Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Getting some paper

My wife and I had talked about sailing away for a few years, but there was always just one more thing standing in our way.   There was some unexpected bill, and we couldn't afford to travel, and one excuse after another.

Finally, we decided it was time to stop waiting for everything to be perfect and to take some concrete steps.  And the first step was to get some experience on a bigger boat.   And to do that, we needed some paper saying we knew what we were doing.

So in early 2015, we signed up for a bunch of sailing classes through ASA.   The first two would be here in the Twin Cities, on Lake Minnetonka.  We just completed that one last week.   As expected, using the wind to move around was the easy part.   Managing a boat and all the gear, along with docking and anchoring, was where we got the most out of the class.   And having gone through that, I'm very glad we bothered to take a class before we considered getting a boat.   There are dozens of ways to make mistakes, and I'd rather make them when someone experienced is preventing real harm from them.

Our next class is scheduled for early August, and is a two-day class on Lake Superior.   Then I will be taking the navigation class in October, and in December we are taking the catamaran class in Florida, and staying on the boat for 5 days.

Does the paper matter?   It might, eventually, if we want to charter a few boats before we buy one for ourselves.   But mostly, it matters to me, to know that I've done what I can to keep my family safe.

The beginning

July 2015:

Welcome to my sailing blog.  This blog is intended to describe thoughts, feelings, plans, facts, mistakes, tips and tricks on my journey from being a home-owning midwesterner to owning a live-aboard boat on the ocean.   The title, Nowhere Slowly, is from the common description of the cruising lifestyle as 'going nowhere slowly at great expense'.    The other most common description is 'boat repair in exotic locations'.   Why either of these is appealing to anyone is a bit of a mystery, yet there seems to be a draw to both of those that goes beyond mere sightseeing.

I grew up in northern Wisconsin.   To say that sailing as a lifestyle was a remote idea is a huge understatement.   It was beyond alien, not even a glimmer of thought in the deep recesses of my brain.  Even as I took sailing lessons around age 30, the idea that it could be anything more than an afternoon of entertainment was foreign to me.

And so, I went about doing all the things that middle class people are supposed to do: get married, have kids, buy a house, and save for retirement.    But a funny thing happened on the way to Social Security -- I found an amazing wife who wasn't afraid to dream big and knew how to make things happen.  I was excellent at the mundane and the predictable and the safe; she was good at taking chances and inspiring change.   And so we found ourselves in the rare position of having saved a lot of money and having a comfortable life, yet dreaming of something completely different.

 Sometime around 2005 we bought a Hobie Getaway catamaran, but in our area places to dock it either had huge waiting lists or were prohibitively expensive (not to mention an insanely short sailing season).   So we'd get out sailing when we could, but we had to trailer it, and rigging the mast up and down each time we wanted to sail, combined with unpredictable Minnesota weather, made our sailing much more rare than either of us wanted.   And it was still just an occasional hobby.

I'm not sure when sailing-as-a-lifestyle entered my brain.  I suspect it was through an accidental YouTube video, when I noticed that some boats have sleeping and cooking and bathroom facilities.   And once I saw that, I searched another.  And another.   And the searches kept getting bigger and bigger.   "Maybe if we win the lottery we can get this 70 footer -- look at that galley!"   Eventually, I could't stand the dreaming, and stopped looking for a while, to avoid the frustration of knowing what I couldn't afford.   But the seed was planted, and I kept coming back to the ads and the videos.    And then I discovered an online cruising forum, and found out that lots of people had done it with a lot less experience and a lot less money.

But our lives and our finances were aimed for age 62.   Or maybe 59 1/2 if we were lucky.     But I would read the cruising forums and look at the sailboat ads, and get less and less patient with my office job.   I had (and still have, as I write this) a great job, and I kept telling myself I shouldn't be dreaming of more.   But 30 years of predictablility and safety had taken it's toll.   I was ready to go and do something that was not so.....expected.

Finally, this year, things started coming together, and it looks like we can retire next year, when I turn 55.  I'm 54 now, and suddenly, this crazy dream seems uncomfortably close.    Can I really step that far outside my comfort zone in just a year?