If you tried to send me a Linkedin request over the past dozen years or so, chances are I didn’t see it. Apologies if you think I was ignoring you. Please don’t take it personally. I was ignoring Linkedin.
A few months ago, I updated my Linkedin profile. I had originally set up my profile over a dozen years ago and wrote nothing on it. Current employer and title – that’s it. Andrew equates it to the equivalent of tumbleweeds. In large part, this was because I was happy where I was and didn’t need to be bothered with having recruiters solicit me.
So while I was doing my rounds at the office saying my goodbyes, I decided to use Linkedin as a communication tool for the rest of my business contacts outside of Warner Bros. to let them know I had retired.
When it comes to Linkedin, my approach is to only accept connections with people I have worked with or went to school with. Basically, anyone I can readily vouch for in terms of abilities and competencies in a professional setting. Others seem to treat it as yet another social media platform to collect as many connections as they can.
I will probably go the other direction and cull individuals that I am really no longer in touch with, but I get ahead of myself.
Over a weekend, I started to backfill content on my profile. I put all the impressive accomplishments from my resume on there and then (after a moment of reflection) got rid of all of it. I just put the names of the companies and the years of employment. I was done marketing my skills. I didn’t need a website profile to showcase abilities for a life I no longer want to pursue.
Linkedin also provides a feature where you can write articles. I was on a writing kick for serenadewind.com so I decided why not write a short blurb on my retirement. It was then that an article was going around Linkedin that drew my attention.
This personal exercise came in handy for me to give some guidance to my mom who seems to have come untethered in recent months. I elaborated on this in a few blog posts and suffice it to say she is still in the midst of figuring this stuff out. I must admit that it is probably a harder thing to do after having a lifetime of habits and beliefs that spans 70+ years as opposed to 40+ years.
Andrew and I married and moved in together a couple months before my father passed away. I wanted to live closer to my mom in the event that she needed any help. Within the first 6 months after the funeral, she completed the following:
sold a rental property,
bought a 2-bedroom condo with the proceeds,
downsized from a 4 bedroom, 3-car garage house,
did renovations on the 2-bedroom condo,
moved in, and
found a tenant to lease out her old place
So while Andrew and I lived close by, my mom didn’t really lean on us. Ironically, she is doing so now.
Why, after 5 years, is this happening?
Thankfully I had done my own work sorting out what I was planning to do with the rest of my life. I had a little head start in helping her redirect and not fall apart. I keep reminding her who she is and that what she is experiencing now is momentary. It is not permanent.
She asks me for quick fixes. She prays incessantly, but has little faith. I take her through the various stages I went through and chronicled here on serenadewind, such as:
While many of you may have gone through this with your parents, this is new to me … this feeling of the student becoming the teacher. I am showing her the way to figure out what is her second mountain and how to live for her eulogy.
In the words of Reinhold Niebuhr:
Nothing that is worth doing can be achieved in our lifetime; therefore we must be saved by hope.
Nothing which is true or beautiful or good makes complete sense in any immediate context of history; therefore we must be saved by faith.
Nothing we do, however virtuous, can be accomplished alone; therefore we must be saved by love.
No virtuous act is quite as virtuous from the standpoint of our friend or foe as it is from our standpoint. Therefore we must be saved by the final form of love, which is forgiveness.
Before jumping into our topic today about packing light, we wanted to highlight news about Patrick and Rebecca Childress of s/v Brick House. Their youtube channel has been an inspiration for both of us, and we were quite literally shocked to find out that they were both diagnosed with coronavirus on May 15th.
While Rebecca is slowly recovering aboard their boat in South Africa, Patrick was admitted into the ICU and has been on a ventilator and is experiencing kidney failure. Their insurance claim has been denied since it does not cover pandemic, so we have donated to help them out.
Money should be the worst and last thing anyone in this situation would need to worry about. Having Patrick come back home as soon as possible to Rebecca… that’s what is important.
If you would also like to help, here is the GoFundMe to support them. Thank you.
30-weeks to minimalism kicked off the first of a 5 part series on getting prepared to live on a sailboat. This begins by downsizing many of our land-based belongings. We made a yeoman’s effort earlier this year, but in this post, we take a critical eye at clothes and consider packing light.
This also gives us an opportunity to give you a boat tour of s/v Rachel J. Slocum.
“He who would travel happily must travel light.”
Antoine de Saint-Exupery
In my 30’s, I caught the travel bug after my first business trip to Milan when I was working at Universal Studios. Eventually, this lead to a business development position at Technicolor, where I flew to Asia and Europe with some frequency. During the few hours I could steal way between meetings, I would visit sites profiled in Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code and Sofia Coppola’s Lost in Translation. Back then, packing light was desirable when I would be in a different city each night while circumnavigating the world.
Now, packing light is an imperative as we embark on our sailing adventure.
When Andrew and I began to travel together, it didn’t take long nor did it take much discussion before we began to pack all our belongings into one bag. Yes ladies, one single bag. Shocking, I know.
Andrew usually took the lead, gathering all that would be needed on a trip.
The first of our trips was camping and hiking to a few of the highest peaks in California (San Gorgonio and San Jacinto). Because he was more familiar with the gear, he selected and packed in Tetris-like fashion everything that we needed into our packs. He would take into consideration balancing the weight in addition to the bulk of hard vs soft items. All-in-all, a thoughtful approach.
