Friday, December 31, 2010

Exit Strategy, Part 2

Boot Key Harbor, Marathon, FL
34 42.54 N 081 05.58 W

Yesterday I posted a question from reader Chuck.  Here is our answer.

Chuck,  the truth is that we don't have any exit strategy.   We plan to cruise as long as we're able.   When the day comes that we're not able, then we'll make a new plan.   That's the simple answer.  The rationale behind it is more complex.  I'll elaborate.

We are now fully adapted to the voyager's life style (some would say the vagabond life style).   Every year we ask ourselves the question, "Do we want to continue cruising or to give it up?"  Every year so far (including today) the answer comes back "No.  We'll continue."  Indeed, "normal" retirement life on land sounds boring.   We certainly wouldn't have as much fun as we do.   

We are still blessed with good health.  That is the number one criterion for being able to live the cruising life.  Number two is the health and needs of your family.  That blessing could be taken away in an eye blink.   In fact, we recently met Bob and Sandra on the vessel Carpe Diem.  They're younger than we are.  Sandra was an oncology nurse.  She told us that being witness to the tragedy of patient's suddenly losing the ability to choose how to live, make her realize that, now (immediately), is the time to start living your dream.  Thus, their vessel Carpe Diem (seize the day) is most appropriately named.   

On our very first day on board Tarwathie we were inspired by another couple.  I blogged about it here.
I said, "When I got back to the boat Libby was onboard the neighboring boat Easy Lady, with Tim and BJ Page. The Page’s have been cruising the world since 1989, but now they’re going to give it up because they’re getting too old."  I further remember Time and BJ telling us that cruising was the best part of their lives, and how happy they were for having decided to do it, and how happy they were for us having made the same decision.  Our first day on Tarwathie was their last day on Easy Lady.  I feel they passed us their mantle.

Finance:  We estimate that our cruising life costs only 1/3 of the minimum expenses that we would need for a "normal" land-based retirement.   In fact, if we weren't doing this we couldn't afford to retire at all. Not now, nor anytime in the foreseeable future.  That kind of makes it a no brainer.  It also makes having a cruising life exit strategy secondary.  You could say that cruising was our exit strategy from working life.

Finance aside, we were drawn to this life by two motivating forces.   Just as it dawned on me, "now is the time to retire" We had just finished reading The Self Sufficient Sailor by the Pardeys.  We agreed that we were strongly drawn to the self-sufficient life style.   When considering what to do in retirement, we also realized that our fondest life's memories (aside from kids) were all associated with life on sailboats.  That's what we loved most.

We are also predisposed to act more and think less.  Prior to retirement, on three occasions we decided to uproot our family and move overseas to another country; just because it sounded like a good thing to do.  One of my friends later remarked, "You two do things whereas most other people just talk about doing things."   The point is that an impulsive decision to cruise was entirely in-character for Libby and I.

Determination:  The lesson I remember most from 2005, our first year, was that we had to be determined to succeed in our transition.  There were countless obstacles to overcome and doubts to suppress.  Fierce determination is closely related to courage and I'll confess that it took a lot of that the first year.

However, I think Chuck is wrong to pose the question as courageous versus timid.  It is more accurate to express it as a matter of priorities.   We each have our own values and priorities in life.   Priorities force us to choose.  For example, consider the dilemma Chuck raises -- the desire to cruise versus the need for a secure exit strategy as a backup.   If you're health and wealthy perhaps you can have both, but otherwise you must choose which is the higher priority.  That's a decision each person must make for themselves.  Nobody can help you.

Another very critical element is that there are two of us on board, not one.   I'm very fortunate that Libby and I think alike in these life choices.   Many, if not most, couples aren't like that.   We've seen very many would-be life cruisers give it up after a year or two.   I'm sure that it must be emotionally devastating in many cases, leaving lingering guilt over having ruined a spouse's life dream.  Tread carefully -- now, more than almost any other time in your life, the need to truly communicate with your spouse is vital.

I think most couples should begin more cautiously than we did.  Start with two week charters. They try a single season 3-6 month cruise on the US East Coast.   If that goes well, you can try longer cruises or repeat it in the next season.   Lots of people are part time cruisers, cruising in the winter and back home in the summer.   The turning point for many people seems to be two years on board (consecutive or not).  By that time, both parties should know better if full time cruising is the life for them.

Proceeding cautiously comes at a price.  If the boat and cruising expenses are in addition to  (as opposed to instead of) land-based living expenses it becomes an extravagant luxury.  If you can't afford that, they you're back to resolving priorities once again.

Does the above sound ambivalent? Cruise, don't cruise, whatever?  I don't want to appear neutral.  I have a definite bias toward getting out there and doing it.  Carpe Diem.  In fact, whenever we get together with other cruisers, young and old, we understand something important that we all have in common.  We're out there doing it while most others aren't.  Those others can't truly know what they're missing.

I'll close with a favorite quote.

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed
by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. 
So throw off the bowlines.
Sail away from the safe harbor. 
Catch the trade winds in your sails. 
Explore. Dream. Discover.
-Mark Twain


  1. Interesting posts (part 1 and 2). I would think that Chuck would be able to recreate a land life if he decided he wanted to exit the cruising life after a period of time. It doesn't have to be an either/or situation, and both situations don't have to exist at the same time. I have a good friend who says we all have several lives within us.

  2. Thanks, Dick, for the thoughtful and insightful comments. I particularly like how you stress that it works for you and Libby and that Chuck's question is not a matter of timidness . . .

    Right on. Jeremy and I are trying to figure out how to go off again, the next time for as long as we want to keep doing it. Hopefully you will still be out there!

    Nica and Jeremy (s/v Calypso)


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