Time to Think about Time

And setting dates. Everyone told us when we first hatched this plan that it was important to set a date for departure. People who have ‘been there, done that’, said if we didn’t set a date it would probably not happen. That was about 3 years ago, and until now we haven’t set a date, although we’ve had a general idea all this time in our minds.

It’s just that so much needed to happen before we could go. Mike needed to work a few more years so we wouldn’t be destitute and/or have to dip into our 401K. Andrew needed to graduate from college. We needed to decide what to do with our home. And, of course, we needed an ocean-worthy boat. So we continued on with the vague idea that we would leave sometime in 2017, some moment in the distant future; a moment that somehow didn’t actually feel real most of the time.

But this week we had a bit of a wake up, a bit of a God-slap from the Universe. This week Mike’s boss, Jim, died. Mike had been observing him closely for a few months, wondering what could be wrong with him. He missed a lot of work. His coloring was very bad. But still, Jim soldiered on.  Over the holidays he took a turn for the worse, became hospitalized, and then… he died. Just like that. Because that’s how death happens. Just like that. He was 62. And he worked his whole life. He leaves behind a wife and two children who are Andrew’s age, certainly too young in adulthood to stop needing a dad. Our hearts ache horribly for them.

Mike remembers how excited Jim was about this trip we are planning. He lived vicariously through our planning, through reading this blog, listening to Mike talk about the latest boat projects. We lived in a world he couldn’t relate to except that it excited and fascinated him. He used to say, “I’m going to come to work one of these days and you are going to be gone sailing!”.  Now he’s the one who has gone.

This grieving for a boss who was also a friend has put planning for this trip into sudden hyper-focus. We don’t want to lose our opportunity to go and experience this thing called cruising. And the truth is shit happens when you aren’t looking; especially in middle age, when each day one is reminded of how the body begins to break down and betray the trust we have granted it in our youth. For now, we are healthy. What are we waiting for? That’s a good question; a question put into stark clarity by the passing of a friend.

The truth is that we’ve been waiting for our son to be more settled in adulthood, and for Mike to work until he is 57, having spent 20 good years at Boeing. We had a financial plan that made this a wise decision. But Boeing will no longer be giving pensions after 2016. So things change. And maybe on some level we’ve been waiting to feel ‘ready’ to leave our home and our family. Maybe we’ve been waiting for it to not be quite so hard to think about.

By the end of this year, the boat will be ready to go. We are not aiming for a perfect boat with perfect everything. We are aiming for safe and comfortable. Maybe she won’t get that paint job. Maybe I will have to live with the settee as is. Given a choice between working longer to buy more stuff for the boat, or just going, I think we are going to have to leave perfection for a different life. 

This summer we will do a 5 week cruise up the west coast of Vancouver Island. That’s the plan. We will put our boat to the test that way, as well as ourselves. If we can do it in a Cal 34, we can certainly do it in an Olympic Adventure 47. If that goes well, then let the seriousness of cutting dock lines begin. It’s never going to be easy to leave our house or our family, no matter when we do it. The emotional part of this transition will not get easier if we wait longer.

This is the long way of saying that we have set a date of June 2016 to begin our long trip. That’s right. We’re going to try for an entire year earlier than we had previously planned because life is inevitably short. Can we do it? Well, we shall see, but if we do not give it a try, we will certainly not succeed.  At the end of the day, the worst thing that can happen is that we get to June 2016 and for some reason we are not ready. We’ll take that chance I guess.

We got out the calender and began the process of setting monthly goals for getting the house ready. Sell or rent, the facts are the same. There is work to be done regardless. The process of sitting down and thinking about actually leaving brought up many fears for us both. Fears about not being ready, about leaving our comfortable home, about the concept of taking time off from working when we are this close to retirement age anyway. So many fears. But the fear of greeting death with an empty bucket in hand, having never lived this dream, is even worse. It happened to my father, it happened to Jim. We don’t want it to happen to us.

June 2016. Here’s to Jim.moonriselastsail



28 thoughts on “Time to Think about Time

  1. Just do it. Setting a date really helps you focus. It must be fixed and not flexible. Hard core. ⛵️

    Been living on our boat 4 years now. Just short cruises in summer.

      • We wish you well. All about money, of course. Once we downsized, we had less to worry about (OCD) and less to spend money on (OCD again).

        Now we have more time and spend it saving money. Weird how that works. Anyway, you both will figure “something” out together. Galapagos will be so happy you are both there for “her” all the time, in the future.

        Never thought of ourselves as Just Do It (JDI) types, but maybe. We were psychologically, physically and financially ready to move on a boat in 2011. We are not long distance travelers, so our maintenance is less.