When we went on our honeymoon for two weeks traveling throughout Japan and Taiwan, we each carried a backpack, opting to stay in AirBnB’s to do our laundry every couple of days for the few clothes we carried.
As a result, we discovered the pleasure of staying nimble so we can take impromptu excursions and side-trips. For example, just as when we were headed for Kyoto, we took a detour to hike Poet’s Mountain. There’s no way we would have done that with a roller-bag.
So with this background, we turn to packing for the rest of our life in a 50′ sailboat.
How do you go about packing for the rest of your life?
While Bill was taking Andrew through some of the topside features of the boat, his wife and I went down below while I recorded the measurements of each of the drawers and hanging lockers, paying attention primarily to the areas for personal items.
Spaces in the bilge, under the settee, pantry storage, v-berth where the workshop is located – I didn’t bother measuring, since I envisioned all the spares, tools and provisions would be allocated to these spaces.
So with these few bits of information, we could begin to formulate a plan.
One of the most impactful changes will be downsizing clothes for this lifestyle. In our house, our clothes currently occupy 5 closets, 4 dressers, and a linen closet. This is roughly 510 cubic feet of space.
While I easily have 2-3 times more clothes than Andrew, we both have a lot of decisions to make when it comes to preparing for this lifestyle.
In the owner’s cabin of s/v Rachel J. Slocum, there is a single dresser (8 drawers), 2 hanging lockers, and 2 hatches above the bookshelves next to the bed.
Additionally, there are two other hanging lockers: one located just outside the v-berth and another next to the companion way to stow foul weather gear.
This is about 65 cubic feet of space compared to 510 cubic feet which we have in our home. This requires that we be ruthless to reduce our possessions by 85% or more.
In 30-weeks to minimalism , we talked about purging by knocking out each category one at a time. This helped to get rid of two closets worth of clothes, and I was quite proud of that effort. However when I looked at the storage options available on RJ Slocum, I knew I needed to start from zero and only take what I need and could fit aboard.
Thanks to several years and thousands of dollars spent on Lululemon, we have more than enough athletic and technical clothes to choose to bring with us aboard. By technical clothes, we mean fast drying, sweat wicking, UPF, waterproof, windproof, and insulating yet breathable clothing.
We also have a variety of clothes from Arc’teryx, Ex Officio, Kit and Ace, The North Face, REI among others, If we want to remain comfortable at sea, gone are the cottons, silks, linens, leather, wool and other fabrics that will not hold up well to this lifestyle. A tropical marine environment spawns mold and mildew if you’re not careful. Additionally, salt water and sun will take their toll on everything.
To store these clothes, we’ll use a variety of techniques that many apartment dwellers use to save on space. These include:
folding the Marie Kondo way
vacuum bags for seasonal items
As for shoes, marine shoes, flip flops, hiking boots, etc. will be stored in plastic milk crates for ventilation at the base of the hanging lockers. Dirty laundry will also be stored in milk crates.
Foul weather gear will go in the locker closest to the companion way.
To put this into practice, I taped off and measured 20″ of hanging locker space for myself, 12″ of foul weather gear locker space (of which I would take up half), and the precise dimensions of the 4 drawers I would take up on RJS for clothes. When I saw the amount of space I had available to me, it was sobering. For many women, it would be a shock.
Then, I referred to Beth Leonard’s The Voyager’s Handbook which detailed the number and type of items considered the minimum to pack for a tropical and temperate cruising destination (e.g., 10 t-shirts, 4 tank tops, etc.)
In other words, these all went into the “Yes” pile. What I had already pre-selected several weeks ago became the new “Maybe” pile. Any category of clothes that had not yet been screened automatically went into the “No” pile.
All of a sudden, I was done and packing light became a reality.
Food for Thought
When this experiment was near complete, I showed Andrew the approach and he was excited equally enthusiastic about the results. He then threw in the potential for taking more items if we were to vacuum seal some of the items from the “maybe” pile so that we wouldn’t wont for more.
This is one of the many examples of the “battle of the givers.” I found a way to become at peace with less and he gave me a way to take more and not feel quite as much sacrifice. Rather than packing light, I would then be packing medium… at least until we arrive and assess what additional storage could really be found.
How to handle rejection
For the clothes that are in the reject pile, they can be gifted, sold or donated. Going Zero Waste provides some ideas for organizations that will take donations of unusual items such as bras, eyeglasses, cosmetics and shoes. Before tossing anything, we will also be taking advantage of TerraCycle to determine what to do with other waste streams.
Progress to date
as of May 18, 2020
The table details our approach: on the left is the choices we will make for clothes and on the right is for linens. Beginning with a list of all of the items and working from left to right, each item is assigned some relevance (marked in orange) for sailing in high-latitude, temperate or tropic climates. Each item is also given a minimum number or range required as per The Voyager’s Handbook. Additional clothes were itemized if they weren’t listed in the handbook (e.g., pajamas, climbing gear, vest, etc.)
I filled out the next 2 columns based on a) items that fit in the allotted hanging locker and drawers and b) optional items I would like to take if there is more room aboard the boat. The next 2 columns were filled out by Andrew.
Andrew had a chance to tackle his closet with the same rigorous editing. Going into it, he thought it would be easy, breezy. About 30 minutes into the process, he realized this was going to be a grind. While I sat on the bed happily knitting, I would field his packing-related questions. By lunchtime, he had gone through his wardrobe and he felt good about the progress he made. While he didn’t take the final step as I did, which was to pack all of the items into a suitcase, he now has everything in order, except for shoes.
