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Go Small, Go Simple, Go Now by Lin Pardey

Teresa Carey Words 8 Comments

Interestingly, it’s easier for a couple of modest means to take off than for an affluent couple to do so. People of modest means have less to abandon. The idea of trying to retain business interests doesn’t occur to anyone who merely earns a salary or an hourly wage. Long-distance cruising and a business at home don’t mix. Presumably that’s why none of the people we know who have cruised for five or more years have businesses back home. A few have voyaged using royalties from writing, but most people take short jobs as they cruise.

Even physical handicaps need not be a bar to the cruising life. We’ve encountered couples where one partner had a missing limb or a limiting long-term illness. Jim Foley, for instance, was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease just before he and Lyn were ready to set sail on their Valiant 40, Sanctuary. They ignored warnings from their doctor and made the decision to go anyway. By late 2000, Jim and Lyn had completed a ten-year east-about circumnavigation; they felt they would have wasted some of their best years together if they’d listened to the medical pundits. (Lyn, just this month, published an informative and fun book about that voyage called – Go Anyway.)

It takes time to get going. If you accept this fact from the start and make the lead-up to your cruise an interesting period of learning and anticipation, you’ll be better prepared when you depart. Gordon and Annabelle Yates were 45 years old when they decided to go cruising. They spent the next five years building a dinghy and learning to sail—as members of an inland sailing club. At the age of 50, they built their first cruising boat in Las Vegas, Nevada, when their fifth child left home. Then, within a month, Gordon made his decision. He quit his engineering job and had Amobel trucked down to the sea. They voyaged for more than eight years.

Larry took longer to reach his goal. He decided in high school that if he wanted to see the world, he needed a “budget” cruising boat. So he spent seven years in Canada learning to sail, buying used boats, fixing them up, sailing them, and selling them—all while working at a regular jobs including skippering and delivering yachts. When he couldn’t find his ideal boat, he built Seraffyn. It took more than 10 years to get going, but he did it. I was the lucky one. I met Larry when I had barely heard of cruising, and Seraffyn consisted of a bunch of lines on a loft floor and a few large oak timbers. For me, it took about an hour to fall for the dream and only three and a half years to get underway.

Even people who can just write a check for a new boat find it takes a year or more to get started. First you have to locate the right boat. Then there are the many modifications to make it a successful cruising home. Finally, and most important, you need sea time—getting to know how to sail the new boat, learning seamanship and navigation, figuring out how to live afloat.

Choose a modest, simple yacht—one you can afford and still have money in the bank. If you choose a yacht you can handle easily, you’ll get out sooner and find real cruising comfort, mental and physical. Seduced by advertising, cruising-club surveys, and articles written by those who could afford big boats, many people have come to think they must have at least a 45-foot yacht for adequate comfort. But what is real comfort? At sea in rough weather, “comfort” is only relative—even on the largest yacht. Once you go cruising, you’ll realize that “comfort” means a boat you can physically handle alone in the worst conditions, one you can maintain in perfect condition with less than a month of work each year, and one you can truly afford. It may sound wonderful to cruise on a 45-foot yacht with bathtub, hot and cold running water, an electric sewing machine, generator, water-maker, and two motorcycles. But if you settle for a 30-footer, you’ll leave sooner, you’ll cruise longer per dollar, and you’ll have the all-important feature of manageable, affordable boat maintenance. For example, when Larry was a charter captain on a 53-foot ketch, he worked full time, four days a week, maintaining that yacht! The owner spent the equivalent of $5,000 a month on her, not including Larry’s salary. Larry knew what he was doing when he chose a 24-foot cutter for us.

As we’ve said, many of the people we meet who keep cruising (without a private income) for three years or longer have been aboard boats under 35 feet. If you have a boat that’s too big and/or too complicated, it’s only a matter of time before cost and maintenance get ahead of you. At that point, you’ll be spending more of your time earning money and working on your boat to maintain your investment than you will cruising and discovering the world. Put comfort in its proper place and join those of us who have learned this secret: Go small, go simple, go now!

You can read more on this topic by Lin Pardey! Earlier this week I posted Don’t Wait to Cruise, and Deciding to Cruise.

