Shipping Our Stuff To St. Maarten
18 December 2007
Another milestone passed! We have packed up our stuff for the boat and have it ready to be shipped to St. Maarten. It weighs in at just over a ton, which is more than I like but still under the designed weight limits of Leu Cat. Fortunately, Leu Cat was designed for cruising and can hold over three tons of gear and supplies with out sacrificing too much speed. Weight and catamaran performance do not get along very well! We leave in just a couple of weeks and can hardly wait to move on board.
Getting Ready To Move On Board
14 October 2007
We are in the process of mentally and physically getting ready to move on to Leu Cat. The actual day is still a few months away (January 4, 2008) but there is soooo much to do and not much time to do it. We have put together a two-page punch list of things to do and are working feverously through it. It includes such things as acquiring equipment for the boat, planning a bon voyage party to say farewell to our family and close friends, going to Sioux Falls, South Dakota to establish our new residency and mail forwarding address, getting offshore medical and boat insurance, etc., etc., etc.
In addition to the physical side of the preparations, we also have to get our mental side fully prepared. This is a major lifestyle change and we will no longer have the close support of our family and friends. Don't get us wrong, we definitely are not abandoning our family and friends, it is just that they will be very far geographically from us. Instead of just walking or driving over to visit someone, we will have to be satisfied with a Skype call or an email. We both put such high value on our various friendships that we are concerned this lifestyle change will have a negative impact on the relationships we have with our family and friends. We know that the closest friends we have will always stay that way but given our strong feelings toward them, we are concern that relationships may diminish as people's feelings, priorities and values change over time.
We know we will be making new friends while we sail, and this excites us. However, we anticipate that our new sailing friends will be rather short lived as we go our separate ways as we follow different cruising routes.
We are excited to start our adventure, but the above feelings have an impact on us and we wrestle with them on a daily basis. We find strength in knowing that a number of our family and friends have promised that they will keep track of our adventure and will come join us as we get to exotic places that they have dreamed of visiting.
We already have a number of folks that are making plans to join us this coming year. This includes our daughter Christina and her boyfriend Michael. We will be meeting them in the British Virgin Islands and plan to sail with us to St. Maarten in May for two week. We are also meeting our friends Paddy and Mike Mikkelson for a day in St Maarten in April when they arrive on their cruise ship. We look forward to these times and hope the rest of our friends will also come and visit us.
06 October 2007
Well, we finally did it. After being on the market for 4 1/2 months, our house in Dana Point, CA just sold. Given the current housing market and the mortgage industry shakeup that is going on, I was nervious the house was not going to sell for a long time. Now that the house is sold, we are winding down the company and starting our process to move onto Leu Cat. Hooray!!!!!!!!
House For Sale
17 July 2007
Well, we really have done it now...... We have taken the big plunge and have put our house up for sale. Once it sells, we pack up our bags and move onto Leu Cat.
Mentally, both Mary Margaret and I are ready! With each day it gets harder and harder to focus on work and do the things necessary to run a small firm. The problem is we are facing a very slow real estate market. Thus, we could be sitting here for a while waiting to the one person who is ready to buy our house.
We have starting unloading our "worldly possessions" to our kids. We have decided to simplify our lives by either giving away or selling the various things one accumulates during a lifetime. In the past, these things have seemed so important to us: furniture, paintings, cars, etc. However, we have come to the time in our lives when we realize that such things just don't have the same meaning as they once did. Plus, they are not things we can take with us when we weigh anchor and start the next adventure of our lives.
What the kids don't want we will sell at a yard sale or give to charity. We don't want to rent a long-term storage space as we may be gone for years and the stuff will deteriorate over time. Our thoughts are why not have someone use and enjoy as we did, while the stuff is still good.
But first things first: Anyone wish to buy a house in Dana Point, CA?????????
Passing the Ham Radio Test
17 July 2007
Hooray! Earlier this year the FCC has dropped the requirement of knowing Morse code and passing a Morse code test to get a HAM operator's license. This means to get a HAM operator's license one only needs to pass a written exam that covers the basic knowledge of radios/electricity to get a HAM radio operator's license.
