Friday, May 29, 2009

And the Survey Says.....

So today is the day our Marine Survey is taking place. It's a bit of a nail-biter day for us, for today our boat can be given a "pass" or a "fail".

For those of you who don't know - a marine survey, as defined by is "An independent evaluation of a watercraft's value and condition by a professional marine surveyor. A complete marine survey consists of: (1) Accurate and detailed description of watercraft; (2) Fair Market Valuation of watercraft; (3) List of deficiencies and recommendations for repair." Basically, our trusted surveyor friend, Marc Nugent of Traverse City, is going to tell us whether or not this boat is worth buying - according to his expertise and opinion. Yikes.

Marine surveys are extremely critical, particularly when buying an older boat. While things might look pretty and shiny on the outside, that might not be the case on the inside (a cliche that rings true in so many areas!). It is the surveyor's job to uncover whatever "ugliness" lurks beyond the teak and fiberglass. Two of main things to uncover are whether or not the hull has any blisters (more common in fresh water boats and a real pain in the butt) and if there is any hull moisture (while boats get wet, you don't want them to absorb water!). These two things, depending on the degree, can greatly compromise the value and performance of a vessel - as can a myriad of other issues not mentioned here.

So today, our little baby is getting tested. She will be poked, prodded, metered, and scrutinized. If she passes - we move forward! If not, well...depending on the severity of the findings we either a) re-negotiate price b) have the owner fix said issues or c) walk away from the boat. It sounds harsh, but it is how it has to be - and yet another reason why you are never to fall in love with a boat. Until the deal is done, of course.

Fingers crossed!

Brittany & Scott

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Answers to common questions we get

1) Are you guys crazy?
Yes and no. Is living on a 35 ft. boat for a few years crazy to some? Yes. Does the idea of crossing a great big ocean on a tiny boat seem insane to others? Yes. Are we certifiable and taking medication? No. So you see, it's all relative really. We *love* the idea of all of it so while it might not appeal to you, it sure as hell does to us!

Can a little boat like that actually handle the ocean!?!
Yes people. Sailboats are designed to go to sea! Most can handle just about any weather thrown at them from squalls to hurricanes if the captain and the crew are competent. We are simply going to take our boat where she wants to go! Just because a boat is bigger absolutely does not make it better or more "seaworthy", in fact - often it is the exact

3) What if there is a storm in the ocean and you can't get to shore?

This might be surprising to some - but usually the last place you want to be during a 'gale force' storm is anywhere near shore. It's usually safer to be out at sea where you can batten down the hatches and ride out the storm with various
storm tactics. It might be uncomfortable, wet and miserable, but it's much better than getting pinned to a lee shore and having your boat smashed to bits by waves and rocks.

What will you do all day?
When you are living on a sailboat there is plenty to do to fill the time. From what I've read, a minimal time cruising is actually spent sailing - all the other time is devoted to upkeep, maintenance, and fixing whatever is broken (they say if 80% of your systems are working at any given time - you are in GOOD shape...meaning, at any given time - one can expect 20% of their systems to be in some form of disrepair). Not to mention the time that will be spend provisioning, hauling diesel and water aboard, exploring the local culture, reading, writing, figuring out boat exercises, etc. etc. You pretty much have to be a numb skull to get bored. We also plan on doing service work as part of our journey - so that will keep us busy as well! (Stay tuned for what that will be - we haven't figured that out yet!)

5) What is going to be the biggest challenge?

Hmmm. Good question. Probably just getting used to living in such a small environment with the bare essentials - but this is what we are most excited about! Getting back to basics! Making our money last as long as possible will also be a challenge. Learning how to properly
provision a boat is something that seems very daunting to me as well. I'm not too good in a kitchen, or a galley for that matter. Even though Scott tells me I am :)

6) Are you scared?

No! We are SOOOO excited!! Will there be "come to Jesus" moments?? Sure. But we have faith in each other and won't be making any rash or silly decisions. Plus, of all the cruisers we have met, heard, read and talked to - life at sea is "scary" maybe 5% of the time. If that. We're way more scared at the prospect of not doing this so it seems a fair trade to us!

7) What about Pirates?

