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Living on a Sailboat- 4 month update

We left Key west and sailed offshore up the coast and ‘parked’ the boat in Jacksonville Beach at Beach Marine to clean her up after being a salty dog for 4 months.  Besides one night at the fuel dock in St. Augustine in January this is the only other time we have spent on the dock on the last 4 months.  Oddly, after all the time we spent on anchor- it’s easier to stay on the hook than be in a marina (and a lot cheaper).

Hil and Emma James went on ahead to St. Simons to spend a few days on shore while I washed down and washed out the boat.  It’s amazing that sea salt gets everywhere!  Another interesting observation after 4 months, we found out how little we really need on the boat.  During our trip we would periodically sort and store away anything we hadn’t used.  By the time we got to the dock we had an entire truck load of ‘valuables’ we hadn’t touched since leaving Georgia January 1.

Another interesting phenomenon occurred about halfway through the trip.  There were no big boat projects and I actually got to enjoy being on the boat.  It took about two months of cruising to work out the kinks before everything fell into place.  In that time we installed the adjustable coffee/dining table, the custom bimini cover, the wind generator (free power to the people!), the 2kw inverter (hence I  have power for the computer), and completely overhauled the fuel system.  Since then there has been a bad impeller and a bad thermostat (chicken and the egg kind of thing- who knows which went first).

Now for the heavy stuff.

I’ve been back on land for a week.  We picked up our truck and I’ve sold our inflatable (Thanks Phil!) and we bought a sailing hard dinghy (Thanks John!) which required driving back and forth from St. Simons and Jacksonville.  I’ve been inquiring about jobs, following up on health care issues, enjoyed our local emergency room, shared the generosity we been so fortunate to receive on our travels with fellow sailors heading north, and in general re-integrated into contemporary society.

It sucks.

I haven’t slept well since I left the boat.  I have crazy water dreams and everything is a little less vivid on land.  After taking long blistering hot showers a couple of days in a row, my skin looks like an alligators back all shriveled up and scaly (maybe I shared too much).  I find myself staying up later and later and spending more and more time in the evening at idle brain numbing entertainment.  I eat more.  I drink more.  I write less.  It takes me half the day to really wake up.  When I wake up in the morning, the scenery is still the same.  I’ve woefully begun to realize my wardrobe needs updating.  I’ve had to wear socks.  I spend my spare time looking at boats online.

There have been highlights!  We’ve really enjoyed being back and spending time with our friends and family.  I saw a movie last night.  It doesn’t take two days to travel 100 miles.  We can do laundry any time we want.  I can wear clean clothes everyday (not that I go that far).  When a storm approaches I don’t get all puckered up and can actually sleep all night without checking the anchor every twenty minutes.

The pro’s and con’s can go on and on but there is one thing that has become very clear.  We’re catching up on the mail and I’ve been sorting through Pottery Barn catalogs, Special offers from credit card companies, Dell Computer sales flyers, bank statements, and bills (and more bills).  Guess what?  I don’t care.  The latest and greatest from Apple computers, a new rug for the living room, the quarterly pest control treatment- all seem SO unimportant.

Don’t get in a tizzy here.  If you enjoy Pottery Barn and finding the best zero interest credit card balance transfer offer, I think that’s fine.  I’m no better and in many causes I’m probably in a much worse (financial) situation that you.

My wife says the best part of the Florida Keys is looking at it from the water.

Living on a sailboat is like being on the fringe of society.  My wife says the best part of the Florida Keys is looking at it from the water.  That’s what it’s like living on a boat.  We are quite literally observers from the anchorage watching the people in their shiny cars go flying by to work every day.  Priorities change.  Sunrise is your alarm clock, Sunset is entertainment, Catching a fish is payday, sundowners are a holy tradition, kindness is cherished, weather is tracked like your favorite baseball team.  Mother Nature and Father Ocean are alive and school is NEVER out!  The work day does not end at 5pm and you’ll have to leave a message when we’re bashing to weather.  Your day is simultaneously filled and yet free.  You focus on accomplishing ONE thing at a time instead of multi tasking and becoming more productive.

I know, I know, reality is knocking.  In our case, reality is banging on the front door!  It’s time to start earning some cash and saving.  But we LOVE being on the water!  For all the hassle, we would still prefer to live on a boat- even if it’s at a marina for the time being.  I can talk more about the financial benefits to living on a boat later.  Needless to say, if you like being on the water, it ‘can’ be a cost efficient home to help actually start saving money for the future.