        All it would take is an engine breakdown ($30K+) and there goes our life. Then we downsize again or… Such is life.

        So we are still OCD, on engine maintenance at least.

        • I think it all comes together for people in different ways. You really do have to be ready on all levels in order to make any kind of big transition work well. Of course, people can adjust to lots of things, but this is a free will choice we are making so we want to be as prepared as we can be without putting it off what seems like forever. Boy, do I hear you about being OCD about engine maintenance! Mike is totally there, for good reason. And electrical. You’ll appreciate his OCD tendencies about electrical systems aboard boats! Hope to meet up with you guys, maybe on our way out!

  2. I applaud your resolve and courage! I am so excited for you and Mike and I look forward to reading all about your adventures! Hooray!!!

  3. So sorry about the loss of your friend, Jim. And at the same time, excited about your decision to drop your lines and sail off into the sunset a year earlier. The best time to do something is now because that’s all we really have.

    • In my mind, it has always been 2016. Honestly, it felt weird when Mike would remind me that we were not leaving until 2017, like something was wrong about that. Then Boeing decided no more pensions after 2016. So there you go! No reason to hang around. 2016 is as close to ‘leave now’ as we can do so hope we can pull it off.

  4. So excited for you both! We are leaving this year as well. Couple of years after we had planned but sometimes things don’t go as planned. Well, truthfully nothing ever goes as planned. We will go- with the galley un refitted, with the hull needing a paint job in the worst way, with the canvas really needing to be replaced. There are lot’s of things we would like to do but life is uncertain and you just never know. Condolences to all on the loss of Jim. I think the best memorial to him would be to get out there and live. <3

    • I know you are chomping at the bit to get out there, Cid. I’m glad you are going this year. Plans cannot ever be written in stone with a sailboat, right? You have a great boat. She will do you and Mark proud I know.

  5. After losing my step-sister at the age of 13 (when I was 8) and a few of my friends, a short life has always been a fear of mine. We plan on leaving in a year, and would already be sailing if our house hadn’t taken two years to sell. Betting on later is a gamble that I don’t wanna take. I just hope next year isn’t too late. I think your plan is a wise one … so sorry for the loss of your friend.

    • That’s a young age to experience such a close loss, Cheryl. My father died at age 63. He wanted to go down the Mississippi River on a boat and we learned to sail a sunfish class boat together when I was in highschool. It was his only sailing experience. Death is a powerful reminder, isn’t it? Very happy that your house finally sold. That was a long wait for you.

  6. Sorry to hear about your friend, Jim. Our plan to retire early was set in place over 25 years ago by the death of a co-worker who passed one week before retirement. We feel we have pushed the health envelope as much as we can to still get some good years of sailing in before our body’s start to crap out. Mark never thinks of himself as retired since he will mostly likely get a job when we return to land (assuming we survive the sailing).

    Don’t fret the date too much. Our date has moved more than once. The boat got bigger, the nest egg needed more mullah, the economy crashed, blah blah blah. It’s good to have a date but it’s better to be ready.

    We have completely dismissed the “just do it” attitudes. IMO the JDI’s are the ones who just go, run out of money, can’t do their boat maintenance, skimp on safety equipment, don’t have accurate charts, have inoperative systems on their boats and yell 911 when something goes wrong. We wonder how many people took the Nike slogan seriously enough to JDI and ran the race or climbed the mountain only to wind up in the hospital.

    Our belief is there should be a psychological, physical and financial readiness. This is not small step in life. This lifestyle is a complete polar of normality. It should not be taken lightly. And, if you miss your date, so what! Is it more important to reach the goal and enjoy it or meet the date?

    • The setting of the date has a huge psychological impact on us, bringing this plan into a real focus that has been missing thus far because that nebulous date was simply too far away to bear any real meaning. We certainly dismissed the ‘jdi’ camp a long time ago or we would already be gone. Frankly, I have always been a little bit defensive about the ‘jdi’ folks because I felt that this kind of attitude, while understandable in some contexts, completely dismissed how hard we have worked to build a home for our family and how hard Mike has worked at his programming job with the goal of getting that pension so we could go sailing without being financially unstable. At our age, financial stability is a real ‘thing’ we have to think about. In the end, his ‘retirement” (and it’s really just a break because we are too young to never work again) is only happening a year earlier than planned, and the pension will be the same because pensions are yet another thing Boeing has decided to cut. Makes it a little hard to feel loyal to a company but don’t get me started. Anyway, we’re on the same page with going when prepared. Our date is set, but it is also set by us. We are in charge of keeping it or not, and if we decide we need a few more months, well, we’ll be that much further ahead at that point anyway. It gives us something to shoot for.

