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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.

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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 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 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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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 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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