Linens was also a topic of conversation over the past week. We will provide more details on that when we discuss the Boat Head.
While we usually publish twice a week (on Mondays and Thursdays), we thought we would announce a little bit of news. For those curious, here is a Project Slocum update since our last post on April 1st.
Six weeks ago, we came back from our boat purchase trip to Ft Lauderdale and faced a go/no-go decision. Due to coronavirus and many states beginning to lock down, we and Bill mutually agreed to put the sale on hold.
So what has changed?
As we are packing up our belongings and making decisions about what to bring aboard, we asked Bill for some guidance on bedding and linens. In the process of providing feedback, he mentioned that there is another person interested in buying RJ Slocum.
The other buyer wanted to move quickly, asking Bill to meet her in Florida during the middle of the coronavirus pandemic. Cruisers the world over are in lockdown. So it seems, there’s little point in rushing to get on the water. But the new buyer was selling her house and ready to go.
We had always taken a cautious approach, valuing health and safety over a transaction. So we replied to Bill that we wanted to move forward with our deal. If it provided peace of mind to him, we can wire the security deposit rather than have him worry needlessly about being pressured to make a sale, even at the cost of his own health.
Upon reading our response about our decision and timing, Bill wrote:
I agree that that there’s little point in moving quickly at this point in time. I’ve been in communication with my friends overseas and most everywhere is locked down tight. Many cruisers aren’t even allowed ashore. The Caribbean is locked down. Massachusetts still hasn’t re-opened, and if you did anchor off a beach here, there’d be nothing open other than supermarkets and drug stores. So we’ll just have to wait and see how things progress.
But congratulations! At least you’re making the first move toward cruising. You can be absolutely sure I’ll do everything I can to make that dream come true for you.
Taking the plunge
When he received the reply from Bill yesterday evening, Andrew smiled, pretty excited about taking this next step. In the wee hours of the morning, I woke up and read the email Andrew had forwarded from Bill, and I started to research what information we would need to complete the transaction.
The next morning, when Andrew woke up, I told him I read the email. He asked me, “How did you feel?”
I paused, answering, “Pretty good.”
“Aren’t you excited?”
“Sure, I’m excited,” I replied flatly.
Andrew raised an eyebrow.
Why the difference in reaction?
I speculate that my unchanged mood largely stems from the fact that I had mentally accepted that this was our boat. Wiring the money, finalizing the purchase agreement, and any other steps were just that: mechanical steps in a process and nothing more. In my mind, she is already ours. The steps were a mere formality.
Andrew’s happiness over this next step seems to stem from the subconscious belief that there continued to be a series of go/no-go decisions. In his mind, anything could prevent his dream from becoming a reality. So rather than get his hopes up, he is more cautious. Every step becomes a celebration… or a potential devastation.
Glass half full or half empty
We mentioned this before when we first decided to sail around the world. On our whiteboard, we sketched out a plan. Over the course of a year, that whiteboard was a disappointing reminder to Andrew about the lack of progress we made. It wasn’t to me. I looked at the whiteboard with optimism about what steps needed to be taken for us to transform our lives.
The past day is a reminder of how Andrew and I differ in our approach to the same goal. He will celebrate each positive step. I will take each step in stride as a natural course of things.
I like the fact that we are getting better at observing ourselves and our interaction. This wards off any potential for disagreement or tension.
Now, on to the next steps… to work on the purchase agreement
Over the next few days…
On Friday, I drafted revisions to the purchase agreement and turned it over to Andrew for review over the weekend.
We spent Saturday in Malibu Creek State Park hiking and checking out potential routes to climb. On our way back home, we picked up some Godmother sandwiches with the works from Bay Cities Deli in Santa Monica and then had a small picnic at the beach. People seemed to be observing social distancing, so we felt safe.
On Sunday, Andrew provided his edits and we revised the purchase agreement with his changes. This version was sent to Bill for review and comment.
Yesterday, we scraped all our pennies together and placed our security deposit on RJ Slocum. We are officially in escrow! This marks a pivotal step in becoming a boat owner.
This sticky note has been featured heavily on our original whiteboard. It was also among the first of our short-term goals Andrew and I tackled. We gave it a good go by taking the activity one room at a time in August 2018 and again in October 2019. In the process, I offloaded a lot of clothes, bags and shoes as well as underutilized kitchen items. Cherished items went to friends, and the rest went to charity.
Time to Take It Up a Notch
In retrospect, we took a somewhat incremental approach to reducing our possessions. The effect was… meh. In large part, we were missing a strong why to underpin the activity. We now have that: sailing around the world.
Because we want to make this transformative lifestyle change, it demands a pretty extreme definition of minimalism. We have furniture, personal items and household supplies that fill a 3-bedroom house along with a sizable 2-car garage and extensive outdoor furniture. Taking an incremental approach will utterly end in failure to get off the dock, so to speak. Taking a transformative approach much like countless examples in Living Big in a Tiny House is what it takes.
Learning from the experience of other live-aboard cruisers, we decided we are not going to rent storage space while we sail around the world. If we sail for 5-10 years, so many variables can change and it doesn’t add up:
why pay for storage for years (e.g., $100/mo for 10 years = $12,000)
we may not use furniture, clothes or items from our distant past
our needs inevitably will change
Thus, we will not be hanging on to anything that does not serve a purpose onboard a sailboat. A critical eye will be cast on every article of clothing, every kitchen item, and every tool on the workbench. As other cruisers have indicated, even what they brought was way too much. So, when it comes to purging, we are going to be ruthless.