You can find more by Lin Pardey at their blog and website. Lin and Larry Pardey have published many books over the years that have inspired Ben and I to set sail. I just cracked the spine on her latest book, Bull Canyon, which I expect will be wonderful like others. We are also excited to meet with Lin and Larry to learn from their years of adventuring and discuss their involvement in One Simple Question


Comments 8

  1. Douglas

    I have read many opinions and ideas of why people set sail and how they do so. I have yet to see anyone with the same reason for wanting to set off or the same reasons I have not done so yet. My reason to want to go is that I am tired of people…the reason I have not been able to do so yet is debt. I have many people in my life who need me to be here and as a result of past problems, I have too much debt to just say bye. I look forward to the day that the biggest problem I have in my life is a rough sea or storm and what I am going to do about it. To those who have reached their dream of casting off lines I say I wish you well. To those still looking to do so I join with you in your dreams. For now, mine are on hold pending the outcome of reality. Maybe someday my wishes for reality and reality itself will meet.

    1. Post

      Douglas, You aren’t alone with your dream and barrier! Debt is rough to overcome and a lot of people feel the same way you do. But trust me, people do go sailing with debt and sometimes a lot of it! Both Ben and I did, and we still have debt and are planning to set sail again soon.

      I think what made it work for me is that I really focused all my money and energy on what was most important to me: sailing. Because of that I worked A LOT! Sometimes three jobs at once. I also decided not to look at the debt as a barrier. I sold just about everything of value that I had and bought the boat with the fear that I might not be able to pay for it. Then I created a lifestyle around my needs and considered paying my loan payments as one of them. If you haven’t read my post about money, its at this link:

      Trust me, I’ve met a lot of sailors out there and many of them are sailing to far places, but still carrying debt.

      I also understand the need to be in one location to meet obligations with other people. I’ve been there too. But its important to keep your heart focused on sailing and think creatively. Often your dreams need to be alive and present in your daily life and you need to be actively working toward them for years before they happen. So don’t dismiss it yet! Keep it as your main priority. You’ll get there.

      I read an article that said that our lives are influenced only on 10% of outside factors, 25% birthright, and the rest is our own genius. Thats 65% of our life is created by our decisions alone! Thats amazing.

      However, one thing I know for certain, the idea of being footloose and fancy free aboard a sailboat is an illusion. Everyone has responsibilities. Everyone has challenges and needs to be met. Thats just life. No matter where you live it.

      1. Alan

        Teresa, Your thoughts are spot on as usual. We all have different ways of getting there and like Lin says it could take years of hard work before we are ready to cast off. While debt can be a hindrance it is not the end of the world if you manage it properly, the key is to be creative. I did things a bit differently, I paid cash for an old rundown boat and have been rebuilding it paying as I go. Even though I carry no debt I still have many hours of labor and many thousands of dollars ahead of me just to have a basic sea worthy boat. When I set off for sea trials in a month it will be in a half finished but basically safe boat. I may only get three months of voyaging in this year but it beats the heck out of the two weeks I got last year. Its a process and while we all attack it differently I think we all strive for the same goal, Sailing Simplicity. Alan

    2. Melissa

      I hope you won’t give up the dream, Douglas. I sure do understand what it’s like to have obligations to others and one hopes that the people who love you want you to do what you dream of doing eventually. I do think Teresa makes a good point that keeping your dream in front of you , alive and in your daily life, is what is required to make it happen. We’re doing that now and while progress sometimes feel unbearably slow, what is also true is that even if we had the boat and the means, we wouldn’t necessarily be ready to cast off today. Lots of other things have to fall into place, not the least of which is some more experience on the boat we’ll have, whatever it turns out to be. So we do other things to keep the dream going, and we slowly downsize planning for the future. I wish you the best of luck and hope you don’t give up. Reading blogs like this one really helps keep us motivated.

    3. Gus

      Mate I am with you there. While I do not have the debt I am not wealthy but have people who rely on me. If I had no one relying on me I would have left years ago. Unfortunately I did not leave on the seas as soon as I left school as I had planned and the life got quickly in the way. But now with only a few years left till I’m able to take off I am starting to plan and build my boat. I wanted to go in a mono hull but my wife gets sea sick so am building a small ply/glass 30 ft cat, as it will be much easier for her to get used to the sea on a stable craft. And as I only have love and support to give and very little money have worked out a way to build my dream for under 25th and build over a 2 year period making it a reality. Then We’ll live off fish and rice and as far away from the hypocrisy of society as we can.
      So I wish your dreams come true and you can hit the ocean. I just hope I don’t get some terminal illness before I’m able to spend a few years at sea.

    4. Gus

      So I wish your dreams come true and you can hit the ocean. I just hope I don’t get some terminal illness before I’m able to spend a few years at sea.

  2. Jake DiMare

    Gosh, this is such a fantastic blog. My highest aspirations are to follow in your footsteps…Can’t wait to see One Simple Question.

    Keep sailing, keep writing…I will too.

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