Finances. How we afforded 10 years "off."
25 September 2023
How did we pull off a ten-year vacation? Three years cruising aboard a 50' catamaran from Florida to New Zealand followed by seven more there? Where did we get the money and how did we keep "afloat."
This is one of the most common questions asked on Cruising Forums. My wife has written a book about our adventures entitled "Sailing Ohana," and she is receiving the same question. The following is my attempt to give the detailed description of how we "did it."
The first thought many have is that we started with money. We started with less than zero, literally.
I came from very modest means. My father was a Civil Engineer with the City of New York, my mother a homemaker until the city's financial troubles of 1975 made it necessary for her to return to work in banking. My father said, "we were always broke but never poor." I grew up "fixing things" with dad and sailing, always sailing.
Becky describes most of my story in her book. The one thing I will add is that sailing and then racing around the Hudson River and then Long Island Sound introduced me to wealth like I had never seen. The yacht clubs and the homes of my friends who also crewed. I kept asking the question "how." A few years after high school I found myself in Vallejo California in the Coast Guard and one of my friends, Steve Newby (can't believe I remember his name) was looking for an off-base apartment.
With not much else to do I rode along with him to look at places. At one the land lady drove up to meet us in her Mercedes. She walked us into the basic unit and showed us around. I started asking questions about her business, the buildings, how it works. At one point she took the cigarette from her lips, sighed and looked me straight in the eye and said "kid, people will always need three things: food.....clothing.....housing. I choose housing." I never forgot that.
A few years went by. I went to college after the Coast Guard (in at 17, out at 21,) managed to buy a little duplex in Hobe Sound Florida on the wrong side of US1 and "lived for free." I managed to get a First Class FCC license which got me working at Radio stations as an engineer (hated it,) Captain's License (loved it), worked as a yacht broker and helped start a little firm (first taste of business,) did lots of multi level marketing BS, and generally kept trying to figure out how my sailing friends parents learned how to "make money," enough to be "free."
The one thing out of all that worked? The duplex in Hobe Sound Florida on the wrong side of A1A. It was the only building my parents ever gave me any money towards, 7,500.00. That was the down payment for the VA loan. I paid 77,000 for that little building and lived there with tenants next door and two roommates. My goal was to "live for free" and I did. After 3 years I sold that little duplex for 120,000, paid off the loan and had about 40,000 in my pocket. With that I committed to finishing my undergraduate in Geography and International Affairs at Florida State University and a Masters in Business at the Maine Maritime Academy. I was still interested in figuring out how to make it.
In 1988 I sat down a wrote out EVERYTHING I wanted to in this life, everything. That was followed with a yearly "how much can you do in one year" chart I created. One of those goals was "the freedom to travel at will." I am sharing this because it is not just the mechanics of how you do it, it is the spirit of how you do it. I didn't know at the time but do now, "where you point your mind is where you go." I just read over and noticed one goal was to have "more than 300.00 in checking." 😊 (see photos for picture of that chart)
This was just before I bought the duplex. I was yacht brokering and funny line in that picture is "try to sell a boat" followed by "floss." I was young. I did this exercise each year up to 1996. I had met Becky in 1992 and together we had started building the life I had imagined so long ago and she as well. Her story in full is best read in her words, buy her book 😊
After graduating from Maine in 92 with the MBA I was lost. At 27 years old I was past the prime as most entry level corporate training programs looked for younger business grads. I interviewed with SeaLand, Puerto Rico Marine Management and Mitsui OSK lines. I was told this fairly bluntly on two occasions.
My resume was all over the map, I didn't fit in the traditional world and I was struggling with what to do next. That 40K was long gone and I had racked up student loans and credit card debt. My only asset was a 1982 Mazda 626. My friend from high school, an officer in the Air Force, had moved to Alaska in 1988, I had driven up with him that year. I called him to brainstorm what to do next and he said "come up here, I have started buying real estate and it is incredible! I have a job for you, a place to live and a girl!
The job was being a handy man for him for 10.00 an hour, the place was a walk in closet with a twin bed and the girl I am still with to this day.
That's the set up. Here comes the execution of building the "machine."
I flew to Alaska in November of 1992 and checked out the scene. I met Becky on that first trip, again her story details our story. Suffice it to say the minute I laid eyes on her I said to myself "she will be mine." I will add that your partner is everything when it come to this cruising lifestyle. If yours is not into it at all think really long and hard before trying to force a round peg into a square hole. Becky fit. She was an Alaskan woman through and through and up for any adventure. Must add she is tough as nails, patient, determined, focused and genuine. These and more are all qualities needed to live out the reality, not the YouTube version of life at sea. These are also traits in a partner that are key to succeeding in real estate investing.
I had my freshly minted MBA and Armand had a rough set of books for his real estate holdings. At the time I think he had about twenty units. I asked if I could look over his books and he dropped them in my lap.
Having fallen for plenty of "get rich quick" schemes I dove in. The numbers were incredible. I took the time to write up a simple spreadsheet for each building based on a Schedule E and calculated the real cash flow for each. After that looked at the purchase price of each, the amount needed to fix them up and their value after.
What did I find? For example, he had bought a 4 plex for 110,000.00. It needed nominal work to get it rented. Basically a good cleaning, service the boiler, paint the units, maybe carpet and a few appliances, 15K max. He did ALL the work himself. He put everything on 15 year loans with downpayments around 8-10K. His mortgage payments and utilities would come in somewhere around 1,400/month. Rents for the 2 bedroom units would be around 700.00/unit or 2,800.00. See it? That is around 1,400.00 a month in cash flow not including amortization on the loan and they were only 15 year loans! He was making a real 7K/month and growing while still working his full-time job at the base. The minute his term was over he was out of the Air Force. I sat back in that chair and remembered what that landlady had said years before along with my little duplex experience and right then I choose real estate.
Yes, luck plays into life and Anchorage Alaska in the early 90's was in the toilet. Oil had dried up, the economy was in tatters and every third house was owned by a bank. Something else was odd up here as well, rents stayed up. There are several reasons. Alaska is a transient state and many come up to "give it a try." Some stay, most last 2-3 winters and leave. They rent. The military bases were still there, there were not many entrepreneurial types running around and the inventory of housing was constrained by the geography. Anchorage is basically and 10-mile x 10-mile box with Cook Inlet on one side and the Chugach Mountains on the other. As properties aged out there was not new development outwards to replace them. Add on to that the banks wanted OUT and that meant if you had a pulse and some spunk you could just about talk your way into a four plex and I did, lots of them.
Can you do it today? Yes. Is it harder? Yes. Can I tell you how to do it? Yes. Follow 1happylandlord on YouTube and TikTok for more. Shameless plug over. You really can though if you have the drive and vision.
