Routes to the Sailing Life
A look at how five families broke free and went cruising.
|Crew: 40-somethings Michael and Windy Robertson, 8-year-old Eleanor, 6-year-old Frances
Boat: 1978 Fuji 40
Started Cruising: July 2011
Hailing port: Washington D.C.
Short-term plans: Headed for Alaska
Long-term plans: Japan? Europe? Both?
In the late spring of 2011, my wife, Windy, and I quit working, sold our house and possessions, and drove from Washington, D.C., to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, where we kept the Fuji 40 that we bought the year before, to begin our open-ended cruising life. We’ll keep cruising as long as we all still enjoy it and the money doesn’t run out.
We always knew that we wanted to go cruising again, but we assumed that it wouldn’t happen before Windy and I reached normal retirement age. Having kids changed our assumptions and priorities. After a couple of years tending to demanding, full-time careers while paying someone else to tend to our full-time child, we began looking for other options. Having experienced it before, we knew that living aboard and traveling on a boat that we owned free and clear is a cheap way to live a rich life—cheap enough that we could maybe pull it off with neither one of us working as much. We became aware of a ticking clock that marks the diminishing time we have to voyage as a family.
In 2006, weeks after our second daughter was born, we launched our five-year plan to make the radical lifestyle change. We’d built substantial equity in our home and decided that proceeds from its sale would fund an older boat and years of cruising. (As it turned out, we ended up selling our house at what could prove to be the worst time in history, but it was our time to go.)
There are two important aspects to our five-year cruising plan. First, we followed the advice of writer Jim Trefethen not to buy a boat too soon before cutting the dock lines. Buying and getting to know your boat are big, fun steps to take toward a cruising goal, but owning a boat that isn’t your primary residence is expensive. While you’re still years away from departure, let someone else pay to keep and maintain the boat you’ll eventually buy to go cruising; that’s money you can save for your cruising kitty. The second important aspect of our plan was to save as much as we could for retirement before leaving. Our thought is that we can sustain ourselves in this lifestyle somehow, but we can’t necessarily save for our later years while out here. We’d long lived below our means to sock away retirement savings, but we ramped it up during those 60 months.
Our advice to others is this: You can cruise in some capacity with the means you have. If you think you want to make this happen but need inspiration or a place to start, pick up Jim Trefethen’s The Cruising Life: A Commonsense Guide for the Would-Be Voyager. Read the blogs of cruising families out there now. This isn’t an easy life, or a plush one, but the benefits are immediate. I feel like I rejoined my family and am getting to know my girls in a way that I couldn’t before, outside the home and at the office for 60 hours a week.
Read more about the adventures aboard Del Viento on the Robertsons’ blog.