We made it to the boat!

Hello family and friends from Punta Gorda, FL!  We arrived at our boat this last Tuesday after a long day of flying to Fort Lauderdale on Monday.  We packed as much as we could without incurring baggage fees on Southwest Airlines.  Thankfully, that airline allows two checked bags per traveler, and we made liberal use of that policy to get tools, boat parts, boat gear, and summer clothing since they are no longer needed in Portland.  We packed gear and clothing in two duffle bags, a tool chest was its own piece of luggage, and we packed various other tools and spare parts in a larger Rubbermaid bin.  Unfortunately, the bin got pretty well trashed by the baggage handlers, but fortunately, nothing was lost.

First lesson learned on this trip: don’t use flimsy plastic containers as checked baggage…we did get away lucky on this one though.

We got our rental car and spent the night in Fort Lauderdale near the dock where we will eventually park the boat for a few months.  The following morning, we went and looked at the dock to make sure our boat would actually fit.  The folks we are renting from assured us that our boat would fit, but it looked like a tight fit so we wanted to see it in person first before bringing the boat in.  We are going to have to thread the needle to get it in there, but I think we can make it work.  One thing we aren’t sure of is if our beam (the boat’s width) will block access for a trimaran that is docked further down the channel.  It doesn’t look like it’s actively being sailed…so fingers crossed that the issue won’t come up during our stay.

After a short drive across alligator alley, we arrived at our boat a bit before noon.  We got all of our stuff onto the boat, and then took a quick lunch break.  Ed started in on getting an inventory of what he needed to change the oil and fuel filters on both engines, and replacing the traveler car (the traveler is a part that allows you to move the boom of the main sail to a different position).  Ed started with the traveler thinking it would be a quick boat job…aka QBJ…but it quickly became apparent that this repair would have to wait for another time.  Ed found lots of stripped bolts and other pieces of the traveler system that were stuck on the track.

Second lesson learned on this trip: NEVER assume ANY repair will go quick no matter how seemingly simple.  Neptune/Poseidon will quickly correct your thinking.  Always assume the repair will be long and complicated, and be pleasantly surprised when the opposite happens.

In the mean time I started cleaning.  We found the boat in fairly decent condition, considering it really hasn’t been attended to for many months.  I’ve learned over the years of moving into new houses, boats, RVs, etc. that the first thing you do is clean the space you will sleep in.  I stripped the bedding in the starboard cabins, and started in on laundering the bedding.  I also did a thorough cleaning of our cabin (bedroom) and the head (bathroom) nearest that cabin.  There was no way I’d be able to thoroughly clean the entire boat before setting sail, so I focused on our sleeping and hygiene space.  I also gave the galley and salon a pretty thorough cleaning since I need a clean space to cook.  The port hull has been pretty well ignored, but I should have some time to attend to it when we get to Fort Lauderdale.  After getting cleaning accomplished, I got everything organized and put away.  So far, our boat has been a very pleasurable space to live on.

Although we had our hands full getting prepped to sail the boat, we did take some time to enjoy our short stay at the marina.  We ate dinner at the marina restaurant since I did not get a chance to provision right away.  On one of the nights they had pub trivia, outside with social distancing, and Ed and I managed to win!  We had some fans that night since we managed to beat “the team that always wins.”  The funny thing was, we didn’t necessarily answer more questions correctly than the three or so teams in contention, we just had a better point wagering strategy.  Hey, we got a couple of free drinks and a $50 gift certificate out of it! 

The other big task on our to do list was changing the oil on the engines.  Ed started in with this task on Thursday once we acquired all the parts that we needed.  The engines on this boat should have the oil changed every 200 hours.  The oil on these engines had been left unchanged for nearly 500 hours, so we had to get this done before leaving.  The oil was nasty and black, and the job was dirty.  Ed got it done, with a little bit of my assistance, but we will probably have to change the oil again in Fort Lauderdale regardless of the hours we put on the engines.  It was just that nasty, and oil needs to be flushed through the engines a couple of times to clean it up.  Ed also found the fuel filters in a nasty state so we changed those as well.

Friday afternoon came quickly, and I went to pick up Captain Phil, our skipper for the weekend.  Phil helped Ed move the boat to Punta Gorda while I took the car and did my provisioning errand.  I planned out two week’s worth of dinners, sandwiches for lunch, a few breakfast items, and lots of snacks to munch on.  I focused on simple, comfort food meals.  Good food is essential to sailing happiness.

Phil will be working with Ed and me this weekend to get us up to speed on sailing a catamaran.  Many of the concepts are the same as monohulls, but there are some key differences we want to make sure we have a good handle on.  I’ve been keeping a diligent watch on the weather, and it looks like we have a good weather window to begin our trek to Fort Lauderdale on Monday.  We should be able to sail most of the way without relying on the engines.

We will share an update soon when we get some down time!!

What’s in a name?

A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.

