Transition to Cruising

For so many years, the thought of cruising was a far away dream, something that would happen one day.  Even while we were boat hunting, it still felt like it would happen way down the road.  It was not yet real.  Then, all of a sudden, the dream becomes real and time runs short.  We are now officially in transition.

quiltinprogressEach day is filled with crossing off tasks on our To-Do lists.  There are literally dozens of jobs, big and small, you must do before you leave home.  Packing, registering the boat, talking to doctors about medical kits, supplies, and shots, change of address, getting together with friends, and all the little tasks you tend to put off until the last minute.   Of course, adding more pressure onto myself, I am also trying to finish piecing and quilting Ethan’s boat quilt.   ( See my progress on the right.)

You also experience a myriad of emotions that you didn’t expect. It’s a given that you are excited about the coming adventure and even a bit anxious about what the future will hold.  Change, even good change, can provoke strong emotions for each crew member.  For me, personally, the stress of all the changes has, in turn, caused insomnia.  I know this is temporary, though, and soon resolved once we settle in.

goodbyeIt is normal to anticipate being sad at saying goodbye to family and friends, too.  However, no one mentioned how heart breaking it is to watch your grandchild break down and cry at the thought of not seeing you for awhile.  You get so focused on completing tasks, then, at unexpected times, the emotions wash over you when you least expect it.

Saying goodbye to the grandchildren is by far the hardest part of leaving.  You know how fast they will grow in your absence, and are keenly aware of  milestones you will miss.  To help stay connected with our grandkids Jack (age 7) and Kate (age 5), we plan to Skype or Facetime, send them postcards from where we travel, and when they are able to travel alone, we look forward to have them visit on board.

On the flip side, the excitement builds day by day.  You look at your partner, and talk excitedly about the adventures you will share together.  The anticipation and learning curve of getting to know a new boat, adjusting to living in a small space, and the challenges that come along with the cruising lifestyle will be difficult at times, but you are confident you will persevere and thrive.

I hope you will come along for our new adventure.  Some posts will be funny, some, like this, will be real.  I plan to twist Joe’s arm to write about boat maintenance and projects, and have some tutorials on sewing things for the boat and boat hacks.  Better run now to work on that To-Do list.  🙂

Deciding What to Bring On Board

Moving from a nice sized house to a 43 foot long sailboat means you must leave stuff behind.  Sadly, It just won’t all fit on the boat.  So, you have to be disciplined and pick and choose what you absolutely cannot live without.  That is where my problem begins.

Freebag- my latest purchase

Freebag- my latest purchase

You see, I may have gone a little overboard (pun not intended) in buying lots of cruising gear over the last year or so.  My spare bedroom looks like a marine warehouse.  I hear about a cool new product and next thing you know, Fed Ex or UPS is showing up at the door with my package.  Only problem?  Now that we have picked our boat, I realize that it won’t all fit.  Big oops!

So what to do?  How do I decide what stays and what comes on board?  To resolve this, I am now sorting everything into the following 3 categories:

Ethan's Legos are a High Priority

Ethan’s Legos are a Highest Priority to him.

1.  Highest Priority- These are the items you cannot live without.  Limited amount of clothes, foul weather gear, sailing and safety supplies, basic galley supplies, food, boat spares and tools, Sailrite sewing machine, computer, Kindle, iPad, cameras, fishing supplies, snorkeling gear, reference books, ditch bag, medical kit and prescriptions.  With Ethan on board, this means a limited amount of education supplies, toys and games.

Solarvore Solar Oven

Solarvore Solar Oven

2. Medium Priority- Items that would be nice to have if we have the space. This would be additional galley supplies, extra tools, more books, puzzles, extra clothes and shoes, inflatable kayak, paddleboard, solar cooking still, more toys and sand gear for Ethan, beading supplies, and more art supplies.

3. Lowest Priority- no, I don’t need to bring to bring 20 pairs of shorts or shoes.  10 bathing suits, our book library where you actually turn the page.  Which reminds me- having converted to e-reading, now when I read an actual book, I find myself tapping the  page to turn- and it doesn’t.  So frustrating!

Remember that guest bedroom full of stuff?  Once I decide what stays and what is left behind, we have to haul it from California to Florida.  Yep!  U-Haul time.  These are the details you overlook when you dream of sandy white beaches, turquoise waters and swaying palm trees. The practical part of cruising.

The Funny Side of Buying a Boat

The boat buying process seemed to take forever for us.  In hindsight, it was pretty amusing at times dealing with selling brokers.  Here are just a couple of my favorite memories:

The angry broker who called me and chewed me out for not being at the boat viewing appointment.  He went on to recount how he weathered storms and traffic to be there, and I wasn’t there.  I looked at my schedule and told him that we were on the opposite part of the state, and that my notes indicated the appointment was for tomorrow at 10:00 am.  He was insistent he was right.

