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.