William Shakespeare

If Shakespeare’s idea is that names don’t define us in any way, why do we spend so much time trying to pick the right name for our kids, pets, and in this case, a boat? The more likely answer is that names matter. A few years ago, researchers published a study demonstrating that on some level one’s name can alter how one’s face looks because over time we tend to conform a bit to social stereotypes. What do you imagine a “Bob” to look like versus a “James?” What about a “Mary” versus a “Stacy?” And why have we landed on the ubiquitous “Karen” when referring to a middle-aged white woman who is acting entitled? Why not a “Mandy?”

The study noted this phenomenon and named it the Dorian Gray Effect after the eponymous character from Oscar Wilde’s novel whose portrait changed in response to the character’s self-indulgent lifestyle. Researchers noted people were able to correctly guess a random person’s name more often than would be expected with chance alone. I wonder if I would look a bit different if I would have been named Julia (my mother’s choice) instead of Vanessa (my father’s choice)?

Shakespeare was perhaps shortsighted in his observation that names don’t matter. Perhaps they shouldn’t, but they do.

What’s in a boat name then? Would we sail her differently if she was given a different name? Maybe. Maybe not. Ed and I spent a few months tossing around boat names even before we knew exactly what boat we wanted. We went through some punny lawyer names, aviation themed names, names that reflected Ed’s previous business in some way, and even a few we thought were just good boat names. Most of the names we came up with reflected where we had been rather than where we were going or what we were seeking. We decided the boat’s name should reflect the latter. We finally settled on:


We think this name reflects that both Ed and I are seeking some peace and calmness in our lives. It’s also partly inspired by one of my favorite TV shows–Seinfeld.

We might also find ourselves screaming this as we start digging into our long list of maintenance items we have to tackle. We are headed back to Florida next week to start cleaning her up, sailing her to Fort Lauderdale, and getting the first round of repairs done. Wish us “Serenity Now!” as we start off on the first of many adventures!

We bought a boat!!

Our new (to us) 2009 Leopard 46 named Woven. She will be given a new name soon!

We have finally found our new floating home! We just returned home from Florida about a week and a half ago. The survey went well, but a few larger maintenance items did come up…as expected. We renegotiated the price to account for some of the issues found, but we made pretty quick work of it. All in all I think we all agree we settled on a fair price. We will officially close on the boat next Wednesday, but everything is in place and ready to go.

That said, Ed and I received a rude awakening to the world of boat financing and boat insurance. Holy hell…I knew we’d encounter a bit more difficulty than purchasing a house, but we were extremely unprepared for the sheer number of hoops one must jump through to get financing and insurance. I will sum up some of our lessons learned and warnings for others one at a time.

Boat Financing

First, some preliminaries: DO NOT expect that you will be able to secure financing just because your finances can support the monthly payment and you have an awesome credit rating. Ed and I both have excellent credit ratings; I’m convinced at this point it didn’t mean jack [bleep]. We were also (THANKFULLY!) warned that banks WILL NOT give you a loan if you are going to live aboard without a permanent address. You have to get the boat before you sell your house. Also, DO NOT mention you are going to sell your house…. I understand this is an impossibility for most folks who are pursuing full time cruising. In this instance, my cold, hard, and frank advice is to find a boat you can afford to buy with cash (or financing via a different method).

I am quite sure the ONLY reason we were able to secure a boat loan is because we have the ability to pay cash for it. We just wanted to avoid doing so for tax reasons. In spite of this, they still required 30% down. Although it seems really dickish how the banks approach this, there are a few simple explanations as to why banks are REALLY picky about boat loans.

  1. They don’t want to finance live-aboards because the boat is the collateral, and the collateral is mobile…internationally mobile. If the debtor (you) decides to balk on making payments, they know they will have a hard time getting possession of their collateral. They figure if you still maintain a permanent home they will be more successful in getting the boat at some point if they must sell it to satisfy the debt.
  2. Boats are depreciating assets…hence the large down payment and requirement to show cash asset to basically cover the cost of the boat. If a debtor balks on payment, that basically leaves the bank no other option than to sell the boat to satisfy the debt. If the sale price (assuming it was done in good faith) does not cover the debt, the bank can go after the debtor for deficiency. This is nearly always a losing battle, because private owners will nearly always find ways to make their assets disappear before banks can get ahold of it. The banks just don’t want to go there. Therefore, the required larger down payment is a security deposit of sorts.
  3. Boats live on water, and water (especially the salty kind) can cause really expensive problems in a hurry. A boat owner who has a very damaged boat, which insurance probably won’t cover (I’ll discuss that below), does not have very much incentive to pay back the loan. Although banks REALLY don’t want to deal with trying to secure deficiency, they want to know that they might have at least a little bit of luck.

