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Jim H 05-19-2006 01:50 PM

So, how do I prepare for a 5 year cruise with kids?
Any advice on how to prepare for a five-year cruise with two kids?

We sail a lot now, and charter, but we have this growing "bug" of an idea to cruise while we're still in our forties and before the kids hit High School age.

We're thinking of picking up something like a Pearson 424, Valiant 40 or a Passport 40 in 2-3 years, and then live aboard for a year while still working to prepare. (We're not big boat people, but with growing kids...) We'll either cash out the house at the time of purchase, or rent for a year to see how that works out.

Scary part
-- finding catastropic health care for all four of us during the cruise. Maybe skipping on boat insurance. Finding jobs again in the future. Maybe not holding onto real estate while we're gone.

Okay part-- boat schooling the kids for five years (wife and I are both educators).

Fun part-- having enough cash to do a low-budget cruise for five years, but stop early if cash runs out, or go longer if we can write or do other during-cruise work along the route. We'd like to do the PNW, Inside passage, West Coast, Mexico and Sea of Cortez, and then decide to continue either west or east (through the canal).

Mission part-- I have some academic contacts in Chicago who would build a survey and data collection tool for us, so we could visit local schools on our journey and collect data, publish articles and build connections with schools in the US. We could do some teaching along the way (for free) and our kids could experience some local schools as well.

If we're careful, we should be able to afford the boat with no loans, and have enough cash to fund the cruise (as long as insurance doesn't kill us). After the cruise, we'd plan to have enough cash for a downpayment on another house, and we'd re-enter the working world. Kids would be ready for college (we have decent college accounts running for them now).

So, any brilliant advice? General budget for the boat would be around $100k (maybe not enough for a Passport 40), and if we don't end up with a perfect blue water boat we still do a lot of cruising with a solid coastal cruiser. We have 2-3 years before the next big step, but it's still fun to plan, learn and scheme.


Jim H

sailingdog 05-20-2006 06:22 PM

Living aboard may not be such a good idea... many of the books on cruising I've read, and many of the cruisers I've met/written/spoken to suggest that living aboard is not a great way to start out... they suggest that it is easier to just jump in with both feet, once you've gotten enough experience on the boat you're going to be using.

Some say that this is especially true if you have children... as they may not appreciate the differences in the cruising lifestyle, like no high-speed internet, no satellite/cable tv... etc. and only see the downsides to what they are missing when you are living aboard...and this may turn the off on the idea of cruising.

If you go straight to cruising, rather than living aboard, they will be far to busy to realize that the high-speed internet and satellite TV are missing for the most part.

I would budget at least 20% of the purchase price of the boat for upgrades and refits to the boat, as even the most well-equipped boat is going to have some things that you will want to change or replace, and it will cost more than you expect if you haven't budgeted a chunk for it.

I'd also hold off on any major changes to the running rigging, deck layout, and controls on the boat until you've sailed it a while. Once you've had some time on the boat, you can figure out what works for you and what needs to be made to work for you better.

You might want to contact the s/v Makulu or read their website to see what else you might be able to do.

If you have questions, or comments, you can PM me.

PBzeer 05-20-2006 08:45 PM

One of the constant themes I came across in my reading, was to forget about a boat, until it's time to go. Downsize your life now, and put as much money away as you possibly can. Get rid of any debt that you can, and basically live as frugally as if you were on a boat.

Whether that would be the right approach for you and your family, is up to you. It certainly has some logic to it. Basically though, the more money you can put away, the more options you have when it's time to go.

A good starting point would be Nigel Calders "The Cruising Handbook". It can give you a lot of insight into what you need, boatwise, as well as skills. There are many books about cruising, starting with Beth Lenords "The Voyagers Handbook". You might want to read as many different ones as you can find, so that you can go into this with as realistic approach as possible.

I think it's a great idea, and will be an education for your kids, that no school can give them.

Best wishes,

Jim H 05-20-2006 10:16 PM

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).

Jim H

PBzeer 05-21-2006 07:53 AM

You seem to have a pretty good grasp of the realities of what you plan, and that's a good start. Another thing you could be doing, to aid your sailing jones, and pick up some insight, is to crew on other boats. Particularly, ones in the size range you're looking at. Also, just walking the docks can show you some things others have done with their boats. As well as talking with with others who have done some offshore sailing.

ladyh 05-21-2006 08:20 AM

Go Now...
Do it for your kids.....look a a used Amel....great family cruising boat......and my thoughts on cruising

Go Cruising Now

When should one go cruising??? I asked myself that question 1000’s of times when I was still tied to land. I define happiness as living my dream of cruising…. The following was emailed to me………how true it is….I think back over the last 2 ½ yrs and all the cruiser WANT2B’s who would want to ask this cruiser the same questions I asked for the last 20 yrs as my wife and I chartered sailboats in the Caribbean and other exotic places where the CRUISER migrated because he could…. 98% of these WANT2B’s never go because the wait till…………..
My Father, God bless his sole worked till he was 62….yes he retired a few years early…but died 2 yrs later….no he did not go fish all those trout and steelhead rivers he always dreamed of while working…..cut the land lines and GO…and Go NOW.

