SimplySailingOnline.com shows by example how easily you can eliminate stress, become more independent, raise your children in a safer environment (while spending more time with them, instilling values not based on the mighty dollar) and avoid the traps of commercialism. Because we live and sail simply, we have been wandering for 11 years with no intention of stopping. This is not a trip for us; it is our life, and I hope to share our success with stories of laughter and tears, as well as how-to tips and DIY projects for preparing, sailing and making a boat a home, so that others can join us.
The wind was light as Susan came on deck for her midnight watch. When they'd left Georgetown the previous day, they had planned to spend the night at Rum Cay in the Bahamas, but the weather window lengthened, their friends were sailing on, and they knew if they could get the boat ready early enough to run the reef before the sun went down, they could follow. After a quick stop at Rum Cay in order to transfer fuel from jerry jugs to the tank, put a quick dinner in the pressure cooker and get the boat ready for an overnight passage, they were on their way to the Turks and Caicos.
Now, with no wind and only a slight chop, Susan was able to relax and enjoy a calm passage. Until the engine quit. Danny donned his headlamp and pulled the companionway stairs out of the way to get to the engine.
"I need a glass jar."
"Um, there's a jar of pickles, I think. Will that do?"
With the smell of pickle juice wafting from the sink where Danny had emptied the jar, Susan was on sensory overload. Still in the cockpit, she was unsure what he was doing until he shined the light at the jar.
"The fuel-water separator looks suspiciously like all water."
The jar that should have been filled with diesel was perfectly clear. Danny flew up on deck and stared at the diesel deck fill. In their hurry to leave Rum Cay before sunset, he had left the cap off the fuel fill. Over the next eight hours the spray had filled the tank with salt water.
"Honey, you married a @#$% idiot!"
On a tight budget, with no money set aside for repairs, they knew they had killed their engine, and that their honeymoon cruise was over. They pulled out the charts and found the nearest land: Clarence Town, Long Island. While they bobbed toward land, Susan radioed their friends, wishing them luck and saying good-bye.
After more than 24 hours of wallowing, Danny tied the dinghy alongside and guided Freelancer into the tricky anchorage. While Susan listened to their friends checking in on SSB from the Turks and Caicos, Danny found a local, Andrew Cartwright, who assured him that water in the tank was no problem. He pumped out the tank, ran some diesel through it, and the engine started right up. For $100 and a bottle of rum, they were on their way again: engine, boat, and honeymoon all salvaged.
Danny wanted to sail around the world. Susan was miserable at her job, overworked, and looking for a way to scale back. When they decided to unite their lives and get married, they combined their needs in the form of a Columbia 30 and a six-month sailing honeymoon. In their 30's, they didn't have a large nest egg, there was no trust fund to draw from, and they certainly couldn't retire. Yet they managed to buy and outfit a cruising boat and sail away for six months on only $6,000. Their trick? A credit card.
They paid $10,000 for the boat, Freelancer, by putting it on a "no interest, no payments for six months" credit card. Then they invested a few hundred dollars in repairs and a Windbugger, and two weeks after they bought her, they sailed away. Danny knew the importance of keeping a boat simple from his previous experience, but Susan was more realistic, "We just didn't have the money NOT to simplify."
Danny has been sailing most of his life, on a Sunfish, O'Day 17, Hoby 18 and Flying Scot. At 11 he crewed for two weeks from Tampa to Key West. At 13 he sailed as a deckhand on a 30' Tahiti Ketch from Jacksonville, Florida to Rhode Island. "I grew up wanting to be Robin Lee Graham." After college he fished in Alaska and then paid $3500 for a 30-foot Piver trimaran. He cruised on it for 8 months, stepped off and immediately sold it for what he had invested in it. And so was born the idea of Disposable Cruising.
Many marriages have been ruined by unrealistic cruising expectations, but Danny was smart. He knew from previous situations that, though Susan had no sailing experience, he was not the one to teach her. "There's a certain power imbalance when one person knows more than the other." He wanted her to love sailing and for it to become a permanent part of their newly-joined lives, so he encouraged her to take sailing lessons. Learning how to sail on a laser in the summer in Seattle consisted of bobbing more than sailing, but Susan was confident that she would pick up the rest of the necessary skills along the way.
Though Danny wanted Susan to play an equal part in their cruise, he knew that the mechanics of sailing and boat maintenance were not aspects that she could learn immediately. What she was already competent in, though, was navigation and weather. An experienced rock climber, Susan was able to take her knowledge gained through that sport and apply it to sailing. Her role was now as important as Danny's, and the power imbalance was lessened.
In Freelancer they had found their prefect honeymoon boat. They knew that they only needed a boat with gear that would last six months, so they outfitted her accordingly: simply and cheaply. They sailed her through the Bahamas, the Turks and Caicos and to the Dominican Republic. Six months after they'd left they returned to Florida and sold the boat for over $11,000. Before their first credit card payment was due, they paid off the balance and recovered the money they had invested in outfitting the boat. For only $1,000 a month they had lived a six-month dream.
Because of Freelancer, to Danny and Susan simple equals romantic. A foot pump and wind generator remind them of their honeymoon. But romantic isn't always realistic, and as our lives change, so must our expectations. Now, ten years later, they have a seven-year-old daughter with Down's syndrome and a three-year-old son. But they also have another dream. The children necessitate that this dream be a little different, but the concept is the same.
Because of their daughter's balance issues, they decided on a catamaran. Creative financing with their home in Seattle allowed them to borrow enough money to buy and outfit a 47' Nautitech. Renters are paying both the house and boat mortgage and, if history repeats itself, they should be able to cruise for two years, sell the boat for what they have invested in it, and pay off the loan with no loss of capital.
They found a boat that met their needs in Curacao, and Danny and friends brought it up to Florida. While in the Bahamas in light winds the engines died. After raising the sails and looking at a chart, Danny chuckled.
"Oh, I can do this!"
He tied the dinghy alongside and maneuvered the catamaran into the tricky anchorage at Clarence Town, Long Island. Andrew Cartwright was still there and was able to work his magic again. And the fee, though slightly higher ten years later, still included a bottle of rum.
Danny and Susan have perfected the art of Disposable Cruising and are about to set off on their third nearly-free cruise. The boat is bigger to accommodate the growing family/crew; this cruise is longer in order to fulfill larger dreams; and the monetary stakes are higher, but if their luck holds, in two years they and their children will have replaced the debt with memories, and they'll have the opportunity to step back into their "real lives" right where they left off. Unless they decide to just keep sailing.
After sailing for a few months on Freelancer they noticed a change in people's reactions to their story. At first the boaters they met were impressed that they were out for six months on a sailing honeymoon. Then, instead of being greeted with smiles of appreciation, they were questioned.
"Why are you going back? Why quit after six months?"
The answers they gave, though seemingly adequate in their minds, only led to more questions.
"But why go back for your work? You can work along the way. Why go back to have kids? You can raise kids on a boat."
These questions have lingered and are part of their inspiration to sail away again. They are convinced that it's worth it, turning their lives upside down in order to go cruising again and give the kids the opportunity to live this life. The immediate goal is to sail for six months and re-evaluate: to come back or go on. And at the end of their allotted two years, they know they will again be faced with the same questions. Why go back? If the romance of sailing can be maintained with two little ones onboard, who knows: they may just keep chasing the horizon.
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