Yes, there has been a lot of talk about pirates these days hasn't there? Well - typically these pirates do not target cruising boats like ours. They are going for the oil tankers - the big bucks. I say typically because at this point in 2009, there have been only 4 known
pirate attacks on sailboats. 4 boats out of the hundreds of thousands that are floating the world's oceans. So is it a risk? Yes. But there is probably a greater risk of getting getting attacked by a rabid squirrel here in Chicago. It's no different from visiting another city or country - know where you are going, know the risks and act accordingly. Despite the fact that the odds are in our favor, we won't be hitting any beaches off the coast of Somalia for sundowners...that would just be stupid.

8) How much is it going to cost?

That's a very good question and one that we're constantly pondering, considering we have limited fundage. From my research it seems it will cost
"whatever you have and more". Yikes. But here's the thing - so what? I have learned from my travels that once you are "out there" things have a way of just working out. I realize that might sound a bit cavalier and naive, but it's worked thus far! I went to Africa with $3,000.00 and a hope and a prayer. What did I do when I ran out of money? I got a job. Where there is a will, there is a way - and if we are resourceful I think there will be plenty of ways for Scott and I to "stay afloat" as it were. We'll probably be living hand to mouth a lot, but perhaps I'll finally learn the importance of budgeting - that all too important skill that my dad has been trying to drill into my head for the better half of my life. I find that when you don't have a choice, things really start to happen. It's good for the soul. But - to actually answer the question - we are trying to budget for about $1,000 -$1,500 per month, give or take a couple hundred here and there. That's what most people spend on rent here in Chicago. This is also why we are going with a smaller boat - the adage goes: "The bigger the boat, the bigger the bucks". Makes sense to me.

Will you get sick of each other?
What!?! Does the flower get sick of the sun?? Does the desert get sick of the rain? Does the skier get sick of the fresh pow-pow?? (I kid people)... OF COURSE we're going to get sick of each other! I mean, come ON. But, we'll also learn a lot about ourselves and one another. Thankfully, Scott and I are both social mavens (okay, that's a stretch) and we are hoping to make lots of friends along the way. In all seriousness though, spending that much time with anyone on a tiny boat for days on end in all sorts of crazy situations is sure to breed some interesting dynamics. We're realistic. But we also love each other a LOT, and gosh darnit, we like each other too so we are going to sail around the world together, for better or worse! :) At least we're not as nuts as
this couple!

10) How long will it take?

I have just realized that I have provided a bunch of vague answers to some legitimate questions, and I am sorry to say that I am going to spoon feed you yet another ambiguous answer. We have no idea how long it will take. Some people do it in 1 year some people have taken 10 years. Some people turn cruising into their lifestyle and live as aqua gypsies for the rest of their lives! It's the same as traveling abroad - I met people who did "around the world" trips in 5 weeks (I hardly feel that is a legitimate journey - this is what travelers call "passport stamp collecting") I have also met people who have spent 2 years or more just exploring South East Asia. We are in no hurry. We're not trying to set any records. We just want to see the world as much as we can! I feel that we will end up somewhere in the middle. To be specific, I think both of us would like to see our stint last 2 years or longer, but only time will tell (sorry mom and Lisa).

Do you have more questions for us? Feel free to ask them in our comments page!
Brittany (and Scott)

On Following Dreams - My musings

As Scott and I get closer to making our dream a reality, I find myself thinking about "dreams". I am always drawn to the quote that I have posted at my desk, right at eye-level - where I can see it always.

Remember your dreams and fight for them. You must know what you want from life. There is just one thing that makes your dream become impossible: fear of failure. Never forget your personal legend. Never forget your dreams. Your silent heart will guide you. Be silent now. It is the possibility of a dream that makes life interesting. You can choose between being a victim of destiny or an adventurer who is fighting for something important. - Paulo Coelho

I read this quote often and every single time it resonates. What are your dreams worth to you? What do you want out of life? What is holding you back from getting it? I am a firm believer in envisioning what you want out of life and asking for it, being "thankful in advance". The Universe works for us, but only if we want it to and allow it to. Only if we believe in our dreams can we give the Universe the coordinates to them.

