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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 23, 2014 | 0 comments

So Close and Yet So Far: Morgan Out Island 372 Review

Morgan Out Island 372

Not exactly her best side.

With the sale of our house pending and the realization that our current savings was adequate for a boat purchase, I decided to start digging through Craigslist and Sailboatlistings.com to explore the for sale by owner boat market. And by digging, I mean a solid 4 hours endlessly scrolling through terrible listings trying to discern which ones were even close to what we were looking for. I mean, come on people, a few pictures of the interior and an actual description would be nice. In the course of this mind-numbing search, I came across what seemed impossible…a Morgan Out Island 372 for sale in Peoria, Illinois. Not only that, but the pictures looked okay and it was listed in our purchase price range at $26,000. I instantly sent the listing to Dan to take a look at and contact the seller.

I’m not going to lie, I was so excited I could hardly sit still. I mean, how perfect could it get? A boat that we would like, in our price range, literally 5 minutes from home? I was starting seeing a Great Lakes route to the Atlantic, a going away party with friends and family that ends with the casting off of lines, the luxury of working on the boat ourselves while still being able to work full time…I have an active imagination. I just knew this had to be the boat for us. We heard back quickly from the seller who provided us with a fairly recent survey that looked decent, another bonus. It was time to see her in person.

Aaand we were severely disappointed. To be fair, it seemed that the bones of the boat were in good shape, no major structural issues and all that. In fact, we really liked the layout and overall set-up of the boat. However, this boat had so many terrible modifications that just made us go “why did you do that!” over and over again. The water heater had been removed and sold, along with the gimbaled stove which had been replaced by a portable cooler. The icebox refrigeration had been sliced and diced to make way for a dorm sized front loader that had to be held shut with a bungy cord. The cabin sole was badly damaged and covered by ugly carpet. One of the settees had been modified into a pull-out bed with a spring support system… effectively eliminating any potential for storage space below. Trust me, I could go on. Not only were there so many cosmetic issues to be dealt with, but there were many safety issues evident as well such as the gooseneck on the mast being replaced with a “custom-designed” piece by a welder friend because it was too difficult to find the actual part. Um yea, not going to go there, thanks though. I guess the search continues.

Want more pictures? Check out the Morgan Out Island 372 photo set on flickr. While you’re there, check out our flickr photostream to see what we’re up to!

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Lovely anchor and rotted bowsprite

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I almost forgot to mention the dogder and bimini with ripping seams and fogged windows.

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If you look closely, you can see the awesome caulk job on the portholes.

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The seller told us “Not to worry, all British engines leak oil!”

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Most of the original teak cabin liners were rotted and covered over by similarly bad choices of wall coverings.

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You can see here the huge icebox…destroyed for a dorm fridge.

 

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Posted on Sep 18, 2013 | 0 comments

A Different Kind of Preparation

Carter has been getting his workouts in too!

Carter has been getting his workouts in too!

Over the last few months, Dan and I have been doing a lot of brainstorming about unfinished business. Once we have the cash for our boat, we want to be ready to go. That means taking classes and doing research like we talked about in Look It Up, fixing our current house to be ready to rent or sell, and working through the process of eliminating items in our house that we don’t plan on bringing with us and aren’t currently using. Another area that I was particularly concerned about was my personal level of fitness and more specifically strength.

Basically my entire life, I have been abnormally weak. In high school, I literally failed the hand strength test in gym class. I have had to ask other women at work to open jars for me before. I certainly have never been able to help Dan move furniture or other heavy objects around our home. However, in my normal life, my lack of strength has never been more than a modest inconvenience. Someone stronger than I is pretty much always available to lend a hand.

Not so in our new life. When we are on the ocean, the only hands available will be Dan’s and mine and to be perfectly honest that was a humbling realization for me. need to be able to raise the mainsail, need to be able to hold the wheel steady, and need to have the strength to lift my husband or son out of the water or my weakness could become a life threatening issue for our family. I truly hope that Dan and I are never in a situation where one or both of our lives are dependent on the strength in my body, but I can’t consciously go into a life of such high potential danger without being better prepared.

For the last three months, I have been using body weight workouts to increase my strength. We both decided that using these types of exercises (push-ups, pull-ups, squats, etc.) were our best choice since we didn’t want to spend a lot of money on equipment or gym memberships when we wouldn’t be able to use those things while cruising anyway. Even in this short amount of time, I’ve noticed a major difference in how I feel, how I look, and most of all, how much I can do. I wouldn’t go so far as to call myself a lean, mean, fighting machine, but at least I can open my own jars and pull off a few push-ups.

I still have some way to go before I can beat Dan in an arm-wrestle. (Okay, let’s be real, chances of that happening are probably somewhere in the range of less than 1% and he would have to have mono or something.) The good news is that I have the right tools to get the job done and the confidence that I will be ready when my family needs me. 

 

*Here are a list of resources that I’ve found to be helpful:

  • NerdFitness.com  This is a great website for any level of fitness. I am also part of the forums and participate in the 6-week challenges. In the first challenge, Dan and I completed our first 50 mile bike ride! Not that I’m bragging or anything…
  • NiaShanks.com  This site is very strength focused and much more female-centric. I’m currently working through her Beautiful Badass Bodyweight Workout program.
  • StrengthPLUS.ca  Rebecca from ZerotoCruising.com has a site specifically dedicated to working out on-board.
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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 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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