The final conclusion I’ve landed on through this process is banks only give loans to people who don’t technically need them, but are just getting them for convenience. If you NEED a loan to get the boat, you won’t get the loan. We basically had a choice of either giving the government some extra dough or the bank. The math, on this occasion, worked out that we’d end up giving the bank less than we would have had to give the government, and, therefore, the bank won this round. I know…first world problems. I just wanted anyone who reads this who is thinking of boat financing to understand the realities of boat loans before dreams get totally crushed.

Boat Insurance

Here’s the short version: even if you have hull coverage, in reality, you only have a liability policy that costs more.

Ed: And even the liability policy doesn’t cover much.

Me: Oh who cares, that’s the other person’s problem.

So fair warning, don’t anchor or moor next to our boat. But seriously, we will try our best not to be negligent.

The insurance policies require so much of this, that, and the other, that you WILL screw something up, and the insurance policy will say, “nope, not covered.” It is literally an open secret that boat owners tell things to insurance underwriters that give them warm fuzzies, and no one actually can physically adhere to said conditions. At least we are operating with the knowledge that we won’t be making any claims, the policy is just there to let the bank’s lawyers and insurance company’s lawyers have something to argue about should the boat end up as a total loss.

Although it has been a trying couple of weeks getting financing and insurance sorted out, we are excited about heading back to Florida in a couple of weeks to officially take possession of her! We have already made arrangements to work with a skipper for a couple of days so we can get familiar with operating the boat, and then we will sail her to the east coast of Florida to begin the first round of maintenance.

We will also share the boat’s new name once we have officially documented it!

It’s been a whirlwind week!!

Wow! When it rains it pours! We’ve had lots happen this week, mostly good, but some scary moments too. It’s probably easiest to digest by topic:

  1. We sold one of the gliders! I got contacted earlier this week that someone was interested in my glider. I’ve had a few folks express interest over the last few months but nothing ever materialized. I sort of figured this time would be another repeat and didn’t get my hopes up when I sent the prospective buyer a bunch of photos and maintenance history. I was ecstatic when I received an email the following day that she (the buyer) would take it. Ed and I were really starting to sweat what we would do if we couldn’t sell any of our two gliders. They are not exactly something you want to give away, they are aircraft after all, but the cost to store them plus not being able to keep up on maintenance would have likely forced our hand to donate them. We might face that eventuality with the other one, but it helps immensely to get at least one of them properly sold.
  2. We are under contract to purchase a Leopard 46!! We saw a listing pop up on Yacht World earlier this week. We liked what we saw, and asked a few questions via our broker. We were satisfied that the condition of the boat was generally as advertised and promptly made an offer. We had a little bit of back and forth over price and closing dates, but got it figured out within a couple of days. I will first say that it might not be the greatest idea to put an offer in on a boat, sight unseen, but after viewing a number of boats, we are sure this is the model we want. We do have the option to back out if the survey turns up anything gnarly.
  3. Speaking of survey…we are headed back to Florida in a couple of weeks for the survey and sea trial. Travelling by plane sucks right now…but…oh well.
  4. We started the remodel on our house! We’ve been demo-ing this week, which is my favorite thing to do. I always enjoy helping with this part. I think I threw the work crew for a loop when I kept picking up debris and hauling it to the dump box. We’ve estimated that about 3/4 of the debris in the box (and it’s big) is stuff I carried down to it. Hey, it’s really good exercise. I did also get to rip up a few things too (it’s very therapeutic for me). Many hands make light work, and I am VERY invested on this project remaining on schedule. Next week is framing, and I love our framer. He is the kindest soul, and a joy to have around. For those of you in Portland, Vlad Lukyanov is the best.
  5. Oregon is literally on fire, and it’s the worst I’ve ever seen it here. My step-son, Michael, has been living at his mom’s house because half our house (including all bedrooms) is not habitable. They live in Lincoln City and had to evacuate because of the wild fires. They are thankfully safe, and her house has been spared. Michael has been camping on our couch for the last couple of days, but it sounds like they are headed back tomorrow since the city is not under threat anymore. We were sad to learn that his mom’s friend lost her home to the fire.

As I’ve been writing this, I’ve also been partially engaged in conversation with Ed and Michael from the other room. The boys got on the topic of technology and how it affects our lives, and Michael said something very insightful that I think fits with the theme of the adventure we are about to embark on:

Technology doesn’t make our lives better, it makes our lives easier.

Michael Aaron – age 17

Easier does not always mean better, and better does not always mean easier. Better is better, and easier is easier. I seek better, not easier. This week has had its challenges, and putting this huge shift in our life into play has had its challenges. I am finding my life is better, I am having more happy days, but it is not easier. I expect to be challenged in ways I can’t imagine, and I can’t wait to see where the wind takes us.

Boat Shopping Round One:

Mostly a bust, but I think it will work to our benefit in the long run.

Ed and I have just returned from Florida where we looked at a few boats that we were interested in. We made an offer on one we loved, but the owner countered way too high with word that he would not budge any lower no matter what. Given what comparable boats have sold for in the past couple of years, it is highly unlikely any buyer will purchase the boat at that price. We will just sit and wait until the owner realizes he doesn’t want to pay the bills to keep the boat anymore, and then perhaps discuss a realistic number. Or, it may be that something better comes along in the next few months.

