Just a little backtracking here. The idea of living on a sailboat was a long time coming but the real planning, or as I like to call it “prepping” came while we were vacationing in the South Pacific. I’d always wanted to take one of “those” trips. The kind where we stayed at a fancy hotel, in one of those outrageously expensive huts over the water where you could see the fish swimming below your feet while sipping on a fruity drink in your fluffy white bathrobe. We simply could never afford such a thing as we’d spent pretty much every penny we had on the house and kids and life itself. Finally, we decided after twenty years of marriage that we’d take Shane’s bonus and blow the whole thing on one of “those” trips. So while sitting on the deck of our picturesque hut over the water, sipping our fancy drinks and feeling pretty fine… I realized…that sailboat anchored just 100 feet away had a view like this every day! They were living the life! The one we’d talked about many years before but I hadn’t been able to wrap my brain around.
When we returned from our vacation, I dove directly into prepping mode. I only had five years left until the boy left for college and we could do this! I began researching everything I could about the cruising life, sailing and sailboats. I’m not one to just jump into new things quickly. I’m too nervous. I’m a baby stepper and I move at a turtle’s pace. Like most people who dream of cruising, I scoured blogs, books, forums and Youtube soaking up information from those who’ve paved the way before us.
Living in MN, our sailing season is rather short and also falls during my busier times (I’m a photographer by trade). So if I’d done things the right way, I’d have spent every free minute learning how to become a better sailor. I’d have sailed many different boats, crewed in several races and generally tried to get a LOT more experience. That’s if I’d done things the right way. Instead, I enjoyed every minute I could with my kids while they were still around, finished renovating our twentyyearstarterhome, photographed many awesome families and took a few sailing lessons along the way. I’m sure many would say I’ve gone about this process in a completely backward way as I instead spent a great deal of time researching boats, their strengths and weaknesses and tried to imagine what would be the best fit for us. I figured that I could become a better sailor along the way. when we found the boat. That’s still my plan, good or bad.
After many nights of research and weighing the pros and cons, together we made a wish list for our future boat. She would have to be a monohull as my dream of owning a catamaran was out of our budget for now. No financing, cash only. We decided the ideal length would be 36-40 feet, enough space for the two of us and not too big to handle. The rest of the wish list was simply that, a wish list. My wishes tended to sway toward making her a good home while Shane’s were all about the sailing performance as they rightly should be! Our first choice was narrowed down to a 38 foot Morgan. Solidly built, cutaway keel, skeg-hung rudder, decent cockpit for living and heavier seas, lots of interior teak (but not “shippy”), reasonable sail plan for two, and overall a beautiful sailboat.
Any good shopper knows where to find what they’re looking for. I frequented Yachtworld, craigslist, sailboatlistings and eBay. I spent time looking at every detail from afar. My couch surfing had become a nightly ritual. We took an early spring trip to VA using miles we’d stored up and a much needed day off. We visited two marinas in the area starting with the one that housed the lowest priced “needs a little work” boat. We were greeted by a leather-skinned man who arrived late with his 20 oz insulated coffee mug in hand. I kept him occupied with my charming conversation while Shane checked out our first contender. Coming off a twenty year house renovation, the boat was quickly eliminated as we were sure the projects on that poor neglected girl would never have ended and our cruising life would never begin. We said goodbye to the leather-skinned broker and headed South to see another Morgan. The next boat was certainly in better shape but still was not the one for us either. No worries, it’s always a learning process. We certainly were getting a better idea of what we didn’t want in a boat. We decided that we’d either need to find a boat that someone had been cruising/living on or perhaps something that had been kept in fresh water.
The next boat on the list appeared on Yachtworld as we were heading back from VA. She was near Green Bay, WI and her current owner had started to re-fit her for a journey of his own. Perfect! Close-er to home and already sporting some new gear! With our fingers crossed, we headed out early the next weekend for the five hour drive across WI to meet with the “part time” broker who informed us he only had 15 minutes to show us the boat, hmmm… We climbed the ladder and started poking around. Though she had promise, too many of the modifications that the previous owner had made were irreversible and poorly executed. After less than 15 minutes of scurrying around the boat, we thanked the broker and took off to find a place for lunch before driving the five hours back home.
Soon after arriving home, another Morgan was listed in Michigan. If we drove out that way, there would be a total of 5 potential Morgans in Michigan and Ohio! There were two just North of Detroit in Lake St Clair so we contacted the broker and set up a date to see them both as well as any other sailboats that he may have available. So off to Michigan we headed with a 14 hour playlist on the iPod and some “healthy-ish” snacks for the road. We met with Bob who was the first broker that actually seemed to take his job seriously! He took us to see the first Morgan. It was her. She was the one. I knew it. Shane wasn’t willing to fall for her so quickly so I let him poke around, opening every hatch and pulling every knob and sheet (the ropes on a boat). We seem to be a good balance for one another. He’s far more level headed than me. If I get a good vibe, I go with it and let him confirm what I already know. We visited the second Morgan that Bob had listed. It was a very close contender and another lovely boat. We retired to our Airbnb for the night with a bottle of Chianti and some lasagna from an Italian market up the road. We made lists. Lots of lists. And then we went back the next day to see both of them again which only confirmed my feelings. Again, Shane’s level head needed a bit more time. Somewhere along Hwy 94 in Indiana, he caught up. He called Bob and the process of buying our new home/boat began.