I'm not sure what makes you an "official" full-time cruiser, but I would say giving up your apartment and your permanent mooring, getting rid of all of your stuff and moving what you have left aboard your sailboat qualifies. Since no one has come around to give us any sort of official certificate that proves that we've joined the full-time cruising world of unemployed and retired vagabonds, I've had to make our own. Much nicer than any of the official ones they're handing out, if I do say so myself. For $1.76 payable in chocolate, I'll be happy to make one for you as well.
So how did we find ourselves in the situation of being full-time cruisers in New Zealand? Well, here is how it happened...
1. Scott learned how to sail and fell in love. (With sailing that is, not another woman.) Scott got his first taste of sailing when he was lucky enough to be a last-minute crew replacement moving a friend's sailboat in the Mediterranean. He absolutely loved it. They had crazy weather and rough conditions at times and he loved that even more. Crazy + Scott = happy camper.
2. Scott bought this book called "How to Brainwash Your Partner to Embrace the Sailing Dream" and applied the techniques he learned into convincing me this was a good idea. One of his best efforts was when his friend (whose boat he helped move in the Med) offered to take us on a weekend sail up to Oban in Scotland. It was lovely - delicious food, nice wine, beautiful scenery, pleasant weather and good company. I agreed to do more of this sailing thing. Seemed okay to me.
3. Scott did more sailing in Scotland and other cool places in Europe such as Portugal, Spain, Sardinia, Italy, Greece, Croatia and Ireland. For years, he read all sorts of blogs and books, haunted the sailing and cruising forums, listened to podcasts, looked longingly at boats for sale and basically didn't stop talking and dreaming about sailing. After a few years, I realized that he might actually be serious about this.
4. I got a job in Auckland, New Zealand otherwise known as the "City of Sails". Scott was ecstatic. It was like he had died and gone to heaven without all of the horrible death part of it and all. He got hooked into the racing scene and discovered that sailing while trying to beat other sailboats to the finish line was possibly even more exciting than cruising. It might have something to do the his competitive nature and the danger aspect of it all (they remove the lifelines, get pretty darn close to other boats and sometimes someone falls in the water).
5. I took a practical sailing class with Penny Whiting. I've seen what can happen when husbands try to teach their wives how to do things and decided a different approach was in order. We asked around and Penny's class was highly recommended. It was really great in terms of giving a basic understanding of sailing and some excellent practical experience.
6. We chartered up in the Bay of Islands in New Zealand a couple of times. The first was in 2011 on a little Davidson 20. It was a good experiment - the weather was nice, we got to see some really nice anchorages and I got to practice some of the things I had learned on my sailing course. It was such a nice experience that we did the same thing again in 2012. Quite a different little adventure. There was a fair bit of drama with bad weather, equipment breaking, Scott losing the lens out of his glasses, having to change over to another boat and the list goes on. I think Scott put valium in my drinking water because for some reason I decided we should do another charter the following year. I think that was a tip he read in his "Brainwashing Your Partner" book.
7. We bought a boat in 2012. We had originally been thinking about doing a charter up in the Whitsunday Islands in Oz, but by the time we added up the charter cost, the airfares from Auckland to Australia, hire car etc. it almost seemed sensible to buy a boat instead. And crazily enough this was my idea! Scott is one excellent brainwasher. We figured that for the cost of a small, old, used boat in New Zealand, we would get far more use out of her than one week's charter and might be able to get some money back out of her when we sold her on. So we bit the bullet and bought a classic Kiwi boat - a Raven 26.
8. We did a lot of sailing in the Hauraki Gulf during the summer of 2012/13 (it is the Southern Hemisphere people, that's why summer happens from December - March down here). And we had a great time! It probably helped that we had one of the nicest summers in a long time in Auckland (unfortunately it was due to a drought), but we also had a great time going to places that we wouldn't normally have been to (like Great Barrier Island) without a boat.
9. We realized at some point that we're middle-aged. We could have waited to cruise full-time once we retired, but if you wait too long, you might find that you've, well, waited too long. Fortunately, I got made redundant. And as a parting gift, they gave me a check and some cake and a nice card. And that sealed the deal. With a little extra money in the savings account, we decided to take some time off and go cruising. Who knows maybe we can make it a permanent thing and call it "early retirement". I recently stopped dyeing my hair so the gray hairs might make the whole retirement thing believable. But we'll see how it goes...do we enjoy it and how long can the cruising kitty hold out. Check back in in a couple of years. We'll let you know.
10. We got rid of our stuff. Well our stuff in New Zealand anyway. We still have lots of stuff in Scotland that Scott will need to sort out after our summer cruising in New Zealand. I sold off some of my clothes and I gave the rest to charity. I gave books to friends. I consolidated my vast DVD collection to make it more portable. And I decided I really can live without a microwave, a fridge, a blender, an oven, my hairdryer and even my electric toothbrush.
11. And we started a blog. This thing that you're reading now. My memory is getting really poor and someday we'll want to look back on our adventures and have a good laugh at the silly things we did.
Now we're off cruising until the end of March 2014 in the Hauraki Gulf and Bay of Islands here in New Zealand. After that, we'll sell our boat here and head back to the States to upgrade and get a larger boat (hopefully with a fridge and oven this time) and sail in North America, the Caribbean and then who knows where after that.
On a more technology related note, we don't have internet access on our boat so posting to the blog may be a bit sporadic, as well as replying to any emails or comments.
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