After this call, I sent him a copy of our previous email exchange showing where he had the wrong day.  Joe and I took bets to see if he would apologize or not.  He did, so we kept the boat viewing appointment, which turned out to be a little bizarre.

fishbonesWe get to the boat, and it is obvious that it hasn’t been cleaned for 3-6 months or more.  It was black.  Really.  So we reluctantly step on board and notice fish parts all over from where something has been feasting happily away.  The broker unlocks the boat, and we climb down the companionway stairs.  Look around, take one sniff, and realize that the topside was the highlight of this sailboat.  Think Hoarders, boat style. We hightailed it out of there before Ethan could touch any more fish parts or contract a disease.

Which brings me to my second story.  Really, I am always amazed that more owners that list their boats do not clean them more thoroughly.  Detail them like as if they were selling a car or a home, right?  So I am viewing a different boat, and cleanliness is pretty bad. Plus the boat smells and it hasn’t been well maintained. I make a mild comment to the broker and he says, “Oh, you must be one of those that are anal with cleanliness?”   I respond back that I plan to live aboard and like a clean environment.  End of that discussion.

A few minutes later, I am in the aft head and lift up the toilet lid. Wrong move- it was an inch thick dry covered with brown substance- if you get my drift.   Be glad I do not have photographic proof of this to share. I am not amused by the visual scarred into my sharingthelovebrain. So evil Carla comes out to play.

“Mr. Broker, there is something here you really need to see,”  I sweetly say.   So, the broker comes into the head and I prompt him to lift up the toilet seat.  He does and I notice he visibly recoils, shutting the lid quickly.  I try to keep a straight face, but it is hard.   Later, I had a good laugh when I was in the car leaving.

Buying a sailboat can be most entertaining.

Survey, Sea Trial and Haul Out Day

Joe and I flew to Florida for the survey, sea trial, and haul out of the Taswell 43 we currently have a contract to buy.  This was our first survey, so we found it most interesting and fun.

IMG_6494We stayed at a nearby beach resort, mainly because it was close to the marina.  Still, we had killer views (balcony view on left) and whenever possible, I would beachcomb along the shore.

We met our surveyor, the selling broker, plus the broker’s hired captain (for the sea trial) at the boat just after 8 am.  The surveyor started with the engine and generator, both high ticket items.  You want your surveyor to do this because if the engine was a wreck and needed replacing, something that is costly and difficult, then you could place a halt on the survey and send everyone home.  Obviously, this did not happen as the engine on the Taswell had low hours and checked out just fine.

Next the surveyor went aloft to check the rigging and mast.  Finding a surveyor who will climb the mast is pretty rare.

IMG_1620Next, we motored over to the yard for the haul out.  The engine started up beautifully, and worked just fine.  The haul out was also interesting.  During all my previous yacht deliveries with my sister and Capt. Dave, I had seen boats get hauled out numerous times with various size travel lifts.  After much discussion as to the placement of the lift slings, the boat was removed from the water so the surveyor could inspect under the waterline.

11731815_10204747825675965_3147300821197195275_oAfter the haul out, we motored out to a deeper part of the bay and pulled out the sails.  This was the fun part!  I was down below with the surveyor, who did an excellent job educating us about the boat.  Meanwhile, Joe took the helm and got to see how she sailed.  Joe reported it was a fun boat to sail.

All-in-all, it was a very long, but fun day.  It helps that the seller’s broker is a very nice guy, and has been very helpful to us with information and referrals in the area.  The Captain and Surveyor were also very professional and good guys, plus the weather was great.

Now, the big question is will we move forward with this boat purchase?  Stay tuned!

Steps to Cruising

10632858_10204312872642411_6335522270459366785_nOnce we made the decision to buy a sailboat  and sail off into the sunset, we needed to take small, baby steps to realize the dream.  For Joe and I, we started off by reading lots of sailing travel essays, adventure sailing books, subscribing to magazines like Practical Sailor, Blue Water Sailing, Cruising World, Sail, and Cruising Outpost.  Also attending sailing shows help to “feed the dream.”

Then came the “how to” sail type of classes.  Joe already knew how to sail, but we decided to go through the American Sailing Association classes together.  Basic Keelboat, Basic Coastal Cruising, Bareboat Cruising, Coastal Navigation, Advanced Docking and Anchoring, etc.   We also did our offshore sail training in the South Pacific, too.

Hint!  My advice to women reading this is to take your first 2 sail training classes at a club offering “women only” classes.  Why? Because as women, our brains work differently than the guys, especially when it comes to how we learn and directions.  I learned this lesson the hard way, but that is a story for another day.

oday23Now we needed to practice what we learned.  We purchased an 1984 O’Day 23 off of Craigslist to sail locally in Northern California.  We cut out teeth on this boat and learned about motors, finishing teak, fiberglass repair, rigging and boat maintenance.  More importantly, we practiced our sailing skills.  We also went bareboat chartering in the British Virgin Islands (BVI) as often as possible, which gave us experience on larger boats.