You now know that Mary Margaret and I must really be going sail crazy if we are excited about this. However, what this means to us is that we can now study for and take the operator's test without memorizing all those stupid dots and dashes. I still shudder when I remember my Boy Scout days and how hard it was to memorize that garbage to get my Morse code badge. Yuck!!!!
The reason this is so exciting for us is that now we have a chance of passing the exam and getting a HAM radio for our boat. This will allow us to be in radio (and telephone) contact with our friends no matter where we are in the world. With a HAM radio on board, we can call to a fellow HAM operator and have him/her patch us through to a telephone and make calls - even in the middle of the ocean.
Mary Margaret and I have enrolled in a web based study course to prepare for the exam. Who knows, maybe in a few months we will be ready to take the exam. At least we now have a reasonable chance at passing the exam!!!!!!!!!
17 July 2007
The word strikes fear into the soul of people no matter who you are. The most asked question that Mary Margaret and I are asked is: "Aren't you scared that you will run into pirates during your efforts to sail around the world?" Given some of the movies that people have seen and some of the news accounts reported on TV or in the newspapers, this is a perfectly good question.
In preparing for our adventure, we have spent a lot of time conducting research into a number of topics and "pirates" is one of those topics. What we have learned from a number of sources, including an organization that tracks and reports acts of piracy around the world, is that piracy is a very real concern. However, outside the random act of burglary when you are away from the boat, piracy appears to be restricted to just a handful of locations around the world. Furthermore, the vast number of acts of piracy (i.e., over 98%) are against commercial vessels, not sailboats. Sailboats just do not offer much to steal as compared to the "riches" that are found on commercial vessels.
To help put this issue in perspective, I have copied the web address to an article on piracy written from a sailor who has sailed for years in one of the spots which has the worst reputation of piracy in the world; the Malaysian Straits. As you will learn by reading this article, the act of piracy against sailboats is very rare and the fear is much greater than the reality. The article's title is "False Perceptions Of Piracy Against Yachts In Asia" by Bruce Maxwell.
Who We Are And What Are We Doing
05 March 2007 | Dana Point, CA
Welcome to our web site. In it we (Mary Margaret and Dave Leu) hope to capture the exciting times we experience as we plan for and then put into motion our sailing adventure.
We hope to retire from the hectic rat race in early 2008 and start "The Rest Of Our Lives" by cruising around the world in our beloved Lagoon 440 catamaran, Leu Cat.
Follow our efforts as we go through the research and planning phases, the "test" sailing adventures we have in order to prepare for the ultimate plunge, and then follow us as we go exploring islands and ports around the world.
If you are adventurous yourself, come visit us and spend some time exploring new lands, meeting new people and experience life as it is meant to be. If you cannot get away, then enjoy the stories and pictures in this web site from the comfort of your home. Let us know what you think and ask any questions you have by sending us emails from the Message Board page.
As with all good plans, this one is every changing. Mary Margaret and I learned long ago that if we really wanted to do something that is big, we needed to plan for it. Given that we view our sailing adventure as a "major lifestyle change", we developed a 5 year plan. However, the more we got involved, the more we realized that time is flying by and now is the time to get ready and start sailing. Thus, our 5-year plan was squeezed down to a 3-year plan. Years 1 and 2 have been completed and we are now in the final phase.
The first two years were spent sailing different catamarans to determine what we liked and disliked, to test our skills and abilities, and to see if we are really suited for long term cruising. Plus, we took lots of classes, seminars, read as much as we could get our hands one and met a lot of nice people who have done it, are doing it or, like us, are getting ready to do it.
The Plan - Year 1
We blame our former neighbors and good friends Glenda and Bob Thompson for this radial lifestyle change that we are about to do. A few years ago Bob had told me that he was thinking of sailing around the world in a catamaran when he retired. I laughed and poked fun at him. Having only sailed monohulls, I told him that catamarans are unstable, unreliable and when they flop over, that's it, you cannot right the boat. Plus, who in their right mind would want to take on the dangers of hurricanes, pirates, and hidden reefs in the middle of the ocean when one can spend their days of retirement playing golf. However, I had learned from past experience that when Bob researches things, he usually has a strong basis for his beliefs.