  7. I enjoyed reading this entry, although I was saddened by the death of Jim, Mike’s boss. I believe that many of us put a lot of obstacles in our own unconscious or conscious way! I have retired from mental health and am doing spiritual work with people only. (ONLY).we have hired a great realtor, had the house staged by a professional, have allowed for sale signs to be placed on our property, as well as hanging a lock box on the door. Goodwill’s truck has been here three times to remove furniture, and we have taken more boxes and bags to Goodwill that would fill up a moving van. There’s still more to depart with, and it requires some hard decision making, like why am I holding on to a full set of all Freud’s published books (in hardcover no less) when I can’t see well enough to read them anyway. The sad part fir me came when my sister didn’t invite me to share in my only nephews graduation from Stanford Law School. I realized that our dream of going to FLA to be nearer to her was not a good choice. Better to go near Rudy’s large extended fanily where I feel welcome, So I believe the Universe held up our move to show me that I was going to the wrong place! I think my house will sell quickly now! Miss you Melissa!

    • Wow! I knew you were selling but it does look like you are making a better choice now. I, too, have made some adjustments to the way I am working. As of July 1 I will no longer be responsible for billing client insurance, a huge leap of faith for me. I will still be a preferred provider for many of them since I just recredentialed, but I am putting the responsibility for billing on them and charging a lower fee up front. I have held onto the insurance safety net for too long. WE will get together before either of us leaves the area! Keeping my fingers crossed for your house to sell now that your plans have changed. It’s always a wise thing to remember how we get in our own way by the beliefs we hold and the internal ‘rules’ we feel compelled to follow. Human nature is what it is! 🙂

  8. Condolences on your loss of a good friend. We can relate…we had a good friend pass away at the age of 49 and this also kicked our cruising plans into high gear. Tomorrow is not guaranteed …live life in the moment and make the most of each day. We hope to cut the dock lines in a few months. Fair winds.

  9. What a great step you’ve taken! Having a goal is the only way a journey starts. Hope we are able to meet up out on the water before you leave. Our transmission is now reassembled so we should be out there soon. Go boldly on your path!

    • I, too, hope to meet up before we go! We still want to see your boat. Very glad to hear that your transmission woes are in the past. What a relief that must be!

  10. “You are guaranteed to miss every shot you DON’T take” – Wayne Gretzky

    Thought this was appropriate after reading this blog entry… I tend to over complicate things a bit, and have a lot of excuses as well. This is causing me to re think things a pit.

    “a Goal is not a goal until it is written down, including a target date” – John Miller LOL

    I used to teach this stuff, but this is true. And a target is just a target. I will be sorry to see you guys go, purely for selfish reasons, but rest assured I will continue to follow this blog, and maybe pick up a few pointers along the way, for when I finally go!

    • So true, John. We are doing this thing. Full speed ahead. The ‘writing down’ part started with this blog, by way of keeping us motivated and on target. The date thing was always set down in Mike’s mind, but very interestingly enough I always thought the ‘target’ date was 2016. Then I would say that out loud and he would correct me and remind me he was working until age 57, so that would 2017. Which then just confused me because somehow I just knew that was wrong. I could not connect my intuition with his logic. So there it is. I win. 🙂

  11. I had a very close colleague (and friend) die too young in 2010. That motivated us to move forward with retirement (and to “deal” with my cruising offshore bug). While sad that it sometimes takes crises in life (and work) to cause one to make (seemingly) dramatic changes in plans, it is good that they help us move forward.

    We’re very glad we retired early — we cannot imagine returning to our prior worklives — and are glad to have gone cruising (to Mexico). We’ve had many good times (and several not-so-good times) and have learned a lot.

    Our home cruising grounds (which include ALL of the BC coast) are so great — we’ve learned, after the fact, not to be so quick to leave them. (So, we are returning Pelagia home to cruise B.C. this Summer, 2015.)

    Enjoy your new life on the water cruising north this Summer — perhaps we’ll cross paths (if so, give us a hail).

    David (& Michelle)
    SV Pelagia (currently in La Paz, BCS)

    • We have met a few cruisers who have decided after cruising to Mexico and back that they prefer our local cruising grounds. Mike and I feel very fortunate to have learned to sail in this area. We know that there is a richness to the Salish Sea that we have only just started to explore. I imagine that whenever we decide to stop the far-away voyaging, whenever that is, we will happily settle in to exploring the areas we have missed here.

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