It has been my personal dream to sail around the world since I was a young girl. My dad is a born sailor who, thankfully, exposed my brother and sister and I to the world of sailing as soon as we could take our first breath. Every year, we would take 3 week cruises along the coast of Lake Michigan - these vacations are home to some of the fondest childhood memories I have. We had no TV, no video games, no ipods - just books and imaginations. My brother, sister and I are all very creative people and avid readers and my father credits this to these cruises. It was a wonderful way to grow up. When I was probably about 13 or so (and an angry rebel without a cause) my dad gave me a book that changed my life.
"Maiden Voyage" by Tania Aebi. I read it and decided that I too would sail around the world one day. Just like that.

It wasn't the last time a book would inspire my life either. The other books that had a profound impact on my life were
"Out of Africa" by Karen Blixen and "I Dreamed of Africa" by Kuki Gallman. I too began to dream of Africa, blindly fell in love with it, and decided I would live there. Just like that. These wonderful books lead me to a 3 year stint in Tanzania, East Africa from 2004 to 2007. Never once did I question my dreams, never once was I afraid, never once did I let anothers doubt dampen the possibility of them. I envisioned what my life would be like and it was everything and more.

So now, my love Scott and I are onto this audacious dream, and what is so wonderful is that it is not only my dream - but his dream too. Scott even purchased a Catalina 30 back in 2003 with the goal to wake the dream up. The time was not right, however, because he hadn't met me yet (wink)! So when we did meet and discover we wanted the same thing - we set the Universe in motion! There is so much to do and so much to learn. There will be so much we sacrifice and so much we gain, there will be pressing challenges and great triumphs. We have a huge learning curve ahead of us - but to me, that is what life is about. Challenging yourself, living life to the absolute fullest, connecting with people - sharing with them, helping them, loving them.

It is so easy to get caught in the fast track of life that we call the "status quo". It is so easy to let our dreams fall by the wayside. That is precisely why the Paulo Coelho quote is right in front of me as I type at my desk - everyone needs to be reminded to dream in this day and age. Can you afford to follow your dream? Can you afford not to?

Sweet dreams,


Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Getting Closer!

So, it has come to my attention that the entire reason we wanted to start this blog is so that we can chronicle the process of getting ready to cast our lines and sail off into the sunset. There are a multitude of sites and blogs devoted to what happens once you start cruising, but not very much in the way of how to go about doing it. So that's what we want to do...if not for you - the potential cruiser, but for us - to remember all that we did to turn our dream into a reality.


Arguably, the most important - or rather - the most crucial element of this dream (besides the dream itself, of course) is a boat, and a sailboat to be specific. Scott and I don't have one. Yet. The past 5 months or so have been dedicated to finding this elusive sailboat. Seems pretty simple, right? Find a boat you like - buy it, provision it...and shove off!! Yeah. Not so much. Looking for a boat is overwhelming, daunting and, at times, discouraging. But it has been a wonderful learning process.

I am very fortunate to come from a long line of sailors who have some great connections in the boating world. One such person is a broker on the East Coast who goes by Allen Schiller. This man, with his Bostonian accent and no-frills delivery (yet fantastic sense of humor), has been a tremendous help during this journey. He has agreed to help us with this process for "a drink in the islands somewhere" and his expertise and knowlege has been wonderful to have at our disposal.

You see, no two sailboats are alike - and there are thousands of different boats for thousands of different purposes. There are racers, cruisers, racer-cruisers, sloops, ketches, cutters and more. They are made of all different types of fiberglass, wood, steel, aluminum, and even ferro-cement. They have full keels, canting keels, fixed keels, fin and bulb keels and this is only the beginning! Quickly, I realized I needed to put together a list of "ideal criteria" for our boat to help narrow down the search.

