To buy a sail boat...
Be prepared for it to actually happen!
It’s February 2019 which means we are getting really close to beginning our massive adventure sailing around the world starting the end of April. Every milestone that passes feels bigger than the last in our preparations to start our journey and the end of February will mark a very significant one. We will move out of our London property and our only home will be the boat with London rented out. This is a kind of ‘point of no return’ milestone which has been a long time coming. We will finally join the hard core live-aboard community on the water and the luxuries of land life that we took for granted will vanish rapidly. But before I start to think about the next chapter in April I wanted to reflect on all the things we have done to bring us to this point and take a moment to appreciate the effort that has got us here. I have gone through aspects of this in previous posts so I will try here to simply list chronologically all the things that have taken place since the idea was conceived to us moving on-board full time.
Don’t underestimate the effort involved
To set the scene it is worth mentioning how we might have initially underestimated the amount of time and effort involved in doing this. Oh and I don’t mean the sailing around the world bit, I am referring to market research, boat selection, purchase, marina selection and moving on-board only! I will write more on 'the sailing bit' when we start our journey properly! During the Dusseldorf boot , (boat show) we got talking to an experienced couple of sailors and they asked about our plans. We weren’t really too sure so we guessed the answer. They laughed and said they reckoned it could take at least a year to get everything sorted. They were right in a sense because the dream started in April 2017, we met them in March 2018 and we will set off in April 2019! We have read so many blogs and seen vlogs that try to show how anybody can do this, and I agree that if you have some resources and motivation it may be possible but it is not to be underestimated.
Have the ambition to do it
To set off on your own boat you must really want to do it. Completely. You must dream of it and be able to visualise it. You must obsess about it and read and watch every single thing about it. Almost everything you do should contribute in some way to making your dream a reality. If you fulfill these criteria you are likely to talk about it a lot, and to surround yourself with people who have the experience, insights and opinions you can learn from. You must be willing to leave behind life as you know it. A change of lifestyle like this is all consuming and if you are determined enough to make it happen, it follows from this that you will do almost anything to make it happen. Implicit in the decision to go sailing is the decision not to live in an apartment or house with amenities at your doorstep, with a well paid job and the security of familiar surroundings. In fact, it could mean that you will sell almost everything you have ruthlessly as you keep your eye on the prize that is your goal to sail the world. To make it happen you have to be willing to work and save, work and save. How long this might take will be obviously determined by how much you get paid, your current cost of living and whether or not you have anything big to sell such as property, car etc. Once you are clear on your dream, the sacrifices it entails and what you need to do to resource it, the time will come to execute the details in the plan. We had a very high level timeline and an idea of what needed to be done within that timeline but to some extent things unfolded organically.
Be inspired by the influences that surround you
Neither of us remember the exact conversation where the idea manifested itself but we guess it must have come up during the spring of 2017. At that time we were spending a lot of time back in Verbier, Switzerland. Commuting to and from there to work in Manchester. Jim mentioned a friend there who had lived aboard a yacht in the Caribbean for 8 years and the one thing this friend had said was that if he could do it differently he would have preferred a Catamaran rather than the Monohull he lived on because of the additional accommodation. This was the first seed planted toward the idea of living on a boat and the possible benefit of it being a Catamaran. In May we had a Kite-boarding holiday in Mauritius. During that break we went on a dolphin watching trip and watched in amazement as a rowing boat arrived after rowing all the way from Australia. We wondered what it would be like to have our own boat and arrive somewhere like Mauritius. Imagine being able to launch the Kites off the boat in paradise?
