Downsizing…And Buying?

We headed out for a 15-mile bike ride this morning.  In retrospect, it might have been a might much for the first ride of the season, but it was fun.  As we were riding, we were reminiscing about when we bought our youngest son his current bike, easily 5 years ago.  He’s loved that bike, covered it in stickers, and put many miles on it.  Given that he’s grown 4 inches this year school year alone, it’s a safe bet to say he’s outgrown it.  We’ve been gifted some other very nice bikes, but there isn’t one in our collection that is really his and that he is comfortable on. 

That got Sandy to thinking, we should buy him a new bike.  I’ll admit my gut reaction was, what?!  But after thinking about it, it does make sense.  He’s getting to be as tall me, we’ll be riding a lot this summer and boating and bikes are not mutually exclusive, so yeah, we should get a new bike.

But it also got me to thinking.  We’re selling stuff, slowly, but we are selling stuff.  Furniture, artwork, stuff for hobbies, tools, etc.  Things aren’t flying out the door, but they are migrating to new homes.  Just because we are selling things doesn’t mean we don’t want to still enjoy our other hobbies while we are here.  Biking as a family is something that we enjoy, so let’s continue to live, and not deprive ourselves of all enjoyment.  Ben and Ashley from Sailing Nahoa  talked about that in one of their videos.  Ashley pointed out that she loved yoga, so even once they made the decision to sell everything and set sail, she kept her yoga studio membership.  Sure, that’s potentially $100 a month.  In our case, dropping Crossfit would save us $125 a month, not buying a new bike would save us quite a bit.  But then life becomes more of a drudgery than enjoyment. 

Even as we are downsizing, we’re still going to be buying things that we need or want for life on land.  It’s just a function of still living life.  I’ll buy new running shoes when mine get close to the 400 mile mark.  I’m being a little more picky about when I buy them, and how close to that mark I am going be, but yeah, I’ll get new shoes.

Selling things right now is funky.  What I mean by that is, we have a 4000 sq ft house.  We have two living room sets.  One probably could be sold, but then if we move the other into the main living room, where does anyone sit in the other living room.  Do we wait and have a fire sale just before we go, or just let things sit on Facebook Marketplace.  It’s a hard call.

As we’ve been listing things, I’ve determined some rock bottom prices.  For example, my grill.  It’s older, but it’s in excellent condition, so I’ll let it sit for the next year at the current asking price because I can.  Once we are ready to go, sure, if it’s still here… I’ll have to take what I can get.  But at the same time, starting to sell things early gives us time to say, yeah, here’s what I’d like to get, and I can wait.

My mom recently asked me for gift ideas.  She pointed out that with us downsizing, it’s hard to know what gifts to get us, other than money.  The truth is, there are still things we need and want.  We adore good coffee, we love to read, we still eat out on occasion, and we still have hobbies.  Her questions did get us thinking, so we started an Amazon Wishlist of things that we think we might want or need for the boat.  Like a really large filet knife for the tuna I hope to catch 😊.  What do we keep?  What do we get rid of?  And what do want to enjoy life on land while we are here?  Those are all questions we get to wrestle with now that we’ve made this decision.

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Where will you go?

Where will we go?

As we dare to dream and give voice to our visions, we get two big questions:

  1. Where are you going to go?
  2. How are you paying for this?

I clearly remember the excitement and awe I felt when I graduated from high school.  I was inspired to live big…   

“Congratulations!

Today is your day.

You’re off to Great Places!

You’re off and away!”

Dr. Seuss, Oh the Places You’ll Go

So, where are we going to go?

As we’ve done research on the cruising life, one thing we’ve learned is that insurance dictates just about everything related to where you go.  Big surprise, right!  Yeah, not really a surprise.  Boating insurance can actually be challenging to get.  With the increase in the number and severity of tropical storms each year, insurance companies are increasingly reluctant to provide insurance, even for seasoned sailors.  So, the reality is, much of our destinations will be driven by what our insurance company will allow. 

But back to the dream, here’s what we are thinking we would like to do.

