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Posted on Feb 22, 2013 | 0 comments

Blue Water Boats

Not a blue water boat you say? This baby crossed the Atlantic. All 5 feet 4 inches of her.

Not a blue water boat you say? This baby crossed the Atlantic. All 5 feet 4 inches of her.

For anyone who has ever tried to get decent information on sea-worthy boats will know, it’s not exactly an easy task. As I mentioned in my post about Strictly Sail this year, searching in our new price range of below $50,000 and in the size range of 30′-40′ boats, the results are a bit overwhelming…like 3,602 results overwhelming. For some people out there who have been around sailing for a while, winnowing down that many choices to something more manageable would be no problem at all. But for us, we were at a loss. How can we figure out which of these boats would serve our family well over a considerable amount of time?

What we really needed was a good list of boats that fall into the acceptable range for durability and safety on the open ocean, aka Blue Water Boats. “No problem!”, we say, “let’s just search for blue water boats and see what we get.” Yea…right. Search that phrase and I promise you that you will find a million different opinions on every boat on the market, and that’s because the idea of a blue water boat is so subjective. There are boats that have safely crossed oceans that other cruisers wouldn’t think of using farther than 5 miles from a coastline. After doing quite a bit of research, we’ve found that our top requirements are a stable boat preferably with a full keel (though other types are still an option), as much tankage as possible for fresh water and fuel, good storage, good construction, and preferably one having 2 private cabins so that Carter can have his own space (and so can we!)

But which boats fit that description? Well, that’s where the Mahina Expeditions crew comes in. This group has a lot of experience with helping people choose cruising boats, and even does a day long seminar that we will probably attend at next year’s Stictly Sail. One of their best resources (in my opinion) is a listing of every type of boat that they consider to be blue water quality, along with information about how to distinguish different qualities of boat systems. We’ve been able to use this list to help narrow down the choices quite a bit, and have a much smaller grouping now of boats that we think would be really good for our family. It is nice to have some extra reassurance that we aren’t going to have to settle for a lesser quality boat due to our reduced budget.

Now all we have to do is wait until we can make one our new home! Its not as easy as it sounds, trust me.

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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 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 Dec 21, 2012 | 0 comments

Even the Best Laid Plans

In any major venture in life, honest and objective evaluation must constantly be part of the planning. That is especially true for us as we try to make decisions regarding our finances and how best to provide for our dream of cruising. When we first started making plans for cruising, we estimated that we would require approximately $1000-$1500 per month for basic necessities and boat maintenance. Using this estimate, we calculated that we would like to have around $70,000 in hard savings in addition to whatever money we decided to use for a decent boat. That would give us a very comfortable 4-5 years of savings that gave us plenty of options for continuing just by adding small amounts of income from scuba diving and other odd jobs.

Then came the wait. Three to four years starts to feel extremely far away when you are constantly reading and learning about how amazing that life could be, and when the cruising experts all say to go cheap, simple, and as soon as possible. And so, we decided to move up our intended departure date to the fall of 2013. We would sell our house and use the equity to buy a boat, and hopefully save enough money to have only two years instead of five in reserves.

That brings us to today, when the honest evaluation comes in. Our house has sold and we are six months into this phase of saving. At closing, we will be receiving around $40,000 from the equity of our house. We have also saved just under $10,000 in additional cash for our kitty. It might sound like a lot to be sitting on, but we’re honestly a little less than excited about it. If you’ve ever been boat shopping, you will note that there aren’t many family friendly boats on the market for only $40,000, especially if we want to do more than coastal cruising.

After the long, hard look at our money, we’ve decided that we need to make our money work a little harder to be able to meet our goals. The way we plan to do that is by purchasing two houses immediately which we will rent out to increase our monthly income while cruising. We will live in one while saving our kitty and rent the other as soon as possible. If all goes well, we will add 2-3 more by the end of the year. The much lower mortgage payment will also allow us to save more every month towards our goals.

