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Posted on Mar 20, 2014 | 0 comments

The Search is On

Oceanis 38 at Strictly Sail

This Beneteau didn’t quite make the price cut.

The search for our boat and new family home has officially begun! In fact, we started looking online in earnest in late February. It wasn’t until we closed on our final rental property this Tuesday that we felt comfortable about possibly shelling out a large portion of our savings for a boat.  Now that we are preparing the house for rental status, we have a firm grasp on our financial situation and can go into negotiations with confidence.

To start our search, I began with a list of potential blue-water boats that I had created over a year ago and discussed in my post Blue Water Boats. I essentially used the boat list provided from Mahina Expeditions and narrowed that down substantially based on our budget restrictions and preferred layout choices. I used this updated list to search every online source I could think of including Craigslist.com, Sailboatlistings.com, and Yachtworld.com primarily.

Trust me when I say that the search process takes hours, even with a limited list of boats. Try typing in “Morgan 38″ into yachtworld and you’ll see what I mean. Our next step was to narrow down these potential boats by sifting out those that looked in decent condition and had as much updated gear as possible. I created a spreadsheet of “required” vs “optional” gear including estimated costs to help us evaluate each boat objectively, and get a general idea of how much each boat would cost us overall.

Next, we started calling brokers and were honestly shocked at how unresponsive most of them were. More than one took several days to respond to our questions and a few never responded at all. You would think that a person on commission would be a little more excited about someone trying to buy their boat, but I guess maybe our price range doesn’t quite arouse their interest like a $200,000 sale. In any case, for anyone out there trying to sell a lower end boat, be choosey about your broker because you might have missed out on a sale due to their inaction.

In our first round of searching and after (finally) hearing back from brokers, we found a few good choices and 1 that is a true stand-out in our opinion. Unfortunately, that boat is halfway across the country; I guess that’s the downside to living in Illinois while trying to find a blue-water ready boat. We are convinced enough of its potential that we have officially made arrangements to see the boat and are hoping to get some good results. It’s nerve-wracking to spend $1,000 on flights and hotel to go visit a boat we’ve never seen and can’t be absolutely sure will still be available when we get there. At this point we are just praying that 2 weeks is a safe bet.

Keep your fingers crossed for us that everything goes well and I’m sure we’ll be posting more on this topic soon!

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Posted on Nov 20, 2013 | 0 comments

Destruction Close to Home

As some of you may have seen on the news, this last Sunday an EF4 tornado swept through Washington, Illinois only a 15 minute drive from our home. Hundreds of houses were severely damaged or destroyed, but miraculously only 1 person was killed. None of our family’s homes sustained any damage or injuries, but we do have friends and coworkers whose lives have been significantly disrupted from the storm.

Dan was teaching an Open Water scuba class at the health center in Washington when the sirens went off. Everyone was quickly directed to the locker room areas where the building was the best fortified for emergencies. As the tornado passed, the power in the building went out and Dan could hear the roaring, screeching sound of the monster storm rushing by. A huge crash resounded through the building, which he later discovered was from a cement block wall being knocked over in the addition that was being built on the center.

Dan didn’t realize how extensive the damage really was until later when he tried to drive home. Everywhere he went, there were downed power lines, trees, and homes with roofs blown off. Eventually, he came to the worst hit area where the homes had been completely demolished, almost as if a bomb had gone off. Where there were once whole neighborhoods, all the remains is a giant trash heap that people somehow have to sift through to try and salvage whatever they can. It took him almost 3 hours to navigate through the traffic and wreckage to get home. The pictures above were taken during that time.

I don’t know if there is anything that can humble a person more quickly than to come face to face with the awesome forces of nature. Tornadoes are no respecters of persons. In an instant they have the power to sweep away everything you own, without a thought. Our lives are fragile and each moment is a gift.

 

*If you would like to help this community, please consider donating to the Salvation Army or the Red Cross disaster relief funds.

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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 Feb 7, 2013 | 0 comments

Passive Income: The New American Dream

Live on the Margin websiteWhen people, including ourselves, first start looking into cruising there is one big question that everyone wants an answer to and is for some reason difficult to find. How much is this going to cost? aka How much longer do I have to scrounge and save in this boring life before I can gtfo? Most people cruising today count on some form of savings to finance their cruising plans and once that “kitty” (as the community likes to call it) runs out, they have to stop and work either permanently or in temporary jobs until they can keep going. Pat Schulte (of Bumfuzzle fame) and Nick O’Kelly have found another solution: Live on the Margin.

Disclaimer: The book is really good, but remember trading stocks and options isn’t like gambling, it is gambling. If you read the book, follow the advice, and lose your butt, don’t blame us. We just found the book entertaining.

Pat and Nick have been traveling throughout the world for many years while making money in essentially one way: trading stocks and options in short term trades. And lucky us, they’ve written a book about it so we can all do the same thing. Now I know what you’re thinking, “Really? You want me to read a book about trading stocks? I think I’ll just go count the blades of grass in my front yard instead.” Normally, I would agree with you, but this book is easy to understand and actually funny. That’s right, I said funny. I actually laughed out loud a few times while reading it clandestinely in my cubicle. If you’ve ever wanted to learn the basics of trading without wanting to blow your brains out afterwards, this is the book for you.

Here are a couple of my personal favorite quotes from the book:

The stock market is brutally sincere when it tells you that it wants to suck every dollar out of you. The guy on the other side of the trade wants your money. He will lead you by the hand and mug you and take your money.

When describing what happens when a “celebrity” stock crashes and takes a long time to go back up:

Nobody wants to dance with the popular kid who just crapped his pants on the dance floor in front of the entire school, and that’s the problem you run into with celebrity stocks.

After reading the book I took their advice and opened an account with an online brokerage that allows you to trade fake money as if you were making real trades to help get accustomed to the ins and outs of trading before you start risking real cash. So far, I’ve learned three things from trying it out myself:

  1. I actually know nothing about stocks. I’ve had to reread parts of the book a couple of times while looking at a trading platform to figure out how to make it work.
  2. If ice in the veins is what is required for making good trades, I think I might have hot chocolate. So far, I’m waaay too reactive to little things that happen and get hyped up waiting for the market to move. This causes me to make stupid decisions and act like a member of the “anxious herd of sheep” that I’m trying to avoid being.
  3. I’m pretty sure that Dan will be the one doing all the trading in this family.

I’ll admit it, I totally suck at trading. I have yet to make any fake money in my lousy trades, but at least I’m learning and not using real cash yet. I just hope I don’t run our fake account into the ground before Dan can finish the book!

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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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