I'll be happy when...
> We convince ourselves that life will be better after we get married, have a baby, then another. Then we are frustrated that the kids aren't old enough and we'll be more content when they are. After that, we're frustrated that we have teenagers to deal with. We will certainly be happy when they are out of that stage. We tell ourselves that our life will be complete when our spouse gets his or her act together, when
we get a nicer car, when we are able to go on a nice vacation or when we retire. The truth is there's no better time to be happy than right now. If not now, when? Your life will always be filled with challenges.
> It's best to admit this to yourself and decide to be happy anyway. Happiness is the way. So, treasure every moment that you have and treasure it more because you shared it with someone special, special enough to spend your time with .... and remember that time waits for no
> So, stop waiting ...
> Until your car or home is paid off.
> Until you get a new car or home.
> Until your kids leave the house.
> Until you go back to school.
> Until you finish school.
> Until you lose 10 lbs.
> Until you gain 10 lbs.
> Until you get married.
> Until you get a divorce.
> Until you have kids.
> Until the kids have graduated from college
> Until you retire.
> Until summer..
> Until spring.
> Until winter.
> Until the boat is paid for.
> Until fall.
> Until you die.
> There is no better time than right now to be happy. Happiness is a
journey, not a destination. So work like you don't need money, love
like you've never been hurt, and, dance like no one's watching.

I would have liked to recieved that 10 yrs ago....the the wife would have made the trip...she did always want a " boat baby"...funny thing....boat kids do better in college...and in life ....cruising is unique...special people....with a different slant on life....Capt Paul>

sailingdog 05-21-2006 08:25 AM

Hal Roth's book is a good one to read too. Might want to pick up a copy of the Complete Sailor as something for your kids to is very well written and easily understandable, and covers much of the basics of sailing technique and theory.

I'd agree with what ladyh has posted as well. My late wife would have loved to go sailing, and we had talked about it...but we didn't have the time or the chance to go my boat is named for her...and she will be with me in spirit.

PBzeer 05-21-2006 09:29 AM

Well said. Life is about being, not things.

Jim H 05-21-2006 04:01 PM


Originally Posted by PBzeer
Another thing you could be doing, to aid your sailing jones, and pick up some insight, is to crew on other boats.

This is another good recommendation, and we're working on it. I think a lot of people who begin sailing seriously later in life are somewhat shy about volunteering to crew on race boats, or even to crew on cruising boats. For us, we're building our ties with the local sailing community, contributing when we can, and building up the confidence to say yes as we see the invites go out for crewing. We see several now, but we want one more year of experience so we can focus more on the experience than worry about our short-comings.

We also have a general plan to ramp up our charters. We were comfortable and confident on the 35 footer we just took a course on, but we're chartering a basic 28 footer for our first one week charter. Next year, however, we plan to charter a Crealock 34 for a week. After that, who knows.

Thanks for the reply.

Jim H

Jim H 05-21-2006 04:12 PM


Originally Posted by ladyh
My Father, God bless his sole worked till he was 62….yes he retired a few years early…but died 2 yrs later….no he did not go fish all those trout and steelhead rivers he always dreamed of while working…..cut the land lines and GO…and Go NOW.

The more we think about it, the more we're haunted by the mistake of waiting too long. We've lost some people in just the last year from our lives who never got the chance to do the things they longed for, and that makes us wonder if the whole set-up of the "American Life" is more limiting that enlightening.

As a friend put it to me: every year we spend money, sometimes a lot, sometimes a little. Every year we spend our lives, as well. Which is more valuable?

We've already toyed with departing 15 years from now, 9 years from now, 4 years from now, and 1 year from now. Guess which is the scariest in terms of the long-range value of 401ks, college accounts, health care, etc. After thinking about them, however, and reading Latitude 38's reports about low-cost cruising in Mexico, low-cost health care out of the US, and other options, we're beginning to wonder if a fair percentage of the many of the "barriers" are exaggerated and facades. The patented American "exaggerated response" can expensive in many ways.

In some ways it would be easier to go the "go small, go now" approach if we didn't have kids. I mean, not even Larry and Lin had that challenge. If nothing else, though, the rewards may be greater.

Thanks for the thoughtful response-- and I wish you the best with your cruising!

Jim H

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