While our new plan may not get us on a boat in the next year, we are very confident that it will give us much a higher chance of success and that still within the original time frame. What do you think about our new plan? Let us know in the comments below!

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Posted on Nov 7, 2012 | 0 comments

The Election is Over, Now What?

Well Election Night has come and gone, and once again we all chose a president. The real question now is so what? While it’s nice to hear what a candidate is “planning” to do, what we really need to know is how their policies are going to affect our everyday lives. Unfortunately, it is almost impossible to find good concrete information about how US policies affect our future plans. We have been trying to find better information about what our status will actually be once we move out of the country essentially as nomads.

Here are a few of our most pressing questions:

  • Where is our legal “residence” once we no longer live anywhere specific?
  • Would we have to pay state income taxes in addition to federal if we aren’t a state resident?
  • Through which state/city do we do our absentee voting, and where do we have our ballots sent?
  • How is the federal health insurance mandate going to affect us? Does it apply if we aren’t living in the country?
  • How do we maximize our tax status to use the system to our advantage while we are living on interest only?
  • Do we have to pay capital gains tax on the sale of our house if we don’t “reinvest” it in another house? (This one we have answered now: only if we sell our house for more than $250,000 more than we bought it for. In our dreams.)
  • How do the new overseas banking regulations affect us?

The difficult thing in finding the real answers to these questions is the fact that every cruiser is different and most policies aren’t exactly written with roaming nomads in mind. And while both of us are fairly confident in our abilities to read and understand legal contracts and other important documents, we aren’t very comfortable with basing very serious decisions on our own knowledge of tax, immigration/emigration, and healthcare law. I mean have you ever tried reading raw tax code? Not recommended for the living.


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Posted on Aug 2, 2012 | 0 comments

How-To: Inform the Fam

Dan’s mom, Shelly, and Carter at the pumpkin farm last year.

Step 1: Put a big sign in front of your house that says it is for sale.
Step 2: Wait for your family to freak out.

Okay, this is exactly what we didn’t do and hopefully anyone reading this blog will try to avoid this approach as well.  We were not looking forward to telling Grandma and Grandpa that their adorable grandson would soon be living on a boat out of easy cuddle range, however we decided that it would be very unfair to put our house up for sale without letting them know first.

Let me just insert a little history here to help everyone understand why we were hesitant to tell our parents. First of all, we have a very good relationship with Dan’s parents. They live only a few blocks from us, which means that we see them a lot. It will be a major change for us (and them) to not see each other basically every day. Secondly, sailing off on a boat is not the first time that we have told our families that we are moving somewhere else, but it will be the first time that we actually do it. We wanted to make sure that we were far enough along in the planning and preparation that we would be taken seriously, as well as have as many answers to their questions as possible. Finally, over the last year we have been trying to prepare them for the idea of cruising by talking a lot about sailing and other people that we have met who are currently cruising.

To be honest, I think our general preparation worked to make the idea sound feasible, but I’m not sure that we overcame the obstacle of being taken seriously. We told Dan’s parents at dinner at Cracker Barrel (his mom’s favorite restaurant, mine less so) that we were putting our house up for sale in August and that we planned to move to Florida as soon as possible to find a boat to live on. And then…nothing happened. It was extremely anticlimactic. Eventually they did ask some of the basic questions like “What about pirates?” and “How do you make sure Carter doesn’t fall in?”, but the overall mood was so subdued I almost wished someone would cry or yell or something. It felt like being a kid again…

“Hey mom! I’m going to be an astronaut when I grow up!”
“That’s great, honey, now wash your hands for dinner.”

Since that day, a week and a half ago, there still hasn’t been much reaction. Things have been mentioned in an off-hand kind of way, but no more questions or concerns have been voiced. I have a feeling that may change once we are actually leaving, but for now I just don’t think that it is real to them yet.

Note: some of you may have noticed the lack of information on my family’s reaction to the news. That’s because we would like to tell them in person, but we haven’t been able to get up to Chicago to talk to them about it yet.

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