Ed and I spent a few months looking at many boat listings, and discussing what we think we wanted on a boat. Budget was of course a part of that conversation as well. We came up with a set of parameters that we figure will meet our needs:

  • Boat type: catamaran sailboat, approximately 45-50 feet long.
    • Why? Ed and I will be living aboard the boat as our home with the intent of slowly circumnavigating the Earth over a period of a few years. A motor boat would kill us on fuel cost, besides, sailing is way more fun. We will also have Ian on board with us part of the year, and the adult kids will likely join us for visits from time to time. We need a minimum of three cabins without the space feeling cramped. We also want a comfortable sail. A catamaran of a moderate size over a mono-hull best fits our needs for size, layout, and comfort.
  • Budget: $500,000 “all in.” This means purchase price of the boat plus any work that will have to be done initially for seaworthiness and mission essentials (i.e. appropriate navigation/radio equipment).
    • Why? Because that is what we can afford.
  • Location: boat must be located in the U.S., or maybe in the Caribbean if delivery can be arranged to the U.S. for low cost.
    • Why? This parameter is largely being driven by the Covid-19 pandemic. Most borders are closed to U.S. citizens which greatly limits our ability to get to a boat anywhere else. We would have also considered the Mediterranean if we could travel there.
  • Performance: we want a mid-range performer. No racing, or super light boats, and no “floating condos.”
    • Why? While we would certainly love a fast boat, speed comes at the expense of space. The motion on faster catamarans would also be a big problem for me as I get motion sick fairly easy. A higher performance catamaran might also be a bit much for us to handle under sail, initially, given our experience level. We don’t want a heavy boat either. Heavier boats have more space, which is nice, but require more wind to actually sail. We want to be able to travel without using the engines as much as possible, and heavier boats will not allow that. Outremer (too light) and Lagoon (too heavy)…sorry, you guys are out.
  • No project boats: project meaning tons of major items that need fixing or replacing, or complete refits for example. We know that we will have some work and repair to do no matter what we buy, we just don’t want to fix everything up front.
    • Why? Ed and I are pretty handy people, but major work is above our skill level. Any major work would have to be hired out which then quickly adds up in cost. Major projects also take time. We want to sail, not refurbish a boat.
  • No aft or exposed helms:
    • Why? We just don’t want to be exposed to nasty weather or bake in the sun while blue water sailing. This is purely a safety and health concern to leave out models that have aft/outboard helms.
  • No forward cockpits:
    • Why? Forward cockpits are the latest catamaran trend. They do have some benefits, but a few aspects prevent us from considering these. First, having a full size door in the front erodes performance…not very aerodynamic. Second, having a full size door in front is just another access point for water to get in…pass. Finally, they just don’t really look like a boat. As noted previously, we don’t want a floating condo.
  • No low bridge decks:
    • Why? Wave slap…which is loud and annoying. For folks who will stick to calmer seas or coastal cruising, it’s probably not a big issue. For us, this would be enough of an annoyance that would make us unhappy with the boat. Sorry Voyage….your bridge decks are too low.
  • Lastly, a very strong preference for the galley up: catamarans come in two varieties when it comes to the galley. It’s either in the main saloon area (up) or in one of the hulls (down).
    • Why? In my family, kitchens and cooking are our social center. A galley that is up is synonymous with an open floor plan in a house. A galley down is more like older style homes with closed off kitchens.

Here were the contenders:

  1. EQ2 – A Knysna (pronounced NYEZ-nah) 480:

This boat had a lot of features we were excited about. It’s an owner’s version four cabin, three head, 48 foot catamaran, and a good performer without being too light. The galley is up, although it’s small without much storage. The hulls have plenty of storage so I would have been running a half up, half down configuration, which would be kind of annoying. The current owner also circumnavigated the world with a crew over a period of 15 months (that’s pretty quick) and the boat showed that amount of wear and tear, which is to say…a lot. The biggest snag, however, is someone else made an offer just before we got to Florida. We elected to see the boat anyway just in case the contract falls through.

2. Plan B – Catana 471:

We were pretty sure this was not going to be a boat we liked, but Catanas have a reputation for their build quality and performance, and the boat was in the neighborhood. We figured it would be worth a look. We were told the boat needed a lot of work, which was an understatement–this boat is a total gut job…a project boat. Pass. Her owners got a new boat a few years ago and just decided to let this one rot. Even if the boat was in good condition, we still would have passed because of the smaller hulls. At 5′ 10″ the roof was barely over my head, and I had to duck to get through doorways. The cabins and berths are also smaller than we are willing to live with.