Remember "the freedom to travel at will?" That was still in the back of my mind. Armand had paid for a charter in the Bahamas and he paid for me to go down to be the captain. He was dating Becky's sister and invited Becky as well. We were not dating at the time, again details in her book, but the prospect of an adventure was good enough for both of us. She had never done something like this before and I was anxious to impress her. On that 10-day trip she and I crossed the friend line, she was hooked on sailing and I was hooked on her (I think she was hooked on me as well.) This is important as again the person you choose to do this with has to be all in and she was.
Back in Alaska I put my nose down and with no money had to figure out a way to buy my first building. I was making the 10.00 and hour with Armand and learning everything there was to learn about getting buildings up and running. That was not going to cut it.
So here is how I got the first four plex followed by a 12 plex, you have been very patient. At the end of this post I will share what I would have done differently, don't skip ahead.
I had no money but I knew people that did. That is key number 1, access to capital. What I did have was the ability to do an FHA first time home buyer loan. I racked my brain and reached out to those I thought might be willing to take a chance. First my family. In my case my father was VERY conservative, money-wise, and had a low tolerance for risk. That was a hard "no." Then friends. One in particular, Gary, I knew from my yacht broker days, and he had been very successful in the tech world. I called him up and talked him into coming up to Alaska from Florida to see what I was up to and to have a vacation of sorts.
For five days Gary and I drove around and looked at buildings. Armand gave him the tour of his buildings, explained the numbers and what was involved. Why didn't Armand invest in me? He was growing as well and needed his capital for his projects. Gary left willing to take a chance. Our "deal" was he would put up the down payment and closing costs, I would do all the work, we would split cash flow 50/50, when it came time to sell he would receive his initial investment back first then we would split proceeds after that 50/50.
With that I hit the streets and found a four plex for 120,000, we bought it under those terms. It was NOT EASY. You will hit road blocks and I hit plenty but there is a way through most of the time. My sales training over the years came in very handy and I would recommend anyone going into business to take the time to learn, for lack of a better work, people. I had listened to thousands of hours of tapes from Dale Carnegie to Zig Ziglar and everyone in between. We did a second deal shortly thereafter on a 12 plex. Those 16 units got me started, if you think about it was effectively 8 but that was enough.
I continued working for Armand and lived very frugally. Dave Ramsey has a saying, "live like no one else so you can live like no one else." I drove a beat-up old Mazda 323 with no floorboards and anemic heat, slept on a mattress I found in a dumpster (it was actually in pretty good shape,) and worked hard.
Next step houses.
There was a little cabin with a large shop behind it that came on the market for 20,000 owner finance. (editing note: you may be thinking there are zero deals like that today. I still find them, the numbers are different but the ratios and principles are the same, stick with me.) I knew it was a good deal and I knew it would have a lot of offers. If only I could offer cash. I contacted Gary again and he agreed to loan me 25,000 at 15% interest. With that I offered 21,000 for the cabin and got it. Was my first solo deal and there is a story behind that, but I'll save it. What happened bottom line was I fixed it up, rented the cabin to the Buck family and rented the shop separately to a welder/fabricator. As soon as all that was done, it took about 2 months of hard work, I went down to our local bank and refinanced. This is classic BRRR (Buy, rehab, rent, refinance) which at the time I didn't even know was a thing. I will all one letter to the end, "H." Hold.
The property was appraised at 90,000.00 and they were willing to do a commercial loan at 80% LTV (loan to value.) I left that closing with 72,000.00 in my pocket, that was in the fall of 1993, ten months after touching down in Alaska. At that point I had the 16 units with Gary and now the little cabin on Pine Street and the most valuable asset, a model.
Did I pay Gary back the 25,000? No. He liked the interest and I needed the capital. I took that 72K and bought 3 more houses in similar price ranges that needed a ton of work. After those with similar outcomes I started buying duplexes, four plexes, 6 plexes..........anything I could get me hands on. By 1996, the year Becky and I married, I was up to around 70 units and growing. This was an 18 hour a day job which I loved so it didn't feel like work. This is important. I do not believe you can hire out everything from rehab to maintenance to management which we will get to next. Also, I believe you are simply storying energy. Working like I was, basically doing 20 years of work compressed into 10, gave us the 10 we needed to take off which is the point of this whole article.
What about property management?
Remember the paragraph about sales experience? Tenant management is essentially sales. I naturally like people and respect customers, which tenants are. I learned early on that if you treat folks as customers honest and affable people will do a lot to help you if you help them. These properties were all in low to moderate income neighborhoods which I would recommend focusing on. These folks tend to stay for long periods of time, respect hard work and are willing to overlook imperfect flooring in exchange for being treated well. It is a working formula.
I set bookkeeping up that was simple and dedicated one single day a week, "paperwork Monday." I still use this system to this day. I still use the same spread sheet I wrote for Armand 30+ years ago. Real Estate is not complicated. You have the same single transaction once a month, for the same product to the same customer. Today we own several businesses, a bar and a coffee shop and those are a whole different animal.
Being organized is key. Each building is an event, each has a file and a ledger. All very simple. I modeled my spreadsheet after the Schedule E from the IRS which made tax time fairly simple. Today I use Quickbooks for the businesses but have not made that jump for the real estate, assuming it is just as easy. Frankly accounting for properties can be done on a green ledger sheet. Bottom line? Do not over think it.
Becky and I were married on St. John USVI in the spring of 98. Two years prior I had upgraded my living situation from the downstairs at Armand's house to one unit in the 12 plex that Gary and I owned and yes, I paid rent so Gary received his half. Becky reluctantly moved in prior to us tying the knot and she made that dated apartment a home.
From 92 to 96 there was another story going on that goes along with how we set up everything to work while we were able to travel. "The freedom to travel at will" does not happen by accident and one might think "how could you ever leave if you have so many responsibilities?" Truth is you could not if you did not take the time to figure out how to manage everything from afar.
Armand loved sailing as much as I did and we were both determined to figure out a way to do both business, and boats. He had left the Air Force and was growing as fast as I was. If you choose this route, building a group of friends doing the same in invaluable. We could share stories, brainstorm problems, let each other know about deals and generally support each other. In our little group there were about five of us who would meet for lunch almost daily then go out onto the battlefield refreshed. You also are building a network where all can cover the others.
Through my yacht broker connections I got wind of a Huges Northstar 40 monohull for sale in St. Augustine Florida and 40K would buy it. I did not have that kind of cash sitting around but he did. We bought what was to become "Scarlett" and the "brownie point" system was born.
Basically we each agreed to cover the others on ground duties while one was away. We came up with a ratio of "brownie points" relative to the number of units each of us had. The points were assigned a value, I think 100/point and could be exchanged for work or money. Over the four years we owned Scarlett we each sailed about 4-6 months a year, usually in 2-3 month chunks, The rule was leave the boat better than you found it and business better that you found it. Trust is key here of course. This system allowed each of us to fine tune our management and enjoy life. The added benefit was the boat was always somewhere new in the Caribbean and when one or the other arrived would always find some "improvement" that made it even more fun.
