The Plan

Moonrise at anchor. More of this, please.

First…. get a million dollars. That seems to be our favorite saying around here whenever Mike and I start dreaming about our little cunning plan to live the cruising life on board a sailboat. This is a saying that reflects the daunting task before us: to uproot our lives and set sail to exotic (we hope) locations before we get so old our teeth fall out. It seems like if we just had a ‘million dollars’ the distance between our lives now and the life we want to lead would almost disappear. Heck, with a million dollars we could probably set sail tomorrow! Well, almost.

We’re classic. Really, we are. Both in our mid ‘50s, after 34 years of marriage, child rearing, home ownership, and careers, the wick of the old proverbial ‘candle of time’ is getting short. Also, we’re sick and tired of working. And I mean that to be inclusive of all kinds of working, including keeping up with all the stuff that owns us like the house and gardens and all the detritus of an American life lurking in the garage, attic, and various other areas with closed doors.

Don’t get me wrong. We’re part of the lucky few who really do enjoy their professions. We live well. It’s just that if someone walked up to us and gave us a million dollars today, we’d retire. Wouldn’t you?

So what makes this worthy of a blog? It’s not like this situation isn’t repeated ad infinitum in households of 50-somethings all over the US of A. We’re no different than any other couple our age in that way. Except that we have a plan! Cunning it may be, but it’s, well, complicated. There are lots of steps and they are not as straight forward as all the self-help books lead one to believe.

Here’s the crux of the matter: In 2016-17 we want to be in a position to rent out our home and set sail. It sounds easy, no? No. It does not. Like I said, it’s complicated. First, we have to ‘downshift’ our lifestyle: reduce the amount of stuff we have accumulated over 31 years.  I understand this is a “freeing” experience. At the point of this update, we are finding that to be absolutely true to a great extent.

At the same time, we must prepare our home to be a furnished rental. This is much more work than we thought it would be, but it’s our Plan A,, and if it works out, we’ll be able to keep the house. Fingers are firmly crossed.

So, again, why the blogging?   I got serious about thinking about it while reading the book Julie and Julia: My Year of Cooking Dangerously by Julie Powell. The book describes how Julie makes a goal of working through Julia Child’s cookbook on French cooking by systematically creating every recipe in the book over a period of one year. What struck me, other than the sheer genius and insanity of such an idea, was the support she received from the followers of her blog. It kept her on track; it motivated her when she wanted to quit. That sounded good to me!

I figure this is a good way to keep us organized, set goals, and if we put those goals in print, follow through with them. Our little cunning plan will take a lot of energy and direction. We need to carry on with it in a measured way, accomplishing one small task at a time. So this blog is entirely a selfish exercise on the one hand.

On the other hand we think we have something to offer the reader. I have noticed that with few exceptions, people who make these kinds of huge life changes talk about them mostly after they have accomplished their goals. There are plenty of interesting blogs written by people who are already living the cruising life. Lots of their stories are punctuated with the advice that one should ‘Go now! In the boat you have!’.  Thanks for that. Give me a million dollars and I’ll ‘go now’.  I get the point, but it’s not realistic for us.  I believe there are many, many more people who are like us and need to take some time to extricate themselves from long and fruitful land-based lives than there are who can drop everything and go. So we will write things we think will be helpful to others who are in our same ‘boat’ and we will hope to entertain you as well . We hope you will subscribe to our blog (and we do not sell your email address to others) and keep reading.

Updated December 1, 2015. We’ve made huge amounts of progress, found our boat and are undergoing refitting, and are almost ready to start renting our house out. The goal for that is March 1, 2016. Then we move aboard and things get really serious.


45 thoughts on “The Plan

      • We (hubby and self) have some friends who did this a few years ago, only, since they were moving up here from the lone star state, they sold their house down there, bought and lived on a sail boat here in the San Juan’s for a few years. Unhappy, Miserable and costly, incredibly costly to their relationship. I believe they were on their 3rd year when they purchased a repo to fix up.

        I’m with you folks, sick of working, but I love what I do, absolutely want to pair down. I’ve become impulsive when it comes to “doing what I want rather than what I have to.” Mid-fifties person like you folks and tired of it all, especially our political arena, but then I’m an online advocate, so I’m involved in it much more than the average person. How does one pare-down when it seems like upkeep and maintenance takes so very much time and effort. Although I would like to blame this ‘mental-state’ on consumerism, I don’t believe the corps or ads is what drives our need to keep things in good repair, or to plant a basket or two in the summer. I can easily name 20 items on the top of my head for just ‘upkeep’ of items such as a basket. (soil, seeds, fertilizer, etc)

        So then is the answer the ‘throw-away’ method, buy it, use it, throw it away?