On the money side of things, we lived frugally, paid off our home and land, and saved like mad.  Once the house was paid off, we started our boat fund.  At the same time, we also saved for early retirement.  I credit Joe completely with wise financial management.  He likes to save and invest; I like to buy things.

EthanA joyful hiccup in our plans happened in 2011- the birth of our grandson Ethan.  Overnight, we became primary caregivers after years of enjoying an empty nest.  3 and 1/2 years later, we were able to adopt Ethan as our legal child.  Rather than give up our dreams, we decided to bring Ethan along.  After all, there are lots of cruising families our sailing the world right now.

Early retirement (Joe) and a sabbatical (me) was next on the master plan list.  Joe planned his retirement when his company offered an attractive voluntary retirement package.  His company also announced a new “Bonding” benefit for new parents, including adoptive parents, so Joe took a bonding leave, then his sabbatical before he retired.  The timing was perfect!

2015logo_1560x1200_transparentNow we had to locate the boat.  After a slow start with a first broker, we found broker Philip Thompson with Dream Catcher Yachts in Newport Beach and Dana Point, CA, who worked very hard to help our find our dream boat.  Joe and I highly recommend Philip, who has an impressive sail racing pedigree, including representing Australia in 3 America Cup races.  As I write this post, Philip is racing in the Transpac 2015 race from LA to Hawaii on board Patriot, a J-44.  With his help, we found our cruising sailboat.

Once the purchase is complete, we will be moving aboard and then delivering the boat around the southern tip of Florida and the Keys to Fort Lauderdale.  That is where we will add any necessary equipment and prepare the boat for cruising in The Bahamas in the fall.

Downsizing your belongings and deciding what will fit on your boat is actually pretty emotional.  Admittedly, I have had a hard time with this.  I am still doing this step. Saying goodbye to family and friends is another traumatic part of leaving your home base and moving aboard.  Luckily, in this day and age, there is Facetime, Skype, and other ways to keep in touch with loved ones.

So that is where we are at in our journey to become full time cruisers. Stay tuned!

Searching For Your Cruising Sailboat

IMG_2542Good news, my latest boat hunting trip to FL was successful!  I even had a side trip to Isla Mujeres near Cancun, Mexico, too to view another sailboat while I was in Florida.

Joe and I now have a contract to purchase a sailboat- a Taswell 43 to be precise.  I will be heading back to Florida soon for the survey, rigging survey, sea trial and haul out.

Searching for the right boat has been an interesting journey.  Sailors and potential cruisers find their boat any number of ways.  However, this is the way it worked for us:

1. Make a list of features you want on your boat. For us, we wanted a center cockpit, fin keel with a skeg hung rudder, great engine access, and had to be a safe blue water capable boat.  We had other things on the list, but those were the biggies.

2. Consider your budget.  We ended up raising our budget after not finding anything we liked in the lower price range.  We could have waited for a boat we liked to come on the market at a lower price point, but wanted to get cruising sooner rather than later. logo

3. Find a Sailboat broker (representing buyers) that you can work with.  Initially, we started working with a first broker, who was too busy to meet our needs.  Then, though my friend, Pam Wall, we found Philip Thompson, at Dream Catcher Yachts in Dana Point and Newport Beach, CA.  Philip has been a incredible broker for us, we cannot say enough good things about him, his work ethic, and his communication with his clients (us).

4. Become familiar with all sailboats that meet your criteria by searching websites like and  Yachtworld is a site similar to the MLS for selling houses.  Only brokers can post listings.  Sailboatlisting has a mix of “for sale by owner” and broker listed boats.   If all you want is a small pocket trailer sailboat, try looking on Craigslist.  That was how we found our O’Day 23, which we love. IMG_6338

5. Plan trips to view potential boats.  Your budget will dictate the area you are looking.  We started by looking on the west coast of the United States, finding few boats that met our criteria.  So trips to the east coast of the US, namely Florida, was what we did.  Once we narrowed down the boat we liked, I viewed as many of them that were on the market.  Trust me, we saw a LOT of sailboats before making an offer.

Note about Boat Viewings-  You see a wide variety of boat types in all sorts of conditions.  Most times, you meet with the listing broker, who shows you the boat.  Occasionally, the boat owner is on board to show you their sailboat.  Every time we have met an owner, they have been wonderful people, and their pride of ownership was self evident.  Cruisers tend to be friendly, giving people, we have found.

6.  Changing Your Expectations.  There came a time when we were not finding what we were looking for.  We looked at our Features list from Step 1 and re-evaluated this list into what we really needed versus what we wanted.  This was a critical step to do and finally lead us to the boat under contract.

Stay Tuned!  Once the purchase is complete, I will share details and pictures of the new boat.  Take care, Carla