Our discussion on the merits of catamarans and Bob's passion for his dream motivated me to conduct my own research. Once again, Bob was right on target. I discovered that the modern cruising catamaran (now called sixth generation) was radically different than the early (1960's) style of catamaran that I had read about when I was younger. With their new bow designs, wider beams, modern sail plans, and high tech resins, the current generation of catamarans is actually safer than monohulls. This is confirmed by comparing the cost of insuring a monohull versus a catamaran of equal value. Catamarans are now cheaper to insure as their damage and loss statistics are now better than monohulls. Go figure. Plus, they offer about a 1/3 more space for the length of boat, go about 1/3 faster, do not have any appreciable heal (i.e., tilt), have a smaller draft (i.e., the depth of the keel under the boat) which lets you anchor in shallower water than monohulls and they offer a more comfortable ride. They are so stable that you can leave things on the cabin table and they will still be there a few hours later while under sail. For these advantages you do sacrifice the ability to sail close to the wind and you must bear the slings and arrows thrown at you by the traditional sailors of monohulls. After sailing a few catamarans, one quickly becomes a convert. So much so that it is only with great difficulty that I can get Mary Margaret to go sailing with me in one of the monohulls we have available through our Aventura Sailing Association here in Dana Point.
During our research phase, Mary Margaret and I went to a couple of boat shows, including the Oakland Boat Show in April,2005. What a learning experience! Not only did they have a wide assortment of boats and vendors, but they had over 45 seminars being taught by people who either made or sold the equipment or who were sailing the four corners and came back to tell about their adventures. This first year, we were like sponges, sopping it all in. We also took a course at our local community college (Saddleback) in Marine Weather to compliment the courses we had already taken in Sailing, Seamanship, and Boat Safety and Navigation and Piloting. To indicate how gun ho Mary Margaret became, she also went down to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico for a 10 day all women's sailing class. Whew! And after all of that, we thirsted for more.
The highpoint of this first year was doing a two-week bareboat charter in the British Virgin Islands (BVI) on a 43-foot Fountaine Pajot catamaran. All three kids (Heather (27) Christina (24) and David Paul (22)) sailed with us during this two-week sailing adventure. While the trip was something that we all will cherish, Mary Margaret and I learned that the kids had truly grown up and had their own ideas as to what a sailing cruise was all about. We ended up giving the "kids" about 8 or 9 days to meet their desires, and then Mary Margaret and I took charge of setting the destinations and courses. From that experience we learned that we could handle a large catamaran by ourselves and that cruising is a lifestyle we really enjoyed. While we both will admit sailing around BVI is rather "cushy" compared to true blue water sailing, it never the less gave us a taste and we really enjoyed it. Onward to Year 2 of "The Plan".
The Plan - Year 2
Year 2 of "The Plan" (2006) was similar to Year 1, except it was more intense. We starting looking at our finances to see if we could afford to chuck our rather comfortable way of life, including our jobs, and retire early to a life of cruise the seven seas. What we discovered is that cruising does not have to be expensive and even with a modest budget, many people turn to sailing and live quite well. We discovered that the range of costs for sailing is typically between just $12,000 a year if you want a smaller boat and don't go out to eat much, to about $60,000 a year if you have a large boat, want to play tourist at each port and need to eat out 5 to 7 times a week. No matter how you slice it, the cost is some much less than living on land that that it would be something that we could afford to do as retired old farts.
With that realization, we decided to retire in early 2008. This meant we had some serious work to get ready in time. Once again we went to the Oakland Boat Show and sat through a number of their seminars. However, this time, after all of the research, reading and course work we had in 2005, we felt we could have taught a couple of the seminars ourselves.
Never the less, we still noodled up by taking more courses at Saddleback (Marlinspike Seamanship and Orange Coast College (Marine Diesel Repair and Marine Electrical Repair).