Do your market research
That summer I was flying back and forth to the USA for work and started watching Youtube sailing vlogs obsessively. La Vagabond and others like them portrayed a dream that could be possible. They were both pretty young with presumably little money to start with. The more we watched the more the idea grew. By September that year we decided we would go to the Southampton boat show for the laugh. The place was packed and it was a beautiful day. We went aboard five or six Monohulls which were truly beautiful. Later in the day we went aboard a Lagoon, a Fountaine Pajot, a Nautitech and a Catana. All the Catamarans took my breath away. I had never been on a private sailing Cat and we both felt compelled to find a way to make it happen. We bumped into someone we knew who asked if we were in the market for a boat, we both laughed, ‘Yeh, that would be the dream eh!?’
In October one of the sales guys from Lagoon that we had met at the boat show got in touch to offer us a test sail on a new Lagoon 42 and so we headed to Cornwall with Jim’s dad and spent a great day on the water. That was my first time sailing on a Catamaran. We were very inspired and also slightly unnerved by the size of the boat as Jim had only ever sailed Monohulls.
Start selling all your stuff!
Around that time we moved from Verbier back to London and Jim decided we were ready to try and sell Verbier. We started to think of how we could downsize and fund sailing and this would certainly help. We continued to enjoy London life with frequent trips back to Switzerland for Polaris festival, a winter dance festival and some skiing. The apartment there was not selling so we were taking advantage of having the best of both worlds. In between visits though the apartment was also rented to holiday makers. We spent Christmas with Jim’s family in East Sussex and New Years with mine in Dublin and Donegal. After the break we were back to work and started the new year with a renewed focus and determination to get the boat plan off the ground. Things were still very loose in terms of what the plan was and what we wanted. At the end of January we went to the Dusseldorf boat show where we attended a very informative blue water sailing seminar. We were inspired by the idea of transatlantic sailing as well as coastal. This would influence our preference of boat later. There we met Jimmy Cornell, the famous sailor and journalist who has sailed over 200,000 miles and has written numerous sailing books. He also started the ARC rally. He mentioned that his favourite sailing destination of all time is the Marquesas Islands in the South Pacific. Admiring his taste, we naturally added this to our list.
Get some experience
In February we test sailed a Nautiech Open 40 in the Solent. We were disappointed by the lack of interior living space in the saloon and this was probably exaggerated by the bad weather as the boat tries to maximise the outside cockpit area which can be closed in too. In the right weather it would be a nice space. But by now we were starting to research more performance orientated boats and at the London boatshow we got talking to a guy who was raving about Catana. We had never even heard of them. We started to research Catana in detail and decided this was probably the cat for us. We booked a two week holiday in the British Virgin Islands and chartered a Catana 42. Two weeks later our minds were made up. We wanted to sail around the world on a Catana. Between April and July we undertook Day Skipper, Competent crew and VHF training courses. While Jim has sailed quite a lot during his adult life, it is new to me so Jim used the opportunity to fulfill the legal requirement (in some countries) to have a Day skipper qualification while I started learning about this stuff for the first time. It was a great relief when the instructor told me that Jim was an excellent sailor in his opinion! Jim also did a diesel engine maintenance course which he said was a waste of time.
Don't be afraid, make it happen!
After that everything seemed to speed up…. In May ’18 we visited Polaris, a 47 foot 2012 Catana and by July we had a survey done and completed a test sail. After negotiations we signed the contract and flew to where Polaris was to oversee agreed works. On the 14th of August we moved aboard. On the 28th of August we took a small crew and sailed her from France to Sicily taking five days including one stop in the magnificent Bonifacio. We arrived in our winter home on the 1st September where we lived aboard until 6th December. Since then we have been in London and will fly back on the 2nd of March. Between April 2017-April 2019 we decided to follow our dream and get all the practicalities in place. It may sound a long time but every week has involved something to do with making progress on all of this including endless hours of Youtube, many books, five boat shows, three test sails, one survey, one boat, one tender, one outboard, all the paperwork, four training courses, 700 nautical miles, one property sold, one rented out, one car and a motorbike sold, a car boot-ski sale, trips to the charity shop and about 50 new Facebook friends later… not to mention all the boat maintenance so far… and here we are, nearly ready to go!!!! I need to catch my breath.