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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 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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Posted on Oct 24, 2012 | 0 comments

Divemaster!

No, it isn’t a shark. It’s a spoonbill from Mermet Springs.

You might have noticed a new check on our To-do List… With a second trip to Mermet Springs in three weeks, I’ve finally earned my PADI Divemaster certification. It was quite a relief to finally be finished, to be honest. Kyle and I had been working nearly every weekend since May… taking tests, completing practical exams, assisting pool classes, grading quizzes and tests, guiding tours, assisting with student training dives, and anything else a dutiful dive shop slave does.

We will definitely still be doing most of those things, but at least the rush is over. We didn’t want to say no to any opportunity to complete a part of our certification requirements due to the fast approaching winter (and no diving for the warm blooded… water so cold your head wants to explode isn’t fun). Each time I assist with new students I am amazed at how far I have come in such a short time. From worrying about not banging into the coral/rocks to flawlessly floating through a submerged Boeing 727, I’m a much better diver than I was a year ago when I was in the Caribbean. I love being able to help students discover diving and improve their own skills.

I still have much to learn about diving and teaching diving, especially as I hone my skills for the instructor class, but it feels great to have attained professional diver ranking.

So where do I go from here? The eventual goal is for scuba to be able to provide some supplemental income while we are cruising. The best way to earn money in scuba is instructing and leading dive tours. As a divemaster I can already lead dive tours, but I am severely limited in the independent instructing I can do. Next up are the Instructor Development Course and the Instructor Exam.

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Posted on Jul 25, 2012 | 0 comments

We’ve had a busy week

Zoe during better times

It’s been a hectic week! We weren’t kidding when we said There is a Lot Going On Around Here.

As a follow up to Good Bye Awesome Car, Hello Future our second awesome car has been sold! We have been looking for an opportunity to sell it, as eliminating our last car payment will really boost our savings. We’re now driving my parent’s Jeep which they are selling us for a very good price that we think we should easily be able to recoup when we sell it. Parting ways was much easier this time… each step forward is a step closer to cast-off day. The bedroom has been painted, the carpet is on the way, and I’m done with the classroom portion of Divemaster training. Next up is assisting with classes and student training dives.

Of all of the progress made this week, perhaps the most momentous was telling my parents. My family is very close (we live 2 blocks away from them)… so we weren’t exactly sure how they would take the news that we are planning on moving thousands of miles away. More on that in our next post.

On a much sadder note, our dog Zoe passed away on Saturday. Although she was only four years old, she had been battling Addison’s disease for three of those. Steroids twice a day for three years allowed her to live an active life but also took a toll on her small body. Even though we understand the necessity of giving up our dogs before leaving for life at sea, this was definitely not the way we had planned on saying good-bye. It also has given us just a little reminder of the good things that we will be leaving behind. Even fulfilling your dreams can be bittersweet at times.

Follow your dreams. Follow the Horizon.

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Posted on Jul 18, 2012 | 0 comments

There is a lot going on around here

Now that Michele and I’s cruising plans have been put into high gear, getting ready to “retire” and begin cruising is hard! No really, it is. Let me list a few of our current projects for you…

  • Get the house ready to sell
    • New Fireplace Mantle DONE
    • New Bedroom Carpet IN PROGRESS
      • Carpet removed DONE
      • Carpet pad removed DONE
      • New carpet picked out
    • New Paint in Bedroom IN PROGRESS
    • Remove hideous 90’s wallpaper border from Bedroom DONE
    • Finish Crown Molding in Kitchen DONE
    • Paint the Shed IN PROGRESS
  • Become a PADI Divemaster
    • Assist with Open Water Diver classes IN PROGRESS
    • Attain 60 logged dives IN PROGRESS
  • Become better sailors
    • Join local yacht club DONE
    • Sail as often as possible IN PROGRESS
  • Sell my Saab
    • Meet with potential buyers IN PROGRESS
  • Get LASIK eye surgery
    • First appointment DONE
    • No contacts for 3 weeks IN PROGRESS
    • Surgery August 17th in Chicago UPCOMING
Dealing with the above (and more… part of which I’m really excited about, but it isn’t ready to show you guys yet!) while trying to continue in a job that my heart isn’t in anymore has been weighing on me recently. When it gets bad, I close my eyes and remember standing with Michele on the beach. The sand, wind, ocean… they all comfort me even tough they are a thousand miles away. Michele and I are doing our best to bring them quite a bit closer, however. The sacrifices we make now will allow us to cruise more comfortably (and sooner!) in the future, and I’m glad we’re making them. But life is not always mai tais and mini umbrellas… but at least it is exciting to be making progress in following our dreams.
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