Brian, I really enjoyed reading this as it evokes a lot of thoughts and emotions about the dreams and goals of my wife and I. We spend a lot of time reading, researching and planning for a day when we can sell the house, buy a bigger boat, and go. Which leads me to....
a slightly off topic issue, and maybe too personal, but I can't help asking how anyone who lives aboard and cruises with their family is able to do it from a financial standpoint.
I know different people do it in different ways-- work sporadically, work online, commute from the boat to a place of work, or be independently wealthy. In our situation, our only realistic option for now would be to live aboard and continue to commute to a 9-5, which is not appealing to either of us. Or we could quit our jobs, sell the house, and probably cruise for 3-5 years and then be penniless. Also not appealing (maybe if it was just the two of us, but won't do that with kids).
So, care to quench my curiosity?
THat is a very good question. I am certainly happy to answer it. You will have to forgive me if it is not a simple fill in the blank. I do not think that would do it justice. So if you can stay awake long enough to read, I will share our story. Let's see, Once Upon a Time (snicker)....
Jump back circa early 90's. I was always fascincated by boats. Me and my young wife would often drive to the docks or even the parkinglots of marinas and watch the masts sway. We would walk down where we could and talk to other sailors and just look at boats. I have always been mesmerized with them and loved the unique sound of masts ringing in the wind (though sometimes that same banging halyard drives me crazy as a live aboard!!).
We purchased out first sailboat not long after that. It wasn't real expensive - a 25' Catalina. But it gave us an opportunity to see how much we enjoyed it. Truth be told, those boats are great for what they are, though they are more of a camping trailor than a yacht (and I mean that in a positive way). But it served its purpose and helped us to realize that was exactly what we wanted to do with out lives. We had no kids, but saw no reason why the two should have been separated. You would be surprised at the number of people that put off buying a boat, sell it, or give up on their boating dreams because of kids. The reasons for that are many fold (you have kids, so I am sure you understand). Expenses are certainly one... but many people believe a child needs a land home and the concept of raising them on a boat is not even up for discussion. So that you know, we do not believe that. In fact, we believe quite the opposite. Chase was aboard at 5 days old.
Glen has really known nothing other than boating. We did own a house at the time, in fact we have owned several off and on during our marraige, but we always came back to the boat. We had no issue taking our children with us, anywhere, and still don't.
I was not born wealthy. In fact, quite the opposite may be true. I never grew up in what I consider poverty. I never went hungry. I generally had what I thought were good presents under the tree. My mom got to stay home much of my young childhood. However, life certainly had its difficulties. I will leave it at that. It is because of certain difficulties in that childhood, I determined to make money and be very succesful. The problem, of course, was my lifestyle didn't necessarily mesh up with my profession (boating and recruiting).
THe details of this are irrelevant, but because of our interests, I was determined to have a job that allowed me the financial means and personal means to live aboard. It wasn't easy. It took me both building up a nest egg and working my way up the company into ownership/partnership. We lived vastly below our means and we spent most of our time boating if not living aboard. WHen I made partner, I was committed to having an office by the water and made that happen. Due to circumstances which are irrelevant here, I left that firm and started up my own independent firm and worked off the boat while cruising. In fact, I closed my last two deals anchored off the keys (if memory serves)!!
Technology played into my favor but also restricted me. However, I have always had one passion in life - one even stronger than boating or sailing or cruising: writing. I love
to write. I began writing books when I was 13. I always wrote for fun and never tried to publish until recently. So some time back, I put my business on hold (which with any luck will be permanent) and now write books fulltime. I hope to have one available for purchase within the next month... maybe two. It is a YA (Young Adult) Science Fiction novel. It took me two years to complete it. I have another novel which is completed and in editing in Historical Fiction (also Young Adult). THat novel was started over five years ago. I have a trilogy I need to review to see if it is worth revamping or just tossing and starting over (also Young Adult).
Maybe of interest to you is I am outlining and have begun writing a book called, "The Guide to Living Aboard... and boating with children". Its focus is specifically on living aboard a boat, what it is like, what works, what doesn't, choosing a boat, how to make the life a happy one for everyone, etc. It is not about cruising, per se, though I discuss that. It is more focused on how to make a boat work for a home... basically what 99.9% of us have to deal with that make the plunge. Sailnet has already agreed to help me promote it and I soon will be an official advertiser here!! Kinda cool, huh?
So, that is how we have made this work. My wife's career is very similar in that she specifically chose a profession that allowed her to work remotely and allowed us to be anywhere (though truth be told, she did not work for many parts of this adventure).
I would urge you when reading this not to think, "Ghosh, you are lucky you have a job that allows you to work remote." Instead, I hope you will think, "How can I alter my career or make what I do work remotely?" If your parameters are that you have to maintain or exceed your income, you have a better imagination than I do (and I gotta good one!). I doubt that will happen. I think instead, you have to be ready to accept the repercussions and balance them for the positives.
Let me tell you something which I hope will sway you: I spend every moment with my kids. I get up in the morning and they lay beside me as I sip coffee. I fix them breakfast. I help them get set up and go to homeschool on the boat. I am both teacher, coach, and parent (and unfortunately, sometimes principal). Afterwards we fish together or we go throw a baseball or football. SOmetimes we ride bikes or explore in the tender. That evening I start supper and we work together around a stove, grill, and sink to get it on the table (and clean it up). Afterwards we play a board game (generally Monopoly... I suck!!) or read a book together as a family (one of my great classics being the famous author I am... snicker). I put my kids to bed. And the next day, we start all over again. I remember doing this a couple of weeks ago while anchored off of Emerson Point. We walked the trails early in the morning for "PE". I stared out across the bay to the Sunshine Bridge. It was stop and go traffic. I have no doubt that bridge was filled with parents, both moms and dads, who had dropped their kids off at Daycare and were on their way to work. THat evening, they will be sitting in traffic doing the same, getting home at 7 after they pick up the kids from daycare and stop for some takeout. Do they know their kids? More importantly, do their kids know them? Or have we become a society where mom and dad both work to make ends meet and our children are raised by a public school system, televisions, and daycares? I spend every second with my children. I am responsible for every aspect of their well being and education. I have taken total responsibility for every part of their lives, both good and bad. It is not all wonderful. I won't lie. We bump into problems and issues all the time and the boat can REALLY get small (especially when it is raining outside). But my kids will grow up knowing their parents and all of us being a part of each other's lives.
The tradeoff (other than it being a lot of work), is that I have thrown away a LOT of money. I don't have nice cars anymore. In fact, my last car is about to be up for sale. My kids don't wear really nice clothes, they don't have their own TV, and I have to say, our college fund for them isn't great. THey will probably have to work through college and get scholarships. And instead of a first car, they get an old leaky tender (remember the pics??) that at BEST runs most of the time. Our Christmas persents for them will pretty much be limited to our cashback check from our CHase CCard. Many consider this irresponsible. Some of our family members (and many of our land based friends) think we are crazy and have said as much.
Still, for me and Kris, the tradeoff was worth it. At least, we hope it will be. We will keep trying to make
this work until we can't make
it work anymore. But the trick is, at least for us, making
it work. It is a committment that has a lot of repercussions. Many (if not most) of the people sitting on that bridge in 8:00 am traffic will have a much larger retirement than me and my wife. Some will say they did it 'right'. All I will have is a mountain of pictures and memories of me, my wife, and my kids... and the time we spent together when they were young. But honestly, the toughest thing for this old dad isn't trying to figure out how to make the boat work right now while they are here, it's trying to figure out how I will make it work when they are gone.
All my best,