John and Sailingdog, thanks for your replies. I see a theme in your comments that highlights a weakness in our general plans.
First off, I always cringe when I hear stories of would-be cruisers who get stuck in marinas for long periods of time. That's fine if they really enjoy living aboard, but our goal is to travel.
I also agree with John's point about "forgetting about the boat until it's time to go." That point was argued forcefully by Jim Trefethen in his book The Cruising Lifestyle. Having the "perfect boat" too soon can be a radical drain on one's resources and really delay or even prevent the trip. In his opinion, buying the big boat with a loan, with the idea of paying it off over time before the trip, normally doesn't work out. Nor does buying a project boat, and fixing it up over many years, in his opinion.
My thinking was that we would want around 20% of the purchase price for repairs and improvements (as Sailingdog recommended). My concept was to own to boat for a year while still working full-time, so that cash flow would be available for surprises or repairs, and renting or selling the house could reduce living expenses further for the last year before departure.
The points made in your replies are quite valid, however. A revised timeline may put off the purchase of the boat until only a few months or so before work ends, but going into "extreme saving mode" for the last 1-2 years so that we have around $120,000 allocated for the boat. We started living frugally about a year ago (no Internet at home, no newspapers, no cable, camping vacations, keeping our aging cars longer, etc.), but we could save even more if we knew the trip was coming near.
The revised timeline could result in the boat being purchased in the late winter, and then put on the hard for essential repairs while I was still working. Since I'd likely need a boatyard for help, since I'll still be working full-time, this would cost more but the work would also be done more quickly. Less than critical repairs or improvements could be put off until we're elsewhere on the globe (perhaps at at place recommended by SSCA cruisers for good, affordable boat work).
As long as the boat met our standards to at least start cruising, we could likely sell the house, finish work, and start the cruise relatively quickly, with a July/August start with no "living aboard" while working, kids going to school, etc. This might mean heading South relatively soon for the winter, but so be it...
Thanks again for the comments and the book recommendations. I think the only place where we're a failure in terms of living frugally is that we didn't want to stop sailing while saving, so we consider sailing and maintaining our 27 footer as "an educational expense" in the process, along with a sailing course and one-week charter once a year (at least for now).
Last edited by Jim H; 05-20-2006 at 11:22 PM.