The trivial and often absurd confections of our culture have become magnified like a clown’s big red nose and over sized shoes.

In many ways, the last 4 months have been the best experience for me and for us as a family that we could have hoped.  It has clarified our goals, our needs, and in many ways crystallized some of the greater truths we have in this short life.  The trivial and often absurd confections of our culture have become magnified like a clown’s big red nose and over sized shoes.  Even if we moved back onto land and filled a ‘no down payment interest free’ condo with Pottery Barn furniture tomorrow on credit, living on the sailboat for these last few months has far reaching implications that will touch our children far into their lives.  As a married couple it has concreted our dependency and trust in each other and I can without question testify that I have married the finest women on the planet!  If it is possible, I am more in love with her today, eight years later, than when we first met.  I’d rather live on a small boat at sea with her than a mansion alone.

Maybe it’s the intimate relationship you have with nature while on a boat, but I’ve never felt closer to a ‘greater truth’ with the absolute consequences of every action.  You really ‘get’ that you are NOT in control, that you’re life really is a journey and that there is a definite end, and most importantly you realize exactly how precious your life, your time really is with each and every waking moment.

I hope to hold onto that feeling.  We’re working on selling our trusty CSY 33 and buying a bigger boat to accommodate the next 5 years of growth.  Being on the water is not for everyone, whatever you’re dream- GO NOW!  Tomorrow is an illusion, a false promise.  There is only today.

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9 comments to Living on a Sailboat- 4 month update

  • Thanks for the insightful and inspiring post! I hope you keep updating the blog, I have enjoyed it.

  • Tim Anders

    Hi JC,
    I have really enjoyed reading your blog and following your life Journey over these past few months. I feel as though I have gained a friend whom I have never met. Look forward to seeing what the future brings to you and your family. By the way, I had a good chuckle at your quote from above “As a married couple it has concreted our dependency and trust in each other and I can without question testify that I have married the finest women on the planet!” How does your wife feel about the other women? Just kidding, but I did think that was funny.

  • Roxanna Slater

    Hil & Fam, I read your blogs religiously and must say I am becoming quite addicted to them. What a great thing you are doing and that little girl is getting something that 99.9 of children will never get to experience. What a true blessing and what wonderful people you are to have the guts and strength to “live your dream”. You make us “land lovers” quite envious you know!! I’m glad you are all happy and healthy!! I will be in Stuart May 9th thru the 19th. If you are in the area I would love to see you. Take care!! Rox (Hil’s High School classmate)

  • big cheese

    Tim Anders-

    Whoops! My editor missed that one:) ‘women’ is plural and illegal in most states in context. Corrected, it should be ‘woman’ (but what fun is that?)

    Thanks for following along.

  • Davina and Matt

    I’ve been reading your blog tonight. Kudos to you and your family for doing what you have done. We have been on a roll for over two years: downsizing, yard sales, good will donations and last but not least trying to sell our Atlanta home. I don’t think we got out while the gettin’ was good!! We are searching boat ads daily and reading all sorts of magazines trying to dream about what we will be able to afford when we make the jump to a boat. We are on our way to Jacksonville this weekend to visit family and go to a graduation. Are you guys currently in Jacksonville. It’s always nice to talk to someone who has actually made the move. Any advice is great as we are not surrounded by many who support our decision to get away from 40plus hour workweeks, owning a home and being “plugged in”. Best wishes to you in your future endeavors.

  • big cheese

    Davina and Matt-

    Good for you! Remember, you can always buy more stuff. Look up the forum post- “GO cheap, go small, go NOW!” on: very insightful and appropriate.

    All the best-


  • Ken

    Loved reading your post. I just happened across your site by accident while reading up on living on a boat. It’s a dream that has come back into my mind after not having a boat in the family since I was a teenager. I miss the water.

  • Carolina

    Thanks for your post! I came accross it after looking up “living on a boat”. I am seriously considering making the move! Sounds like so much fun! All the best!

  • big cheese

    It’s a very different life than one might be used to living in the city. After spending 4 months on our boat heading south to the Key West- I’m not sure I can go back!

    Thanks for reading.