This post is not going to be about how Andy and I got to the point in life where a sabbatical like this is possible. That one would pretty much require our life stories, and today is not that day. 🙂 Rather, this post is about all the practical stuff we’ve done in the last few weeks and months – the overwhelming but exciting steps toward our new boat life.
1) Finding a boat. (See previous post about that one. It wasn’t easy.)
2) Buying the boat. This big step had a lot of smaller ones
– figure out how we wanted to pay for the boat, get all the money together in
one account, hire a documentation agent to file the right papers to make our
ownership official with the Coast Guard, sign a bunch of papers (and send them
back and forth in a flurry over several days), wire money to an escrow account,
figure out last minute solutions to last-minute repair issues, and get some
insurance. If all that sounds intimidating, IT WAS. (The insurance paperwork alone gave me a lot
more gray hair.)
3) Transferring a bunch of accounts over to our names. Some
of this was fairly straightforward – with a few notable exceptions. For
example, using our VHF radio and radar system (a basic safety must-have for all
boats our size) requires that we get a license from the FCC, and a unique
identifier number for our radio called an MMSI. After struggling through the
maze of pages in the online-form-generator, terrified that I’d fill something
out wrong and send our application into Bureaucracy Purgatory, I finally
clicked on the “Continue to Payment” button only to get a message that THE FCC
WON’T TAKE OUR CREDIT CARD PAYMENT BECAUSE THE GOVERNMENT IS SHUT DOWN! Really?
The politicians decided to shut down a revenue-generating department? Sigh. I’m
assured by those-in-the-know that it will still be okay to use our radio until
they decide they are ready to take our money and give us a license.
4) Finding a captain to help us brush up on our sailing
skills and learn all the systems on our boat. Wonderful Randy (the previous
owner) put us in touch with a former delivery captain who has sailed our boat
numerous times. His name is Richard Widmann, and he was available for our
set-sail dates, so we will be meeting him in about a week. While we’re learning
and practicing, we’ll also be sailing to the Bahamas, which means crossing the
Gulf Stream. We are both happy that we’ll have an experienced
captain/instructor on board with us to help us through this first passage.
5) Planning and purchasing equipment and provisions. While Gratitude comes with a load of
techie-gear and equipment, there was still a lot we needed/wanted to obtain.
Kitchen equipment, cleaning supplies, life jackets, new safety flares, diving
gear – we created a bunch of Dropbox folders to help us organize all the lists
we were making. And while you’d think the shopping for all this stuff would be
fun – after a while it became overwhelming. Because… where to store all the
stuff when the boat’s in Ft. Lauderdale and we’re in Atlanta? And how do we get
the stuff we already have down to where it needs to be?
6) Renting a storage locker and arranging the transport of
stuff! When I made my second trip down to the boat, during our pre-purchase
survey, I found a storage facility near the marina and rented a unit. On
subsequent trips, with the help of several friends, we managed to
ship/shop/deliver that storage unit to mostly-full status by the time we closed
on the boat purchase. And now that we’ve closed and taken over the boat’s slip
rental at the marina, we can have stuff shipped directly to the marina for
pickup when we arrive for good.
7) Setting up our communication channels. This was actually
a bigger task than I first anticipated. I thought, “Ok, we set up a Facebook
account and Instagram. How long could that take?” But Andy had a better, if
more elaborate, vision. He suggested we get a logo that we could put on the
boat, calling cards, and our blog. I loved the idea – but it took a lot of discussion
and analysis to settle on a design we both loved. Then we had to configure that
logo to work on all sorts of things: a new sail, different areas on the boat’s
hull, our blog header, an ink stamp. It was cool – but a lot of work.
8) Arranging to have more solar panels installed. A big part
of the appeal of sailing is the ability to live “off the grid” as much as
possible. While our boat’s house batteries (the ones that power lights and air
conditioning, as opposed to the engine batteries) can be charged by the engine
alternators or the generator, it’s way cool to charge them cleanly, by the sun.
So one of the first things we wanted to do, once Gratitude was really ours, was
give her more solar panels. Randy helped us again with that, putting us in
touch with his contacts at Just Catamarans (a boat outfitter in Ft. Lauderdale)
so we could get on their very-full calendar and get the work done before our
9) Settling things at home to prepare for our absence. In
the midst of all the boat preparation, we had a lot to do to get our home ready
too. We moved our daughter into her dorm room and launched her first semester
as a college freshman. We cleaned out our basement so our son could move into
it and act as our caretaker – paying bills and maintaining our place so he
could save his rent money for a home of his own, down the line. And we set up
accounts, contacts, and channels of communication with the leadership teams at
our businesses so that they could do their jobs well without us. We have
outstanding, competent men and women running our businesses while we’re away.
But it took some time to set things up so that they could make decisions and
execute plans without our daily input.
10) Letting all our friends and family know that this was
REALLY HAPPENING. This one was bittersweet. Everyone is excited for us… but
they, and we, know that saying goodbye, even for a short window of time, is not
easy. There were SO. MANY. QUESTIONS. Of course! And we were happy to answer
them. But we knew that the questions were not always about getting informed,
but also about seeking reassurance. Did we really know what we were doing?
Would we truly be okay?
Was all the effort worth it? We’ll know soon. We leave for
Ft. Lauderdale in less than a week.