By 1997 Becky and I were thinking family and it was time to sell Scarlett and focus on a real home and children. Scarlett sold and it was a bitter sweet event, I remember walking away together from her in Soper's Hole with a tear in my eye. Those were magic years. One other very important event happened that made our decision to sell half of everything in 2001 and take off. You can find that story here, "the best advice." https://www.sailblogs.com/member/sailingohana/396190
Madison was born in 1998, Kelsey in 2001. We built the house, the business had grown to 120 units, the biggest addition being a 40 unit complex in Palmer Alaska. In the spirit of developing the systems to travel we had taken off to Hawaii for 6 months to test out management systems from afar, learned a lot and then a cross country RV trip. It was following the road trip where Becky brought up the idea of really taking off. The "best advice" was spend time with your children while they were young. We were doing well materially but something was missing and it was time.
Once the decision was made to buy a catamaran I stepped into gear and sold 70 of our units. We paid the capital gains tax, paid off the rest of the units including the 40 plex, bought "Ohana" and just did it. That is where the money came from. The 40 plex came with a manager, we had built a strong rolodex (remember those?) with tradesman, suppliers, insurance, and finance pros.
Now to the mechanics of how that part went together.
All the cash from the sales went to pay off buildings, there was little left over although the remaining buildings were cash flowing well. At first we wanted a 47 Catana which were around 500,000K at the time. Always a value buyer we kept looking. I still had a lot of contacts in the broker world and one of them, Don Buckles, showed us a 50' custom Dutch built cat that could be had for 330,000K. She needed some upgrades, but not many, and was a proven ocean going design. We decided to finance her and ended up with a payment of 2,200/month. After ten magic years she sold for 250K in New Zealand and when I look back at the cost per month it was negligible.
This is her as we found her and after some upgrades. (See Pictures)
The internet was new then but worked. We had a manager we employed who loved their position and watched out for our investments. I would talk with him regularly and I still did the final books each month. Banking was available online along with autopay for most utilities. It was rare that we could not find a wifi spot even back them. By today's standards it was painfully slow but it worked. The only time I was out of contact for an extended period were the long pacific passages but even then we had iridium and could send and receive emails.
That is how it worked, for a decade. Every Monday I would look over the books and do what had to be done. The folks in Alaska did the best they could and we supported them generously. Our living expenses were minimal so over the course of the three years we were actively cruising we were actually saving money. That changed once we hit New Zealand of course. Sadly Dave, the original manager, passed away soon after we arrived in Opua. I flew back to the US the next day and over the course of a month found a new manager and the systems we had in place she easily stepped into. This is the value of good systems.
The next question is how did we do it in NZ? Immigration, living expenses, afford a home and raise children.
Immigration: Soon after arriving we both knew this would be a place to settle. New Zealand had three main paths to entry as memory serves. Skilled Migrant, Work and Business. I just checked the Immigration Website and there appears now be many ways to enter the country. We went the skilled migrant route which was a point system based primarily on education and age. The business visa was an option and friends tried that. Basically you buy your way in, I forget the amount but it was substantial and you had to actually start a business. The work visa required actually working and having an employer sponsor you. We had friends that went that route as well. Skilled migrant was somewhat flexible and at the time we were in our early 40's and late 30's, I had the master's degree and Becky a bachelors.
The first two years were a kind of waiting period. We elected not to hire an immigration agent and went about preparing all the documents ourselves. I visited the immigration office in Auckland and noticed how many of the applications looked sitting on the agents desk. We made sure ours was spiral bound with a clean cover which I think made a difference. This is not a small task, putting together the application. By the time we were finished it was about 2 inches thick. They want to see evidence of a couple's "enduring relationship." We had pictures of us dating back to 1992 (this was around 2006 when we started the process.) Tax returns, bank statements, their forms, proof of education, etc. This all culminated with an interview in Auckland. There they wanted to hear about our commitment to the country, what clubs and activities we were involved with, where our daughters went to school, if we spoke English (yes that was a thing) etc. It was short and kind of funny as the agent basically had a checklist she had to go though and to be honest her mandarin was probably better than her English.
A few weeks after that we received our indefinite permanent returning resident visas. We would be eligible for citizenship with a passport a few years later but this was just about the same. From that point forward we could come and go as we pleased.
At this same time NZ was offering a four year tax holiday on world wide income to encourage skilled immigration. Our main income was from the States and at the time we took advantage of this not really knowing how much of a burden this would become when the four years ended. We were in New Zealand for 7 years total. The first two were on a tourist visa sort of, I cannot recall exactly but tax was not required on overseas income. This was followed by the four year tax holiday. In year 7 the reality of how expensive it is to live and pay taxes on overseas income hit home. We quickly realized the cost of soft socialism and in our situation we would both of had to work full time just to pay the tax on our US income. At the same time the girls were reaching high school age for Madison and middle school for Kelsey. Good expat friends advised us we had to decide. If we stayed for Madison to finish high school we would likely stay forever. It was good advice we took to heart. It was time to go.
How did we afford the house in Opua and living in general?
After arriving in 2005 we lived aboard Ohana in Opua. A few months in we decided it was time to move ashore. Remember the properties in Alaska had been paid off in 2002 and were sitting there doing their thing. They generated enough cash flow to cover our expenses but the truth is it is more expensive to manage from afar without being on the ground to handle the myriad of issues that arise. Turnovers take longer and are not done as well, mechanical repairs require plumbers and electricians, you get the idea.
We refinanced the 40 plex that spring pulling out 500K if memory serves. The payment was easily serviced buy the rents and this became our seed money for NZ. We purchased the home on the cliff for 700K financed with ANZ bank. There was enough left over to remodel and still have a nest egg to live on for a few years.
For work over those years Becky started a cycling jersey business, I tried real estate investing but it was a non starter, totally different environment and not investor friendly, and I took the time to become a NZ Launch Master, their equivalent of a 100 ton Master. We moved to Auckland in 2008 and there I worked as a relief captain on one of the Auckland Harbor Ferrys.
The house sold at that same time, and we lived on the boat for a short period of time before renting a beautiful house in Takapuna for 2,000/month which was the deal of the century. Real Estate in Auckland was through the roof.
Was it all the best financial decision? No way. Would we do it again? Absolutely. Net worth does not correlate with happiness. Had we stayed in Alaska and continued on the path we were on we would be worth a multiple of what we are now but likely we would have been miserable and who knows where that story would have ended.
We returned to Alaska in the spring of 2012. We could have moved anywhere, and I was gunning for Florida where I was basically from for my adult years. Becky was open to it, and we looked around at homes and schools. It just didn't feel right and at a tense lunch one day in Stuart I asked why everyone was so glum and quiet. The dam burst and all three said in unison "we want to move back to Alaska."
We moved back.
It worked out great, the girls enjoyed American school, I stepped right back into my work and there was a lot of it. Becky was able to focus on the girls, her goals, and her parents. The buildings were showing their wear but after a year of owner attention were back up to standards I could live with. Opportunities began to present themselves but that is another story, the goal of this one was to share with you how we did it.
