There are SO many amazing benefits to living aboard on a military base marina. Gottschalk Marina at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina is our dream marina. Here are the perks:
Close proximity to commissary, PX, and hospital
Walking distance to the gym
Central to base
Reasonably priced and it has immediate slip availability (this is the most important part)
SUPER helpful marina staff
‘Clubhouse’ with free laundry
On the bright side, even if we don’t get Camp Lejeune, Marine Corps bases are (almost) always on an ocean. This is different from the Army and the Air Force, where it is possible to be stationed pretty much anywhere. That would be bad news for our sailboat plan if we had to be in middle America! So at least we can operate under the assumption that we will be on a coast, near water, and have a place for our boat, no matter where we end up.
I tell curious family and friends, “Yeah, we are moving Spring of 2017. Don’t know where to, yet. Or when.” Then I shrug, determined to roll with whatever comes. Still, I am met with incredulous stares from people who have never been through a PCS move before, and can’t believe all the last-minute uncertainties that it entails.
We have been lucky so far, and have lived in Camp Pendleton in Oceanside, CA since early 2014. Yes, I will be very sad to say goodbye to gorgeous southern California. We have had a BLAST here, and it was such a great way to spend our early married years. But when we moved here, I knew it wasn’t going to be forever.
It is hard to feel settled when you know that everything is only temporary. Housing, neighbors, friends—you get a clean slate every few years. Trying to enjoy the last few months here has been difficult as we try to balance looking forward to a new adventure with saying goodbye to the old. Among the things I will miss most are my workout classes and my wonderful writers group.
We should know by March (at the latest) where we are going, and we will be moved out of our house by March 31 (we aren’t renewing our lease). In the meantime, to keep from twiddling our thumbs, Conor and I have started clearing out a bunch of crap we have accumulated to make the move easier. Just waiting, wishing, and hoping we get the location we want, and trying not to get frustrated!
Do you ever get into one of those manic moods where you decide to clean out EVERYTHING in your house? One project turns to two, and then three, and before you know it your plan to tidy the office has resulted in donating three car-fulls of clothes, furniture, and appliances?
(whispers) Uh, yeah. Me neither.
For all my Gilmore Girls fans, I was definitely channeling my inner Emily:
Conor came home and was like, “Are you sure you want to get rid of this? What about that?”
Me: “IT DOESN’T BRING ME ENOUGH JOY!”
I roped him onto my crazy train and, well, this was the result:
Even before deciding to live on a boat, I’ve been obsessed with the idea of minimalism. I came across tiny houses first, and was enchanted with not only their obvious adorableness, but the lifestyle that inevitably accompanied them. Subscribers to the idea of “less is more” accumulate time and freedom instead of material goods.
Conor is gone a lot. And by a lot, I mean we’ve been through two back-to-back 6 month deployments, 6-week field ops twice per year, and the countless 10-day exercises that pop up with little notice. So, we need to make the most of the quality time that we do spend together. By paring down and decluttering our lives, we believe it will help keep our marriage strong.
I think we are already off to a pretty good start. We have never really been “shoppers” and Conor has made a lot of our furniture. We can actually park our car inside our garage (which is more than I can say for most of the people on our street). In fact, looking at all the overflowing garages of my neighbors completely stresses me out. I can’t imagine hauling all of that across the country, unpacking it, then repacking it a few years later to do it all again. We have what we need. I don’t like decorations or knickknacks, and I avoid Etsy. But still, I know we have WAY to much stuff to move onto a boat. It is scary how much stuff the average American accidentally accumulates.
I’m going to back up here for a minute and tell you all what I originally had pictured when we decided to live on a boat.
We would get a catamaran. Hands down. No doubt. Living above the water with more cabins, increased stability, a shallower draft for cruising in tropical waters, and more speed appealed to us. Because of our budget constraints, we were looking at catamarans between 35-38 ft. The market for catamarans is way smaller than for monohulls, and cats are generally more expensive (for a variety of reasons I won’t get into with this post). The smaller (used) catamarans fit within our budget, and I couldn’t wait to try out a Gemini 35 at the San Diego Boat Show.
Then came the biggest surprise for our “perfect boat”: Conor didn’t fit. He was legitimately too broad to navigate the narrow hulls. As I watched him side-shuffle and then have to duck through the doorway into the head, I laughed out loud. I thought, Welp, there goes that plan. This is what happens when you marry somebody who is 6’1” and 235 lbs.
So in an instant, we changed the plan. We found out he fits very comfortably in a good-sized monohull over 40 ft, so those are the sailboats we are looking at now. Every family is different!
On Saturday, January 26, Conor and I went to the San Diego Boat Show. For those of you who are unfamiliar with this event, it is a 4-day extravaganza filled with seminars, vendors, booths, and, of course, BOATS!
We talked with local brokers, attended some classes, and saw the latest updates in boating “stuff.” Of course, having little background with which to compare old vs. new technology, we mostly just walked wide-eyed through the tents. Water-makers, mattresses, motors, finance—it is enough to make your head spin.
The stand-out part of the day was getting to tour some truly gorgeous sailboats. The latest models from major manufacturers were lined up all along the docks, most of which were (ahem) wayyyyyy out of our price range. It was like going to an open house at a Hollywood mansion: fun to ooo and ahhhh but unable to picture yourself actually living there. It was, however, very encouraging to look it some of the used boats that were also on display to help us narrow down what we want when it comes time to purchase one.
I love the Beneteau Oceanis 44, but the Catalina MK II is also a great boat. We will definitely be using a broker to help us find the right fit. We don’t know what we don’t know, if that makes sense. We need somebody who does! There are just SO many choices out there. It can get overwhelming.
We left inspired and reassured that we are on the right path.
Living on a sailboat just makes sense to us. It combines our love of travel, desire for minimalism, and the romantic notion of living in tune with the sea. While we don’t have the complete freedom to travel yet due to Conor’s position in the Marine Corps, we are allowing the next few years to be a learning curve as we discover what this change in lifestyle means for us.
It is also a way to thwart some of the strict regulations that accompany military life. There are already so many day-to-day rules and standards that conforming can feel suffocating at times. Living on a sailboat is a way for us to embrace our individuality and challenge ourselves in a unique way. Conor and I have inherently creative souls, and this alternative environment will nurture that. There is more to life outside of the Marine Corps, and I think that a lot of military families forget that.
Don’t get me wrong, Conor has wanted to be a Marine since he was 12 years old. His father was a Marine for 20 years. It was the lifestyle he grew up in and it shaped who he wanted to be. However, we both agree that we want to do it on our terms. We basically have a military “safety net” as we transition to life aboard. One foot in our old life, and one in our new life.
“Sucking at something is the first step to being sorta good at something.” Words to live by. In my opinion, there is no better way to learn something than by doing it. Currently I don’t feel prepared AT ALL to live on a sailboat. Here is the sum total of my and Conor’s experience level so far:
1 overnight on a 38 ft Hunter via AirBnB
1 weekend beginner level sailing course, certification via American Sailing Association
2 books read about living aboard/cruising
6 months obsessively reading the WindTraveler blog and Googling sailing vocab words I didn’t understand
1 afternoon at the San Diego Boat Show (2017)
That’s it. Props for honesty at least, right? But here’s the thing: we will learn more within 30 days of living on our own boat than we could ever hope to learn via classroom or instructor. I think it is kinda like having a baby: you can read all the books you want on parenting and childbirth, but you aren’t going to fully understand it unless you experience it.