At the end of the purge, we will be left with a handful of suitcases and ready to go sailing, whether we start from Florida, Germany or British Columbia.
Thankfully we have a little bit of time to purge our belongings. Accomplishing this transition while keeping our sanity at the same time is one of the driving reasons for taking our time with this.
I have read some examples of breakneck speeds at which folks who are excited to start cruising quit their jobs, buy a boat, sell their possessions and move aboard within a few months time. Neither Andrew nor I are interested in replacing a frenetic schedule with another frenetic schedule.
One of the hardest things to do in this transition is deliberately slow down. I remind myself to go with the flow. Finding stillness in the day for introspection and self-discovery. I am giving myself the gift of time to define what gives me joy and purpose in this lifetime.
“It’s supposed to be hard. If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it. The hard is what makes it great.”
Does it help me fulfill a greater purpose with my life?
In our efforts to de-clutter, we are going beyond the simple question, “Does it spark joy?” Rather than attach happiness to the items we decide to keep, we are filtering the items to evaluate whether it will serve us in the future. With that lens, we can categorize the items into three buckets:
These are the items that will be used daily when we are on our sailing adventures.
These items will be set aside for a few months. If we don’t retrieve them during that time, we don’t need them.
These items will not have a home in our future. They’re too big, too worn-out or simply not a good fit for our new lifestyle.
30 Days to Minimalism
We decided not to take the same room-by-room or drawer-by-drawer approach as we did in 2018 and 2019. This time, we are going to take things on by category of items. I love Sadia’s youtube channel not just for her recipes but also for lifestyle tips. The categories were laid out based on her video 30 days to minimalism. Rather than do things in 30 days, we will attempt to do things in 30 weeks or somewhere in between. This way we have time for other activities.
In this final installment, Project Slocum Part 5 reveals our second day aboard s/v Rachel J. Slocum, continued discussions with her owners, and our go/no-go decision under the shadow of coronavirus.
3/21/2020 14:00 – TBD
Continued discussions aboard s/v RJ Slocum
Dinner: Charcuterie from Publix
In the wee hours
Once again, Andrew slept great. Me? Not so much. After a few hours of writing, I did get a few more hours of sleep in the morning and woke up relatively refreshed, if not in a silly mood. The reason for this was that I had drafted a boat purchase agreement in the middle of the night, and I couldn’t wait for Andrew to read it.
Andrew groaned when he woke up again to the sound of tapping on the keyboard. But, sometimes these things can’t be helped. A boat purchase agreement isn’t going to write itself!
09:00 Breakfast consisted of a guava & cheese pastry and a cup of cortadito from El Cafecito. They had warned us of a new edict from the government that even take-away was being taken away the following morning (pun intended). Once again, this is another good lesson in going with the flow.
Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez issued an emergency order to close hotels and other lodging. Exceptions will be made for first responders, displaced visitors or residents, domestic violence victims, airline crew members, patients’ families, and journalists from out of town. We had until 11:59 a.m. Monday to vacate.
Luckily, we were set to depart Sunday morning, so the impact on us would be minimal. We spent the rest of the morning both working on serenadewind.com. Andrew worked on the redesign of the new launch to future-proof our needs, while I continued to work on content.
14:00 Bill and his wife picked us up once again and drove us to the boat. Earlier in the day, Andrew and I had picked up a few things at the grocery store. Neither of us were particularly hungry at lunch time, so we thought we might want to snack on some charcuterie later.
We also picked up a six-pack of Samuel Adams Lager. I generally don’t touch the stuff, but I do enjoy the taste of Sam Adams from time to time, reminiscent of my days living in Boston. In choosing this brand, I thought it would be a safe choice for Bill, given he is a Massachusetts native.
We crossed the grass toward the wooden dock, with Bill’s wife leading the way. As she was negotiating the distance between the dock and the boat, she backed away, opting instead to step aboard from the bow as she had done so the previous day. Just as she turned and passed us, the dock collapsed underneath our feet.
Bill and I plunged into the water.
When I resurfaced moments later, I sputtered and looked around for Bill. He was still under and I couldn’t see him. I swam toward the nearest piling, covered in sharp barnacles and hooked two fingers on a gnarly 3 inch bolt to keep myself steady, while I still held onto a few personal items.
To our relief, Bill surfaced a moment later and cursed. He had been carrying his laptop, which was now doomed. Bill checked to see if I was okay, and I said yes. He called out to his wife to have her retrieve his laptop, which she did.
I hoisted the six pack of Sam Adams over my head, and I called out:
“Save the beer!”
The main goal was to get rid of the object which was weighing me down. I’m not a terribly good swimmer and was pretty desperate to get rid of the beer in order to save myself. In retrospect, I’m surprised I didn’t just let the damn thing sink.
Andrew stooped over me and took it from my hand along with a Nikon SLR camera that was slung over one shoulder. We had intended to use it to capture some artistic snaps of the boat for serenadewind.com, but I guess it wasn’t meant to be. Once again, go with the flow.
Assessing the Damages
Bill and I swam away from the treacherous dock and toward the powerboat berthed next to us. She had a lower freeboard, which allowed us to pull ourselves out of the water. We then took stock of our injuries. A few scratches. Couple bruises. And even though I hit my head, it didn’t seem to be a concussion.