What would I do differently if I was to start over from scratch?
If I had a do over I would have started basically the same but as soon as I was able I would have been looking for large multifamily buildings, 20 units or better. There is a sweet spot between 5-100 units where the big boys are not that interested and the small guys struggle with financing. 20 units or more in one building is paradoxically easier to manage than 5 four plexes. You can have one unit with your onsite manager and if a married couple a maintenance man. They take mental ownership of the property and the residents which frees you up to find the next deal. The forty plex was an eye opener for me.
The other thing is I would have looked more closely at are commercial over residential with the potential to be involved in the business as well. Straight residential real estate is solid but there are few ways to increase cash flow as you are limited by the rental market. Owning the commercial space AND the business gives you built in diversity and the potential on the business side to grow as far as you can.
We bought a building with 8 rental units above and bar below in 2016. We had no intention of being bar owners but as time went by and we realized how hard it was to find a responsible bar owner tenant we decided to open it ourselves. We brought on an equity partner to run the day to day operations and I oversee the business operations. The bar pays rent along with the units above and it generates significant revenue on its own.
If you have the desire you can make it happen. It will not be easy, nothing worthwhile is, but it is possible. This is how we did it and are doing it. Seasons change. Presently we are transitioning out of most of our holdings in Anchorage. I'm turning 60 this year and it is time for the next adventures. We still have the 40 plex and a number of other small buildings in Palmer Alaska operating under the same model they have for the last 20 years. We intend to hold onto them for 10 more years and take off again aboard Ohana 3. We hope to see you out there!
You can find more tips and thoughts at 1happylandlord on YouTube and TikTok 😉
Reminiscing and "the smell"
04 November 2017
I was watching sailing videos tonight and one was about "returning to the boat". As they came down the ladder the wife commented on "the smell."
We have a first aid bag here in Alaska that came off the Ohana. It has "the smell" and every now and then I dip my nose into it like a fine merlot and soak it in.
What is it? A combination of diesel, salt and mold. It infuses and brings me back to times opening similar hatches and thinking "here I am". Those few moments drinking in salt water and stale air are an elixer. I can't explain the attraction.
Today I work at our business, nothing to do with boats and the sea and something is missing. I love that it (the business) allows us to get there but the time..........oh the precious time..........business consumes.
So, here is a short video from a glorious sail from Tonga to Fiji alone. I missed my family and friends, I would not give up that memory for anything. On that particular passage I stopped mid ocean and turned off EVERYTHING. I went forward and just layed on the trampoline close to midnight and felt the pulse of the earth. Magic.
Whatever you are doing in life take that moment. They are precious..........and few.
27 August 2017
It's your turn.
I've been thinking about this for a long time..............
Every morning I awake and just before my feet touch the ground I think "it's going to be a great day".
That is followed by a trip to the scale, throwing on last nights clothes and making my way to the kitchen to put the coffee on. A bit of chess on the way via internet and a few minutes in the "library" with a glass of lemon water. Following that it's back to the coffee.....a slice of sprouted grain bread in the toaster and an egg in the pan.
As that is being put together our cat, Alfonso, arrives at the door after an all-nighter, is let in and a can of "fancy feast, sliced" is prepared for him, he's such a guy. As he begins to dine I join him; check email, Drudge, make a few more chess moves via Chess with Friends, Realclearpolitics and Facebook. Around 7am Alaska Standard Time the "Daily Cruiser" email arrives with 10-13 questions for new sailors interested in "cruising". I love this time of day.
Why do I love those questions so much posted on the "Daily Cruiser", which ones do I look for? It's the "newbies". They are so raw, naive, and earnest.
As I look over I'm taken back to a time when I was there. Long ago I looked at the passage from Stonington Connecticut to Block Island as Columbus or Magellan must have looked at their passages. The first time I was out of sight of land, terror. The first time an island arose on the horizon, heaven.
A few years later the Bahamas. We planned for WEEKS. Back then paper charts, current vectors, weather faxes, pencil, parallel rules and dividers. That first trip we left Fort Lauderdale before sunrise and spotted Cat, or Gun, or Bimini as the sun set (who knew, today the plotter drives us right in, literally). We came though the cut pitch dark, no moon, a friend on the beach talking us through via VHF and anchored in a slippery marl where we just couldn't get purchase.
Late that night we motored across the cut and found our way into Cat Cay and tied up at what was then a little marina, it isn't anymore. The next morning as I came up to check the lines I found a girl onboard, I've forgotten her name, literally crying in the cockpit. (in order to charter a boat I rounded up a group of Florida State students from our sailing team to share the costs of which she was one) She had never seen a sunrise. Never.
The lows and the highs.
On that same crossing my friend was in the cockpit bragging how he "never got sick". I didn't fully understand "wind on current" at that point in my sailing career and the Gulf Stream was rough. I was down below working at the tiny chart table under a red light as the Morgan 41 did her dance. I couldn't take it anymore, between swells I popped my head up and proceeded to upchuck into the center cockpit....too much work to do to go topside and let her rip overboard.
Like dominos everyone else out there followed suit, including my friend "who never got sick".
A few years later he and I bought a Hughes Northstar 40 together, the infamous "Scarlett". To be fair he bought it as I was broke and I offered up my limited skills in exchange for his financial ones. It was a marriage made in heaven (see earlier posts). On that boat we learned everything the newbie is experiencing today. Back then it was "our turn".
My father has an extensive library of all things nautical. He is gone now and from time to time I sit in his library and look over all those volumes (my "inheritance" he called it, God bless him). One day one book in particular caught my eye, "A History of Yachting". This was a compilation of articles from Yachting Magazine from the early 1900s to the late 90's. I took that book off the shelf just before a solo trip to the Bahamas, as I crossed the Stream, alone this time, I opened those yellowed pages and began to read. They were stories of small vessels going out upon the ocean and the misadventures of the same (what all good stories are made of).
The 1900's rolled out, the 20's, the wartime 40's and so on. The theme? We all made the same mistakes. Much tougher back then but the same when you get right down to it. Back then people died, today not so much. Back then everything took A LONG TIME. Today not so much. That's progress.
So as I read those questions posted today by "newbies" and "wannabies" I think to myself, it's their turn. I do my best to answer respectfully and to help where I can.
If you are new to "cruising" you will:
Have contaminated diesel fuel
Learn to change a fuel filter and the finer points of bleeding an engine
Run aground, sometimes hard
Lose a dinghy or something
Run out of beer
Lose ALL your electronics just when you need them most
Fight with your autopilot
Learn about calcification of your head and associated hoses
Get night sweats
Dive on a fouled prop mid ocean
Drag, in a pitch black anchorage, surrounded by others also dragging
Repair a carburetor on a dock and watch that one last bolt fall into the ocean
Hitchhike in a third world country from auto parts store to auto parts store
Anchor next to the beach bar at 2pm and realize why that was a bad idea at 11pm
Sweat like you have never sweated before
Dock in front of a crowd and screw it up
You will spend more than you budgeted
Comfort your wife or girlfriend when you are the one needing comforting
Screw up customs and immigration
Get the weather wrong
Spend hours holding a brush, grinder, wrench, etc.
