Summary for the week, more or less..

  • Packing situation moving right along. Starting in on the kitchen, which is frankly a big deal around here. Strongly considering reducing to only items we’ll be taking on the boat, and seeing if I lose my mind.
  • Michu spent his first night on the boat for the year, working primarily on the refrigeration and thru-hulls. Failed to bring along any source of fire for the stove; attempted to light a paper towel with his hot knife; filled the whole boat with smoke.
  • Oddest task of the week: informing our fish monger that we’re leaving, and he no longer needs to stock a particular kind of frozen fish in the back for us. We’re covering all our bases.
  • West Marine and Amazon considering giving us some kind of award for best customers. Or they should be.

    No weeds, Sara. No. Weeds. Ever.

    No weeds, Sara. No. Weeds. Ever.

  • Final round of gardening basically done–weeded, mulched, ready for the next gardener to take over with the false assumption that it always looks this amazing. Embarrassed to admit that we found some unused worm compost in the basement, now dug in to our backyard veggie beds.
  • Kids looking forward to the end of school. Final soccer season underway, with the first game in 40 degrees and rain. Final instrument recitals in two weeks.
  • Invites sent out for our Bon Voyage party at a pier in Milwaukee. Waaaaaay more people coming than will fit on the boat; strategically locating the party at a very large pier with public bathrooms. Considering how much ice would be needed to fill entire cockpit well with beverages.
  • Best piece of boat jewelry for the week: this new hand-held vacuum cleaner. Michu says it really sucks. Ba-dum boom.DSC_0709

Scarcity mentality

Way, way back–maybe three years ago–when we were planning for this little adventure and thinking about budget, I came to the unshakeable belief that the final month or two of our land life would require some significant latitude in extracurricular spending. To wit: stop being so tight-fisted before you lose your mind. That day has arrived, my friends.

This certainly relates to our overall shift toward the finish line, but as I’ve eased up on the purse strings, I’ve realized how stressful our personal culture of denial has been for the last six or seven years. I would NOT recommend Googling “poverty mentality” or “scarcity mentality;” you will either end up in a terrible right-wing tirade blaming the poor for their problems, or a very suspicious new-age-y discourse about welcoming abundance into your life. AVOID. But when your default setting for years has been “no”–not ordering the take-out, not buying the book, not even looking at that Title Nine catalog lest you be tempted to buy something–it’s pretty liberating to be able to say “yes.”

A lot of our “yes” has been around the flurry of final gear purchases, but having budgeted for a little breathing room with the home comforts, I’m feeling pretty good about our new level of mad luxury around here. Long day of prepping and packing up the house? ORDER THE PIZZA!! It’s all part of the plan.

I know you’re all on the edge of your seats to hear about the latest word in closed-cooling systems from Michu, but he’s been knocking out an intense final month of work, trying to top up the cruising kitty and pay for all that pizza. His last day on the job is May 12, after which: nothing but boat projects.

People keep asking us if the boat is all ready to go. This is the galley last week; no, we are not ready!

People keep asking us if the boat is all ready to go. This is the galley last week; no, we are not ready!

Turning point

Some kind of switch has flipped for me this week. The time pressure is becoming real, the seasonal changes have had an impact–we hit 80 degrees the other day!–and I feel like the tide has turned from “we’re leaving someday soon” to “final prep.” Decisions are coming faster; purchases are being made without the thought of putting it off until we do more research; and evaluating all our stuff for the categories of Pitch, Sell, Store or Take is instantaneous. (There’s a very small pile of “Take If We Can Find Room On The Boat,” which is making the process easier.) We’ve taken our last family non-boat trip from Madison. The school days are winding down. Meal prep is quick, bread is no longer being baked, the whole house feels lighter as our possessions decrease. We’ve started taking advantage of the offers of help from our friends, as we now know very specifically where we need assistance.

Paradoxically, this shift has made me calmer. Fewer things seem vague and uncertain; for better or worse, choices are being made. For most things, the weightiness seems to diminish in the aftermath. Looking at a bookshelf and knowing that the worth of each volume needs to be debated At Some Point has been annoying for months; a cleaned out bookshelf is a perfectly peaceful thing. And really–am I going to be sitting at anchor wishing beyond everything that I’d packed the MFK Fisher? If that turns out to be my biggest regret–well, A.) life must be pretty good; and B.) Kindle, baby. Turns out, there are very few choices that can’t be undone, and most of them don’t matter much anyway.

We’re on our way out.

Easy choices: our neighborhood is filled with Little Free Libraries--an easy way to pass along some of our books.

Easy choices: our neighborhood is filled with Little Free Libraries–a great way to pass along some of our books.

