Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Working it out

When we first started thinking about cruising as a way to retire early, we knew we didn't have the money to retire on land with the associated housing expenses and transportation expenses that come with the lifestyle. Our careers in aviation had provided a satisfactory upbringing for our three girls, but it hadn't left us with a huge retirement fund. If you've read thebook, then you know the whole story - how we started thinking about retiring onto a houseboat on the river because we could keep the motorcycles, how our middle daughter moved to Cape Cod, how we started looking at power boats to make that trip from St. Louis, and how we quickly began thinking about sailboats as an alternative that fit our travel budget. That was 2007. By 2011 we realized it was a thing we really wanted to make happen and we bought Kintala. Shortly after, I lost my job followed by the loss of Tim's job in 2013. We had a decision to make, and quickly. Our options were to:

  1. Find other jobs which would not likely be in our present location and would require a 2 year commitment and the mothballing / sale / or move of Kintala (Think big $$$$)
  2. Leave early, even though neither Kintala nor the cruising kitty were ready.

At that point, Tim was 58 and I was 57, both of us a long way from collecting Social Security even early at 62. We had some cash savings, we knew we could sell the car, the bike, and the house and come up with a couple years of cruising, but we also knew after owning Kintala for 2 years that unexpected expenses were likely. (Oh...if only we knew how many of them...)

It was about that time that I read a post by Mike on Zero to Cruising where he talked about their departure. They also had some funds to begin cruising, acrued from the sale of their business, but realized that the money they had wasn't going to last forever. I can't remember the exact words he used, but he made the statement that they decided to go and figure it out along the way because they had always managed to work things out through their lives together and they were confident they could find a way to make it happen. It resonated with me because Tim and I are pretty much the same. We've been thrown a lot of curve balls in our 44 years together but we've always managed to work it out.We decided to leave early, fully realizing that we would probably have to stop and work at some point along the way.

People cruise for all sorts of reasons. Some are trying to escape, some are out for the adventure, others are challenging themselves. Some cruise for the closeness to nature, others for the closeness of the cruising community. Some venture far, across wide oceans and to foreign lands. Others cruise the Great Lakes or the US coastline, the Chesapeake and the Bahamas. Some find a place they like along the way and settle for a while. Some are better off and travel in mega yachts, others are cobbling together small production boats with duct tape and wire. Some work, some don't. There are as many ways to cruise as there are people doing it. I said it in the book and it's worth repeating here: There is no right way to cruise, only your way.

I had a blog follower tell me recently that it seemed we were doing more working than cruising. Unless you're independently wealthy, were fortunate enough to save up a (pardon the pun) boatload of money, or even more fortunate enough to have a large inheritance coming your way, you will probably have to stop and work at some point in your cruising years. It's part of the life for a large percentage of the cruising community. Some are lucky enough to supplement their cruising kitty with writing, others have part or full time jobs in IT that they do from their boats, some make and sell jewelery, others are rated captains and charter their boats or do deliveries. Some cruise for a year or two, put the boat on the hard, go back to their professions for a year or two, then rinse and repeat. While neither of us had any desire to return to aviation, we did have a need for cash.

Just as the need for cash was becoming apparent, a friend of ours mentioned that he was in need of a mechanic. We checked the place out, decided it would be a good fit, and Tim started working for Snead Island Boat Works in April of this year. It's a good place to work, a company that does quality work and stands behind it. The people are hard-working, kind, and generous. So when they asked if Tim would return next spring after our winter tour of the Bahamas, he said absolutely. The extra summer will give us a financial cushion, allow us to wait a year to collect Social Security, give us a chance to learn quite a bit more about boats, and give us a home base to which our eldest daughter and family can visit for a prolonged period.

Yes, at the moment we are doing more working that sailing, but we're in this for the long term and we want to do it comfortably. Soon the working/sailing balance will tip the other way, and we will be the better for having been here. So, if you're planning your cruising life in retirement, don't be afraid of the prospect of working along the way. You just might find something interesting that captures your attention, something new to learn, some new coworkers to get to know. It's all part of working it out.

An amazing storm rolling into the basin at Snead Island Boat Works

1 comment:

Josh said...

Hi Deb and TJ,
I've been wanting to reach out to you both for a long time, but for whatever reason am only getting around to it now. I've caught up on nearly all of your blog entries to date and enjoy them immensely, as I did your book. They seem to align with my own personal philosophies and sensibilities, right down to the K1200RS that, for the first time, I'm seriously considering parting with as we prepare for our long transition to the cruising life.

My wife, three kids, and I are about 15 years behind you in age, but we've drawn a lot of lessons and inspiration from you and other cruising bloggers (e.g. Zero to Cruising) about just taking the first step and then working it out from there. It was only recently that we recognized we could be ready to "leave" in just a few years (rather than 10+ish) as long as we could handle only having enough in the kitty to get us a couple years down the road, and then play it by ear from there. We're confident that my IT-guy self and nurse wife can find a way to work it out.

Anyway, I just wanted to say thanks for sharing all that you do. Also, though I recognize you catch a fair bit of flak for some of your posts, I am particularly fond of your musings on American culture, politics and religion.

Big fan,