Learn basic Spanish, French and maybe German.
You will also:
See sunrises and sunsets like you never saw before
Know the joy of a reliable diesel
Run a dinghy through a maze of coral full throttle
Catch a 150lb tuna
Enjoy a sunset G&T, really enjoy it having earned it
Reflect on life like few others
Not drag, in a pitch dark anchorage, surrounded by others
Treasure those emails that come in from far away in the middle of the ocean
Walk to the bathroom of a far away marina, toilet kit in hand, passage behind you
Coffee each morning to the most spectacular panoramas ever
Meet the most amazing people
Get the weather right (more times than not)
Dive into turquoise waters to check a perfectly placed anchor
Anchor where you don't want to be at 2pm and move to where you do want to be at 6pm
(if you're already experienced you'll get that, see "nesting")
Read like you have never read before
Make friendships that will last a lifetime (one just called me! Iain Gow!)
Sit with your wife, who was your girlfriend, as your kids play on the trampoline and think "it was all worth it."
I'll add more as time goes by. All this being said, go (read "Courage" posted earlier.)
Life is short, it's your turn now. If you got this far you get it. You have that first boat and you're scouring Yachtworld and the internet at 1am looking for support. Are you crazy? Yes, the good kind. Will it all work out? Maybe not, but you'll never forget why it didn't.
A caution, check yourself, "cruising" is not for the faint of heart and the skills you'll develop are massive. Do a real gut check before putting yourself, your friends, family and others at risk. The ocean is dangerous and unforgiving to fools. She tolerates those who truly respect her, most of the time, but she is capricious.
In the meantime meet each challenge your vessel and the sea throws at you with an attitude of gratitude, priceless.
What about the stuff???
24 March 2017
Each morning I wake to find a bunch of questions posted on "Cruisers and Sailing Forums". I love taking the time to read and respond where I can. A common question is what to "get rid of" before moving aboard. We're all for minimization, a pair of socks comes on, a pair goes off. That being said when closing up a household we did not consider that we may one day move back, which we did. This little post is in respect to this topic :-)
Most of the posts that I have seen here on CF since I've joined last year all talk about moving aboard (myself included). But what happens if you have to, want to, return to a land-based lifestyle? I only remember seeing one recent post concerning life after cruising (but I am sure there are more in older posts).
I like this perspective on considering this very question. We did move aboard and sailed/lived for a decade overseas. We sold the house and all the furniture in it along with most of my larger power tools (that was a minor mistake).
We did keep our real estate holdings and in one of the buildings I carved out a storage area for our more treasured belongings. We had traveled a lot before the "big trip" and had lots of little reminders with special meanings, lots of books (classics and rare) and lots of artwork etc.
After 3 years we ended up in New Zealand where we obtained residency and put our girls in school. On a business trip back to Alaska I arranged to have all that "stuff" sent down. It was like Christmas opening up those boxes and although a bit on the expensive side, putting those items in our new home in NZ made it really feel like home.
7 years later we moved back to the States for a number of reasons which we do not regret at all. This time we hired a 20' container and sent what had been accumulated in NZ back after a BIG GARAGE SALE. Now our Alaskan home has a twenty years worth of history and it's nice to look back over all those memories and tell stories through all those small little items.
REGRET? I should have stored all the big stuff we gave away. Tools first-table saw (2000 sold for probably 500) and lots of stuff like that. All the sports gear, bikes, kayaks, skis, winter wear, Jeep, etc. Perhaps even some of the furniture.
The truth is most all new live aboard cruisers return to land at some point. That would be an interesting survey. The math is pretty straight forward, value of replacing items with storage costs for a given period of time. The sentimental value something different.
So there you go, food for thought :-) Enjoy the journey!
A day long ago, just a day.
26 February 2017
Found this while muddling through an old laptop. Just a few weeks ago we were back at Rudder Cay. Madison is now 18 and we are short one hull (Catamaran Pun, please forgive).
The rhythm felt the same, right down to the dinner :-) The pic above is from that night fourteen years ago and of the "plastic chairs" we found on the beach.
May 23, 2003
5:30 Awake, check position and remember to turn off anchor light. Indicator light burned out so placed post-it with big A on it to remind me. Read “Prey” until…
6:10 Kelsey cries, wet diaper. Changed and made a break for my book. Had large glass of water, neglected to put coffee on.
6:20 Kelsey up, book over. Asking for mama but wants me. Played on settee and brought her down to help wake mama up.
6:30 Madison awake, wet her bed which I discovered earlier. She informs me of the same and apologizes. Hard to get mad at her. Making plan to clean sheets using washing contraption.
7:00 Clifford, big red dog playing since 6:35 while I tried to sneak in a little more book before Becky awoke. She’s up now and wondering where coffee is and why the dishes are not done. Put coffee on, should boil over within 5 minutes.
7:05 Boiled over.
7:06 to 8:00 Made breakfast for self and did dishes. Cleared deck from previous day and made dinghy ready to be lifted. While lifting took the time to spray out the sand. Checked both bilges and pumped port.
8:00 to 9:00 Talked about future plans and summer housing. Also plans for the day and where we would like to go. Declined offer to go spear fishing, anxious to get moving north. Decided to sail inside of islands, read up on route and made ready. Started engines to make hot water for Becky’s shower and charge batteries. Also turned on watermaker and checked its output. Had Beck bring up the anchor as a drill. She also took the time to raise the main but I finished the heavy lifting.
9:00-10:00 Beautiful sail from Rat Cay to Adderley. Shallow area, on high alert! Crystal clear water and perfect wind ghosting along at 6 knots over 6 feet of water. Some minor nail biting. Looked hard for El McPherson’s house.
10:00-11:00 Out the cut and into deep water. Lots of current! Jib down and messed around with the spinnaker for a while. Girls playing in fort on cockpit. Must be a million degrees out here! Sweating through everything and a lot of running around.
12:00-1:00 Find our way into Rudder Cut and Darby. Trouble deciding which way to go. Saw some nudies heading to Rudder so decided on Darby. Shallow anchorage so dove on anchor, looked ok. Set anchor watch on GPS. Dove on speed transducer and freed it. Also measured depth of water precisely.
1:00-2:00 Ate extra macaroni and cheese and had a cold Kalik. Worked on this and now hoping to sneak in a little more reading.
2:00-2:30 Kelsey napping, Maddie playing quietly, Beck in cockpit having a peaceful moment. Sneak into cabin and finish Prey! Now I can think again!
