Yes, you heard that right…we finally have a concrete plan! I guess all those positive vibes we have been sending out into the universe worked, because we are going to CAMP LEJEUNE! We check out of Camp Pendleton on May 1st. Conor also got his dream job. It feels unreal.
I can’t tell you what a relief it is to have an actual timeline and location. All of the plans we’ve been making over the past few months have been for the best case scenario. We have been holding our breath during the wait, just hoping for it to work out.
We got lucky. So, so lucky.
We decided to downsize, move out of our house, plan a POD pickup, and book an Airbnb for the month of April all under the assumption that everything would fall into place. It was risky (and expensive), but the payoff was worth it, because now the ‘best case scenario’ and the ‘official plan’ are united, and we have already done about 75% of the work!
I also feel like this is the biggest validation that we are on the right path. If our boat plan wasn’t meant to be, it would feel like we were swimming upstream instead. I think the universe is with us instead of against us on this one. Don’t get me wrong, a lot of hard work and planning went into this, and it didn’t just magically happen. However, anyone who has been in the military and rolled the PCS dice for jobs/duty stations knows that the odds aren’t always in your favor. Our outcome is serendipitous, to say the least.
Main requirement for our liveaboard: the boat must float.
But really, because we are so inexperienced, we are not looking for a ‘project’ boat by any stretch. We are on the hunt for a sailboat that is move-in ready, not a fixer-upper. We already feel like we are in over our heads enough without having to worry if the electric will catch fire or if the bilge pump will fail and sink us overnight.
So besides looking for a structurally sound boat, here are a couple of our ‘must-haves’ to make living on a sailboat work for us:
Center cockpit, which means a bigger aft stateroom with enough headroom for Conor
A 3-cabin configuration with aft and v-berth staterooms (basically 2 bedrooms and a main living/kitchen space). Separate cabins with doors allow a bit more privacy when you’re living in close quarters. Enough space, but not too much boat for 2 people to handle when sailing.
Fully-functioning galley with refrigeration
A SEPARATE SHOWER in the head! This is a big one for me. I am not a fan of the idea of a ‘wet head’, where my entire bathroom gets soaked and I have to sit on the toilet every time I take a shower. Gross.
Besides these four things, we can compromise and make most situations work for us. However, if we found the PERFECT boat, it would also include these ammenities:
Low-maintenance (aka no teak) deck
Enough storage space for Conor’s field gear and diving gear
Convertible settee to have extra beds for guests
Notice that these are all liveaboard aspects of the boat, and not a whole lot about thesailing aspect: sails, rigging, navigation systems, engine, etc. That’s because we honestly don’t know enough about that part yet to have a preference. Any recommendations from you experienced sailors? All of our ‘must-haves’ and ‘would-likes’ are pretty superficial, I know. I’m sure by next year I’ll look back at this list and laugh.
Our to-do list is a nightmare. Seriously. It is all over the place. But Conor found this great tool for keeping us organized and on the same page: Wunderlist. We can both access the app and add info/notes when one of us checks something off, even if we’re apart. One-stop access is so nice because some days I feel like we are chickens running around with our heads cut off. I definitely recommend it for anyone organizing a move, vacation, adventure, etc when multiple people are involved in the planning process. (www.wunderlist.com)
Here’s just an outline of what we are dealing with over the next few weeks:
Before we move out:
Figure out what DITY move entails
Boxes for storage/move
Storage for short term/long term in both California and (hopefully) North Carolina, maybe PODS?
Send stuff not going into storage to our families in Seattle
Move-out paperwork with our housing office (Lease ends March 31!)
Sell furniture on Craigslist
Make 5,000 more trips to the donation center…
Clean ENTIRE HOUSE
Move-out inspection at the end of March
Living in limbo (in California still):
Air BNB or month-to-month apartment lease if we have to stay in California through April or May?
Transfer medical records
Any last-minute vet/doctor/dental appointments
Auto appointments for the cars
Sell Conor’s car
TAXES (shit, almost forgot about those)
Forwarding/change of address for mail
Obsessively look at boat listings and daydream about fast-forwarding to the fun part
Heading to new duty station:
Contact boat brokers in the area, start the boat search!
Road trip across the country/where are we stopping? I vote Nashville!
How much PTAD leave can Conor take?
Military move reimbursement?
Getting the BOAT!:
Meet with broker, look at possibilities he or she has found for us
Pick the right boat
Contact surveyor and have them check everything out
Get boat loan
Reserve slip at marina
Get our boat delivered
FINALLY MOVE IN!
Have a headache yet? Welcome to the club. Those are just the big things on the list, not to mention the smaller day-to-day stuff that pops up. There will be a lot more detail added to the “Getting the Boat” section once we get closer. We just have to stay on top of everything and take it one step at a time.
It’s a dangerous one. It sucks you in until you’re so deep down the rabbit hole you have no idea how you got there. You stop yourself, hours later, and try to remember why on earth you are looking at a $1,000,000 yacht that’s in South Africa when you started off searching for a sailboat in North Carolina.
Yes, my friends, I’m talking about www.sailboatlistings.com and www.yachtworld.com. These two sites are great search engines for (trying) to narrow down your boat search. The only problem is, my imagination gets a little too carried away sometimes. It is easy to get caught up in the fantasy of the ‘perfect boat’ and focus everything you would be missing out on if you stuck to your pesky parameters like budget and location.
Despite its addictiveness, it is a fun way to educate yourself on the different boats that are out there and what the market looks like. Every few days I like to check and see if there are any new listings that would be a good fit for us. We have an ever-changing list of possible boats as our favorites cycle out and other options pop up. It can be sad to see a contender get bought by people who aren’t us, but Conor and I firmly believe that the right boat will be there for us at the right time.
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!