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This is the blog post I’ve waited years to compose.

My husband and I have taken somewhat of a circuitous approach to cruising…as a function of retirement. Many, young and old, seem to come to sailing and cruising in a heated rush. We chose a more measured approach. While some, again, young and old, often “sell the farm”, buy a boat, and dive into sailing with a two and a half gainer with a double twist from the three meter board, we chose to ease into the kiddy pool and slowly make our way to the deep end.

Now, make no mistake, the goal for us was the same goal everyone else has had and at the end of the day, should the eye be kept on the prize, is attained no matter what the approach. But, when comparing our approach to how most others have proceeded, we’ve taken a different tack.

We both knew how to sail before we ever met each other. Most of my experience was obtained by sailing in Lake Pontchartrain and Mississippi Sound aboard a 27 foot Chrysler sloop owned by an old friend of mine. I did an eleven day charter on Great Slave Lake in the Canadian sub arctic. My husband’s primarily came from sailing Galveston Bay and the upper Texas coast…with a Caribbean barefoot charter or two. His background was not very water intensive, while I was a water baby raised on a large lake until 15, and then the coast of Louisiana (Grande Isle) on through high school. I can’t remember when I learned how to swim, I just always could. He had owned several sailboats, I’d never owned a boat at all.

Even before we were married, we’d often sit at Outriggers watching and commenting on the boats as they motored out of Clear Lake channel into Galveston Bay. In August of 2010 we bought a Hunter 31. The entire purpose of that boat was to see if hubbie and me could put up with each other while sailing. To see how we’d fair sailing together. For three solid years we rebuilt the Hunter and sailed it in all kinds of conditions, both offshore and in Galveston Bay. We had some downright harrowing experiences sailing that little Hunter sloop but, in the end, we determined we made a great team sailing.

Some time after the first couple of years we decided there could be no better retirement than sailing around on a boat. And, after endless discussions on the matter, decided that is what we wanted to do. In early 2012 we started seriously narrowing down our choices as to what size and kind of sailing yacht we wanted. The criteria for the boat was a proven blue water capable vessel, a cutter, and big enough to take us anywhere on the planet we wanted to go. After an exhausting search that took us from Key West to Halifax, Nova Scotia and up and down much of the East coast we chose a Tayana 52 as the boat. THIS is the boat we eventually chose.

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In late May of 2013 we closed on the purchase of our yacht…by the first of July, we’d sailed the boat 1400 miles down the East coast of Florida, around Key West, up to Tampa, and then across the Gulf of Mexico to Galveston and then on up to Kemah.

Immediately, we started outfitting/refitting Freedom, addressing some of the items revealed by the survey. All of the major systems were inspected, repaired, and/or upgraded. The bright work was brought down to bare wood and recoated. The two head sails were taken down and brought to a local loft to be restitched/refurbished and cleaned. Eventually, the behind-the-mast furling system, along with the mainsail, were taken completely off the mast and discarded…replaced with a fully battened cruising mainsail and a Tides Marine Sail Track system. All of the running rigging was replaced with new color-coded lines. The fixed propeller was replaced with a Max Prop folding prop…that was then coated with Speed Prop. She was pulled from the water and her hull and through hulls inspected on the way to a new bottom job. A state-of-the-art bow thruster was installed. Her hull paint above the water line was retouched and the entire boat compounded and/or waxed. New protective canvas was installed. Two weeks ago, her entire battery bank was replaced.  And, countless other improvements or repairs.

The boat is absolutely gorgeous and it’s no exaggeration to say that when we take Freedom out, as we did last Friday, and make the run past the Kemah Boardwalk, people literally stop and stare in admiration. We are proud of our boat.

Perhaps the question we are asked more than any other by friends, family, and dock mates is “When do guys plan on shoving off.” They are asking when do we intend to pack up and provision, release the dock lines, head for the Galveston jetties, and then just keep on going. For us, that hasn’t been an easy question to answer…until recently.

And, there was a very good reason why.

Three years ago, a family decision was made to move my mother-in-law from Santa Rosa, California to be nearer to us here in League City. She was 88 at the time and struggling to maintain her independence. When all things were considered, her move was simply the best thing, not to mention the right thing to do. My husband and I both took the responsibility of looking after Elsie, my mother-in-law, very seriously. We found an extremely nice assisted living facility just a couple of miles from our home. Apprehensive over the move at first, Elsie quickly grew to love her new home. The additional contact she had with others her own age was downright energizing to her. We saw her often; she’d spend several weekends a month with us. We’d check in with her even more regularly, making sure she had whatever it was she wanted or needed, seeing she got to her doctor’s appointment, etc; she was barely a five minute drive away. I would stop by regularly on the spur of the moment, pick her up, and we’d go to lunch together. She loved to get out; I loved to take her out. She was the most wonderful mother-in-law anyone could ever hope to have. We’d talk for hours and hours about everything, or we could sit and quietly read all afternoon and scarcely say a word. It was just the kind of relationship we had. We took her sailing on the Hunter…she spent many afternoons in our pool relaxing. She did so well.

