Monday, 4 May 2015

How to hit "reset" on your life

This is what we put in storage (minus the wicker)...everything else we own
 is either going with us, or going to a new home.

I guess I knew that taking on full time cruising was going to be challenging, I just didn't realize how challenging until I was in the middle of it.  I mean - how do you pause your life, mid-stream and then hit reset without hard work?  The answer: you don't.

Okay, so you wake up one morning and decide that you're done with your corporate life and are going to chuck it all to go cruising.  Sounds good - what's first?

How about the boat - you do have a boat don't you?  No...ok this just got a bit harder.  How about a job that you can work at remotely?  That's taken care of right?  Oh - you were hoping to not work.  Hmmm...good thing I like a challenge.  Ok, but the good news is you're not tied down by debt or family committments.  Wait a second - you have a house and mortgage and 2 kids under 9...

My thoughts on how to hit reset on your life (keeping in mind we don't even move aboard until July):

Step 1: Believe you can.  
Don't let anyone tell you that you need to start small, buy a day-sailer or dinghy and sail locally for a few years before you move up to a bigger boat.  Don't let anyone tell you that you can't afford it or that you have to have a job that's location independent and don't let anyone tell you that you should wait til your kids are older, or your parents don't need you or...  Not to be selfish, but this choice needs to be about you, about living your life the way you want to and accepting the risks, sacrifices and potentially catastrophic outcomes that it may bring.

Step 2:  Prepare.
You can do this even if you have no experience, but you can't go into it pretending it's not hard.  Earning the skills necessary to survive the worst that the ocean can dish out is a long term game.  The price of admission to the game is knowledge.  Learn everything you can before you leave, learn from classes through a local yacht club, association or power squadron, learn from fellow sailors and non-sailors alike.  Learn first aid, learn how to deal with diesel engines, learn how to play with electricity, learn about radios and getting along with others in small spaces.  Learn about knots and boat bits.  Every piece of knowledge you gain is a credit against that day when something unexpected and potentially life threatening may happen.

In Vanouver we were lucky to have access to a fantastic group of cruisers in the Blue Water Cruising Association  This group is world-class in terms of support, education and fellowship.  If you live in Vancouver, on Vancouver Island, or Calgary I suggest looking them up.  Membership is worth every penny.

Step 3:  Go on a diet.
No, not from calories, from stuff.  Boats are small.  Houses are big.  Western culture values consumption and collection of stuff.  Unless your positively Ghandi-esque in your habits there's a reasonable chance that you own too much stuff for your boat.

We began our diet by stopping new purchases fairly early in the process.  We got tired of asking each other whether that new item could be used on the boat, but it worked.  We didn't buy much that we aren't going to take with us.  Keep in mind that we may still overpack - I'll update you later on whether we actually need all the stuff we're taking onboard.

From not purchasing we graduated to downsizing our possessions.  We have 2 girls under 9 - they had lots to off-load.  Again we took it in steps starting with garage sales, regular thrift store runs to donate usable goods and by filling our trash can each garbage day with those items that we didn't need and were either broker or unsaleable.

Starting about 6 months before leaving we ramped things up a bit.  We began posting our belongings on Craigslist (the big ticket items).  Now, with 8 weeks before we move aboard we're in a mostly empty house, eating dinner at a borrowed card table and sleeping on mattresses on the floor.

At the end of the day what we've got left is what's coming to the boat and what's in storage at my mom's and fit in 3 boxes in the back of a truck along with some stuff that she's taking off our hands permanently.

Step 4: Manage your assets.
There seem to be two major camps when it comes to cruisers and houses.  There are those who see it as a long term investment in their ability to return to land based life and those who see it as a source of cruising funds to draw on.  The former group typically keep their home, rent it out or find some other way to ensure it pays for itself and plan to return someday to take up life in the house again.   The latter cash in their chips (and in Vancouver it wasn't much different than a lottery) collect their winnings, and quite happily march off into the sunset to spend it all "out there".  We fall into the latter group.  Making this decision means its unlikely we'll ever own a home in Vancouver again, but there are worse things in life.

Step 5: Make sure you've got a boat.
Kind of important, but not necessarily a pre-requisite.  You don't need to have one in advance, you don't even need to know much about them (see step 1) but you will need one eventually.  You'll hear lots of people voicing their opinion about which boat to buy, but what's important is that it is built for what you're planning to do with it and that you like it.  Your options in this area are vast but boil down to some key decisions.
  • Mono-hull or multi-hull?
  • New or used?
  • Fibreglass or Metal or Wood (becoming rare)?
  • Buy locally or buy overseas?
I can tell you from experience that getting a boat can be challenging, but it is not that bad...even if you buy it from a broker 1/2 way around the world.  I'll write a separate post about the process once the deals actually completely done.

I think for now it's enough to say that we found the boat we wanted (multihull, used, fibreglass) in Europe.  What this meant is we were dealing with an unknown boat, in an unknown area where we didn't have any resources (read surveyors) that we knew around.  And that's where google comes in. There is no doubt that the world is getting smaller and we're benefiting from how easy it is to get information about anything, anywhere with just a few key-strokes.

My last little bit of advice on hitting reset?  Understand that you'll never be 100% confident, nor can you be 100% prepared.  You can however, think of every possible aspect that you can and trust that you will have the ability to manage past those you missed.

Life is a journey, not a destination so enjoy the ride and don't worry too much about the pot-holes.


  1. Sometimes those potholes lead to whole new avenues of adventure... right?? Also would like to say that after moving from a super-temporary, fully-furnished house back to the boat (and STRUGGLING to get it all to fit again), I have new HUGE respect for people downsizing from full-blown houses to boats.

    Are you guys doing a shipment to Greece? Or just planning to carry 8 suitcases with you? I love the details that make these dreams possible!!

    Leah :)

    1. Thanks Leah! I meant to reach out - Janet told me that she saw Brio had splashed and I wanted to find out if you were moved aboard, or still planning to live aboard for the is summer by now over there right?

      The downsizing continues - so much stuff! The plan as it stands is to take a bunch of suitcases (may even be 8) and ship what we can't pack, which is a whole other set of issues. Not too many moving companies are interested in just a few boxes and all of the less than container load shippers will only get it as far as Athens (which is not close to the boat...) Ah well - I guess that's intro to cruising right?