Friday, December 17, 2010

Get Ready…Get Set…Go!!!!

I must say when we started this trip, I really did not expect the barrage of non-stop adventures we would have.  It seems each day unfolds a whole new world unexpected, unbidden, unplanned and to a degree, unbelievable.  In the last two days we visited the world class experience of Atlantis, which out Disney’s Disney. Last night after a lovely birthday dinner at Hilton’s British Colonial Hotel, we were transported by Junkanoo Fever.  If you can’t wait for our narratives, check with Google, Wikipedia, or You Tube for a preview. 
We certainly hope you are enjoying traveling along with us, and we are excited to keep sharing our adventures and misadventures with you.  Meanwhile, several of you have enquired and I think it was Commodore Scarmato who said, “I hope you will let us know how it’s done, so that someday we might take off long term cruising ourselves.”  To those of you whose appetites have been whetted as well as those of you who may someday catch the bug, I plan to interject along with our travel(b)log some of the hints, personal observations and realizations that have cropped up along the way.  In no way is this inclusive as each day teaches us something new.  It is our sincere desire to “pay it forward,” as so many in the past have done for us. If this helps one person step beyond their comfort zone and take the leap of faith, it will all be worthwhile.  In the meanwhile it’s a nice read.
Some of the information will be useful specifically for cruising, or for the Bahamas, etc.  Some of it may be useful no matter what your life’s dream may be.  On our past charters, looking longingly at liveaboards, circumnavigators and other committed passagemakers, we have heard again and again the phrase that has become a trademark for sneakers, “JUST DO IT."
A month before we left Nyack for Hampton, Virginia, our Flotilla starting point, we attended an Off-Shore Seminar provided by the Caribbean 1500, the organization we  were traveling with.  One class was “The Six Month Timeline to Departure.” Already we were late! The bottom line is, “Its never too early to start.” Half of the mandatory safety gear, (life raft, parachute flares, second anchor, EPIRB, MOB pole, ditch bag, Single Side Band Radio, charts, etc, etc,) wasn’t on board or in our budget.  All of these items and many more must be purchased, installed and sea tested.  Six months might be a realistic time frame for those items, and we had to get it done in a few weeks.  The countdown was a nerve racking parade of Murphy’s Laws.  Products were out of stock, unavailable, incompatible, undesirable or just plain frustrating.
Arranging  for house care, mail, insurance, taxes, meds, visas, passport for our cat Mary, auto inspection, winter care of our mooring, bill paying, phone service, customs pre screening, ….&&&&more etceteras here……………………………And each of us has our own list.  AGAIN, the point is you can never start too early.
All this assumes that your dream is your passion, and not a passing fancy.  I have wanted to go to sea since before I could read.  My dad, who had a power boat before I was born, lulled me to sleep with stories of Robinson Caruso and Christopher Columbus.  As an adolescent, I spent two summers at a sailing camp in Gloucester, Mass.   Poor vision kept me out of the Coast Guard Academy, but I did get seaman’s papers at 18 and sailed on merchant ships for two summers during my college years.  Judy grew up on Conesus Lake, where her parents ran a marina.
Which brings me to a vital point:  if you have a life partner who you cannot live without, make sure your partner shares your dream AND your passion.  Judy and I celebrated our 28th wedding anniversary in Hampton, shortly before we went off-shore.  A few days before, I asked Judy, “You think we’ll make it?” She replied, “I haven’t thrown you overboard yet!”  How’s that for tough love?
For the record, I had been pretty stressed for the last month or so with all the preparation and frustrations along the way and was not my usual cheerful self.  Judy was the butt of my anxieties over getting it done “on time and on budget.”  Move over Columbia, Judy is the gem of the ocean.
Which brings up two other issues you should be prepared for, to wit:
     You and your partner will be together 24/7 in the space of your living room.  Think about that for a while.  Not only together, but mostly together and alone, and possibly outside your comfort zone.  That means when something goes wrong, who do you blame.  Blaming the cat only goes so far. Blaming myself? Are you kidding?   (also, things go wrong with a regularity you will find shocking, sort of the “Crisis Du Jour.”) BTW, things have turned lovely here in Paradise and living on Island Time has made crises evaporate (or seem to).
     Issue two is budget.  A cruiser tells the tale of a seminar he attended.  He was told to bring an empty sail bag.  At the conclusion of the program, no mention of the bag had come up.  The curious cruiser asked the speaker, “What’s the bag for?”  The instructor said, “go home and fill it with money, you’ll need it.” We all know that boating isn’t cheap, but neither is staying home.  Early planning is vital in this area.  Personally, I have maxed out my Deferred Comp contribution every year while working.  I have saved and strategized for retirement for years.  I also took the hits that many of you did with investments.  All in all, we’ve been frugal, and are subsidizing this new life-style with our nursing home money.  I think it’s well spent.  After our capital expenses, we can just about live month to month on my social security and NYS pension and Judy’s Teachers Retirement.  As a NYS employee, we have a good health plan, and have no debts or kids waiting for their inheritance. This travel has also made us healthier than we have been in years.  If you haven’t started setting aside money to live your dream, then start now.  Make a tangible effort, set milestones in your life.  Become dedicated to fulfilling your dream.  If you do, nothing will stop you and you will achieve it.
Another thought:  when we first sailed Bentaña, I realized that her sails where heavier, her halyards fatter, her winches harder to grind and in general required more oomph than I was used to on our previous boats.  I joined “Planet Fitness” and went regularly.  I rigged a foot hold down at home, and did sit-ups and push-ups daily.  I shed pounds and felt great.  After years at “Weight Watchers,” I finally made “Lifetime Member.”  No matter your personal dream, being fit and healthy is a gift you can give yourself, and that too is something that you cannot start too early.
Details?  Let me know what you want to know about.  We’ll gladly share what we’ve learned, if you ask.  As the late, great Lord Buckley said, “If you get to it, and you cannot do it, well there you jolly well are, aren’t  you.”

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