Things we are enjoying as much as possible

  • Long, hot showers. Like, empty the hot water heater long.
  • Driving everywhere. Sorry, carbon footprint; it’s only temporary!
  • Having pizza delivered.
  • Laundry, automatically and without effort.
  • Library books.
  • Netflix, Amazon Prime, NY Times Sunday delivery.
  • Having other people educate our kids.
  • Bicycling.
  • Flushing the toilet without pumping. Sometimes it’s the small things…
  • Enjoying storms, lightning and all.
  • Spending time with friends and family. We’ll miss you all!


Only four paychecks left before we leave!

Only four paychecks left before we leave!

The burning question on everyone’s mind, that most folks are too polite to ask: how the ever-loving heck can you guys afford this? There are so, so many ways to answer this, and I think it’s really important to keep in mind all of our privilege that has allowed us this opportunity; but there are a few specific things you might want to know about us, if you’re curious about the money…

First off: we are not independently wealthy trust-funders. For two of the six years we’ve been working towards cruising, Michu was in nursing school and we were living below the federal poverty level for a family of four. Our current income is almost exactly on the US median. There is no secret stash of cash. We are pulling this off as middle-class Americans.

Second: well, there was an inheritance: $35,000, to be precise. We used this money to purchase our boat ($25,000), and to pay for the survey, shipping, insurance, and yard costs for the first year. Not receiving this money would have pushed back our departure date by two years, and given the age of our kids, that would have been a bummer. This money was important to our schedule, and probably made it easier to take the leap to boat ownership, since it wasn’t money we’d sweated for ourselves, but it wouldn’t have prevented us from leaving.

Third: we’ve had help from family. Michu graduated from nursing school debt-free, and that was in no small part thanks to many wonderful family members who pitched in to help with tuition and other expenses. We don’t get scheduled cash from parents, but we have gotten help with projects like our new roof. Both our cars came from Michu’s mom. Christmas money helps pay for groceries. Equally important: there are folks who’ve got our backs. Talking with friends who are social workers, I feel like one of the huge differences between families like ours, when we were living with very little income, and families who cannot escape poverty is the safety net of folks who can lend you the money for crucial car repairs or medical bills. We try very hard not to lean on our family for financial support, but knowing we have that insurance is not something to discount or take lightly.

Fourth: we have been squeezing every penny for six loooooong years. We live in a small duplex. We grow a lot of our own food and cook almost everything from scratch. The gifts that we give are almost always homemade or homegrown. Everyone’s clothes are secondhand or gifts. We are insane users of the public library, free outdoor concerts, free art activities, free museums–free everything. We rarely see the inside of a restaurant. Our vacations are to state parks and visiting family. We limit our driving to save on gas. Biggest social activity: potluck at our house! Dry the clothes on the line, turn out the lights, turn down the thermostat. We are not going to the show, or getting everyone together to go out for drinks: we are going cruising instead. Since Michu’s finished school and started working, all of our small measures have added up to a savings of almost $20,000 a year.

So. Many. Bean. Burritos.

So. Many. Bean. Burritos.

Just because I have a yacht...Image from Caddyshack

Just because I have a yacht...Image from Caddyshack

Fifth: how much it costs. I think people have an outsized idea of the real costs of purchasing a “yacht” and traveling for a few years. Living where we do, no one would blink an eye if we said we’d purchased a Bass fishing boat and a couple of snowmobiles, or if we were remodeling the kitchen or buying a bigger house. It’s expected; but it would cost more than our boat. Sailboats are inexorably linked to wealth, and our boat new would have probably been about $300,000 back in the day; but so far, our total costs associated with the boat–including purchase, storage, and refit–are probably hovering around $80,000. Of that, $35,000 was from the inheritance, and a hilarious-but-not-really-funny $29,000 has been recovered from insurance (freeze damage from Texas, and damage from the mast being dropped). This, of course, values Michu’s incredible amount of labor at $0; but as a stay-at-home mom whose labor value has been similarly calculated for years, I’m pretty comfortable with that.

We’d feel kind of silly saying OUT LOUD how much we expect to spend while actually cruising, especially when our first year will include spending time in expensive areas like NYC and DC, and blowing a significant amount of cash on transiting the Panama Canal; but when you think about the costs of living on a boat, it’s important to remember that we won’t have expenses like a mortgage, car expenses or electric bill to pay (thanks, solar panels!). We expect to anchor out the majority of the time (free!), and we won’t be paying for things like music lessons or soccer. We’ve researched quite a bit how much other families are spending, and we’re feeling pretty good about coming out on the cheaper end of the spectrum–especially with a well-found boat and the experience of living frugally for the past six years.

We’re keeping our house; rental income will give us a bit of a cushion for when we return to land life. Yes, the IRA is suffering while we’re gone, but only for a few years. And hopefully, when we’re done cruising, we’ll be able to sell the boat and put the money towards a new home–one that never threatens to sink.