August to September seems to be prime time for buying a boat.  This matches well with ending a school year and transitioning our kids to their next steps, which is a prime consideration for this drastic change in our lives.  So, we’ll most likely be making our purchase in late summer.  That’s smack dab in the middle of hurricane season.  Insurance companies identify a “Hurricane Box” and require you to be out of the box during hurricane season.  Once we purchase our home on water, we will likely need to get out of the box as quickly as possible to comply with insurance requirements.  Here’s a map of the “Hurricane Box”. 

When we look at this map, we see sailing north as our best option for several reasons.  One, it keeps us in US waters, which means we are only learning to navigate a boat; the language, currency, food, and culture is familiar to us.  Second, it takes a lot less time to sail north out of the box than it is going south, getting us to safety and keeping us insured.  We’ve talked about is going as far north as we can after we buy the boat.  This will afford us time to learn more about sailing and begin to get our sea legs.  When the timing is right with the seasons we will head back south.  We envision exploring our way down the US coast aiming to reach warmer climates for the winter.

Seasoned sailors and those who have gone before us all say the Caribbean is a great place to really get your sea legs under you.  There’s island after island after island.  Which really translates to shorter passages as you are learning. It means we will have more opportunity to learn, more places to stop if we are tired, more anchorages, and more marinas if needed.  It will be a good place to be.  How long do we stay there?  We don’t really know at that point.  Where do go after we’ve ‘tired’ of the Caribbean?  The world is a big place!  We could go through the Panama Canal and then sail up to Alaska, we could go through the Canal and sail to the Galapagos, then to Easter Island, then to Fiji.  Of course, some of the unknown there is part of the point.  We want to see new and different places, and this is a way to do it.  Dr. Seuss said it well,

“You have brains in your head.

You have feet in your shoes.

You can steer yourself any direction you choose.

 You’re on your own.

And you know what you know. And YOU are the one who’ll decide where to go…”

The WhatAbouts

What About…???

Let’s face it, change can be hard.  And right now, we are we planning for radical changes in our lives.  What began as a seed of thought in the back of our minds, became rooted in our conversations, and has now grown into concrete plans.  And, of course, we are now talking more openly about this with people.  Which often leads to …. “Well, what about…?” 

What about…

  • What about seeing your family?  Won’t you miss them?
  • What about your pets?  Where will they go?
  • What about pirates?  Aren’t you worried you’ll get kidnapped or killed?
  • What about your possessions?  Where will you store all your stuff?
  • What about medical insurance?  What if you get sick, what will you do?
  • What about capsizing?  Aren’t you worried you might get caught in a bad storm?
  • What about your house?  Where will you live when you come back?
  • What about money?  How will pay for things?
  • What about school for Matthew?  He’s only a freshman, aren’t you worried he’ll never graduate or go to college?
  • What about Kenneth?  How you leave him behind when he’s just starting college?
  • What about your parents?  Don’t they need you closer to help them as they get older?
  • What about… the list goes on and on.

And those are legitimate questions, worthy of our consideration.  Hearing those ‘what abouts’ reminds me how loved we are and how fortunate we are for our family and friends.  They care enough to listen to our dreams and ask questions.  Will we miss our family?  ABSOLUTELY!!!! We already do miss them.  And, the reality is, we will still come home every year.  And we will still call, and text, and email, and Zoom… we will stay in touch the same ways we always have.  Who knows, maybe we’ll have a family Christmas in Tonga on the beach instead of North Dakota or Wyoming in the snow.

And our pets.  Yes, that’s hard one.  Our 4 furry friends are part of the family.  So, we’ve researched and educated ourselves about sailing with pets.  We learned many people do it.  We learned that sailing with pets can put restrictions on the countries we can enter, or perhaps we will have to meet other requirements regarding the animals.  But it is doable.  This has actually been the subject of many late-night conversations.  In part, our timeline is tied to our pets.  Our two big dogs will be 12 this summer, close to 13 before we are ready to go. And both are slowing down far faster than we care to admit.  Chances are high we will have said our goodbyes before we leave.  But, if they are still with us when we are ready to set sail we will adjust as needed to make our entire family comfortable.