2:30-3:00 Empty dinghy and lower into water, think upper body workout. Called Little Darby for permission to hike up to castle. Got kids lubed up with sunscreen and gear.
3:00-5:00 Off to island to explore castle. Everything going well until we get out of the dinghy and are assaulted by three dogs! Kids terrified, mom upset and we are out of there. Would have been nice if the caretaker had mentioned these!
Motored over to Rudder and the round house. Second highlight of the day, the first being the sail from Rat to Adderly. We landed on the beach and walked up to the house. Pretty much just as we had left it eight years ago. The limo was gone however. Back to the beach where two plastic chairs were left behind and amazingly in semi working condition! We were able to sit and the girls played with a stick. Boy have things changed! Hung out until the sun started to get low. Spent a fair amount of time with some lizards as well.
5:00-6:00 Family trampoline time and happy hour! Noticed how low the tide was and decided to “walk” around the boat! Took the time to scrub the exhaust stains of off the transoms. Sun dipped and I climbed back aboard to help with dinner.
6:00-7:00 Dinner, chicken and rice, and evening routine. LOTS of dishes. Tooth brushing and beginning of book reading. I read to Kelsey, about 8 books and she wanted to keep going. She was asleep by 7:30 and I dosed off with her. Continue journal around 8:30
8:30-10:30 Going through West Marine catalog making up large wish list. Going page by page. Spent and hour putting together screens for the boat. Well worth the effort. Purchased some screen before we left. That and a little duck tape do the trick. Took measurement for some more Lewmar screens. Wrote several eMails and sent. At least an hour spent on reading business stuff from Anchorage and responding. In bed by 10:30
10:30 to 1:00 am Ghost on the boat, long story.
21 January 2017
Ok, do you have that song in your head yet (Night Ranger, Sister Christian)? MOTORING, What's your price for flight, in finding mister right, you'll be alright tonight....
I'm a closet "motorer" and now that I think about it, a proud one. I have a feeling I am not alone.
There is a certain glamour to the idea of sailing, there is a certain practicality to actually "getting there".
First let's talk about sailing, the act of actually putting up sails and going. For many years I raced and this was all that was allowed. Perhaps that explains my canvas rebellion. Now before I get too far ahead of myself I must say good advice to any "newbie" is RACE. Being wet, cold, injured, verbally abused while inebriated will prepare you for much of what the ocean has in store. I personally was never entrusted with much aft of the foredeck so "cold and wet" pretty much encapsulate those formative years.
Racing prepares one for the inevitable and constant failures that plague even modern rigs. There is a degree of physical fitness, a step or two up from golf, and a large amount of problem solving under pressure. Racing also has a large social component which forces one to pledge allegiance to all things canvas. The part that is kind of funny is anytime we had to actually GET the boat anywhere we MOTORED.
That part I REALLY liked :-)
So how much do we motor over sail? I'd say 80/20 (ah Pareto's Law). Yes folks this sailing blog should be a powerboat blog. Heresy you say. Now this was not the case in the Pacific and the tradewinds. One of the most wonderful qualities of that stretch of ocean is the consistent beam to broad reach. The dirty little secret, however, was that the problem was rarely too much wind, the challenge, more times than not, was too little. At these times rather than sit there clanging around in the swell we would "fire em up".
Ohana (the catamaran) had two 27hp yanmars and with one ticking away a few things would happen. First, the boat would start moving, from four knots to seven. This alone was a great motivator to captain and crew. The boat would "quiet down" except for the hum of the diesel of course, but that was oddly comforting. On a light air trip from Fiji to New Zealand we had one engine on ALL THE TIME. That's seven days! It was me and a friend and as I recall he said "it made him comfortable" to hear the purring of a well tuned diesel. I'm all about making our crew comfortable.
The second reason I'm not shy about firing up an engine or two is safety. Generally I'm sailing short handed and being at anchor is a lot safer than being on the ocean. A well maintained diesel can run for thousands of hours and the engines LIKE being used. The key words "well maintained" opens up a whole new entertainment center for the cruiser. Maintaining a diesel engine is fun in itself and rewarding, at least in my world of limited entertainment.
This piece is basically a rationalization piece to those of us who like the hear the hum of a motor and are looking for an excuse to come out of the shadows and share our enthusiasm for the same. It is also a call to those who have the "dream" to consider not just looking up, but also looking down, into the darkness of their engine rooms and embrace that warm lovable hunk of iron. Let's take a few brief minutes to discuss what the little darling needs and what the benefits are of making her your best friend.
The ONE THING a diesel engine needs is CLEAN FUEL. That's pretty much it. An intimate knowledge of your fuel system is a must and if you bought a used boat, particularly one that has seen little use, you already have a challenge. Your fuel is dirty, just make that assumption. What to do? Filtration.
Now I'm not a fuel expert and I'm not recommending any particular products. I have used Raycor filters on just about every boat I can recall and the cartridges are EASY to obtain WORLDWIDE, carry lots. Now the best setup is one that has two filters in parallel and allows you to switch to the second filter as the first becomes fouled. I don't have this on the current Ohana nor on the previous (cheap bastard).
The key to know when your filter is on its way out is a vacuum gauge. Mount this invaluable gadget where it is easily seen and check it often. I watch ours regularly and for the first couple of 100 hours on Ohana 2 she would gum up fairly quickly. What was happening was we were essentially "polishing" the fuel. After two hundred hours or so this has become much less frequent. There is a filter on your engine as well and is often neglected. This filter does not need to be changed as often as the Raycor filter, which does most of the heavy lifting, but does need to be attended to on occasion.
The second key is keeping the tools needed to change the filter right next to the filter. This includes in our case a plastic folgers coffee can and a one gallon jug of clean diesel to fill the new filter. I do the same thing for the alternator belt. All three wrenches to change the belt are in their own pocket in our tool bag. Changing that belt should be able to be accomplished in 3 minutes or less (the replacement is hanging in the engine room ready to go).
The dreaded "bleeding" of the engine. For some reason this little operation strikes more fear into the hearts of mariners than warranted. Air is the enemy to your diesel and if a bit gets in, usually during the filter changing process, she won't want to run. If you change your filter, add fuel before reinstalling and generally do a tidy job, odds are she will fire right up, burp a few times and then purr like a kitten. If you don't and you find you have to bleed, fret not. It's an easy operation best done first at the dock on a nice calm day close to a NAPA store. If you are really hesitant to touch your engine hire a diesel mechanic the first time and "pay your tuition". While he is there question him down about every little trick and do your best to keep him well hydrated and happy. Start with a water/soda combination, transition to beer as the job appears to be reaching its natural conclusion. Money well spent.
After this it's oil and oxygen. Change oil often, engine AND transmission. Again have all the tools at the ready, no searching involved for the oil, as far as the oxygen goes make sure your baby can get it. I have not had a proper air filter on any our last few motors so have not worried about much.