3. Blue Dawn – Antares 44i

This was another boat we knew we would not be getting, but was on the way to the next boat, so we stopped to take a look. This boat has excellent build quality, and the finishes were beautiful. The helm station and running rigging was also thought out very nicely. However, this boat had too many deal breakers. First, this boat has a low bridge; second, it is out of our budget; and third, the galley is down.

4. Global Eyes – Leopard 46

The Leopard 46 is the boat model we are likely to acquire. It seems to have the best balance of livability and performance, and does not have any deal breakers. The layout is also pretty awesome. This one is a 2010 that looked pretty well-maintained. We noticed a few major issues though. The davits (the part that holds the dinghy) were separating from the hull. It appeared that the weight limit on that part had been exceeded. The bottom was also in desperate need of major sanding, some repair, and repainting. The rudders were also delaminating. This would have been some pretty expensive repair work. That can all be factored into the price, but we ultimately decided to pass because we knew we’d likely run into some legal problems with actually transacting the purchase (it’s a long story).

5. MelloDia – Leopard 46

I was super excited about this boat because it’s a three-cabin owner’s version rather than a previous charter boat. It has been well-maintained, but did need a few upgrades such as nav equipment, hatch latches, fixtures, and some other small hardware. One downside is that this boat is an ’08 which has a less desirable helm design than ’09 and later models. However, we knew we could do a retro-fit on the helm that would have worked for us to make it function more like the later models.

We ultimately made a good offer on this boat considering her age and condition. However, the owner countered too high, only coming $5,000 lower than the list price which is way over-value for the boat. We were also informed that he would not come any lower no matter what was found on the survey. As much as it stung, we declined, and returned home with our tails between our legs.

While we did not find our boat on this trip, we did learn we definitely want a Leopard 46. It’s helpful that we have physically seen a couple of them, so when others come on the market, we can feel good about making an offer remotely once we figure out the condition of the boat. We would prefer to have an ’09 or later owner’s version, but they aren’t very common. We know we’d be happy with a charter version as well. We are keeping our fingers crossed that something suitable will come along soon!

The Pace is Picking Up!

Also, the nonprofessional’s guide to boat shopping.

We’ve spent the last month or so mostly in a holding pattern. I’ve made it a point to being intentional in enjoying family time without the pressures of jobs, school, projects, and tons of tasks. A few more items have gone out the door, we are getting close to having the garage done, we sold our Islander 36, and we got my son settled in at his dad’s house for the start of the school year. It’s been a tough transition into my new role as the “weekend parent.” I have certainly run a spectrum of emotions such as guilt, inadequacy, feeling like society looks at me poorly because moms tend to be the primary caregivers, freedom, loss, and the list goes on. Big changes and transitions are always hard, but I feel assured that we all thoughtfully made the decision together, and it pretty well meets everyone’s needs.

Michael giving Ian a marine biology lesson on the Oregon coast.

The biggest step we’ve made so far–I suppose other than deciding to go sailing in the first place–is we have made a short list of boats we are interested in and have booked flights to go see them. After much research and talking to some folks (shout out to Megan and Nick O’Kelly, www.sailclarity.com, for spending an afternoon with us!) we’ve settled on a few good basic tips when boat shopping:

  1. Know your shopping budget, and understand it needs to include initial expenses such as travel, survey (like a home inspection), initial repair/upgrades, and outfitting (tools, living necessities, spare parts, etc.). We have figured about 25% of the boat purchase should be left aside for things other than the actual boat purchase price. This figure will be much higher if you decide to buy a “project boat;” it’ll be a little lower if you are buying new.
  2. Pictures on Yacht World and other boat marketing sites are ALWAYS old and NEVER show the ACTUAL condition the boat is in. Go see the boat; even if it has to be done virtually with someone FaceTime-ing (have we made that a verb yet?) with you.
  3. Get a buyer’s broker, and make sure he/she/they understands you, your experience, and your mission. It is not enough that the broker is a boat expert. That skill alone is probably fine when the broker is selling, but the broker also needs to be part psychologist and part mission specialist when handling the purchase end of the transaction. Ignore the rest of our advice if you wish, but DO NOT ignore number 3.
  4. Speaking of mission, take time to understand what your mission is going to be. Are you an experienced or novice sailor? Are you living aboard full time? Is this a sabbatical or a permanent/indefinite timeline? Are you planning to stay in the Caribbean or circumnavigate the world? Are you single-handing, a couple, a family with younger kids? Do you value performance over living comfort? There are also many other questions to consider. Figure out what matters to you, and look at boats that make sense within your budget. One type of boat may be great for a sailing couple looking to check off a bucket list item, but might be terrible for a family of six looking for a lifestyle change…none of whom have sailed before. A good buyer’s broker will help you find the right boat to fit your mission (see #3).
  5. Understand that every. single. boat. is a compromise. There is no such thing as the perfect boat. However, certain boats will be a better fit than others. Prioritize and triage your needs and wants as they apply to your mission and budget.
  6. Do a boat shopping practice run or two in an easily accessible location, even if the type of boats available to look at are not really what you are considering. A “dress rehearsal” of sorts is invaluable experience before devoting a lot of expense to traveling further away.
  7. DO NOT be swept off your feet by a clean and pretty boat. Windex and decorative pillows are cheap; transmissions and engines are not.
  8. Finally, take a deep breath–literally and figuratively. When you enter the boat for the first time, actually take a deep breath in. If it smells like a moldy forest, about-face and head on outta there unless you want a project boat. Be calm and objective as you look, and don’t be rushed. Ask to see all the nooks and crannies, make notes of things that will need fixing or replacing. Know what you are (a) willing to handle, and (b) able to handle. This will also inform you on what you should offer to buy the boat for…if you reach that step. A well-prepared amateur shopper can competently survey a boat for the basics. You will save yourself thousands of dollars in paying for surveys when you find the more obvious stuff on your own and walk away early from the “wrong boat.”