Because Scott and I plan to cross oceans we knew we wanted a "blue water boat". The definition of such varies depending on who you are talking to and where you are looking - but the simplest definition is "a boat that is specifically designed to go far offshore". Just google a
"blue water boat" and you will find a litany of arguments, discussions, and posts on what everyone thinks this entails - but based on my research - I found it to be the following (this is an excerpt from an email I sent to Allen when we were narrowing down our search):

1) Seaworthy boat (meaning stronger built and/or purpose built blue water cruiser)
2) Full keel preferably with skeg hung rudder
3) 5' (or less) draft
4) Fiberglass construction
5) 36-40 feet
6) Lots of tankage/stowage (for fuel and water) (I have read that adding this - from say a 40 gallon to a 130 gallon - compromises safety of a boat if it was not designed for "x" amount)
7) Windlass (manual or electric)
8) Center cockpit - for safety and space (again, this is ideal, we will absolutely consider aft-cockpit boats) - with LOTS of drains/drainage
9) Heavy displacement
10) Cutter rig

Keep in mind - there are a thousand other elements that go into a "blue water boat" but these were our (initial) "top 10". And these helped narrow our search. Again - this is what we did. Keep in mind we have little to no idea what we are doing - so please, do not take this (or anything I write) as gospel - I am simply letting you know what we did, and what (presumably - touch wood!) worked for us. For example, the attributes above sacrifice speed which may or may not be important to you. The boat described above will not point and won't beat to windward very fast but it will be very safe at sea. At this stage in the game, we'd rather sacrifice speed for peace of mind when we do (inevitably) hit that weather that makes us wonder what the hell we think we are doing out there on the big ocean.

Okay - so back to the search. I spent countless hours on
Yachtworld searching for Cruising sailboats between 35-40 feet, between 30K-60K and in the Great Lakes region. I would look at a boat, read the "full specs" and then do two things: 1) forward the boat to Allen and 2) research the boat a bit (Sailnet Forum is a great place for info by the way, as is Mahia Expedition's List of Blue Water Boats). I learned a lot about boats doing this - I also learned that there is ALWAYS going to be more to learn. Fun!

Typically, Allen would email me back immediately with his opinion, something like "this boat represents everything that is wrong with Chinese built boats" or "piece of junk". This short and to-the-point information was all I needed to cross boats off the list. After week after week of this, I started learning more and more about "blue water boats" and the different makes of boats that seemed to pop up every time you searched for them. One such builder,
Hallberg-Rassy was on every list and so, naturally, I hit Yachtworld and looked for them (and some others who also made frequent appearances).

It was discouraging at first, because all the most reputable builders and designers are also the most expensive (duh) - and pretty much all the HR's I saw were well into the 6 figures - even for a 36 foot boat!! Talk about holding value!! So I kept looking at other boats more in our price range until one day, while sitting in the confines of my office cube, the stars aligned...

I found a 1975 Hallberg-Rassy Rasmus 35 listed on
Yachtworld in our price range. I jumped on it and immediately sent it to Scott and Allen. Allen replied simply "Hallberg-Rassy's are world class boats if there's enough space in it for you" and that was enough for me! We were given a green light! I'm pretty sure I found everything on the Internet there is to find about that particular boat - and I knew we had a gem on our hands!

The Universe was working for us - because I found that boat just before Mother's day 2009 and Scott and I were heading up to Northern Michigan to see his mom for her 60th birthday which was the same weekend. As serendipity would have it - the boat was located in Elk Rapids which was a mere 30 minutes from Scott's mom's place! So we made an appointment to see it the day before Mother's day. Fate? Perhaps.

Now, the first rule of thumb when buying a boat is to NEVER, EVER fall in love with a boat. This is because "falling in love" can lead you to make stupid, rash decisions with your heart rather than your head (and we all know that, don't we?). So I don't think we fell in love per-say, but we were REALLY attracted to her! Her lines were beautiful, she was impeccably maintained, and just a beautiful boat overall. We knew. While she might not be the one - she certainly could be.

Which leaves us where we are now. We have come to an agreement on price (whoo hoo!!) and are now onto phase II of this boat-buying journey which is a three part saga: 1) booking a marine survey (sort of like an inspection before you buy a home) 2) booking an engine survey (this is a-typical, but because the engine and boat are 35 years old we want to make sure everything is in ship shape!) and finally 3) a sea trial where we will get to sail her.

Sigh. It's a good, albeit surreal, feeling knowing we are *this* much closer to making this happen. There is so much more I want to tell you about the boat, what we plan to do and more specifics, but since this is not a "done deal" I don't want to get too ahead of myself! So, that's all for now and we'll keep you posted along the way!

Your friends,

Brittany (and Scott)
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