I wanted to shake up my life and go sailing (or learn on the job, so-to-speak) so headed to Florida to crew on a catamaran. This is about how it went or, rather, didn't - and my life since. Hopefully it will lead to a catamaran on the clear aqua blue waters of the Caribbean Sea, watching the sunset, a coconut rum and coke in hand. You must START AT THE BEGINNING of the blog, April 2009, to get the whole story...

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

WHAT DOES IT TAKE? (guest post)

A few days ago I got the bright idea of having someone do a guest post on my blog and immediately Mike Sweeney came to mind. I have been reading his very informative and entertaining blog, Zero to Cruising, for over a year. He is living my dream life. Reading the process, from start to present, of how he turned his dream into a reality resulted in much admiration. And envy. So here, in a nutshell, is how he did it. Be prepared to be inspired. And should it whet your appetite for more, be sure to visit his blog and start from the very beginning.

"I wish I could do that" is the oft-heard battle cry of those who dream of selling out and sailing off into the sunset but, nonetheless, remain landlocked. What is it that allows some people to take that leap of faith and move forward with their dreams while others allow time to pass them by and their dreams to collect dust? As one of those in the first category, Sandra thought that perhaps I could shed some light on this subject, although I'm not so sure that I can. For my wife Rebecca and me, it really wasn't all that difficult.

Don't get me wrong, it was challenging in the physical sense. We had all the standard encumbrances that most people use as excuses (or 'reasons' if you prefer). We had a house, which represented a good chunk of our financial assets and which, of course, we needed to sell. No question, people often find this a tricky issue and will frequently quote their particular community's depressed real estate market as backup for this defense. And of course, our house was filled with all kinds of 'stuff'. You know, the kind of stuff that would definitely not fit on a little boat. Yes, we had to sell all that too. In this case, we found internet services such as Kijiji and Craig's List to be invaluable. Note that neither the house nor the objects within it will sell unless you actually put them on the market!

Of much greater difficulty was the sale of our business, my life blood for well over two decades. Ours was a business with a very strong personality component, making for an especially tricky transition to new owners. With time and patience though, a deal was struck that left all parties involved happy. Again, if we had not been actively seeking a buyer, we would still be back on land working instead of cruising the Caribbean as we are now.

What of family? No, we did not have young children in school although with the number of kids we have seen happily living and traveling on boats, I am convinced that this would not have been an issue even if we had. Our daughter is independent and living on her own and both she, and the remainder of our families, were very supportive of our dreams to cruise south.

What about experience? Certainly you must be a licensed Captain with thousands of miles of blue-water sailing under your belt before you go cruising, right? Well, no. The truth is that, at the time we set in motion our plan to go cruising, neither my wife nor I had ANY sailing experience. We did ultimately take a short 10-day course, which we found extremely helpful, but many others have cast off without even that small bit of instruction.

Oh yes, a boat - you will probably want one of those, but finding a seaworthy vessel is the easy part. There are thousands for sale in every costal city on the globe. Fire up your computer and do some research and you'll no doubt be able to come up with a short-list of your needs and desires. Enjoy this process but don't get too wrapped up in trying to find the 'perfect boat' because no such thing exists. They say that all boats are compromises and this, we have found, is true.

"But I'm not a millionaire. I could never afford such a lifestyle." I can assure any of you reading this that my wife and I are far from wealthy and, to be completely honest, we have nowhere near enough money to support ourselves forever. Is this really a valid excuse though? Do you have enough money to support yourself indefinitely on land if you were to stop working today? I would suspect not, and we are no different in this respect except for two significant things; the first is that the sailing/cruising lifestyle is, by its nature, one of minimalism. Most people find that the expenses they incur while traveling - to some of the most beautiful places on Earth I should add - are a small fraction of what they used to spend just to subsist on land. The second is the crucial one though: confidence. In our case, we firmly believe that when the time comes for us to go back to work, or to earn some money, we'll be able to do so. And we'll be able to do it when and where we choose. This last ingredient, confidence - or faith if you prefer, is what prevents most people from taking that all-important initial step which would turn their dreams into a reality. Many will say that they're simply working towards their goals, on their 10-15 year plan, but I suspect that the vast majority will never reach the point where they cut the dock lines.

If there is one bit of information that I can share which will hopefully push some people from the dreamer category into the cruiser category, it's that out there on the water today, enjoying all the amazing benefits that the cruising lifestyle provides, is every conceivable type of person you can imagine. There are men and women, some who are wealthily while others would be considered poor, some with big boats and others with tiny craft, some with plenty of experience and others who, like us when we started, are complete newbies. Some people are out there traveling on their own while others have their entire family on board with them. You'll find some young, fit people and countless others who are at or beyond retirement age. The point is that if they can do it - if WE can do it, so can you. Believe this, really believe it and you'll have taken that first key step into making your dream of sailing off into the sunset a reality.


Mike Sweeney and his wife Rebecca are full-time cruisers, currently exploring the Caribbean on their catamaran. They departed Canada in the summer of 2010 after divesting themselves of virtually all of their land-based possessions. You can read a step-by-step account of how, in two years, they went from being self-employed martial arts school owners, with absolutely zero sailing experience, to live-aboard cruisers on www.ZeroToCruising.com.
All photographs are mine and not to be copied without express permission from me (click on them to see the large version).
Some names have been changed to protect my butt.

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