Cruising truths, Part 1: Staying financially afloat and making life decisions

If there is one consistent truth about cruising on a sailboat, it’s that everyone out here makes it work in different ways financially. There really is no one size fits all approach.

Some save money and go for a set amount of time — 1, 2, 3 years, etc. Some use their retirement to sail off into the sunset. Others save and then save some more before setting out to see how far they can make it before needing to refill the kitty. Yet others employ an on again off again approach. And still others — like us over the past three years — work from the boat as they go.

With all of these varied approaches, there are tough and sometimes stressful decisions to make about when to leave, where to go next or whether to stop for some time in order to get back out. While this is hard to write, we’re going through these financial and life decisions now.

One of my least favorite subjects is money. I loathe thinking about it and the stress it causes. I dislike what it does to people and relationships, how it creates and perpetuates greed, and permeates through nearly everything in society. Everyone is beholden to the almighty dollar, making it, saving it and spending it. That’s life. 

But the single biggest thing I hate about it, is owing it — debt.  Which is part of our current predicament. This past fall and winter, when Yahtzee needed a new rudder and far more work than we anticipated, we went through our cruising kitty quickly and then accrued debt just as fast in order to get her back in the water. Our reality was that we had nowhere else to go. Yahtzee is our home and we couldn’t let her sit on the hard while we tried to make money to pay for all the work. At the time, that simply wasn’t possible. So debt it was.

Fast forward to now, and we’ve been put firmly between a rock and a hard place because of that debt, and need to pay it off so we can keep cruising on what I make. With no car, childcare or moorage to pay for, we have very few bills in general, but the debt part has to get fixed so we can go farther. Or so we think.

There are a few problems with stopping to work, the largest of which is Jill getting a job. Even though she has a masters degree in social work, credentials and work history, she doesn’t get rewarded by any potential employer for raising two children for the past four years. We’re finding out that having a gap in work history is quite tough to overcome. It’s a truth in our world that, generally, if a mom stops working to raise children, it’s harder to break back in.  

Once Jill does secure a job, though, the remaining issues become paying to basically re-enter society. We’d need to pay for full-time moorage again, and would more than likely need to buy a car (hate that thought!) and put the kids in some type of childcare. All three of those are expensive and would immediately take up a large portion of what she would be making. 

The difficulty then becomes that the trappings of land and jobs ashore will effectively suck us in, literally forcing us to pay so much to “live” that it might not be feasible to actually reduce our debt quickly. In this day and age, that’s how it goes. And that reality, the one where we’re just spinning our wheels on land, is a hard one to come to terms with. Because, in essence, we know that it’s actually cheaper and more personally fulfilling for us to keep cruising. Far more.

Sharing all of these life decisions and hurdles that we’re facing isn’t meant to come across as complaining. Rather, it’s to share the truths of life and cruising as we know it. I’m sure we’ll go through similarly difficult trials and tribulations again, and other cruisers will too.

Our reality right now is figuring out what to do next. Currently, we have some ideas but nothing set in stone — and we’re comfortable with that. For the time being, we’ll keep cruising, living in the moment and enjoying where we are with the ones we love. That’s how we roll. 

7 thoughts on “Cruising truths, Part 1: Staying financially afloat and making life decisions

  1. Hi Andy,
    Thank you so much for the open-kimono sharing. I’m with you– wish the money would just take care of itself. I know that, for some people, it actually is not much of a factor in making decisions.
    Growing up I sailed small boats (Penguins, Cougar Cats) on Lake Washington, sailed in the San Juans, worked at the canneries on Prince William Sound and King Cove, and in 1980 sailed Seattle-SF-LA-French Polynesia in a CT-41 before returning to Seatle settling into wife and family starting at age 32. Now at 67, we have children at 30 and 32, and I miss the rolling hull under my berth, the active cruising life of exploring, and the simple bliss of sailing. And now grandchildren will absorb much energy.

    I realize that you are not hanging up the cruising/blogging just now. Even so, please know that your blog has helped me survive my last few years of our self-chosen, but all-absorbing business of supporting/growing/giving away our school for 50 young children, 2.5 through 6. The anchor you have given the boys by offering them the maximum responsibility that they can take is a foundation that will set them apart from almost all other children on this planet. The mantra of every young person is “let me do it myself”. Traveling will be enriching and healthy for them for a few more years still–then peers become critically important.
    Meanwhile, you are missing the smokey haze in western Oregon caused by wild fires. You will also miss the millions of people flocking to Oregon to be in the path of the August 21st total eclipse.
    Enjoy every moment, Andy. I’m sending you possibilities of clarity, vision, acceptance, and discipline.

    Keith in Albany, Oregon

    1. Thanks for your kind words, Keith. You’re right, we’re definitely not burying the anchor, we just need to get our finances in order so we can keep going. Fortunately, the hole we’ve dug ourselves isn’t too deep, but we need to fill it sooner than later so it doesn’t get any deeper. There’s a big world out there yet to explore. Cheers, Andy

  2. I’m with you Andy. I hate thinking about money. I also agree with you, that it is very hard on relationships. And I hate all the greed in this world. I hope you and Jill don’t have this problem and can figure it out together. I’d sure like you to be able to keep cruising and work from the water. If I could I would finance you.

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