Then we had a closer look at the dock.
Based on the angle of the collapsed dock, it now made sense why the fall sent Bill deeper into the water than for me. He stood at the longest arc of the collapse. I stood at the shortest end. So while we both fell, he had a longer ways to go given the momentum and distance travelled.
We were both lucky, being able to walk away with a couple of bruises and scrapes. The biggest loss would probably be Bill’s laptop. I wasn’t too bothered by the Nikon SLR since there was a strong likelihood that we had the SD card backed up recently. We plan to bury it in rice for a week and see what happens. Since it’s an older model, it isn’t a big deal to have replaced or upgraded to newer technology. I think the minimalism kick that we are on, really puts things into perspective.
Boot Deja Vue
Interestingly enough, I lost my shoes in the process. (Again, I know!) Check out the post from our trip to Boot in Dusseldorf, and you’ll understand. I can’t seem to hold onto any shoes these days. More importantly, I think Bill and I were both happy that we had taken the fall rather than the ones we loved.
Once we finally settled into the cockpit and changed into some dry clothes, we exchanged calamity stories over a beer. It helped to settle our nerves after the unexpected event. However in the interest of time, we dove into the topic at hand…
Earlier in the morning as we were running errands, Andrew and I had a good discussion about our approach for today. We could “play the game” much like everyone in the world would advise or we could “play it straight.” From all that we read and from all our communication with Bill over the past few months, our gut instinct told us to play it straight. We’ll approach it very much like old school gentleman’s agreement.
Much like we described in earlier posts in this series, we really could not put a dollar amount on the knowledge and experience we hope Bill would impart to us. In many ways, we considered the purchase of s/v Rachel J. Slocum not as buyers but as becoming stewards to a legacy that Bill began and that we hoped we had earned the right to continue.
We believed that Bill would never want to part with her knowing she would be sitting in a berth because her new owners would be too freaked out to sail her into open waters. Worse yet, a scenario in which her new owners grounded her or do something incredibly stupid. In this respect, both seller and buyer goals were aligned. As a result, Andrew and I made clear our sincere intent to learn and to be successful in handling her much in the same way he would.
It’s as simple as that.
As we wrapped up our visit, we had pretty much exhausted all of our major questions. Some, we had decided, could be put off until we were on a sea trial. Others just seemed trivial.
But when pressed to continue to ask as many questions as we wished, we obliged. We did a quick-fire round of random questions such as:
What are the pros and cons of having Divinycell core?
Did you have to do any fuel polishing?
What are the major items that need to be replaced in 2 years? in 5 years?
How much power is drawn on all the electronics when you are on passage?
What is the age of the windlass? the anchors?
When you wrote, “Hydraulic take-off from the transmission at idle or underway,,,” What does this mean?
The final question was a kicker:
Why did you name the vessel Rachel J. Slocum?
Upon hearing our question, Bill had a twinkle in his eye, and he began to describe the story. I may need to ask him to elaborate on this again, because I found it a profound gesture to his family heritage. We learned that, on his mother’s side of the family, he is descended from the very same Slocum’s as Joshua Slocum, famous for being the first person to circumnavigate the globe single-handed in 1895 to 1898. He chronicled his journey, which was later published in a book: “Sailing Alone Around the World”.
Given the loud noise from motorboats along the river, I couldn’t hear much of the tale. Certainly it wasn’t enough information to do the story justice and to summarize it here in a few sentences.
Suffice it to say, we will never change the name. She will remain “Rachel J. Slocum.”
On a lighter note, Bill also shared with us another fact.
When they were cruising through Patagonia, Bill and his wife had to find a place for the night to tie-off, and all of the usual spots were taken. So using their forward-seeking sonar on s/v Rachel J. Slocum, they traveled through uncharted waters and established the first caletta in a new region.
As a result, the caletta was named after s/v Rachel J. Slocum, and it appears on nautical pilot charts of Cape Horn.
By way of comparison, Andrew’s claim to fame is having a whiskey drink named after him at our favorite gastropub, Side Door in Corona Del Mar, California. If ever anyone drops in for a drink (when that is permitted again), ask for “The Andrew.” It’s similar to a “Whiskey River,” an equally delicious drink.
We thought having a Chilean pilot chart marked with your boat’s name was impressive. Bill countered that having a drink named after them would be more impressive to most cruisers.
Bill kindly drove us back to our hotel. On the way, Bill said that this was a bittersweet moment. Selling s/v Rachel J. Slocum after having sailed her around the world, the adventures experienced aboard, and then in the final years doing less and less sailing. It was time to retire from the cruising life. He continued to invest in her, because he didn’t want to see her languish in her berth. His wife put it aptly when she said, “She was born to swim.”
In retrospect throughout this boat buying experience, what I am reminded was an overall guiding principle that we referenced. We always had Bill’s perspective in mind in all of our dealings and communication. So many times, we thought of how we would feel if we were in Bill’s shoes, and that helped us a great deal.
How would I feel if I wanted to sell a boat I had designed and lived on for 30 years? I would be pretty damn picky about who I sell it to. And if there wasn’t a connection, I might turn any offer down. But if I didn’t have the luxury of being picky, I would die just a little bit inside taking an offer just for the money.
As we bid our goodbyes, Bill said, “I really hope to shake your hand one day.” Andrew and I hoped so too.
