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.

While You're Waiting to be Ready to Go

September 21, 2015

From the time we finally made the decision to sail away until we found a small boat that we could raise three kids on was four years. During that search, our determination never wavered: we were going to give this lifestyle a chance. If we hated it, we could sell the boat, settle back on land, get real jobs again, and jump back on the treadmill. But we knew that at least for some period of time, we would be "out there." One of the steps we took during those years of searching that most ensured our future success and enjoyment of the lifestyle (besides reading every book and magazine article we could find) involved pretending. Most would-be cruisers could use more pretending in their lives.

We all know the adage about perfection coming with repetition, but few of us have the willpower to follow through on this wisdom. Good friends of ours were known for their "we’ll do that once we get out there" attitude. Yes, you will, BUT if you practice a few techniques before then, the transition will be less of a learning curve and more about enjoying the experience. Here are some examples.

Water conservation is imperative on a cruising boat. (If you think you can use all water you want because you have a "reliable" water maker, you either haven't been cruising long, or you are playing ostrich.) And habits don't change easily. So why not practice your water conservation techniques before you have to? Even if you still live in a house, there are steps you can take to decrease your water usage while practicing for life aboard. Living at a marina with convenient water while you wait to go cruising? Keep track of how much water you use and challenge yourself to use less each week. Learn to use less water when washing your hands or brushing your teeth. If you have a dishwasher in your house, quit using it and practice hand washing. Then, learn to hand wash with less water. A good way to judge the amount of water you use is to heat your water in a tea pot and only allow yourself to use that much. Practice until washing dishes in only a few cups of water is a habit that you can take with you when you are "out there."

Another area where it is possible to practice even before you move aboard is cooking. While we were still living in a house, we had "boat night" dinners. Dave limited his ingredients to items that we were sure to usually have aboard: cans, milk, eggs, cabbage, and various condiments. We still use some of the recipes he invented during those "boat night" dinners, though his repertoire has grown exponentially. Imagine you have been anchored off a small island waiting for weather to pass. You've run out of bread, tortillas, pita, crackers, and junk food. What do you have for lunch? Can you bake bread (without a breadmaker)? Can you make your own tortillas and pita? How many snack foods can you prepare? Do you make granola bars, cereal, or yogurt? [I know someone is going to tout all the storage space their boat has and the fact that they simply BUY all those things. OK, sure, you CAN, but is that really your best option? Are you willing to pay $14 for a box of Fruity Pebbles in the Bahamas? Or $6 for a loaf of bread?] By practicing your boat recipes before you leave, you can learn which ones you like and bring along the non-perishable ingredients necessary to make them. Wherever you are and however long you may be "out there."

Cook's best friend

While we're talking about cooking, there is more to a successful galley than recipes. A pressure cooker saves time, water, and cooking fuel. Less time cooking means less heat in the boat, as well. We found a copy of Pressure Perfect in a marina book exchange and now use it nearly every day. We pressure cook our rice, desserts, banana bread, even Thanksgiving dinner. For a year we lived on a Bolger sharpie without an oven, so the pressure cooker was our substitute. Now that we are back aboard our "real" boat, we still use the pressure cooker nearly every day. We actually now have two pressure cookers aboard. (Don't ask.)

I recently read a comment online about a sailor who owns his boat, has no bills, but still doesn't think he can go cruising because he has no money so he must keep working. My advice to anyone who wants to sail away is to start living on your cruising budget long before you drop those dock lines. It seems that as long as money comes in every week, it tends to go out just as quickly. For one month, track every single dollar you spend. Every soda you buy, every gallon of fuel, every cup of coffee, every "quick beer," every meal you eat out, phone, internet, slip fee, every single dollar. Cruising friends of ours were determined to live on less than $2,000 a month once they left. But while they were preparing, they spent three times that, and not just on boat parts and outfitting, either. When we talked about a food budget they said, "We only spend $600 a month on food." Dave and I both called bullshit at the same time. Our friend finally admitted, "Well, not counting meals we eat out." If you think you can live on $2,000 a month, start NOW! Quit going out to eat, quit drinking in bars, quit splurging on Starbucks, quit buying all those gadget that the sailing magazines say you have to have. Buy used parts if you absolutely have to have something. Shop for clothes at thrift stores. Be honest with yourself. If you can't live on a budget now, how will you be able to when you're out there?

The list of preparations you can do before you sail away is long, and I'll save you from all the details, but of course learn to sail is number one on that list. Learn to heave to, practice raising your trysail, deploy your para-anchor or drogue a few times, and did I mention, learn to sail. (Yes, with the motor off.)

There isn't some magic switch that gets flipped when we leave to go cruising. Your life doesn't automatically change. The magic is in YOU and the changes YOU decide to make. Practice now so you can spend more time enjoying it all later.

Pickling is about more than pickles. MONDAY we'll share our newfound fascination with fermented foods.

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