        And thanks for your blog post, I’d like to keep up with it now and then if you don’t mind. So please don’t think I’m a troller. (whatever those are, I know they are

        • I hear you, Elaine. Isn’t it interesting how so many of us have the same kinds of feelings about the way we live? I guess it’s just part of adult development, but I also think it’s partly because we live so darn long now! I look at the next 30 years and think ‘what the heck am I going to do with all that time’. I know we don’t want to spend it doing things like cleaning our roof. I still love my garden, but I’d like it to be much smaller. And, like you, I love my pots but this winter I left them out one day too long and the frost killed almost all of my succulents. And I found that I wasn’t that sorry about it. Those pots take a lot of time and effort and maybe I’m not that interested in that right now. Sorry to hear that your friends didn’t enjoy living on their boat. Were they already sailors? I do think that would make a difference. We know we enjoy living on the boat during our long summer trips so we’re hoping that means we’ll enjoy it for longer. But, of course, no guarantees in this world. Thanks for posting, and for reading! And we’ll keep you in mind for the silver set! 🙂

  1. Sounds familiar! As you know, Eric and I did a similar move 3 years ago (although we opted for living in NZ in a house) and soon we will be embarking on our next adventure, as we travel back to the US (maybe?). I guess the best place to begin is to really sit and think about what matters. We got rid of most of our things, but kept some items that had sentimental value or we deemed too much trouble to replace (for instance my All Clad pots & pans ~ I love to cook and couldn’t bear the idea of having to replace them). Ultimately, the “things” that we saved were things that brought us joy on a daily basis. The rest we let go of. And now we will be doing the same thing all over again, on the other side of the planet. Remember, we come into this planet only surrounded by love, and if we are lucky, we will leave surrounded by the love. All else is transient.

  2. PURGE! It’s time to purge! I’ve heard it is freeing…I wouldn’t know, being a border line hoarder….BUT! I am beginning the process myself….two rooms down, and the big one (the computer room) to go! I know first hand how happy my in-laws were to sell everything they could, including the house and GO! They don’t exist all summer long…and they are happy! Go forth and purge…it will set you free!

    • Damn! Does this mean that you don’t want that silver service that belonged to either mom or G’mama? You are not cooperating with the order in which things should happen! I am the oldest, therefore I am supposed to be able to donate things to you, and then later, you get to get rid of them and I never have to know. This is cramping my style!

  3. Yes, you and Eric certainly did have to do this, and in much less time than we have to accomplish the task. Since you will be doing it again, maybe you won’t end up having a mountain of ‘historical’ things after 30 years of marriage! It’s a good thought, actually. I hope you’ll keep reading as our writing evolves. This blog is something Mike and I are doing together. It’s an interesting effort.
    This reply is for Alex. Don’t know why it’s not showing up under her post.

    • Hmm, well we have a lot of stuff that is yours that you will have to make a decision about. You have your own area in the garage dedicated to your stuff alone.

  4. Um, who was the post about the silver service to…me or Andrew? You may donate things to me. I will take them and horde them until time to purge them back to your spawn. Does that make you feel better? I am happy to take anything that will make entertaining less embarrassing at our household.

    • It was for you. I don’t have the hang of the order of postings yet, or maybe it’s not working correctly. I thought the reply would show up under the correct post. You want to horde the tea service? Excellent!

  5. So glad i came upon your blog. I too am retiring in five summers at 50. I have been downsizing and removing as much clutter as possible from my life. My plan as yours is too sail and become a liveaboard.
    Best regards

  6. I love your plan, and I love your Cal34. Why is it for sale? Cannot it fit into your plan? I just read about you on Yoder’s Afloat. Regards, Don

    • Welcome, Don! We love our Cal34, too, but it does not really fit our needs for long term voyaging in the deep blue sea. It’s great for coastal cruising, though, and we’ve had a lot of great adventures aboard Moonrise. We hope to find a family to buy her who will love her as much as we have and still do. We’d like something a little heavier for going offshore; something made for that purpose
      . This boat could take it, but I’m not sure we could. Checked out your blog and love your boat! Love those islands, too and that looks like a fun destination, with the exception of the great white shark attack. Yikes! What a thing to see. Those are the times to be glad you have a nice, safe boat between you and the water. Our first boat was a Catalina 27, Saucy Sue. We have so many fond memories of learning to sail on that boat. She was lovely!