We promised to each other to be safe and to stay healthy in these times, so that when things turn a corner, we can continue on our journey.
Andrew and I have a few things to follow-up on when we get back to Los Angeles. The timeline will still be contingent on some factors out of our control, i.e., restrictions imposed due to coronavirus precautions. Notwithstanding, we’ll be setting out on this sailing adventure in a few months.
3/22/2020 10:30 – 13:30
FLL Terminal 3
Ft. Lauderdale to Los Angeles
Check out of hotel.
Jet Blue #701
Not so wee hours
05:30 I rose early once again, grateful that I slept through the night. Andrew and I had been up until past midnight getting some work done. My sleep was fairly shallow as I was thinking through the deal terms I wanted to work into the purchase agreement.
07:00 The sun had not yet risen when I decided to wake up Andrew. We didn’t get a chance to pack the night before and left the activity for this morning. Of course, this meant getting up early enough to do so.
Andrew hopped into the shower while I began to pack everything up. It didn’t take long since we tend to travel light. I took a few minutes to stand on our patio to watch the sunrise.
08:00 When we climbed into the Toyota Camry, our Uber driver informed us that the whole city was shutting down on Wednesday (i.e., shelter at home mandates). He reported having seen a train loaded to the gills with military vehicles heading to the city. We were pretty relieved to be leaving while at the same time wondered what it would take for the US to go into a full, nationwide lockdown.
09:00 I sent a text message to a good friend to give her the all-clear sign that we were headed back to LA. She was on standby in case we weren’t able to board our plane, so that she could take care of our cats, Oreo and Xiaolong.
10:30 Peace out Ft. Lauderdale. Stay healthy. Be safe.
How would you characterize your relationship with money? Do you live to work or do you work to live? If you were handed $10 million today, how would it change your life? What if you gave all of your money away? How would you feel?
A Life of Accumulation
A handful of years ago, I would say that I certainly lived to work, and there are a lot of extenuating circumstances for that drive.
I am the daughter of immigrant parents who came to the U.S. many moons ago. My parents worked multiple jobs, went to night school, reinvested every penny of their savings into real estate, and supported multiple mortgages. They worked hard to build a foundation for their children, and that was their dream for us.
My brother and I are the first generation. We are influenced by a fusion of old country culture/work ethic with the contemporary GenX approach to life. At times, there is tension between those two ways of thinking.
For instance, my brother and I were encouraged to follow the conservative fields of medicine, law or finance. And so that’s what we did. There’s no way that our parents would have been supportive if we decided to pursue our dreams. It would be unheard of to be paid to do what you love doing.
Selling the story of early retirement.
Even now, as I broached the subject with my mom about leaving my job of 12 years at a major Hollywood studio, it was a tough sell. I had to take a circuitous approach to explain how this would make sense from her point of view (instead of mine), and the most compelling argument was this:
When you take a 50-60 hour week and tack on another 20-hour commute, that lifestyle is not sustainable. It leaves me no time for anything else. This job is not more important than my life. It is not more important than my health. At the most basic level, I worry about days in which I am too tired to drive. The solution is not to get a hotel room closer to the office.
The solution is to leave and find something better.
How I would have loved to tell her the whole story, that leaving the conservative, well-paid, stable income source was just the beginning.
What I really wanted to do was to live a different life one that is unplanned and unstructured.
What I am proposing to do is not common amongst my peers, but I have a couple examples from my past that I can draw from… really courageous friends who had gone on to build amazing lives outside of corporate strategy and finance.
My friend Sam had a passion for cooking, particularly making delicious chocolate truffles. He also had a love for Latin American culture. So after learning a bit of Portuguese, he prepared his house to rent out and moved to Brazil. Eventually he opened a cafe and has operated it successfully for the past 12 years.
Another good friend Lisa was also working in corporate strategy and development. Before eventually becoming a professional writer, she took one more conservative detour which was to go to law school (in part to placate her parents).
Within 6 months of graduating, she hustled and networked her way onto a TV show, and the rest is history. She now is a show-runner of an award-winning TV series, and she has a bright future writing and directing feature films in Hollywood.
I am also reminded of my friend Sue who left her great corporate job of 20 years, to pursue her dream to become a life coach. She had been part of the same company for most of her adult life and felt there was a more fulfilling way to make an impact on the lives of others.
Looking back now, I realize that their lives and mine intersected for a reason. Perhaps it is to give me the courage and support to pursue a life in which I get to do what I love doing.
After a combined 50 years of working in the corporate world, this is a dramatic mind-shift from…
living to work
keeping up with the Jones’s
letting money and possessions own you
Andrew and I are letting all of that go. We want to redefine our relationship with money. Our goal is to venture into the unknown, the unstructured, and to go where the wind blows.
A Life of Philanthropy
Andrew and I are embarking on a new adventure aboard s/v Rachel J. Slocum, where we are contemplating self-sustaining, minimalist living. Beyond downsizing possessions, we also are going green by generating our own power (wind, solar, water) as well as making our own water (e.g., SeaRecovery 30/gal hour hydraulic water maker) and mindful of water conservation, which is critical when we consider the type of sailing we’d like to do. It made sense to me to think about how this guiding principle can also help us to make a decision about how much money is enough and still be consistent with self-sustaining, minimalist living.
One of the ideas that came to mind was: How about we set up serenadewind.com with a non-profit charter in mind? The concept is simple: Whatever funds that come in will go toward paying boat expenses (including upgrades, maintenance, etc.) and any surplus in excess of some threshold will be given away to causes we believe in.
