Sunday, January 26, 2014

A Matter Of Perspective

Had a great time at Strictly Sail Chicago. Caught up with good friends, listened to and learned from some of the best names in cruising (Lin and Larry Pardey, Nigel Calder, Bob Bitchin, John Rousmaniere, Lee Chesneau, Sheryl and Paul Shard, John Otterbacher, George Day), bought a few things, listened to steel drums, explored the food of Navy Pier (ya gotta go to Bubba Gumps), looked at boats we will never be able to afford (or to be honest, even want), and through it all we are as sure as ever that this is what we want to do.

Three years ago was our first trip to Chicago for this event. At that time we were three to four years into sailing and were just soaking it all up. Last year we went with the idea that this was something we were serious about doing and really started to take steps to fulfill our dream. This year we were more focused on learning the intricacies of what it takes to be cruisers. This time next year we hope to be on the water putting all this information to good use.

We have been making all the right moves in our lives to prepare ourselves for our intended life afloat. We are eliminating our piles of stuff, prepping the house for sale, studying everything we can get our hands on and sailing as much as possible. Yet there are times when we have suffered doubts that our dream is going to work out. Are we good enough sailors? Can we sell the house soon enough and for enough money? Will we chicken out and stick to a traditional life?

Listening to all these extremely experienced sailors tell stories about their mistakes, blunders and bad judgement put some perspective to our worries. More than one of them said, "Any fool can do it." Well we certainly can pass that test. We came away with a renewed commitment to our plan and actually came to realize that our little plan is truly small when compared to other cruisers accomplishments.

The last seminar we attended featured long distance sailor George Day. As we settled into our chairs we noticed the large map he had on an easel for the presentation. He had drawn a line marking the 10 sections of his circumnavigation on the map. Both of us have looked at numerous maps of other sailor's circumnavigations, yet this map made us realize just what a small area of this amazing world our big trip would entail.

The first photo show George's trip and on the second photo we circled our entire dream sailing territory. That really startled us for some reason. In our novice minds our plans seems so huge, yet in the right perspective it really is a pretty small, reasonable and attainable goal.


Sunday, January 12, 2014

House or Home?

We received this lovely and appropriate holiday gift from our life long friends Jim and Joni. Although we are still living in our house in Wisconsin, it no longer feels like home. The kids are all out, independent and happy. Most of our personal stuff was sold or given away with just a small pile of items left which we will store. The family pictures and momentous are down from the walls and shelves which makes this structure feel more like a house than a home.

Even though we haven't purchased our cruising sailboat, it is where we picture ourselves at home. This sailboat will be our base for a couple of years and as the pillow says, "Home is where our sailboat is." Surely many of you are just shaking your heads and wondering how two seemingly normal and moderately intelligent (most of our close friends would disagree that this applies to Mike) people could choose to live without an address or permanent residence. For us, it simply makes sense as the positives far outweigh the negatives.

Right now we have what we are referring to as a window.

  • Our kids are on their own and scattered around the country.
  • No grandkids yet.
  • Mom is happy in a nice condo with a growing network of friends.
  • We are healthy and strong enough for our intended lifestyle.
  • Financially - well let's just say it is a small window that sticks when you try to open it.
Anyone want to buy a house? We want to buy a home.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Scouting out Gulf Shores/Orange Beach

We have owned a small condo in Orange Beach since 1999 and have spent a fair amount of time there. This area is where we plan on retiring in as soon as our house sells. Our plan is flexible in that we can use our condo as a temporary home while the boat search is on or if we find the boat quickly we will slip her as a live aboard in a local marina. It is nice to know we have options instead of quickly buying the first acceptable boat. (Mike can be a bit "thorough" in his large purchase searches!).

While we spent this year's holidays in Orange Beach we took the opportunity to scout out Sailboat Bay. Sailboat Bay is a neat little condo complex located east of Mobile Bay (Bon Secour) just as you enter the Gulf Coast Intercoastal Waterway. It has a variety of buildings with reasonably priced condos including all the usual community amenities such as pools, hot tubs, tennis courts.... Each condo also sports it's own boat slip right out your back door. It is a nicely protected spot with quick access to Mobile Bay which leads directly to the Gulf.

