Why a sailboat?
It is the life of getting away from it all. The beautiful sunsets, wildlife, exotic locations and great story tellers are just a few of the things that make this lifestyle one of the most desirable and rewarding. If you have the ability to work online, have savings, or you can use your knowledge of sailing/chartering to generate income than this could be an option for you!
How We Started?
When we were first seriously considering moving aboard a sailboat we went around looking for experience, rather sailing experience of any kind. We first met with a sailor on Kijiji who said he needed help with boat maintenance. We helped rig his mast, and learned how to step a few masts in the process. This was a great opportunity for us. Though we had read a variety of sailing essentials books, it was another experience altogether to actually be there learning about all the “ropes.”
We then started travelling around to marinas, looking for lessons and scouring the bulletin boards looking at all the boats for sale. We went to marinas, and climbed atop some boats who had seen the winds and weather, only not from the water. They had been left on the hard, uncovered and it really was a sad sight to see some of these majestic beauties rotting away.
At one of the marina’s we went to on Georgian Bay, the manager suggested that we talk to some old salts who had done the cruise down to the Bahamas and back many times. We were eager to hear their tales and encouragement of our own adventure, however we were met with shock, and laughter at the thought that three youngsters like ourselves with little sailing experience and a small fortune could buy a boat and navigate her safely down the coast and back. We were all a bit taken aback, and when we arrived back in the van and shut the doors we all looked at each other and said, “I don’t believe them.” “I say we show them that we can do it no matter what!” And… We did do it. Sure we had many odds against us, but our sailing instructor had told us that he believed in us, so we listened to him, and not the “old salts” fixing their beaten up engines.
Sometimes you need people to tell you that you can’t do something to encourage you. And though it didn’t sound like that’s what these men were doing, perhaps they secretly were. So, if anyone is looking to buy a sailboat and start cruising, here are some things that you might need to know! If you have already bought your boat and are looking to cruise down the East Coast of the US, check out the article “25 Things you need to know before sailing the East Coast.”
Need to Know!
Steep Learning Curve:
(Buy a beginners guide to sailing, “Sailing Essentials” is a great place to start. You will need to take sailing lessons. We took, “Basic Keel Boat Cruising” was a great intro to learning how to handle a sailboat in fair weather conditions and in familiar waters. I also recommend taking a course on weather and navigation (We spent our entire trip down the coast learning everything from tides and currents, basic weather prediction, and how to read nautical charts.) YOU CAN teach yourself, but I HIGHLY RECOMMEND taking a course before departure.
We were told that a sailboat is a hole that you pour money into. Initially this is true, but like anything ( a house, car, apartment rent) you have to pay for it. At 26 years of age, I with my fiancée and sister purchased a 29 ft sailboat for $8500 in great condition. Yes, this was a lucky find, however we still spent over $5000.00 prepping her for the water and the journey south. She needed new batteries, a paint job, solar panels, composting head, etc. For some of the detailed pricing, you can check out our future article to see where all the money goes when you own and sail a boat! All in all we spent about $30, 000 CAN all expenses included to buy a boat and travel down to the Bahamas and back for 3 crew, and a cat. This also includes a massive accident we had on the Jersey Shore which cost us $8,000 CAN in towing and repairs, but still! We survived and are now more cautious than ever.
Change of Lifestyle: Your not in Kansas anymore…
No matter what form of lifestyle you are living, whether it’s van dwelling, apartment renting, or backpacking in South America, life out the on the water is like being on another planet. There are different rules out on the water. Things that you never even thought about will become paramount to you. For example, when living on land, I never paid much attention to which way the wind was blowing, or the strength of it. When you are on the water, it is one of the most important things to consider. Depending on the direction of the wind, the waves can become 7 ft, or a glass pond. If you don’t know, don’t go is the motto here. If you are seriously considering buying a sailboat, I highly recommend that you try some other more alternative lifestyles. For example, if you live in an apartment filled with stuff, perhaps you should downsize and move into a smaller apartment, or into a van. Van dwelling is honestly the best step you can take before living on a sailboat. First, you are living in a small space. Many vans have even less space than a boat, and so it is a great way to experience living with less. You also have the chance to experience mobility in your home, and search for places to park, much like anchoring a boat. However, with a van you can simply just stop at a grocery store and pick up food, or if you feel like stretching your legs, stop somewhere and go on a hike. On a boat, things are a little different. You can’t just stop at the side of the road, or go to the grocery store whenever you want. You have to stock up sometimes for months at a time, and be prepared to not see land for weeks. Of course it depends on what kind of cruising you are doing, but the key is, to always expect the unexpected.
Get out there!
I have met many sailors that spend every year cruising up and down the coast and they only began sailing a couple years before starting their adventure! The first step is to get out on the water. Start off by taking a few sailing courses, if you are low on cash try going to a yacht club/marina on race nights and bring a case of beer. Sailors are always looking for extra hands, and you may learn a thing or to about what you like and don’t like about sailing!
Living on a boat is difficult.
Massive sacrifices must be made before you can sail off into the horizon. Often, you must say goodbye to familiar lands, family and friends, hot showers and cold drinks, and hello to tropical isles, crimson sunsets, cabin fever and dolphin tails. Your home becomes the water and you have to be prepared to lose everything in an instant. Life becomes directed by the wind, waves and whimsical weather that transforms sunny skies into super storms in minutes. Finding a safe place for the night isn’t always the easiest, and it can be dangerous. The boat fix it list never ends, and something will often go wrong when you least expect it, so be prepared! If you try to fix everything before leaving the dock, you will never leave the dock.
If you love living on the water, but aren’t ready to sail off to those foreign shores, then living at a dock is a great start. You can enjoy community life, society, showers, and more job opportunities while at a dock and you don’t always have to be worrying about the weather. Often there are weekly race nights where you can get out on your boat without travelling too far from port. And if you ever feel like heading off into that horizon you can always cast off a line.
Many boats are designed to be self sustainable, equipped with water makers, solar/wind power, composting heads, and loads of storage for provisioning. There is a lot to learn to become a competent sailor. Not only do you have to know how to sail the boat safely, but learn how to predict the weather, navigate waters, and continuously prepare for any situation that may present itself. Liveaboard sailing while travelling is its own kettle of fish. If you are looking to relax and sip cold maragarita’s at 4 pm on the dot, the the dock might be a better bet. On the other hand, if you are willing to have salty burnt skin, bleached hair, no schedule but the whims of the weather and enjoy warm lime juice and tequila while gazing out your own private isle amidst a rose lit sunset, then this is where your heart truly belongs.