I should have known something was being planned when in mid 2015 Pete started listening and watching sailing podcasts and videos. For Christmas I was given a book – Voyaging with Kids – A Guide to Family Life Afloat, by Behan Gifford…. (fantastic book, pretty much covers everything you need to know about living aboard a boat with kids). By 2016 I had even got captivated by a couple of the video blogs and before long, the idea of a year off the grid – destination unknown, spent sailing, snorkelling and sightseeing with the kids sounded like a great idea.
It all seemed pretty simple, people do it all the time …… buy a boat, pack up the house and set sail!
Reality check one – buying a boat, all of a sudden my nightly addiction of Houzz.com was cast aside for months and months of scouring the internet for the perfect boat. I’ve had some experience with boats, having grown up with parents who loved sailing. They had sailed extensively along the east coast of Australia, spent 4 years sailing all over Europe, 4 years sailing Asia and another few years sailing the Pacific, during which time I spent many amazing holidays with them. Dad had built 3 of the boats they had over that time, and I was well aware of the fact that boats require a LOT of attention, having seen him spend hundreds of hours fixing and maintaining each and every one of them. So, getting a vessel that was in good condition was critical unless Pete was going to spend all his time in the bilge or engine well, rather than having fun. Fortunately, Pete is very boat savvy, having lived on his own boat for 5 years before we got married, so I had no concerns about his ability to solve any of the mechanical problems that could and would eventually occur.
In buying a boat my focus was on the practical issues around sleeping – we needed enough beds so each of the boys had their own bunk (no sharing of v births, that would definitely not work), and I didn’t want to be in a small cabin that required crawling in and out of a bunk. Just that criteria alone reduced our choice of boats by about 90%, as most of the boats with enough beds for us are designed with either 2 rooms at the rear, with a master cabin up front (which meant 2 boys sharing), or 4 cabins (2 front and 2 back), which meant me crawling in and out of a bed. The Jeanneau Sun Odyessy was soon top on our list of choices, having a very configurable cabin layout which meant we could split a large back cabin into 2 cabins if we have guests, but for most of the time have a large cabin for us that is easy to move around in, and forward of the boat a v-Birth for Max, and 2 bunks in a side cabin for Ben and Tom. Eventually a 43 DS version was found in Fort Lauderdale, and after a quick visit by Pete and Ben to check it out in September 2016 and make sure all the mechanical bits were in good enough working order, Mahia became ours and the plan of a year away was starting to become a reality.
Reality check two – packing up the house, not much to say except what a hideous job. Months and months of culling, selling, donating, packing and throwing out. One good thing with this process is that you really get to reflect on all the unnecessary things that you gather over the course of your life and realise that what you actually need is very little. I look forward to returning home to much less stuff, and hopefully, live clutter free in the future. Hopefully, this will be achievable after a year living on a small boat with very limited space!
Reality check three – set sail. We’d hoped that after arriving in Fort Lauderdale it would take about 2 weeks to complete a few minor repairs, anti-foul the hull, clean and provision the boat. What we hadn’t realised was how difficult it is when you are in a foreign place just to find everything you need. We spent hours in Ubers, taxi’s, shopping malls and huge super stores gathering the basics, much to the kids’ frustration and distress. It’s not much fun for them to spend their days being dragged around, although we did try in fit in a few fun events (a visit to the Everglades, tour of Miami, movies and swimming). Online shopping appears to have taken over in the US, and many of the things we required were just not available in store. So frustrating when our internet connections kept dropping out. Eventually however, Pete got all essential mechanical things working (lights, water, toilets and engine and sails and rigging professionally checked) and all remaining repairs and maintenance issues assigned to a long list of things that could be done on the way.
After one last mad shop at 9 pm at night provisioning was completed and all available storage areas jammed full with enough food to get us to Australia, and most importantly, enough wine, rum and gin to last a few months. We’d heard that it was very expensive in the Caribbean and we didn’t want to be caught without!!
Now, all we had to do was wait for a weather window so we could set sail for the Bahamas!