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.


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