Until about a year ago…

In October of last year, during a trip out to California the three of us took for her to see the first great grandchild, her daughter, grand daughter, old friends, etc, Elsie had several episodes that made it painfully clear her dementia was getting increasingly more severe. Once we returned to Texas, almost immediately we began to receive phone calls from her assisted living facility indicating her, by now diagnosed, Alzheimer Disease was getting worse and worse. 2014 was not kind to my Elsie and was punctuated by one hospital stay after the other. Her health continued to decline at a frighteningly fast rate. Her memory continued to get worse. She broke one hip…and then, while still recuperating, a few months later, she broke her other hip. Somewhere along the line, conversation on any level became impossible, and for at least these past few months, it was probably just wishful thinking to assume she even knew who we were. It was devastating to watch her health fading.

Recently, while recovering from surgery for her second hip break, we were somewhat taken aback by the doctor’s request for permission to take somewhat non-routine avenues regarding her health care…they requested blood, she was anemic; she was having trouble breathing and underwent a procedure to clear her lungs. The doctors didn’t come out and say it, but it was clear that my beloved mother-in-law was dying. A week or so later, the doctors informed us that we should contact hospice care, there was really nothing more they could do for her. We did, that very day. Three days later, she was gone…at 91.

Nothing, not our retirement, not anything was more important to us than taking care of my husband’s mother. We absolutely knew from the moment she moved from California that we were going to do everything we could to make the last remaining years of her life the very best we could. We talked about it many times. It was simply understood that Elsie was the priority in our lives. And, that was just how it was.

When Elsie’s health began to spiral out of control we had the better part of a year to contemplate and plan how things would sort themselves out after she passed away. I made the conscious decision to not pursue any additional contracts and retire last year while it was made clear to my husband’s employer that he would be absolutely retiring shortly after his mother passed away, whenever that was.

Unfortunately, that time had now come.

So it was, we recently were sitting and having a drink when my guy brings up the subject of when we might shove off. Knowing him as I do, I knew he already had a time sorted in his mind. The long and short of the conversation is that as soon as he has all of the family business straightened out and the 2013 taxes are completed…we leave.

The tentative date is March 1, 2014. We will reevaluate the departure date on January 1st and then formalize the drop-dead date by February 15. We fully realize the date might change, and if it does, it will move out. What will govern is when husband completes the business. As everyone should, we have a list of things that needs to be done to Freedom, the recommissioning of our water maker is one. But, none of those things would prohibit us from leaving the dock…leaving the dock even tomorrow, if required. Again, our boat sailed 1400 miles to bring us back to Texas the day we bought it. If our departure date is pushed back we don’t presume it will be because of the yacht.

And…where might we go, once we shove off?

For many years we have felt that the success of our retirement while cruising will almost certainly be determined by the boat. We both know, from experience, that a boat capable of taking a day sail in the bay, or an overnight sail down the coast…is seldom put under the strain that a three, five, seven day or longer passage offshore does. We plan a fairly extensive shake down cruise that will probably entail us coastal cruising in the Gulf of Mexico as we make our way towards Florida. If something untoward and major pops up requiring repair, depending on where we are, we might sail back to Kemah to take care of them. Clear Lake has many boat yards capable of major repairs. If, however, the boat behaves and nothing major surfaces, then there is really no telling where we might end up.

The weather, should we leave sometime after March, would be a player of sorts. Hurricane season starts June 1st. We are not crazy about racing around the Eastern Caribbean in a mad dash to get down to Grenada for Hurricane season…we are thinking we might do that over a winter…or two or six. We like the Northeast – Maine, Nova Scotia, Labrador – but if we do that over a summer then we’d either have to take on the Gulf Stream and/or North Atlantic to get back down to the Caribbean by the Winter. Two things are certain. First, we absolutely don’t plan on getting in a hurry. And, secondly, we can go anywhere we like should we decide…nothing is off the table. We’ve even contemplated doing the Panama Canal and heading west to the Galapagos…and on to the Marquesas and South Pacific like Northstar did, another Tayana 52, whose blog we follow. We don’t have to decide now, and won’t. There is a lot to be said with not having to choose right now.

Do we anticipate selling the farm, as so many other do, to facilitate our cruising? Well, yes, we do, but when we will do this is a bit more up in the air. Over the years we’ve never considered retiring here in League City. We don’t like Texas weather, and hate Texas politics. We’ve considered retiring in more different places than we can count. Our yacht cost significantly more than our house; fortunately, both are paid for and we can retire to almost any place we want. So, the tentative plan is get off the dock and go cruising…in March. Until we actually leave and go cruising, living full time on our yacht, we can’t know if we’ll actually like it or not…we are all but certain we will but one never knows until they do it. If we do like it, we feel we will know pretty quickly. If we don’t like it, we feel we will know that pretty quickly as well.

If we do like cruising, we will do that until it’s no longer fun…and if that is the case the house will probably be put up for sale fairly soon after we leave…within four to six months. Our plans all along have been, as we cruise, to look for a place to retire, which may or may not be in the United States.

If we don’t like cruising, we will return to Texas with the boat, and go all in on finding a place to retire…again, maybe or maybe not in the US. And, when we do find a place to retire, at that time we will sell the house.

In both scenarios, we intend, at least at this time, to keep the yacht.

At any rate, the clock is ticking. And, like so many who have gone before us, we’re excited about it. In four to six months, we are gone.

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