We arranged to meet the owner of an older Ericson 35 sailboat that was slipped in Sailboat Bay. Meeting the owner, Roman, was a delight. He has owned the boat for 29 years and had sailed her to the Caribbean and beyond. Unfortunately the Ericson's listed headroom was all too accurate at 6'1" which didn't work for Mike. Oh well, it was fun listening to Roman talk about his sailing adventures anyway.

While researching local marinas, Bear Point Marina keeps popping up with positive reviews. Our hope is to find a marina which allows liveaboards, is NOT a stuffy yacht club and has a fun active social life. Brenda needs her social time. It is touted as a casual place that encourages liveaboards. We drove over to wander the marina to see how it would "feel" in person. It definitely felt casual, relaxed and fun. It has a mixture of sailboats, power cruisers, fishing boats and a few charter boats. There is a cute little restaurant on site as well as a Tiki style bar, convenience store, showers and offices. Their slips range from $150 to $450 per month depending upon location. Hmmmmm. Seems like our kind of place.

Did we make any decisions? Yes and no. We definitely would be happy with a condo in Sailboat Bay with our sailboat in a slip right out our back door. But, we plan on sailing for months at a time during the first couple of years and leaving (and paying for) an empty condo doesn't make sense. We asked the realtor to send us the rental history on some of the units to see if that would be feasible. We both feel Sailboat Bay may be our long term home. Our other option of living aboard in Bear Point Marina while occasionally using our existing condo between sailing trips looks very promising. This would be the least expensive option and would free us to come and go without worrying about another property and it's upkeep/rental/etc.

Some of our family members accompanied us on these tours which helped them visualize our plan. They had the opportunity to see and discuss our ideas, dreams and concerns which helped them understand our folly.


Friday, January 3, 2014

Christmas 2013

Brenda and I were lucky enough to spend Christmas with all three of our kids (John, Tina, Matt) and their partners (Brittnie, Tony, Kelley), Mike's Mom Dee and Brenda's sister Karen along with her husband Peter. We wished Mike's sisters (Kim and Lisa) could have brought their troops down to the Gulf with us, but as grandkids keep cropping up they needed to spend their holiday time with them. Maybe next time?

We all met at Karen and Peter's brand spanking new condo in Gulf Shores, Alabama. Their condo was a great gathering spot with a beautiful beach right out the back door. We used their condo as the gathering spot for cards, movies, dice and lots of good eating and conversation.

Brenda and I received a great Christmas present when our good friends Jim and Joni surprised us with a visit enroute to their winter escape in Ft. Myers. We got to spend 3 days with them laughing, eating and relaxing. Thanks for going so far out of your way to come and play with us guys.


The weather was sympathetic to us northerners and stayed in the 50's and 60's most of the time. Although we would have preferred 70's and 80's, we were happy to get walk on the beach, collect shells, and watch the dolphins who visited every day.


We visited several local establishments including the infamous Florabama Bar for their live music, Tacky Jacks for great Mahi Mahi Tacos, Hazels for custom made omelettes, Scoops for ice cream, and Moe's BBQ for takeout. Our New Years resolutions should be easy to guess with our newly expanded waistlines. When we were seated in a booth at Hazels we liked the personalized welcome plate. Mike and B's Nook?

Mike's Mom at Tacky Jacks

We toured a few condos at Sailboat Bay and even looked over an Ericson 35 sailboat for sale. Mike found that a manufacturer's specification of 6' 1" headroom just isn't going to cut it. He still had to bend over a couple of inches which isn't going to work. Guess we'll need to look for something that lists at least 6' 3" if he is going to be somewhat comfortable.

All too soon our kids each had to head back to their homes. It always hurts to see them go. We live so far apart now that we never know how long the separation will be each time. We love you all and had a wonderful holiday with each of you close at hand.