accounts tied in so they automatically update whenever you long in. We’ve used this program for a few years and we’re pretty happy with it, though it can be a lengthy process to set everything up and figure out what budgets you want to set for yourself. Once you have been using it for a couple of months, it can really help to show you where your money is going every month. For some time now, it has been giving us a pretty clear indication that we have been spending too much in the Food and Gas departments, so we’ve finally decided to get those under control.

Food was first and it was somewhat daunting to me to be honest. Not to play the martyr working mom bit, but it is really hard to provide home cooked meals during a working week. There’s just not enough time to be able to figure out what to make every day and go pick things up from the store so I had to find a different approach. A couple of weeks ago I mentioned that we have purchased a subscription to 5meals1hour.com for five dollars a month. Well, we’ve completed the first months’ worth of recipes and I can honestly say that we are way ahead of where we were last month, but I can’t give all the credit to the menus. We only used about 1/3 of the recipes on the menus, but we have still been eating at home on average of 5 days a week, which is a huge deal for us. I think just the change in mindset about grocery shopping every two weeks for actual planned meals has been the biggest positive change that 5dinners1hour has made for us. We can still improve a lot in this area, especially because I’m not a very experienced grocery shopper yet so I think we’re paying too much for our groceries, but we’re seeing a definite change in attitude and habits.

Gas spending is our other cash hog. Like a lot of people we know, it’s just something that we haven’t taken seriously before. But looking at our accounts, we have spent almost $1300 in gas alone since February 1! That’s averaging $18.50 per day, yikes! Here are a few strategies we are implementing to help us cut down this silent killer.

  1. Drive less…obviously. Eating meals at home isn’t just saving us money in the food department, it means less driving too.
  2. Walk and Ride Bikes, and not just for leisure riding. Dan has started riding his bike to work most days and we are planning to use our bikes for trips to the grocery store, library, and other close to home errands.
  3. Get rid of the gas guzzler in the driveway. We’re still working on this one, but the goal is to eliminate one of our 15 mpg SUV’s for a 30+ mpg compact car. Even if we have to spend some money over the sale of our Jeep, we should get most of it back in the end when we sell it in a year. This one has the potential to save us in the realm of $250/month!

Hopefully, we’ll find some good success using these strategies and find others to help us keep our everyday spending in check. If you have any suggestions, let us know in the comments!

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Posted on Mar 27, 2013 | 1 comment

McMansions and Land Yachts

Our first step was selling both of our Saab 9-3s

Our first step was selling both of our Saab 9-3s

When we talk with people about cruising the first question people usually ask us, after getting over their disbelief, is “How are you going to pay for it?” In the spirit of tax season, we’ve decided to do a short mini-series in April devoted to finances, both for cruising and anyone trying to get a little more bang for their buck.

 

Have you ever looked at someone in a luxury motorized throne (ok, imported luxury vehicle) and thought, “Wow, sweet ride! I wish I was wealthy enough to have one.” Okay probably not in those words… but the reality (according to the authors of The Millionaire Next Door, two PhDs with over 20 years of research on the subject) is that most people living in affluent neighborhoods and driving luxury vehicles actually don’t have very much wealth. Sure they can afford the payments on their McMansions and land yachts, but many of them are living paycheck to paycheck. They are constantly teetering on the edge of financial ruin, saving less than a few percent (if at all!). Sadly, retirement is only a pipe dream to many people from all levels of the tax bracket. They think about in abstract terms, hopefully they’ll have enough to retire at some distant point in the future… definitely not something attainable in the near term.

However, with the right approach retirement is not only attainable, it’s attainable in a relatively short amount of time. Michele and I are recently followers of Mr. Money Mustache, who retired a few years ago at age 30. He explains it best:

Mr. Money Mustache’s advice? Almost all of [the life is hard and expensive excuse] is nonsense: Your current middle-class life is an Exploding Volcano of Wastefulness, and by learning to see the truth in this statement, you will easily be able to cut your expenses in half – leaving you saving half of your income. Or two thirds, or more. Sound like a fantasy? Not to readers of this blog.

What happens when you can save more of your income? As it turns out, spending much less than you earn this is the way to get rich. The ONLY way. And the effects are surprising: if you can save 50% of your take-home pay starting at age 20, you’ll be wealthy enough to retire by age 37. If you already save some assets now, you’re even closer than that. If you can save 75%, your working career is only 7 years.

But how can you save so much?

The bottom line is this: by focusing on happiness itself, you can lead a much better life than those who focus on convenience, luxury, and following the lead of the financially illiterate herd that is the TV-ad-absorbing Middle Class of the United States today (and most of the other rich countries). Happiness comes from many sources, but none of these sources involve car or purse upgrades. No matter what the herd or the TV set tells you, this is the truth. Far from being a social outcast, this new perspective will make you a hero among your friends. This is not a fringe activity anymore – millions of people are fixing their lives these days. And the earlier you can accept it, the sooner you will be rich.

It is not an easy journey to begin, but it is a path that leads to what I call time freedom. Time freedom doesn’t necessarily mean sitting on a beach somewhere doing nothing all day, every day. It simply means having the freedom to spend your time the way you wish. Michele and I have been blessed with a great starting point on our journey. We were able to very quickly build and capitalize on equity in our first home. We’ve been able to turn that into a portfolio of rental homes (we close on our third next week!) and traditional investments. These properties and other investments will provide a decent income when we retire. More importantly, we’re learning to live on much less than our current income while maintaining an extremely high quality of life, which is precisely what we are expecting to continue doing when we go cruising.

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