Some of the questions posed to us are really scary.  What about pirates, and storms?  Others lead to worry. What about money?  Or getting sick?  Or a house and our stuff?  It’s mind boggling if I let it swirl around long enough.  But, the truth is, I have fears and worries now, we all do.  And together, as a family and couple, we work through our challenges.  We educate ourselves and prepare to the very best of our ability.  We are open to the questions and encourage them.  We seek answers when they exist, and make adjustments to our plan when needed.

“What about the kids?”  Yes, what about the kids???  Being a parent is hands down the source of my greatest joy and my greatest heartache.  For me, at times parenting is a synonym for worry, and my geographical location on the planet won’t change that.  Taking Matthew out of a brick-and-mortar school, the comfort of the familiar, is not a decision to be taken lightly.  Realizing that I will be days away from Kenneth (as opposed to a 45 minute drive) is hard to consider.  Yes, he is 19 and is a mature young man.  But, he’s only 19 and has a lot to learn.  I know he still need his parents.  While the job is never really done, I have always believed the most important work in parenting is done before your kids are teenagers.  After that, it is guidance, asking the right questions, and always being a beacon of light in case your child becomes lost.  Unconditional love.  Of all the considerations with making this change, the two that cause me the most angst are the ‘what abouts’ with our kids and our parents.  There are no easy answers, and certainly little guidance for these decisions.  So, we hold on to our dreams and take this opportunity to show our children a different kind of courage.  And, I take a lot of deep breaths and tell myself it will OK!

There will always be ‘what abouts’, no matter what change you considering.  For us, our deep desire to experience life in a different way is driving us to consider the ‘what abouts’ and all the possibilities that change will bring.  We are committed to discovering what the great wander holds for us.

Our Dream

A year or so ago, my wife and I were sitting in the hot tub talking.  While we were talking, she tells me her retirement dream is to buy an RV and travel North America.  I listened and thought that sounds cool and fun.  I hadn’t thought about retirement plans, because I still have seven more years.

The more I thought about retirement, I started thinking about what I want to do when the time comes. I’m going to work for seven more years and then what?  What’s next?  What am I going to do?  After much deliberation, I told her what conclusion I had come too.  I said, the RV sounds cool.  Seeing the country would be great, but I’d like to buy a fishing boat and charter deep sea fishing trips.  She thought that sounded cool, until I started looking more into some of the associated costs.  While we were looking at fishing boats online, I put on a sailing documentary about a family that lived at sea for the better part of 15 years.

While we were watching the sailing documentary, my wife says, “What about sailing?”.  Fuel costs are a lot lower than if we bought a fishing boat,  yes there are other expenses but it’s still probably a bit cheaper and you can go to different places than you can on fishing motor boat.  Why start sailing after our youngest graduates from high school, it would be a different way to live.  It would be a fun way to see the world.

Then in November of 2020, Covid 19 hit our house.  The four of us got it with my wife getting hit the hardest.  In fact, even today there are some lingering effects.  I would say she’s a long hauler.

The effects of COVID were more than just the direct physical and mental issues that COVID brings.  It got us thinking, LIFE IS SHORT!  Do we need to work?  What does working day in and day out get us?  The experience reminded me of when my dad retired from the Air Force after 24 years.  One of the things he said was that people were coming up to him saying, “I bet you remember the good old days.”  To which he said, “If you aren’t living in the good old days, you’re doing something wrong.”

Work is necessary, at least to live the traditional 9 to 5 middle class American life.  But, are there other ways to live?  Lifestyles that bring contentment and joy?  We started researching a bit, wondering what would it take for us to live on a boat.  How soon could we do it?  

We set both long- and short-term goals to achieve this new lifestyle.  Long term financial goals and liquidation of our accumulated possessions.  We are now 60 weeks out from our goal to being on open waters.  We’ve also set short term goals along the way.  For example, we will embark on our first sailing and scuba diving courses this summer. We are going to be writing about all of this, recipes that we are learning for cooking on a boat, how we are going to change our lives.  There will also be a bit of history about us, and some fitness writing too. 

We look forward to sharing this journey with you.