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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 Nov 6, 2013 | 0 comments

Scuba Instructor!

beach sunset pcb

Nothing beats a Panama City Beach sunset with a campfire on the beach.

Over the past few weeks I’ve been able to cross off a pretty big item off of our To-Do List. I am now certified as a PADI Open Water Scuba Instructor! This was a big goal of mine, personally. Ever since I became a certified diver a few years ago I wanted to become an instructor someday. Scuba diving is one of the most fascinating things I’ve ever done… and now I have the skills and credentials to enable others to enjoy the sport while making a little money as well.

After becoming CPR and First Aid instructors (a prerequisite for becoming a scuba instructor through PADI), Kyle and I went to Emerald Coast Scuba in Destin, FL for our PADI IDC (instructor development course). We met some great people there including the Course Director Anna and her Staff Instructors Chris, Kelly, Ray, and Stewart. I admit I was quite nervous going into the IDC and especially IE (instructor examination) but the staff made the entire experience very enjoyable and rewarding.

Kyle and I with our certificates at Vortex Springs

Kyle and I with our certificates at Vortex Springs

Being a PADI Instructor as well as a CPR/First Aid instructor will allow Michele and I to have a source of supplemental income that is still super fun at the same time. Our plan at the moment is to hopefully team up with dive shops along the way, especially during the offseason for cruising (i.e. hurricane season), and help with their overflow students and trips. This isn’t income that we are counting on, but diversifying our income stream is an important part of attaining the financial freedom that we are seeking… if we have a bad rental month/season/year and the stock market tanks at the same time, we will still have other options for replenishing the kitty.

If you are in the vicinity and would like to become a certified diver or are already certified and would like to take your skills to the next level, send me an email! I plan on keeping my classes either private or semi-private (two groups max) so you will get the attention new and continuing education divers need and deserve.

Right before the open water portion of our exams started, when everyone was the most stressed, we were entertained by a man we dubbed “the crazy Russian guy” that was over-excited about Kelly’s remote control drone. I’ve attached the video that the Russian guy made about the UAV… its pretty hilarious. (Note: Kelly is not, in fact, a member of the KGB…at least as far as I know.)

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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 Jun 27, 2013 | 0 comments

Boat Review: Morgan Out Island and Cape Dory 33

While we were in Panama City we decided we should take a look at a few boats that were potential candidates for us in the future. Most likely none of these exact boats will still be on the market in a year from now but it was important for us to get an idea of what condition boats were actually in that would be in our price range. It’s one thing to tour beautiful, brand-new boats at a yacht show and something else entirely to get a look at what we could realistically expect for $50,000 or less. We were a little apprehensive before going in though cautiously optimistic due to the amount of research we’ve already put in.

First up was the Morgan 41 Out Island. We have seen a lot of these on the cruiser’s forums as recommended family liveaboards (though it didn’t make the Mahina list). It has two good-sized staterooms and a nice big settee as well, so I can certainly understand why families with kids would like it so much. The center cockpit was also large and spacious and would certainly make a great space for entertaining. There was a lot of storage space throughout the cabins and the extra living space in the aft master stateroom would make for a relaxing retreat.

There were only a few negatives (in our opinion, they might not be for others) that we noticed about the boat. First, we aren’t very big fans of having 2 heads aka bathrooms on a boat. That might not seem like a problem, but we figure it’s wasted storage space and more hassle to deal with. Also, the walk-through hallway is pretty darn tight, as in Dan and I could not pass each other at all and we aren’t very big people. There is plenty of cabinet storage but I have a feeling that it would be somewhat cumbersome to use with how narrow the hallway is and it would be especially tight trying to work on the engine which is also accessed there. Overall, the Out Island was a very nice boat and one we wouldn’t be disappointed with, but we just weren’t really feeling it. (This particular one at least. The Out Island can be found in many different layouts and every boat is different.)

The next boat that we saw was a Cape Dory 33. To be honest, we really should have looked at this one before the Out Island instead of after. We came away feeling like it was just too small for us which was compounded by the fact that this specimen wasn’t very well cared for and had a lot of junk piled inside of it. I think even a nice one would probably be too tight of a squeeze for 3 people, but it could make a good cozy boat for a couple. The galley area was actually more spacious on the Cape Dory than the Out Island with more working counter space, but that’s about the only thing that was bigger. One of the most pressing issues that I would have living in this boat is not just the living space but the non-existent storage space. I don’t think that our SCUBA equipment would be able to find a home on this little boat and therefore neither would we!

Luckily, the next two boats we toured were ones that we would be thrilled to pick up when the time comes but we will save those for next time!

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Posted on Jun 12, 2013 | 0 comments

The Most Beautiful Beaches

Tom and Laura were the best hosts ever!

Tom and Laura were the best hosts ever!

For the week before Memorial Day this year, Dan, Carter and I went on a family vacation to Panama City Beach (“Home of the World’s Most Beautiful Beaches”) with Dan’s whole immediate family. Starting out at a bleary 2:00AM we had a 14 hour drive with a 2 year old ahead and wanted to maximize our “sleeping baby time”. Luckily, we made the drive with no problems, baby or car related, but we did eat dinner at an interesting little BBQ place in Montgomery, Alabama. Considering the looks we got when we pulled in and the handwritten sign on the door reading “No Masks, No Hoods, No Weapons”, we may have been the first white customers to come in quite some time. That was okay with us though because man they had some good barbecue.

Our evil plan seemed to work

Our evil plan seemed to work on the ride down to PCB

Don't judge a book by its cover...or a restaurant by the sign out front!

Don’t judge a book by its cover…or a restaurant by the sign out front!

When we got to PCB, we were immediately amazed at how beautiful the house and community was that our hosts, Dan’s second cousin Tom (or is it first cousin once removed?) and his wife Laura, lived in. They had renovated a burned out shell of a house that they nursed back to health in spectacular fashion and lovingly renamed “Creme Brule”. It was definitely nicer than any hotel we’ve ever stayed at, with much better company! Tom and Laura wasted no time in getting us down to the beautiful beach only a few blocks from the house and taking us on a tour of some of the famous 30A beach communities nearby. The most famous of which, Seaside, is where the Jim Carey movie The Truman Show was filmed.

Our introduction that first night was a preview of what most of our vacation would be, time on the beach followed by some fun sight seeing. In addition, we were able to do diving twice while we were there and had a great time! Dan and Kyle brought along their new pole-spears for the trip as spear fishing is fairly popular in the PCB community and we were not disappointed with their great catch that we brought home. (Anyone have a good recipe for grouper?)

It’s amazing what one week on the beach has done to our perspective. Thanks to our gracious hosts we had an amazing time in (and on!) Panama City Beach. We got a serious taste of what early retirement could look like outside of and in conjunction with our cruising plans and let me tell you, it tasted pretty darn delicious. We certainly were sad to leave and had some major cognitive dissonance going on as we drove north away from the warm weather and beautiful ocean.

On the Beach Black silhouettes

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