My 3-5 Year Plan toward the Cruising Life
Chris & the group:
A couple of observations...
1. There''s no ''right'' answer to the ''buy boat sooner'' vs. ''later'' choice, as each has its advantages. Buying it sooner allows you to modify/refurb it to your needs (and learn far more about the boat than otherwise would be possible) but while making decisions about gear that you''re only guessing at due to lack of experience. Buying it later makes a certain financial sense, as you have less overhead in the interim. Also, buying it later but with a budget that requires a relatively quick getaway will force you to ''buy'' more help in readying the boat - more costly AND you''ll lose on the learning curve. A 3rd option is to downsize sooner (from the house), locking in the capital it can produce, get the boat and enjoy the freedom to tear into the boat without living on it.
2. It is so, so common these days, the economy having been so good for so many people (aka: would-be cruisers short on experience) to see folks quickly buy a LOT of boat. Cruising boats today tend to be big, relatively expensive, relatively complex, and represent a sizeable investment (thereby making insurance mandatory, which may in turn dictate where you may not take the boat). While a bigger/more complex boat is not necessarily a bad one, is it right for you? With any budget that places a relatively short & finite end on your cruising plans (2 yrs is SHORT in cruising terms!) and requires you to continue working down the pike, is it really wise for you to start with the bigger/more complex boat? I think there''s a lot of value in choosing as ''small'' a boat as you need and keeping it basic until...
3. You get more experience. I''d highly recommend the Baja Ha-Ha for you, as it''s common for boats to take extra crew, there''s a mechanism in place for getting selected as crew, the educational element is there, it''s offshore but in small bites, and you can seek participation multiple years on differing boats, each time increasing your learning. See Latitude 38 - BTW, perhaps the BEST reference for you, given your lack of experience & also your goals - for more details. Free at every WM store...
4. How about readjusting your goals by adding an interim step? Get the boat at whatever point you think makes sense for you, don''t quit your job, and make a short-term voyage before deciding what the boat needs & before burning employment or perhaps residential bridges behind you. This is so easy to do from the Bay Area, e.g. by planning a summer cruise down to San Diego via the Channel Islands (REAL offshore sailing & anchoring), and coastal hopping back north. An even better trial run is to make your own cruise to Mexico and back (the Ha-Ha runs too late in the year to return to SF). If the leave of absence can''t be obtained in the right amount, consider trucking the boat back (many do) after cruising with fair winds south. Only THEN are you sure the boat''s right for you & the crew, and only then can you probably decide on what it lacks and what you ''need'' vs. would like to have.
5. Also, don''t overlook local crewing options, which are bountiful on the Bay, for both you & your wife. You''ll learn a lot about sail handling & sailing, and if you can''t find time to do this for one full season, it''s fair to ask yourself how serious you are about the bigger goals.
6. Avoid general advice (e.g. like you hear on message boards) but focus on ones specific to your goals. E.g., whether a watermaker is ''essential gear'' or not depends on lots of variables (until you head for the SoPac, I''d label it as a ''nice to have''; once in the SoPac, it becomes ''essential). Re: supplental power sources, solar is great in Mexico, but wind generation better in the SoPac & Caribbean. Everyone''s got opiinions to share (me included); sift thoughtfully thru what you hear with your own goals clearly in mind. Also, don''t forget that it''s only when you truly begin cruising that some needs will surface, and you can meet them in many places in the world. Put another way, not ALL the boat gear needs to be installed upfront, saving you money & time when just getting away from the dock is so expensive & difficult!
Good luck; yours are great goals, tough to achieve but with ample rewards.
Visiting Pensacola, but normally aboard WHOOSH, currently lying Port of Spain, Trinidad