Monthly Archives: February 2015

The Big Plan

Sailing is a lot more user-friendly than it used to be, what with single-handed rigging and electric whatever, but it still takes some effort. We’re getting up in years, and we decided that if we had to wait until I could afford to retire, we’d be too old to cruise comfortably. We’d never get the chance to take off for some really free traveling. Till now, we’ve contented ourselves with chartering and short weekend sails, but we yearn for the extended cruising. We don’t want to sail around the world – just be free to go where the wind will take us and on a schedule of our own – or rather, Mother Nature’s – choosing. I’ve tried before to fit an extended sailing schedule into what time I could take as vacation from work, and each time I’ve had to sail under the wrong conditions, and the results have been bad. Fortunately, no one’s been hurt, but I’ve learned that you can’t go anywhere until Mother Nature decides to let you go. Sometimes, she takes a while to make up her mind. We need to be able to be patient. So, if we want to cruise, I can’t be working.

Because of the nature of the work I do, I’m about to be unemployed. The company I work for is a joint venture that was put together solely to execute a 15-yr contract, and our 15 years are up. Our client, the World’s Busiest Airport (WBA), is looking for another company to take the next 15-yr Program Management contract. Under normal circumstances, I would try to jump to the winner of the next contract. But given my age, it’s also the perfect opportunity to take some time off. I have friends at the WBA, and I know a lot of people on each of the teams going after the next contract, so I’m hoping they won’t forget me after a couple of years and I can jump to the new team after we’ve been sailing. Even if there’s no spot for me at the WBA, there’s always an airport under construction somewhere, and my chances are good that I can find one that will take me, and I can put in six or seven more years and then retire for real. The risk is that I’m wrong about finding a job again in a couple of years. That’s the only scary part about what we’re doing. Anyway, I’m leaving at the end of June.

As I’ve said in a previous post, we have two houses – an inland house and a coastal house. We’re about to put the inland house on the market. We’ve been working on the house for a couple of years, putting in all the upgrades and sprucing it up and otherwise getting it ready. It’ll get listed in a couple of days. Suzy has spent weeks packing or tossing years of our junk so the house can be properly “staged.” I spent my evenings this week cleaning out my home office, and today was Basement Day. (I think there will be several more of those.) The house looks great. I almost hate to leave. I designed this house especially for Suzy. It has a lot of special features that we’re going to miss. It’s going to be murder to move. Even after cleaning things out for staging, there’s still a lot of stuff in this house. I hate moving. If the house sells before June, which I’m confident it will, then Suzy will go on down to St. Marys, and I’ll live out of a suitcase until I quit working.

The proceeds from the sale of the inland house will be our cruising kitty. We’ll sail until the kitty runs dry. Our budget not only has to cover our sailing expenses, but also the maintenance of our cottage in St. Marys. If my calculations are correct, and if my crystal ball isn’t too cloudy, I think we can go two years without getting into our savings or retirement funds. If something expensive happens, the sailing time will get shorter. If we can find a way to be more frugal, the sailing time gets longer. But I figure two years.

“Now, what happens over those two years?” you ask. Who knows? All sailing plans are written in water. We’ve sorta picked out a cruising range that covers the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW) between the Chesapeake and Key West, the adjacent offshore waters, and the Bahamas. We’ll home base out of St. Marys, and stay out as long as it takes to go where we want to go and do what we want to do. Since Grandchild Number Four arrives in mid September, we’re going to stay close to home our first summer. I’d like to get a new mainsail for Madge with a Dutchman flaking system in it, and there’s a port in the aft cabin that needs replacing. We can take some short trips to Beaufort, SC, St. Augustine, FL, or any spot in between with relative ease. I do know that we want to be in St. Marys for Thanksgiving.  Every year, cruisers heading south stop in St. Marys for Thanksgiving, and have a big covered dish feast. It’s a great opportunity to meet new friends and old ones, and oftentimes trips are planned. We may team up with another boat or two for the trip south. We have some friends that want to meet up in Key West next February, so we’ll see how that goes. Other than that, we will go where the wind takes us. We’ll come home on occasion to visit “Four” and the other grandchildren, or they may come to us. The wonderful thing about cruising is that there is no schedule.

Some friends wonder if we’ll be able to stay out for the full two years. Others think we may never come back. I’ve set up this blog so you can follow what we’re doing and figure out the odds for yourself. I’ll just tell you what I tell my doctor. If you want to prescribe something that will cure whatever ails me, just prescribe salt water. Miles and miles of it.

Fair winds and following seas.

Sailing Plans Are Written in Water

I wanted to post about our plan for sailing next, but as I was told or read some time in the past, “All sailing plans are written in water.” The little cutie in the picture is our only grand-daughter. She’s the only child of our older daughter. Our other daughter has two sons, who we hope will make good crew some day. But I digress. If you can’t make out what the T-shirt says, it reads, “This Girl Is Getting Promoted to Big Sister.” The promotion should come through in mid September. I’m not sure what this will do to our sailing plans, but I do know where Mimi and Cap (Suzy and I) will be when our fourth – and probably last – grandchild makes her or his entrance.

Time for us to adjust our plans… and we haven’t even made it to the coast yet.

So, Here’s the Backstory

Just so you’ll know a little bit about us and how we got where we are, here’s a summary. I’m a consulting engineer, and for the past 30 years I’ve been involved in the design mostly of airports and health care facilities. Before that, I was in medical research. (Long story. Some other time.) For the past 15 years, I’ve worked in Program Management for the reconstruction and upgrade of the World’s Busiest Airport (WBA), which despite early reservations turns out to be something I really like. Suzy is a retired kindergarten teacher, having spent over 30 years in both private and public schools.  She spends most of her time doing volunteer work in our community, reading in a couple of book clubs, or playing Bunco and Mah Jongg with her friends. We are active in our church and both sing in the choir. We have two homes. The inland home is close to my job at the WBA. We’re about to put it on the market. The coastal home is in St. Marys, which will be our home base while cruising.

My job at the WBA is project oriented. Mostly by luck, but also with a little bit of planning, my projects will all wrap up at about the same time later this Spring. It gives me a great opportunity to take an extended break from work. Suzy and I want to go cruising while we’re still young enough and fit enough to do so. I figure we can afford to be gone for two years, as long as there’s no major financial catastrophe. Then I’ll go back to work for another five or six years and retire for good at 70. That’s why I’m calling this a sabbatical. I’d like to come back to the WBA, but that’s uncertain.

We’ve been leisure sailors for over 15 years, having learned to sail as crew in the Caribbean, where we chartered for many years. We bought our first boat, Skitso, a 25-ft Catalina, in 2003. We sold Skitso and bought Madge in 2008.

So, we have the boat, the time, and – if our inland house sells – the money to sail away for a couple of years.

I’ll fill you in on our plan next time.

Getting Started

imageThis is Madge, at home on her mooring in the St. Marys River. That’s the waterfront of St. Marys in the background. The St. Marys River is the boundary between Georgia and Florida, and the town is just up river from the barrier islands – Cumberland and Amelia – on the Georgia side.

It’s cold here right now, but the countdown clock is set for four months. In June, I’ll wrap up this phase of my professional career and we’ll begin our two-year adventure. Between now and then, we have a house to sell and stuff to either move, sell or give away. Hopefully, we’ll also have time to get Madge tuned up, fitted out and ready to roll. We’ve been working on this for a couple of years now, so we should be getting close to the end of the beginning.