Odds are you will leave your boat for periods of time unattended. Do yourself a favor and top up the diesel just before putting her to bed. This helps prevent condensation and depending on what climate you leave her in this could be considerable. Condensation equals water and water to diesel is like.......any suggestions? Let's just say it ain't good!
One final note regarding your power set up is that expensive bronze thing that sits at the end of the shaft, your prop. Successful long distance motoring is dramatically enhanced with the right one. This topic is so loaded and passions run so high that I will defer to your good sense to do your research and come to your own conclusions. For me I've stuck with a fixed three bladed prop, the largest that makes sense and it appeals to my sense of simple. This in on our monohulls, the cat came with two adjustable pitch max props. When we first got her she was terribly over pitched with the engines not able to get over 2100 rpm. Again setting up props and deciding on the right pitch is way beyond the scope of this short story but is something you must understand and address. Once you get it right you will motor with confidence into wind and sea and be able to back up like a pro. Take the time.
Back to motoring....
Enjoy it, for a few delightful years I had the opportunity to drive an Auckland New Zealand Harbor Ferry, the Osprey. Two BIG twin caterpillar diesel, great crew (nod to Captains Kent, Gordon, Alan, John and Jackie (stewardess who may actually read this if she finds it on FB), plenty of waterline, 24 knots at cruise. Three stories above the water, in the full beam pilot house, life couldn't get better. We would dock thirty eight times a shift in all sorts of conditions and get to see the harbor in every mood and season. Did I mention three stories up and climate controlled (sort of)?
Flash forward to the fall of 2015 delivering a little forty footer (Ohana 2) from Noank to Nassau. Out on Long Island Sound heading west into a brisk breeze, little Yanmar ticking away, foulies zipped up tight. As I listened to the engine hum "that" thought crossed my mind, as it crosses many seasoned sailors................memories of the ferry................and the idea that perhaps it's time to look for a Trawler ;-)
Have a blessed day all and fair winds! Use em when you get em, when you don't, smile and turn the key!
P.S. Speaking of Motoring Madison and I will be doing the same around the Bahamas from about January 25th 2017 to February 20th 2017. If you see us do stop on by!!!
19 January 2017
Now I have met folks cruising on an ultra budget who were doing a great job of it.
A couple we met in Tonga come to mind. They were young and on a 40 some odd foot non-descript monohull. At the beach party in Vavauu, anchorage 14, they were roasting some fish on the fire for their dinner. We had a great talk about their travels and "living off the land".
My wife's cousin and his partner are another example. At a Christmas party two decades ago he asked me, with great enthusiasm coupled with little sailing experience, what kind of boat he could get cheap and sail offshore with. I thought about it and said "Crealock Dreadnaught 32" and left it at that.
A few months later he called and said he bought one (I about fell of my chair!), they left from Juneau Alaska with a 50lb bag of rice and a spear gun (I'm exaggerating, but not too much) and ended up in Japan where they sold the boat. They went on to buy a 40' steel hull at a scrap yard, lived in it at the scrap yard while they "built it". A year or two later took off again for Mexico, Hawaii, Midway (where they worked for a year to build up their funds) and then back to Alaska. He even built the MAST from a pipe!!!
These kind of folks can and do cruise on a budget of 500.00 per month.
Now for the rest of us........ When I see an online post saying "I want to buy a $20,000.00 ocean going boat and cruise on 800.00 per month and I need to learn how to sail" I kind of wince. The advice that comes out on the chat room is good and it can be done, see the above, but is it likely?
The two examples earlier were of folks who lived off the land well before going cruising and who were predisposed to doing lots with very little. Those of us who come from fairly comfortable land based occupations with partners and children who are accustomed to certain "comforts" this notion of spending next to nothing each month generally ends prematurely and poorly.
One day I was walking back to Ohana at Palm Harbor Marina in West Palm and saw a man sitting on the dock literally in tears. I walked up to ask if all was ok and struck up "the conversation" about what happened. This is not the first conversation like this I have had, in fact, had the same one just last year in Cape May with a man on a nice Pacific Seacraft Crealock 34 (I detect a theme). The conversation goes something like this:
"I've dreamed of cruising my whole life. I read everything, researched everything, bought the boat and had a great couple of years outfitting her and fixing her up. Finally we decided to go and headed down to Florida in anticipation of sailing to the Bahamas and points south. Somewhere around Charleston my wife quit. She said it's too.........fill in all the "too's", too hot, expensive, cold, boring, terrifying, lonely, far from the kids, claustrophobic......you get the idea. So here I am with my dream and I have to sell it."
The Cape May guy was more to the point of finances. He had done all of the same and had a VERY specific monthly budget. His transmission gave up in Cape May (see upcoming post on "motoring" to know why) and he literally could not afford to replace and nor afford to keep her at a dock or haul her out and store her. He was selling and he was having a fire sale. For a brief moment, as he told his story, I considered offering to help and pay for a transmission but as he kept talking I changed my mind. It would only be subsidizing what he was already ill prepared for and would just end a little further down the ditch.
The point, for most folks, it's going to "cost" a lot more than you think. Nothing makes me happier than to see folks out there really ENJOYING the life and not constantly on the wrong side of the ledger.
Speaking of which I better get to work so we can go off sailing next week!
Have a blessed day all!
The pic above is of Andy and Lisa aboard "Indefatigable", the steel cutter mentioned earlier in Seward Alaska after just arriving from a crossing from Midway Island.
The best "advice"
18 May 2016
The best "advice"
Early on we shared a boat with a good friend and sailed about six months a year (he sailed the other six). Read earlier post "back story" for the details.
Here's the story.
One afternoon I found myself sitting on a remote beach, Scarlett anchored just offshore with a Nordhavn 60' anchored nearby. We were the only two. We had brought the dinghy in for some afternoon exploring and a swim. Soon after we arrived the Nordhavn launched their tender (we had a dinghy, they had a tender) and they headed to our beach.
I've forgotten the man's name but this scene played out many times over the years. We'd say hello and each couple would begin to tell their story. He would be late 50's to early 60's. Second marriage and they were "living the dream". Where from, where going, etc. After a few minutes the ladies would walk off to chat and we would sit down in the shade and talk a bit more.
The next question would be "what do you do?" I'm sure you've been there and you have your story. I'd share ours. Given our tender ages there was some genuine interest in how we managed to get there and be able to spend several months "living the dream". We would then proceed to share stories of business and finances and experiences.
At some point in the conversation I would ask my question, what's your best advice? Being 30 years old on a beach with a man who has led his life is such an opportunity. On more than one occasion the advice would be similar to the advice the man from the 60' Nordhavn gave.
Paul, see that boat there and my beautiful wife?
I would trade it all to have my family. You see Paul I worked 24/7 for twenty years to build my business. We were wildly successful. I provided every material want my family needed, all except one........me. Time went by, divorce, estrangement from my children and now grandchildren.
Paul, if you can, and it seems you might be able to, take the years your children are growing up and spend it with them.