At this stage in our lives, we are not compelled to accumulate money just as we are not compelled to accumulate possessions, because they end up owning you.
Over the past couple weeks, I have been helping my mom with some major financial decisions. Because my dad had passed away 5 years ago this month, she has had to make these decisions on her own. After his passing, she had a burst of energy, selling one rental property, downsizing from a 4-bedroom house, buying a new house, and moving into the new house all in the span of 6 months.
About a month ago, one of her tenants moved out and this triggered the typical property management activity: move-out check list, touch-up painting, repairs, etc. At her age and especially during the coronavirus pandemic, it was worrisome having her interact with so many strangers (contractors, agents, buyers, etc.) As a result, I have been enlisted to help.
Beyond the logistics of helping to coordinate these interactions, I am emotionally present for my mom, providing an anchor for her as she makes these decisions. What strikes me most are the parallels that can be drawn between our lives, now that she is experiencing sleepless nights just as I did earlier this year (see Support Local) while she faces her own relationship with money.
We are working together to break a habit formed and reinforced for over 70 years, I am helping her to learn how to let go and have a different relationship with money. My parents worked to set up a financial nest egg for the future so that they wouldn’t have worries. I reminded her that the best way to honor her younger self is to try to not worry now. Slowly over the next few weeks, she will learn to detach herself from money. I am so grateful to have gone through this process so that I can help her now.
Past, present and future. After a couple weeks spent with ideas about the future pinballing around in my mind, I finally got some closure on a few things. There’s something to be said about spending too much time in the past or in the future can create a lot of stress.
Take for instance, if you were to think about the past, including regrets in your life, consequences of mistakes you had made, etc., it can get pretty depressing and unproductive, especially given the fact that you can’t do anything about the past.
At the other extreme, thinking too much about the future and what unknowns lay ahead, planning for every contingency, etc., can also create a tremendous amount of stress and anxiety. This is especially the case for someone like me, who is Type A.
The present is the only time that you actually have control.
Decisions being made about today or the near future (i.e, what are you planning to do this weekend) – all this is within your control. And I suppose this view can also help with sailing as well. Even though you may want to plan for passage-making by provisioning twice the amount of food, making sure you have spares for many things, taking a near present view is certainly less stressful than planning out 2-3 years in advance.
Who can manage all those unknowns? It’s not possible.
I also noticed that, in thinking about change, I looked at some extreme examples of what our new life would be like. For example, what if we…
made an offer on s/v Rachel J. Slocum
had to close the sale in 30 days
liquidate all our assets in the next 30 days
move to Florida with just 2 suitcases each
Start our adventure all in the span of 3 months. Naturally, I freaked out. This was one of the main ideas pinballing around in my mind.
Another pinball was, what if we liquidated all our assets so we were left with just 2 suitcases each, flew to Germany and rented an apartment for a year while we apprenticed to the Sirius boatyard and helped to build our own sailboat.
As you can see, taking these extreme ideas and aggressive timelines stressed me out. But in pushing the limits and wrapping my head around them, I then relaxed the timeline.
For example, what if this took place over 1 year instead of 3 months? As a result of allowing myself more time, I felt less pressure and less stress. And in doing so, I could proceed with any choice with confidence.
Even though this works for me, this process is probably a bad one to mimic.
I have not read “The Power of Now” or “A New Earth” by Eckhart Tolle. Based on reading the excerpts, I gather that both seem to echo similar sentiments as what I’ve written above.
It also just goes to show that there’s probably no new original thought these days. I do however believe as humans, we all experience similar experiences and awakenings. And I suppose rather than look for credit or take credit, let’s all appreciate the truth in each of us, however we arrive at these truths.
Past, present and future updates
as of May 9, 2020
Over the past week, my mom has also been experiencing insomnia largely due to having to make major decisions and redefining her relationship with money.
Since I have experienced this very recently as written up in Support Local, this has given me the opportunity to help her with this concept of quieting her mind and acknowledging what she has control over. She and I both have an ability to multi-task well, but when there are too many things happening simultaneously, we are overwhelmed and we break down.
So I’ve been giving her tools to help assign different timelines to certain activities much as how I have mapped out my short term and long term goals in both a bullet journal as well as in our whiteboard exercise. In addition, I have helped her with this concept of past, present and future. The hope is that by focusing her mind as much as she can on the present or near present, she could get through the night and sleep peacefully.
In today’s story, we follow-up our whiteboard discussion and describe how we went about deciding to turn our life upside down to go sailing around the world. During a pivotal Sunday morning session in October, 2019, we chose to combine the following post-it notes to begin our discussion…
Buy a boat
Paid to do what you love doing
Before we met, Andrew and I both spent a bit of time sailing. When he was living in British Columbia, he owned a catamaran (her name was Periwinkle) which he took out all the time on his own around Boundary Bay.
I had taken a variety of ASA courses, joined a sailing club which got me out on a 36’ Catalina twice a month for a few years, chartered yachts from time to time, raced in the summer Wednesday sunset regattas out of Marina Del Rey, did a moonlight sail in San Francisco (caught in the fog with strong currents was a memorable experience), and crewed a 10-day trip island hopping in the British Virgin Islands.
