It has been six months since I cast off from the Milwaukee Yacht Club to start this new lifestyle. We had an informal gathering on "Door Into Summer" for other reasons. But they served champagne which suited my feeling of the need for a small celebration perfectly.
In Milwaukee there was a boat called "Living the Dream" (or something close to that.) It should have been named "Experiencing the Nightmare" because the owner must have hated it given the damage done to the poor girl. Just before I left I met a young man who had purchased her and was investing a great deal of sweat equity to bring her back to pristine condition. He told me that I motivated him to work harder on his boat as someday he wanted to head down the KK River and live the dream.
What is it like for me? Our standing joke in Key West is "just another beautiful day in paradise." For me, however, this is a necessary stop but not paradise. I have discovered that there are three kinds of people who live on boats: the campers, the in-between's, and the cruisers. The campers find a marina or location they like and stay there for a season or longer. The cruisers are the explorers, they may not have a specific destination in mind, but their focus is on experiencing different places. The in-between's are those who haven't made it to cruiser but don't consider themselves campers. At the moment I consider myself and in-between. I started out considering myself a cruiser but learned quickly that I did not have the necessary skills and experience.
I have done quite a bit of work on Reboot since Milwaukee but since procrastinator is my middle name and apathy my strongest emotion there is still more to do. With no fixed deadlines for anything it is easy to get into the tomorrow syndrome. A job that would take 15 minutes can be easily put off for weeks! However I am slowly getting past the big projects.
So far I have lived a quite sheltered existence. I have buddy boated a lot. I have spent a good deal of time in Navy marinas. This has two benefits: they are less expensive than commercial marinas and the patrons are all active or retired military so there is a natural comradeary. I have stayed in the US close to my parts supply network. This has been important as I had no idea how much equipment I needed to make my life comfortable as a long term cruiser rather than a racer. Another key reason is stressing the equipment. I was delighted to get my dinghy and outboard running. It only took three days before the shift linkage on my old Mercury decided it had had enough and snapped in two. Happening in Key West this was a major annoyance, but had it happened anchored out off Belize or the Out Islands of the Bahamas it would have become a real problem. The same was true of the autopilot soon after I started out. It gave up in Lake Erie and it was almost six weeks before I had it back from the shop working again. All in all I have spent less than I expected on "operating" expenses and far more than I ever imagined on "capital" expenses - primarily parts as I do almost all of the labor myself or with the help of other cruisers.
Do I like this life? It is too early to tell. I never intended to single hand but that is how things worked out. I have yet to do what motivated me to want this life in the first place - visiting "those far away places with the strange sounding names." But I have learned a couple of things:
1) I no longer have a long range objective. My next step is to head to the Yucatan and Belize. Once that becomes boring I will figure out what to do next. It was necessary to have the objective to get to Key West when I left Milwaukee. But now such objectives are limiting. Having to be somewhere at time certain limits lots of options. I am not ready to be limited.
2) The Ham Radio support network, particular the Maritime Mobile Service Net is helpful beyond words. I can casually ask a question like "what kind of ham license do I need in Mexico" and someone will research it for me and read and/or send me an email with all the necessary information. Not to mention how nice it is to talk to another human when you are 60 miles offshore all by yourself.
3) I still have a great deal more to learn, to experience, and to share with others.