There to Here - 5-Year Plan – Hooray, Year 5!

Top 10 Considerations for Year 5 of 5 - There’s so much to do and you’ll enjoy every minute of it … mostly.

1. Find a boat ... buy a boat

Once you figure out what kind of cruising you plan to do, it’s time to find a boat, which is not as easy as some might think. If you live and work near the coast, maybe buying the boat earlier rather than later is a good idea. You can spend that last year upgrading, refitting and learning the boat while you still have income. Otherwise, you might have to wait till closer to D-Day. If you’ve spent years 1-4 figuring out what you want in a boat, you’ll have some of the hard work done.

A consideration … It’s easy to spend more than you budgeted, but it’s important to stick to the plan unless you’re in line for a large inheritance from your uncle. David will do a blog in the near future on what to look for when buying a boat, but in general, there will always be upgrades, maintenance, repairs and unforeseen expenses that will eat up your budget. Spending more than budgeted at the outset might not be a good move.

Beyond the finding and purchasing of the boat, moving aboard and getting in sync with a new lifestyle introduces a zillion (and I’m not exaggerating!) new issues … some of which we’ll address in subsequent blogs. A zillion would take up just too much time.

2. Finishing up at work or working while you cruise?

Winding up your current job, dotting all the “I”s and crossing the “T”s is important. If working while you’re cruising is a thought, you might be able to ease into the liveaboard life by doing some “consulting” or virtual office work for your current company. If some sort of continued income is necessary, make sure you’ve got your ducks in a row before leaving the dock.

3. Sell everything except necessities or figure out a storage plan

Sell off or give away everything you don’t need or want. Maybe store memorabilia with family? Moving sales/yard sales/garage sales … whatever you call them, and of course, Craigslist, are great if you plan to “sell up and sail off”. You don’t have to be heading to a boat. Perhaps it’s an RV for land cruising, or just simplifying your life. Sell all but the bare necessities that you think you can use on the boat or RV. It’s liberating!

If you don’t plan to get rid of all your stuff, now’s the time to figure out what you plan to do with it. Pay for storage? Store your stuff in your brother’s basement?

4. Sell the house or rent it out?

If you plan to sell your house, get the process moving. Your broker/agent can give you ideas as to how fast they think it might sell and close based on the current market trends. If you plan to rent, make sure you find a reliable professional property manager or someone you trust to handle rent collection and repairs/maintenance. When you’re living your dream, the last thing you want to worry about is a plumbing issue or a leaking roof or delinquent rent payments.

5. Health and Medical

What’s the plan for medical/dental coverage? We suggest getting all dental work, vision and medical exams and check-ups handled during that last year. It doesn’t preclude that you’ll need medical assistance during the coming years, but it at least gives you a leg-up before you lose your employer’s medical insurance program. It’s also less worrisome to know you’ve got your health in check before departing on your new adventure. Note that it’s significantly cheaper in other parts of the world than the USA to get healthcare, but if you’re a US citizen, you’ll need healthcare insurance or pay a penalty unless you can prove that you’re living out of the country. If you currently take prescriptions, do you have scripts to cover you while you’re out cruising? Can they be refilled at other places than in your hometown pharmacy? If you’re planning to be out of country, ask for copies of all relevant medical records, x-rays, etc. so you have them with you.

6. Financial arrangements

How will you pay your bills and do your banking? Is everything set up electronically? What if you don’t have internet for awhile? When are your ATM and credit cards due to expire?

7. Communication

Is your cell phone company the best for the area you’ll be cruising/traveling? If you’re offshore or in another country, your current cell phone might not work. What provisions have you made to address this? Sat phone? Single side band radio aboard? SailMail? In other countries, it’s often inexpensive to buy a local phone and a pay-as-you-go plan.

Who will handle your mail? Will you use a service? We can recommend St. Brendan’s if you go that route.

8. Who is your “contact”?

There should be someone that knows how to get in touch with you in an emergency. Make sure that designated person is kept in the loop at all times.

9. Personal and boat documents in order?

Is your passport valid? You’ll need a passport with at least 6 months left on it to enter most countries. Passport IDs are also required in many foreign countries to buy a cell phone, stay at a hotel, rent a car, etc. Speaking of which, is your driver’s license up to date?

As for the boat, you’ll need current national documentation if you plan to sail to foreign countries.

10. What about vehicles? Sell or store?

What will you do with your car? How will you get to the boat? Will you have a home marina so you can leave your car there or do you intend to move around … in which case, having a car can be a hindrance instead of a benefit.

Our best suggestion for Year 5 … Consult your budget, your plan and your countdown calendar often!

If you’ve done a good job of jotting down all those niggly details you’ve considered over the past few years, you’ll have a long, long list of to-dos and thoroughly enjoy checking them off as you complete them.

Here’s how it worked out for us ...

By the end of Year 4, our company was sold and we found the new company difficult to work for (read that intolerable). A change in plans … now what? Based on “the plan”, we weren’t quite ready to retire yet. Out of the blue, David got an engineering opportunity in St. Louis. This would delay our retirement plans by at least a year, but seemed the best alternative. We quit our jobs, sold the Wisconsin house and moved into a small townhouse rental outside of St. Louis. Our last kid was still in college. David worked … Marcie loafed, I mean, consulted. We saved, saved and saved some more. It was a busy, busy year. We checked the countdown clock daily!

In February 2000, after many months of looking, we found Nine of Cups in Kemah, Texas. She was the right size, a good fit for our budget and best of all, it was love at first sight. David will talk about surveyors and buying boats in the weeks to come, but the short version is ... we purchased her in February. David traveled to Texas and worked on her in March. We moved aboard in April, left the marina in May and never looked back. Yowza!

As for working, we had planned to quit cold turkey, but we both ended up working from the boat for nearly another year which was great for both our cruising kitty and our employers/clients. In retrospect, working the additional year was a good thing. We stayed coastal, learned about our new boat and living aboard, and had more money available for outfitting and upgrading than we’d planned on.

As the final day approached, Marcie had sold off everything we didn’t think we’d need on the boat. On David’s last day of work (April 15, 2000...IRS Day), Marcie turned in the keys to the townhouse and everything was packed and ready to go. David hitched up the U-Haul and we headed to Texas via Denver for a quick family visit and to drop off some family memorabilia. It was hard to contain our excitement and enthusiasm. We hooted and howled throughout the trip. We couldn’t wait to get on the road. Each mile we traveled was a mile closer to the marina and the boat and a mile closer to living the dream.

And then we were in Kemah, emptying out the U-Haul and moving aboard. While David took inventory of what needed to be done before we left, Marcie worked at making the boat our home. We planned a denaming and renaming ceremony. We sold the car. We took the boat out for shakedown cruises. We began the long process of becoming acclimated to this new way of life.

What comes next? Learning to live aboard … it’s a major adjustment. And don’t forget the denaming and renaming ceremony … that’s coming up, too!