Whoever 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 yachtworld.com 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.
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.
Yea, it scares me too.
For those of you following closely, you will know that LASIK eye surgery is on our To-Do List before we leave (aka lose insurance coverage.) Both of us currently wear glasses and contacts and while we understand that people certainly can go cruising with prescription lenses, we would prefer not to. Losing or damaging expensive glasses is an inconvenience when it’s a pair of sunglasses, its a danger when its a prescription that allows you to see anything farther away than the bow of your boat.
The flip side of this coin is the fairly high cost. Eye surgery is considered an elective procedure by most insurance companies and is generally not covered. We’ve been quoted $1000-$2000 per eye depending on the type of lasers used and the warranties included. That’s a total cost for 4 eyes of up to $8000, a cost that will be coming directly out of our cruising kitty. Seeing as how we’ve moved up our planned departure date by a few years, that’s quite a chunk of change that has to be seriously considered.
After a lot of consideration, (and some help from my parents’ insurance plan) we have decided to go through with the surgery. This Friday to be exact. Let me just say that it definitely does make both of us nervous. While LASIK is a very common surgery at this point, there are no true guarantees that something won’t go wrong. It is a little scary when going wrong could mean permanent damage to our vision.
We’ll be heading up to Chicago for our surgery Thursday night for our appointments Friday morning. And if you think of us as you’re getting to work on Friday, send a little prayer our way. Hopefully, we’ll “see” you on the other side!
Tuesday night as Dan and I were driving home from buying our sweet new Keen sandals-which are totally awesome by the way- Dan was overcome by a sudden fit of anxiety. Okay, that’s somewhat over dramatic, but he did start looking around all of the sudden and slowing down the car. “We’re gonna miss the transit! We have to go find a spot to see it!” he said as he started driving in the opposite direction of our house.
For those of you who follow the news, you will probably recognize that Dan was talking about Tuesday’s transit of Venus in front of the sun. I am ashamed to say that I generally don’t pay any attention to the news so I had no idea what he was talking about, but of course he quickly explained and then I was just as excited to see it as he was. The transit of Venus is an extremely rare celestial event and won’t happen again until 2117, so it’s pretty much guaranteed that we won’t get the chance to see it again, though Carter might if he lives to be 107.
We quickly found a spot with an unobstructed view of the sun, which would have been difficult if we had waited any longer, but then realized that we didn’t have anything with us to be able to view the transit. You can’t look directly into the sun and see anything of course, and we had nothing (that we know of) to make a shadow viewing. We were somewhat dejected as we headed home to look at pictures of it on the internet, I know…super lame, right?
Luckily, on the way home we spotted an older gentleman standing outside with a camera pointed directly at the sun. We were hesitant to stop, but figured there wasn’t any harm in asking if he was looking at the transit. I’m so glad we did! Apparently, this man had an intense camera with a lens that filters out everything but 1/10th of 1% of the sun’s light, specifically for viewing events like this and solar eclipses. We got an amazing first hand look at Venus crossing the sun, and it was definitely worth the trouble, much better than watching it on a screen, that’s for sure.
As we were looking through his camera, the gentleman told us all about his trips to Mexico and Switzerland and a bunch of other places he had been just to view celestial events. As we drove away, Dan and I started talking about how cool it is that this guy is willing to spend so much time and energy for just a few minutes of something that he loves. He isn’t content to sit on the sidelines and let someone else experience life for him. It’s always nice to find a kindred spirit.
Follow your Dreams. Follow the Horizon.