  7. Dear Melissa:
    Thanks for the response, and best of luck to you two. We might cross paths in Baja some day. I am dedicated to trips there to sail. We will charter. This Christmas my son and I chartered a Catalina 22 in Loreto and did a week around the islands there. I will soon have a blog story about our trip, which I certainly will share with you. There is a Cal34 for charter in La Paz. Do you know anything about that one? It will probably be our next charter unless we learn contrary stuff about it. Loreto is simply awesome, but the Catalina 22 is just too small and doesn’t go to weather at all. And, I’m not going to cough up $7K for 10 days on a huge Beneteau!
    Regards, Don

    • Don,

      Our Baja trip was terrific and we will definitely return there in our own boat. I have a friend with a place in Loreto and he raves about it.

      We seriously considered chartering the Cal 34 in La Paz. As things go, it was not that expensive but we really wanted something other than the boat that we have. Like you, I couldn’t see my way to paying the high rates for a newer boat from the Moorings.

      We have also rented a Catalina 22 for a day sail and I commend your adventurous spirtit for taking a boat that small out for a week. That is going small.

  8. We would love to read about your trip in the Catalina 22! That sounds like such a fun time, and we’re completely on the same page in terms of coughing up so much money to charter one of those boats through the larger charter companies. We can pay our moorage for well over a year for the amount they charge. Something in me just says ‘NO WAY’ to that. We chartered a Catalina 22 for an afternoon down in San Diego. We found it to be a fun boat, but not one we would want to spend many overnights on. We did find out about that Cal34 for charter in La Paz, but didn’t see the boat. After adding up our expenses for that trip, the price they want for the Cal is very reasonable. We might go that route ourselves if we ever decide to go back down to Baja before we take our own boat down there. I would imagine that Cal gets booked well in advance if it’s even a halfway decent boat.

  9. Dear Michael and Melissa:
    You might enjoy the Doolittle family blog. They are sailing the Catalina 38, Jace, from San Francisco through the Panama Canal and on to the east coast of North America. Of course, our boat, Discreet Charm, is a Catalina 38 and I risk sounding chauvinistic in pointing you in the direction of this fine design. C38’s are not too expensive, and there are lots for sale.The Doolittle family is four people on that one boat. They had made it to El Salvador last time I checked, blogging all the way!
    Regards, Don

    • Thanks! We will check out their blog. Got to love the Catalinas. Yes, they are on our list of good old boats to consider. We have to get our Cal sold first, though.

  10. Hey Melissa,

    I just found your blog through Sailing Simplicity. I’m really happy to find someone who is geographically near me and in the same ‘boat’ philosophically. I wish you the best of luck! We should try to rendezvous in the islands some day.

    I’m curious, why exactly do you consider your boat no good for off-shore cruising? A 34 foot boat seems like the perfect size for two people to do this. Any bigger and it would be unwieldy in marina. Any smaller and it wouldn’t be nearly as comfortable in stormy weather. What qualities exactly make it unfit for cruising for you two? My apologies if you’ve already written about this. I haven’t had a chance to check out your blog completely.

    • Thanks for perusing our Blog Chris. I just visited and enjoyed your bio. The Rock and Row will be a great live aboard.

      Regarding your question about the suitability of our 34 foot sailboat for off shore. We have considered the possibility of refitting the boat for that purpose, but ultimately decided that for the kind of long distance voyaging we want to do, a hull with a bit more stability and storage would be needed. If all we were going to do is head to Mexico and back, I think Moonrise would be a great boat for the task. Also, we do want to have a dedicated berth for our son, now 20, so that he can sail with us when he isn’t in school.

      We are working to find a boat that is just a bit larger but not so big that it adds too much expense and complexity to our lives. We also want a boat that is as fun and easy to sail as Moonrise. As you might imagine, some compromises will be required.

  11. So glad that you contacted us, and we do seem to have a lot in common! We both have a lot of work to do on our current homes .. and a lot of downsizing too! We wish ya’ll the best and will follow along until we meet on that big, blue watery road!

  12. Good plan! My wife, Lisa, and I lived on a boat for 3 years, but without the sailing abroad. It would be my ideal to live aboard again someday and travel the Caribbean seas endlessly! Where IS that million dollars??

  13. Almost there to the second huge step! Although we are only in the planning phase to start cruising in five years, we started with the selling and cleaning already, plus of course the saving up for the jump ahead! Great hearing about all your preparations, good luck!

  14. Hi Melissa! Just found you courtesy of Ellen @ Cynical Sailor and his Salty Sidekick. We are another couple who’s in the process of the big downsize and mid-life course change – always fun to find another couple on the same track! Looking forward to catching up with you somewhere. Keith & Nicki

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