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Living on a boat: An attitude change that led to a latitude change

Guest Post by Ceal Potts

Ceal Potts and her mate, Kevin Wuertz, are refugee’s from the rat race whose disengagement was slightly different than our experiences- but the net result is the same.  For those of you that might not wish to go flat broke in order to regain your life back, Ceal might just be the person you’ve been searching for… JC

We tried really hard to fit in. I held a respectable job. My first mate, Kevin, owned a successful business. The garage doors opened at 8 a.m. Two new cars left. The garage doors closed. At 6 p.m. the shiny cars returned. We ate dinner in front of the TV and went to bed. Repeat. Monday through Friday. Pretty soon five years went by.

Sometime in that five-year blur, I happened upon the McDowell’s blog. We became regular readers. It common conversation for one of us to ask, “did you see JC McDowell’s post today?” We didn’t always agree with everything, but JC’s words got us to start thinking about things and the way we were existing rather than living.

Unlike the McDowells, we didn’t lose our shirts in the economic meltdown. We were keeping up with the hamster wheel and spinning it faster and faster everyday. Then we broke it.

Our meltdowns were slow burners with a flare up right at the end. Kevin turned 40. I got melanoma. I can’t speak for Kevin, but during that time I know we asked a lot of questions out loud: “this is it? this is what we’re working so hard for? Are you happy?”

We were living the ‘Merican dream. You know, the house, the cars, jobs, the planned social affairs, money, etc., etc. We were doing exactly what we thought we were supposed to do to live happily ever after, but neither of us were happy.

“I’m not living like this forever,” I remember telling Kevin one February night in 2011. He said, “then don’t. We have a sailboat. Let’s go live on it.”

Hindsight being 20/20, I still don’t know if Kevin was serious when he said this, but I took that as my sign (as if the cancer wasn’t enough of a sign), and within days I had all the furniture we owned posted on Craigslist.

The furniture was divided up between five eager Craigslist responders. Greenbacks in hand, my very creative mate rearranged the furniture remains after each sale until we ate our last meal in the house on our rusty patio table and matching rickety chairs.

Then there was almost none…and that was the hardest part.

Let me preface this with, we rarely fight. However, put two normally sane people into a self-induced, stressful situation – i.e. packing up all their earthly belongings into storage, then move those two people from a 1,400 square-foot home to a 36-foot sailboat, there’s bound to be a flare up or five, I promise.

It took a good two weeks before we achieved hanging locker (our closet) equilibrium. About the same time we accepted the reality of a “one butt galley,” and I created one-pot cooking variations of our mealtime mainstays – cooking in one pot means way fewer dirty dishes in the sink for “one butt” to stand and wash every night.

We spent the next six months of living aboard in the slip, and loved every minute of it. Someone once told me you don’t live in a boat, you live on a boat, and that statement, I found is entirely true.

We didn’t miss what we no longer had in our immediate environment. It was delightful to sit on the back of the boat with a cerveza or take the dinghy for a sunset lap around the harbor. We didn’t miss the evening news or commercial television. We didn’t miss the garage or the two cars that lived inside. The more disconnected we became from our old life, the more connected we became to what we really wanted–our own dreams, not the cookie-cutter variety.

I think it always was “the plan” to eventually sail away on an adventure. We’d take our daysails out of the Channel Islands Harbor along California’s coast and joke that the boat pulled hard to the left, meaning the boat was telling us to head south to Mexico.

Our slip was located across from the harbor’s visitors’ dock. Nearly every boat heading south from as far away as Alaska ducked in for a night or two a few hundred feet from us. I’m not shy when it comes to reaching out to strangers (just ask JC), and made it my mission to find out who these sailors were and where they were headed. Turned out most people were heading to San Diego to meet up with the Baja Ha-Ha Cruisers Rally for the annual pilgrimage south to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.

We’re not much for crowds and it was way too late for us to join the southbound rally, but something clicked for us, and we decided to really chuck it all, cut the dock lines and head south. Reading JC’s posts about cerveza and tacos probably helped a little bit, too.

A lot of things happened between the time we decided to up and leave and when we really left. Enough that I owe it a few blog posts of my own. Suffice to say that we did get to finally turn left upon leaving our homeport, and neither of us ever looked back.

We were well into Mexico before I really comprehended what we had done. It was when I traded a few AA batteries and a handful of fun-size candy bars for four wiggling lobsters when I knew we left the land of dollars and arrived in the land of sense.

Making the leap of faith lifestyle change wasn’t easy, and I know it’s not for everyone…don’t I know…I hear it from people all the time, “why would you ever do such a thing? who lives on a boat?” But that change was exactly what we needed, and it helped us get our lives back. Do I wish there were more fun tickets coming in than going out? Sure. Would I change anything? Not a chance.

Sell the stuff. Save the things that cannot be replaced. Here’s my advice: Don’t wait for the next meltdown–economic or personal, just go. Go Simple. Go Small. Go Now. Until then, keep reading. You’re in good company.

Ceal Potts excused herself from the rat race in December 2011. She and Kevin sailed into Mexico and enjoyed cerveza and dog tacos from Ensenada to Zihuatenejo aboard s/v Sunrise, a 1974 Islander 36 sailboat. Currently they are pacing the cage on Maui looking for a larger boat to continue the adventure.  You can read more about heir adventures on her blog at http://www.alwaysgoblog.com

 

 

 

 

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