This is, of course, a very basic and non-exhaustive list of things to keep in mind when shopping for a boat. This is also not a replacement for doing your homework and getting educated in all the things involved with a boat purchase. It can be quite complex, and feel like drinking from a fire hose. A good buyer’s boat broker is essential if you are a novice, and while perhaps not essential for an experienced buyer, a broker will make the process hugely less stressful and cumbersome.

Ed and I are excited to be heading out soon to go boat shopping, and I will continue to post more information as we get to later steps in the boat buying process. For now, some parting thoughts:

The two happiest days in a boat owner’s life: the day you buy the boat, and the day you sell the boat.

-Every boat owner.

Sometimes you have to stop and smell the… artichoke blossom.

Bumble bee on an artichoke blossom.

It’s really easy to get wrapped up in starting a new chapter of one’s life. In America, we are all raised with the value that it is virtuous to be goal-oriented and be successful at a career, raising a family, and accumulating wealth, to name a few. We see the “somebodies” of the world as those with fancy job titles, nice houses, well-mannered and smart kids, and so on. We brag among ourselves when we work overtime, or crank out a glut of billable hours. We all watch in amazement as super-mom juggles a career with managing the home, and her make-up even looks perfect! We covet those rare days where we can just relax and do nothing productive.

We shame each other when someone actually takes a day to do nothing productive!

“Pfffft…must be nice to have all that free time!” We say, sarcastically. “I can’t remember the last time I had a day off!” We continue, condescendingly.

It’s no wonder so many of us feel burned out…All. The. Time.

Ed and I are both driven people, and the guilt sets in fast if either one of us does something for the sole benefit of himself or herself. We are trying to be more intentional with taking days here and there to just kick back, relax, and not feel guilty about it. I have to remind myself–almost everyday–that we are embarking on a journey, not a race, and taking a slower pace is necessary to prevent burn-out.

I have found I need to make it a point to take at least one day per week to do nothing related to preparation for boat life. Sometimes we do something fun with kids, go wine tasting, work in my garden, or just watch the clouds go by. I am especially trying to enjoy every drop of my garden this summer because gardening on a boat is not really a thing. It’s probably the biggest thing I’ll miss being able to do once we’re settled in on the boat.

I suppose part of our preparation means learning new and healthier habits. Instead of burning the candle from both ends–which I am very talented at–I need to learn how to live a life at a different, slower pace.

Even the busy bees take breaks and enjoy a flower blossom.

I’ve Never Lived in a Finished House

The rush to prepare the house to sell has begun, and I am again starting to feel the crunch as we realize we have quite a bit about the house that’s been left undone that now must be finished quickly. This is my third rodeo, and Ed’s second, of selling a house and having to scramble to “finish” the house. At least we aren’t facing having to find a new house at the same time. However, I’m thinking finding our boat is going to be just as difficult….

We have two major projects we need to attend to, and probably 100 smaller ones, before we list our house for sale. First, we need to repaint the garage, and second, we need to remodel the second floor. Exterior painting season is limited in Portland, so Ed and I have been slowly (but surely) removing most of the old paint on the garage for the past couple of months. We think we will be done with that step in about a week or so.

Our house is 90 years old, the paint on the garage is in terrible shape, and no doubt has lead on it somewhere. Hiring painters to do the removal would have been insanely expensive because of required lead testing and mitigation. We decided to bite the bullet and just do the removal ourselves–one cedar shake at a time. Because of our concern with leaded paint, we can’t sand it off; we are scraping it off with the help of a heat gun which is painfully time consuming. We have also been taking care to capture and properly dispose of the paint as we go.

Ed scraping off 90 years worth of paint.

We will soon be hiring painters to paint the garage to give the house some curb appeal when we sell.

