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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 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 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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Posted on Jan 23, 2013 | 0 comments

Welcome to the World of Rent

How would you like to live here? Too bad, it’s already rented!

As of January 16, Dan and I are the proud owners of our first rental home and even in just a week we are starting to get a picture of the ups and downs involved. On the upside, we already have most of the repairs finished that we wanted done before having a tenant moved in. We were also pleasantly surprised by the great response we had to our Craigslist ad. Within 2 hours of first posting the ad, we already had people calling and filling out rental applications online. In fact, we had 10 showings in the first 3 days which was enough to find multiple candidates that we were fairly confident in renting to.

One of the candidates seemed like a great fit for us. She was an elderly retired woman (let’s call her Mary, not her real name of course) with two handicapped grandchildren that she cared for and received monthly payments from the government on their behalf, in addition to a decent pension. Mary also had lived in her last two locations for almost 10 years each, which sounded pretty darn good to us. Older woman with guaranteed income and longevity? Perfect! We let her know that pending a reference and credit check we would be interested in moving forward with her application.

During the course of our research into becoming landlords, multiple individuals recommended to us that previous landlord references were one of the crucial screening calls to make. With this in mind, we prepared to make a few phone calls. We noticed that Mary hadn’t written down her past landlord’s number, so we gave her a quick call to which she responded that she didn’t have it on her but she would call us right back with it. After waiting a couple of hours and not hearing back, Dan decided to try to find the number himself using her listed address. Luckily, he found a full listing provide by the city housing authority of all of the owner/property managers for each rental unit including name and phone number. However, we needed to call Mary back anyway to get a few more pieces of information and this time she gave us her landlord’s number herself.

We called the landlord with the number she provided and he gave her a raving review. Never late on payments, grandkids don’t cause any problems, just everything perfect. However, there were a couple of discrepancies that didn’t quite pass the stink test. First, Mary had written on her application that she paid $525/mth at her current address and the landlord said $1200. Second, she claimed that her reason for leaving was that the landlord was selling the property but the landlord was very emphatic that they didn’t know she was moving and how disappointed they were in losing her. Finally, the name and number of the landlord didn’t match what was on the city spreadsheet as the legal contact, and the number was only 1 digit different from her personal number (which also happened to be from a different area code then the local one). We had Dan’s brother double check the owner of the cell phone number – he works for a local cell distributor – and found that Mary was the owner of the account.

Now I’m usually a pretty relaxed person and don’t get angry too easily, but this situation really rubbed me the wrong way. I mean, seriously? You’re going to give me a fake phone number and have your family lie to a prospective landlord? We don’t know why she lied to us, whether she didn’t have the other landlord’s number or was intentionally hiding problems she was having, but to us it doesn’t matter. She will not be living in our house under any circumstances. Luckily, we had a second choice tenant whose credit check showed exactly what she told us it should and her landlord’s name and number matched the spreadsheet and also happened to be a former mayor. Somewhat more legit.

It is easy to see how people who own businesses can become cynical very quickly. Most people just want to do the right thing, but some really are trying to take advantage of you. The important thing is having a healthy balance of faith and skepticism about other people, so hopefully you can determine which is which. And remember, if it stinks…it’s probably fishy.

 

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Posted on Oct 10, 2012 | 0 comments

A Sense of Loss

Dan recently took this photo while on his day off with Carter

 

Recently, I had the opportunity to be part of a leadership seminar through my department at work. There were many excellent points discusses throughout the entire course of the seminar, but the portion on change is what really hit a chord with me. Hmm, I wonder why? The speaker, Chuck Stoner*, spoke specifically about the fact that every change in life comes with a sense of loss and grieving, even when the change is something positive that we are looking forward to.

When change comes, there is always a different path that will never be available to us again. Dan and I are currently standing in that divergence of choices and the other paths that we will be walking away from are so clear to me I can almost physically see them. I can see Carter at his first day of kindergarten, baseball game, and a host of other things that every mom cherishes and it does fill me with a sense of longing for that path. I can see that our grandparents are getting older and know in my heart that there is a very real possibility that being gone for 5-10 years or more means we might not get to see them again before they die. We may miss births of nieces and nephews, friends’ weddings, and a lot more events that we can never get back once they are over. We will be moving away from Dan’s very close-knit family that we spend time with multiple days a week.

All of these things and more impose a real weight to the decisions that we are making. They give more value to the good life that we are leaving behind to follow our dream of cruising. Does that mean that we will regret the choice to leave? I don’t think so. The excitement of moving forward and doing something new is far too great for us to look back wistfully for very long. But it does make me appreciate the time we have left a little more.

Follow your Dreams. Follow the Horizon.

*Dr. Charles Stoner and his speaking partner Tom Bower gave one of the best seminars I have ever attended. If you ever have a chance to go to one, I would highly recommend it. Also, you can find some of Chuck’s books on business and leadership here.

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