Plus, we discovered that the boat we really love, the Lagoon 440, was in significant demand. So much so that there was a two year backlog of orders. This in turn was driving the price up (an increase in about $100,000 in just one year). We were discovering that we could no longer afford the boat we dreamed off.
If you know Mary Margaret, you know that she does not accept defeat or disappoint very well. When I told her that we would have to look at getting a different boat, she just said, "Well, let's not wait. Let's buy it now!"
With this type of leadership driving me, I went to the Catamaran Company and told them that I wanted to buy a 440 now and wanted last year's price. Instead of throwing me out the door, they agreed to give me one of their orders for hull 133 and at the same price they agreed to pay last year when they ordered the boat. Furthermore, I could reconfigure the boat to meet our needs. Finally, the boat was scheduled to be built in May/June 2006 and we could take possession of it in July. Wow! They were giving me everything I wanted and was asking for. The "hitch" was I would have to place it in their charter fleet in BVI for a year since that is why they had ordered the boat in the first place. That was not a problem to us as we would not be ready to move onto the boat until January 2008 anyway. Plus the income we generated from the charters would offset the expense of keeping the boat in BVI for the 1 1/2 years before we were ready.
Ready or not, here we come. We now are the proud owners of a Lagoon 440, named LeuCat. You can check out what LeuCat looks like in the Photo Albums. We will be living a very Spartan life and scrunched up in that little, tiny boat...
Again, the highlight of Year 2 of "The Plan" was when Mary Margaret, our son David Paul and I went sailing throughout the Windward Islands (just north of Venezuela) during May/June 2006. What a dream come true. Looks at the photos of that trip in the Photo Album to see what I mean.
We all had such a fantastic time that we just did not want to leave. The boat was a 47 foot Catana, rigged for ocean cruising. While the sails were a pain to raise and lower, the boat was very easy to sail. We anchored every night after sailing between 30 and 80 nm a day, averaging about 10 knots. The diving was awesome. Warm, clear water, sea life that was varied and beautiful, great meals cooked aboard by chefs Mary Margaret and David Paul, shooting stars and satellites overhead a night...... It was so surreal that it took us 3 to 4 months to get back into the swings of things once we returned home.
Mentally, we are really for this lifestyle change.
The Plan - Year 3
We are now entering Year 3 of "The Plan". We are getting the house ready to sell, starting to unload our earthly possessions, trying to wind down The Leu Group (our environmental consulting firm), getting our finances in order, and will still be taking more and more courses. Next is Celestial Navigation. Another 16 week course at good ol' Saddleback College.
The plan is to get rid of everything we can by the end of the year and then move down to Tortola, BVI in early 2008. We want to rent a condo for a few months while we pull the boat out of the charter fleet and retrofit it with all the gear, electronics, spinnaker and other things we want LeuCat to have.
Once that is done, we will move on board, get out of the marina and spend the next year or two exploring the Caribbean. The nice thing about the way we want to cruise, we will not have a fixed schedule or itinerary. If we find a place we like, we will stay until we are ready to move on. While Mary Margaret accuses me of having an "itchy butt syndrome", I think I am going to surprise her. I believe I can very readily adapt to the island way of life. We aint in any hurry, mon.
From the Caribbean, we are thinking we would head west, through the Panama Canal and then on to the Galapagos Island and then the South Pacific. We are thinking about circumnavigating the world but who knows. The wind, weather and seas will dictate where we go, when we get there and how we like it. This cruising stuff may go one for a year or it may go on until we drop. That's part of the adventure. We will not know until we get there --- wherever and whenever "there" is.
We hope you will be adventurous enough to come and join us for a week or two of cruising and partake in a taste of our new lives. It certainly will be different and we believe very enjoyable.
Oh, by the way, we are planning another two-week cruise this May/June (2007). This time we are taking Heather with us and plan on sailing around the Spanish Virgin Islands, which are located between the US Virgins and Puerto Rico. We understand that few people go there and it is still in the undiscovered stage. I will post our photos of that trip to the Photo Album when we get back.