Just Do It
05 August 2013 | Silver Strand
There are a million reasons not to do it. Can we really afford it? What about the house? Can we survive in such a small space? Will I be able to handle the boat in bad weather? There are pirates out there! And my favorite; the boat isn't ready. (By the way, is the boat ever ready?) Then there are the logistical questions, like, where do we keep the cars? Do we keep the cars? How will we pay our bills, get our mail? And finally, there are our landlubber friends and family who when we tell them we are going to sell the house, get off the grid and go cruising, they look at us dumbfounded and ask, "Are you crazy!?"
Maybe. Maybe it seems that way because society dictates the "American Dream" is the ability to buy a big house, have two cars in the driveway and keep up with the trendiest and greatest gadgets; a big screen television, Blue-Ray and DVR, the latest iPad and the newest phone. You get the picture. I am not saying there is anything wrong with this picture. In fact, we are incredibly fortunate to have the opportunity to work and obtain such luxuries. It is just that my husband, Jay, and I have found that in order to keep all this wonderful stuff we have to work six days a week with little time to enjoy it or each other. Besides, now that the kids are grown and the house is empty and quiet, what is the point?
I would argue that instead of the "American Dream" being simply about owning a home and gaining material wealth, the true meaning is found in the freedom to chose the kind of lifestyle we want to live. Only once we have jumped on the hamster wheel, with the comfort and security years of hard work have provided, it is truly a challenge to jump off without faltering.
That is why Jay and I decided to do it in steps. First, we put the house up for sale as, for us, it just didn't make financial sense to keep it. Once it sold (which took over a year) we succeeded in pairing down our belongings to fit into a ten by twenty-five storage unit. Quite a feat! Nevertheless, it was daunting to face a lifetime of learned behaviors and a house full of memories and figure out how to let go. And the questions continued. How do we choose what to pack and what to toss? Who of our children gets what and what do we absolutely need to keep? It turns out, not much. Still, this part of the process proved to be so profoundly difficult, for a multitude of reasons, not the least of which were both physical and inherently emotional, that I would guess it might turn out to be the hardest part of our journey.
Next, instead of moving straight from a four-bedroom house to our Hardin 45', we chose to move to a two bedroom furnished apartment that is a month to month rental. This allowed us to adjust to smaller living quarters while continuing to work on the boat to get her "ready." Our ketch was built in 1979 and although she sails like a thoroughbred, we have had to update practically all her systems. She also flaunts a lot of teak, both inside and out, which is a never-ending project in itself. The apartment has turned out to be a great respite from the inhalation of oil and propane, dust and varnish.
Then I began chanting a mantra; six months of apartment living and working on the boat, six months of shakedown cruises, December 2012 - San Diego, and January 2013 we leave for Mexico. I figure if I keep saying it out loud, then my husband starts repeating it, then it happens! (Well, it's worth a try!)
The shakedown cruises begin in August of 2012. This is when we spend lots of time sailing around the Channel Islands (Southern California's own little paradise) testing our skills and the durability of the boat. We will sail with friends and we will sail alone. There will be some night sailing and lots of sailing through the Windy Lane. We will spend weeks at a time off the grid to see how our solar array computes to energy and tallying our water usage. Sailing is almost always a challenge with surprises along the way. The only way to really be prepared is to practice, practice, and practice. One has to know the limits - of both the boat and oneself.
The cars will stay at our daughter's home until we decide just how long we intend to cruise. The mail goes to a PO Box in a Mail Stop Center where we are familiar with the owners and they will forward to us as needed. Paying bills is getting easier every day with wifi networks available almost everywhere. Taken as a whole, these pieces of logistics can be overwhelming, but taken one by one they can be handled in an efficient manner.
And the biggest question; can we afford it? I say we can't afford not to. Both my husband and I are facing retirement and the window of opportunity is getting smaller. And like Bob Bitchin says, I really would rather "live my dream" than "dream my life."
Finally, there is much conversation amongst cruisers regarding pirates. The thought of being attacked is terrifying, no doubt. But there is lots of information as to where they are and we have no intention of sailing in waters known to be frequented by pirates. I really believe that it is all you can do other than to be aware of your surroundings and who and what is lurking around at any given time.
All these are valid concerns, of course. But I dare say if we are honest with ourselves, we will find they are rooted in fear and attachment. Fear of the unknown and attachment to our stuff and the only way of life we have ever known. Truly, the most difficult step is the first one; making the decision to let go and then sticking to it. That is why every once in a while, when Jay and I lose sight of the dream, when we are inundated with fixing and sanding and varnishing, we untie the lines and set sail. A cool breeze, a warm sun, a calm sea, and a few dolphins playing on our bow... we know - we're not crazy, we're alive and living our dream!