We’ve also contracted with a general contractor to remodel the second floor for a few reasons. First, the stairs and floor are quite old and need repair and replacing, otherwise the house would just scream “project!” to a potential buyer. That’s never good for the bottom line. Second, the upstairs has a sort of hodge-podge of additions that don’t flow together very well which need re-configuring to use the space better. Third, because of the additions that have happened over the years, two of the five bedrooms don’t have closets, thus, we cannot legally list them as bedrooms. Again, bad for the bottom line. Finally, because of the age of the house, we have no master suite which is generally a turn-off for buyers. The reconfiguration will allow us to build a master suite, and add closets to two bedrooms, but at the expense of the smallest bedroom. In the end, we will have a 4/3 house that is updated almost entirely. After we got the bid for the work, I consulted with a real estate broker who assured us we would recoup the cost of the remodel, and maybe even add value. It’s full steam ahead with work due to start in early September.

Now, I have to keep reminding myself that every decision we make must first make economic sense. No costly personal touches allowed!! This is soooo hard for me because house remodeling and interior decorating is something I REALLY enjoy doing. It’s hard to let go of many of the creative ideas I had for our home. It’s also hard to realize that it soon will not be our home anymore. Selling a house where you’ve raised your kids is never easy. Life is richer, however, through experiences, not things, and I just have to remind myself that getting rid of the things will allow us to have more experiences. I am attached to my people, not my house. My house just serves as a reminder of my people attachments. I think our photos will do just as well to preserve the memories and are much cheaper to maintain!

So. Much. Stuff.

If you didn’t have so much god damned stuff, you wouldn’t need a house.

– George Carlin

I have found the first major hurdle in transitioning to boat life is getting rid of our stuff! It seems like our full time job right now is finding stuff and figuring out how to get rid of it. Every time I walk into a room I feel like we’re just another statistic in George Carlin’s observation of the vicious cycle that is American consumerism.

My natural state of existence is more minimalist than most…by American standards. I confirmed this when I moved out of the first house I bought into the second house I bought (before I met Ed). At that time I was a single mom to a two-year-old, working full time, and had a tight deadline to meet with moving. I hired a moving company rather than try to do it myself with family and friends. I’ll never forget the gentleman who came to the house to give me a quote on what it would cost to move my stuff. He informed me that a house of this size usually has a certain number of boxes (I can’t remember the number), and that he just need to see what furniture was involved. Upon hearing the number of boxes, I knew I had about half of that, and informed him as such. He looked at me with this little grin and said almost everyone says this to him, but people tend to underestimate how much they have. I was peeved that this perfect stranger thought he knew better than I did how much stuff I had, but I just told him to have a look around and let me know. After a brief survey of my home, he came back to me with this shocked look and confirmed my estimate was correct. It was foreign to him that a person resided in a house that was not “full.”

However, with a husband and four kids, some of whom have had a nearly 20 year existence in this house, the stuff has found its way into every nook and cranny. Ed and the kids have different habits around stuff than I do. A couple of months ago when we began the monumental task of “de-stuffing” ourselves, that moving company I used previously would have accurately predicted the number of boxes needed for a house of this size.

How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.

At first, I could tell Ed was feeling a lot of stress over the prospect of getting rid of it all. What do we take with us? What do we keep and store? What do we try to sell? How much should we try to sell it for? What do we donate? What do we throw away? What do we keep for now, but need to sell when the house sells? We had some bitter arguments at the beginning on the logistics of “de-stuffing.” I was ready to just plow through full steam ahead. The rest of my family? Not so much.

I decided I needed to start small. I listed a couple of items on Offer Up that were “no-brainer” furniture items that were seldom used and could leave the house immediately. These were in the office, primarily used by Ed, that really made the space feel kind of cluttered. In fact, I had noticed in the past year Ed would usually use the kitchen island as his office desk (to my chagrin), rather than the office. It had just become this room to collect stuff. The love seat sold immediately. Admittedly, it was a pretty cool little sofa. The office, with one less piece of furniture, felt immediately more inviting. This seemed to give Ed a little momentum, and he began digging into the garage. We had, and still have as of this date, a ridiculous amount of tools and garden tools. He started noticing that every item that leaves brings us one step closer to our goal of setting sail. We have now entered the autopilot phase of “de-stuffing” and damn it feels good.

Subtracting stuff from our lives is adding to our happiness.

In the two months that we’ve been “de-stuffing” so far, I’ve noticed a very interesting pattern of purchasers. The most common thing I hear as people buy our stuff is, “we just moved from a [smaller abode] into a [larger abode], and we don’t have enough stuff! It’s too empty!”

Okay, I’m paraphrasing a little bit here, but the pattern is clear: Americans, culturally, have this fundamental need to fill our spaces with stuff. The sad truth is, it is weighing us all down and making us feel stuck.

We are finding that as we clear the house out little by little, it feels cleansing. Instead of getting those little dopamine hits when we buy something new–yes, the brain responds to new purchases like drugs or sugar–we are experiencing a milder, but more meaningful, state of freedom and happiness by having fewer material things in our possession.

We have learned our first lesson on our journey to sailing the world: the path to happiness is having fewer possessions.