That was the advice and this happened on more than one occasion.
Those days of childless wandering did come to a close. Scarlett was sold and we settled into life in Anchorage Alaska. We continued to grow our business, built a house, had our first daughter in 1998. Our second arrived in 2001.
Those words stuck with me...............................
One day I came home from another 14 hour day to find my lovely wife sitting in our "playroom" staring at the world map (that map sits behind me right now 15 years later). We had a conversation about "what we were doing and what we could do". That advice, "take the years your children are growing up and spend it with them." was ringing in my head.
We then made the worst financial decision of our lives.
Fifteen years later, thousands of ocean miles, residents of a new country, we still eat and travel and pay taxes. Are we as "wealthy" as we could have been? Not by a long shot, but I'm convinced if we stayed on the track we were on and failed to heed that wise advice, I would have ended up sitting on a beach giving advice to a young man to, if at all possible, "take those precious years that your family is growing up and spend it with them."
Here's the quote I read just last night from Seneca:
"He who needs riches least, enjoys riches most"
Side note, the other "best advice" I ever had with respect to buying a catamaran was "buy as much waterline as you can afford." That's a freebie :-)
"The Plan" (or lack there of)
27 March 2016
So what's your plan?
How often have you heard this? Now I have always been a destination guy. Always "moving" towards some distant goal and the places in between were on "The Plan". I never really thought much about this until this last month when I found myself with absolutely NO PLAN.
Now Steve and Jim at Loggerhead Marina (Highly recommend) in Stuart did not like this as it really messes with the paperwork! More on that shortly for those who dare to read this whole post.
The rough plan this month was to come down to Florida for spring break with Madison our oldest. I was to fly down early and get the boat ready including all new mast and rigging with some golf thrown in. Madison would fly down solo for her first time and together we would spend 10 days "doing our thing".
Well the rigging and mast plan went great and when she arrived we sat down to come up with "The Plan". We had nothing :-) The decision was made to sail out and see what the conditions dictated and take it from there. This is new territory for dear Captain and honestly, was kind of refreshing. Rather than some epic goal we would just go.
So on Wednesday morning we dropped lines, pumped the poop and let Steve and Jim know we were leaving for good, or not. We headed out Stuart inlet and turned ESE for West End Bahamas (habit).
About 20 miles out and well into the Gulf Stream Madison said "I'd really like to have ice cream at Sloans". See we purchased Ohana 1 (the cat) in West Palm Beach in 2002 (Madison was 4 at the time) and spent the better part of two years in and out of Palm Harbor Marina as we prepared her for the Caribbean and Pacific. West Palm holds many fond memories: Two Girls Pizza, Clematis Street, The "Fountain" where the kids could play and Sloans Ice Cream.
But what about "The Plan"??? There was none! We turned to the South West, a pod of dolphins joined us and off we went to get ice cream.
Now I had visions of waking to a Bahamas sunrise in West End and working our way to Marsh Harbor, leaving the boat there. We ended up visiting the Four Arts and meditating in the botanical gardens. We toured the Flagler Estate (memories of Newport) and the Breakers (she has never seen anything like that). We considered stopping by Mar a Lago to visit with Donald but knew he was busy :-) Rush would have to wait as well. Although is wasn't the Bahamas we anchored at Peanut Island, walked the whole perimeter, swam, snorkeled and read.
We did spend Saint Patrick's day on Clematis, danced in a green street "rave", enjoyed pizza at Two Girls and yes.............had ice cream at Sloans. We snuck in and out of the international boat show with the password "banana" and generally had a great, un-planned, time.
Steve and Jim? Well we did end up back in Stuart cause it's close to grandma (after enduring the WORST WEATHER EVENT of my sailing life, another story) and they smiled and didn't ask any questions. True Professionals.
I'm still a destination guy, always will be, but this little interlude will always be a reminder to sometimes just let it all go.
Blessings all and happy Easter!
(See Photo Gallery for lots of Pics)
18 February 2016
I've had a lot of thoughts about this post......
I walked past the mega yachts that surrounded little Ohana at the Viaduct Marina in Auckland. One in particular, I've forgotten the name, stood out. I looked at the table set on the afterdeck, it was spectacular. Three crew members were in attendance, the guests soon to arrive.............lighting perfect, settings perfect............what were they going to discuss, I would never know.
At first I thought about the "consumption." Who needs all that, how did they "get" it, why does it matter? To be honest I had a bit of envy along with a bit of curiosity. So much........why? I thought about it. I would have loved to have been a fly on that wall. Here's what I came up with:
It's not about the boat.....................
It's about the table...................and who is around it.
It is ALL ABOUT THE TABLE. (and for those of you thinking about another room in the boat you don't get there till you sit at the table.)
The conversations that take place around a table are the fuel. The people that contribute are the engine. If we're blessed we can enjoy many evenings with many people who make our lives richer and fuller for having sat there. The photo gallery on this blog home page entitled "Happy Hours"
captures a few of these evenings we had the honor to enjoy aboard Ohana. I have a feeling that if a boat might be a measure of one's material success, the quality of the conversations around those tables, such as the yacht I was looking at, might be a good measure of a one's hospitality, curiosity and inquisitiveness.
So that gets us back to our humble little table. It is easy for a man to look "up" to bigger and better. Our "table" wasn't on a mega yacht but for us may as well have been. It has entertained a wide variety of characters from all over the world. Who would have thought a boy and girl from humble beginnings in New York and Alaska would sit with corporate giants, financiers, pastors, hippies, singers, actors, tech moguls, eccentrics, escapists...........the list goes on. It all happened around our little table.
Speaking of "happy hour" I've had a few so will sign off early. Invite people.............they make it oh so colorful.
One last story. This fall I was sailing south and found myself in Sandy Hook (Atlantic Highlands NJ). Earlier in the day the engine died and was an afternoon of back and forth to NAPA to sort things out. At first I hitched a ride with a local, his wife and brother in law. I realized soon after that NAPA was a short walk and made several trips back and forth as I diagnosed the problem. It's part of the deal and those folks were great!
Well 6pm was rolling around and I was sitting in the cockpit looking around and a noticed a dinghy going boat to boat inviting people over for happy hour. I thought "I'd like to have happy hour" but kept my hand down. Well Scott came by Ohana and invited me! I hopped aboard and soon realized his other passenger was the fellow who drove me to NAPA!
We ended up aboard Tamure and enjoyed a great evening with every single hander in the harbor along with Scott and Kitty who it turns out are a bit of legends in the sailing world. Their boat was a living museum. Check out their site for Tamure
by clicking on the link. Along with these two links Great Escape
and Atlantic Circle
We sat in the cockpit around their "table" and as the evening progressed moved down below. It was magic.
They took the time to invite and that is an encouragement to me to do the same. At times I resist but I know that all that is good occurs around that place, the table.
Have a blessed evening all.
If you read this far and enjoy these posts please feel free to comment and make suggestions as to content :-)