After we met, we continued to do a little bit of sailing together and even went to Greece on a sailing trip from Corfu to Athens via Corinth Canal. But because life took us in different directions since then, we thought why not see how we can re-incorporate that love of sailing back into our lives.
Buy a boat
What better way to incorporate sailing than by buying a boat? It seems rather than pay to charter boats for sailing vacations, signing up for offshore expeditions, or join sailing clubs much like the one I had experienced at CSC, we wanted a far more meaningful experience than being weekend sailors. We went through an 8-step process to define our needs.
Once you begin to let go of the notion of living in a house and consider moving aboard a sailboat, the economics flip. Sailing no longer becomes an incremental expense. Sailing becomes the primary living expense, and rent/mortgages, transportation costs, and other big ticket items go to zero.
Find Dream Job
The other big idea to tackle was how do you go about finding a job and get paid to do what you love doing.
Collectively, it seemed in varying degrees we weren’t struggling with levels 1 through 3; there may still be work to do in level 4; and certainly we wanted to see how we can put the idea of becoming the best person you can be in whatever way you can define it.
So that was it. In some respects, having chosen a few things to focus on suddenly made things actionable.
What does boat life mean to us?
Under a topic of “Boat Living,” we began to map out what that would look like to us. These included:
then making a transition by downsizing all our belongings,
maybe doing a trial run,
buy a boat,
We then assessed the pros and cons.
At the top of the list of Pros for a life of sailing around the world:
More time together!
I’ll underscore this last point, because there is something about the What’s in your backpack speech that resonates with me. Imagine how much lighter it feels to move around having shed all this… this stuff. Now that it’s empty, you can then selectively curate experiences rather than possessions. We explore this topic further in 30-weeks to minimalism.
For me, I start to envision a mash-up of activities I love such as sailing to a remote island with rocky cliffs, dropping anchor, dinghy to shore, and rock climb/deep water solo existing routes or maybe even establishing new routes.
How cool is that?
Other activities assumed while sailing would include music, seeing new places, hiking, even snowboarding if we were to sail to high latitude destinations, learning boat systems, doing more handy work, knitting, photography, reading, and of course cooking.
Before my imagination runs amok, there are of course some downsides to sailing around the world.
For us, the cons about sailing around the world would include not having a reliable source of income and potentially reduced social life. If I were to pick the first thing to tackle, it would be the money.
Time to go to the spreadsheet!
We began to do some research across bank accounts, 401Ks, etc. and once you add up all the bits and pieces into a spreadsheet… I was gobsmacked.
It’s a funny thing that at the start of my career, I set up all the automatic withdrawals, selected a few broad index growth funds and ka-ching! Just like that, I got the empty backpack feeling. I was now looking at the world through a different lens, one that saw many opportunities for adventure. All of a sudden, our lives in Southern California driving to and from work seemed so little.
A life of sailing the high seas seemed like a very real and very sustainable possibility for the rest of our lives…
I’m on a boat
For the past couple of years, The Lonely Island channel has been featured in our car and each time “I’m on a boat” comes on, I crank it up!
Complacency had settled in only after a few years of getting married. It didn’t take long before Andrew and I decided to take control and to do that, it was time to go to the whiteboard.
Shortly after marrying, Andrew and I had grown accustomed to a routine of working anywhere between 60 to 80 hour weeks with personal time together relegated to a couple stolen hours each day during the week. Naturally, there were the weekends as well, when we would go to the gym, visit with family, host an occasional BBQ, and run errands or take care of chores.
Many of you may also have jam-packed itineraries chauffeuring your kids to soccer practice, piano lessons, gymnastics and all sorts of kids birthday parties in various assorted venues.
Where does the time go?
If you really break down how you spend your time in a given week, it may look something like this.
We took a hard look at this distribution of time. While we didn’t like the reality we were living, we also saw this as an opportunity to not be complacent. So, we spent a few hours on a sunny Sunday morning challenging ourselves with the following questions:
Is this all there is?
What do we want to do with the rest of our lives?
How do we spend more time together?
Can we do the work that we love so it doesn’t feel like work?
Do we want to live abroad?
Let’s reduce commute time!
What do we want to do more of?
Time to go to the whiteboard
There were many more questions and ideas that were thrown up on a whiteboard.
Ideas were organized between short term goals and long term goals.
We admitted to what were our deal-breakers. Things we aren’t willing to give up.
A parking lot was set up for things we would want to explore later.
Essentially, we used tools often taken for granted in a business setting and applied it to our own personal lives and it worked for us because it really helped to crystalize our goals.
That Sunday morning session concluded with a decision to start knocking out some short-term goals. We decided to sacrifice our usual Sunday climbing session at our gym, Sender One. And it felt great. We left the whiteboard on display as a visual reminder that we would see each day and help to keep us on track.
One year later…
On the whole, the pie chart was largely unchanged. Our lives were still manic and frantic. I would venture to say that even the segment for Work increased and Personal decreased and the quality of the segment for Personal was spent stressing about Work.
For me, much of that had to do with a new role I had taken on at work which was undergoing a lot of changes with not a lot of resources. I had estimated it would take 6 months before work would stabilize and unfortunately it continued to grow more chaotic and demanding.
Time to go to the whiteboard (again)
We did knock out a good portion of our short term goals, but our long term goals remained unaddressed. Once again, not wanting to fall into complacency, we spent another sunny Sunday morning session in October, 2019 and took a few long term goal stickies, grouped them and began to hash out a project plan around how to take it from concept to reality.