Michael having one last sit on dad’s lap before dad’s chair gets sold to its new owner.

It’s Happening.

We are selling everything, buying a boat, and preparing to sail around the world! I catch myself wanting to roll my eyes every time I say it because it is so cliche. The most common response I get is “wow,” followed by the predictable question, “what made you guys decide to do this?”

Well, a lot of things really.

When it comes to a person’s big decision is there ever one singular event that sparks a dramatic change? Maybe in some rare instances, yes, but I think the more usual experience is that many factors play into an individual deciding he or she needs a dramatic change. For us, the short answer is life made us decide to embark on this adventure. However, the slightly longer answer probably explains it better.

Ed and I first met seven years ago when I had recently joined a soaring (as in glider flying) club. We have both long been pilots, for recreation, but we were both relatively new to flying sailplanes. Ed had joined the club a few years before I did in 2013. We didn’t hit it off right away, but a little after a year of being acquainted with each other we found that we had a lot in common and greatly enjoyed each other’s company. Dating followed soon after, relationship, love, marriage…happy ending? Almost?

The really big thing we have in common is we had both been divorced for a few years, and we both brought our kids to a new marriage. Ed has three, I have one, and they are aged 10-22. Raising kids is a strain on any relationship, starting one anew with four already in the picture often felt impossible.

I was working as an air traffic controller, he was newly “retired” (his company pays him to stay away). Kids were getting older, and getting REALLY into sports. My shift work schedule was blending extremely poorly with the needs of the family. Honestly, I was ready to be done with that career when I met Ed. I had cornered myself into a dead-end job because of my single mom status. We ultimately decided I would set that career aside in 2016 so I could focus more at home and have some schedule flexibility to tend to family and kids’ needs. That lasted all of about a few months before I realized I am not the stay at home mom type.

At the encouragement of Ed I decided to apply to law school. We both figured I’d be a good fit for that line of work for a variety of reasons. I loved law school, and it was a wonderful experience. It was a great challenge, it was often a welcome respite from dealing with some really tough kid issues (more on that another time), and most importantly, I got to experience a slice of life very different from air traffic control. Ed, in the mean time, took a contract gig in the bay area to help pay some unexpected bills that came up. He flew down early Monday morning, and flew back late Thursday evening, and I was back to single parenting half of the week while juggling my law school studies.

Then Covid-19 happened, and our life, like everyone else’s, was overturned in an instant.

I was finishing my last semester of law school, which quickly shifted to an online format, and Ed’s contract got canceled. Job prospects were not looking super promising for me (who hires during a pandemic?), Ed was now “retired” again, my son left for his dad’s during Spring break and decided to stay for a while, Ed’s youngest returned home from boarding school (more on that later), and my son, with blessing of all of us parent folk, asked to continue school at his dad’s house. In effect, my ex-husband and I would be switching our parenting roles.

So many things changed overnight, and we were faced with the reality that our usual distractions from the truth of our life were erased in an instant. The truth is, we were not happy with our life, and we were fast approaching being empty-nesters for the most part. I figured we would have some time to figure out what our next steps were going to be, and then I got, what I can only describe as “the phone call,” that forced us to choose.

I got a fantastic job offer at a law firm with a group of folks I adored–and I was devastated.

My first reaction was, “oh crap, I thought I had more time to think about this.” Which was followed by, “I’d be an idiot if I don’t accept; I’m not going to get a better one.” That soon got replaced with the truth–this is not what I was looking for out of life! I also knew that Ed would not be happy with my being immersed in work to fulfill 1850+ billable hours annually. It would have doomed our marriage. We both prioritized career over relationship in our first marriages, and we knew exactly where that would lead us now. We were obviously unwilling to repeat mistakes from the past.

We had discussed for years how awesome it would be to “someday” be able to go sailing when the stars aligned, all the kids were into adulthood, we had made enough money, and every other damn excuse that we all use to not jump into the pool without testing the water first. I was faced with a choice: do I take the job and keep living the status quo, or do I rip off the band-aid and tell my husband, “that’s it, we have to get rid of everything and do this sailing thing!”

It felt so wrong to say no to a new legal career. It felt selfish and self-indulgent. It felt like I was thrusting myself into irrelevance. I had to take a step back and look at the bigger picture. Who gets to the end of one’s life and regrets not having devoted more time to a career?

Answer: nobody.

And that was my “ah-ha” moment. It was so clear. How could I have walked so many years on the Earth and not seen it? How was I so blind? How were we both so blind? Yeah…we drank the Kool-aid…same as everyone else.

Convincing Ed we needed to do this…well…it did not take much convincing.

That brings us to what I imagine is a question many folks have. You’ve decided to go sail around the world. What do you do first?

Answer: look at boat porn together! Videos, articles, yacht world, oh-my!

That part is fun. Then comes the real slap in the face–what are we going to do with all of our stuff?!? We are still figuring that out, but I will post an update soon!