Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Boat Buying in a Virtual World

After going to sailing school, where I was able to live on a 42 foot Fountaine Pajot Catamaran for a week, I have been searching for boats!  There are tons of websites with catamarans for sale, as well as Craigslist.  After drooling over the ads for boats that were out of my price range, I am finally narrowing it down to a couple of boat models.  My budget currently is around $150,000.  This will leave me with enough savings to keep the lights on at home, and finance my cruising costs.  So below is the list of boats that I am looking at:
  • PDQ - 36 - 1993-2005 - I like the diesels, but most have 9.9 outboards in a recessed compartment.  The galley is down, not my preference, but the quality of the boats is very high.  It would be a good boat for the Bahamas and the Caribbean, but not necessarily a world circumnavigate boat (not that I plan on that).  The other nice thing is most have never been chartered, and owners normally have taken good care of them.  Currently there are bout 3 or 4 that I have been looking at that are in my budget.
  • Lagoon 38 - This is my favorite boat, but I can't find one on this side of the Atlantic that is in my price range.  Still looking.
  • Fountaine Pajot - 35-42 - I also like these boats, as they are similar to what I trained on last fall. They are also a little pricey, and short of traveling to France or Greece, I haven't found any on this side of the Atlantic that is in my price range either.  There are some that are older, but they have been driven hard in the charter industry, and it shows.
  • Leopard 38 (Robertson and Caine) - 35 - 42 - These are excellent boats, and I am keeping my eye out for one in my price range.

So, that is my list.  I have purposely left out the Gemini catamarans, although I can find a newer one in my price range.  I haven't seen one first hand, but what I have read and discussed with others that have owned them, is that they are better coastal boat, and are a little light weight for liveaboards.  There are people that have taken them on long cruises, as s/v Slapdash circumnavigated on a Gemini 105MC, but it would take some customisation to make it safe.  The main reason for me, was that they only have a single diesel engine, while the other boats on my list have two.  Coming from a world of IT, redundancy is ingrained in my DNA, so having two engines in a requirement for me. 

Currently, I am bookmarking some boats that I have found, but haven't scheduled any trips to see them.  My plan is to wait until May, and then take some 'boat shopping' trips to get serious about finding and purchasing a boat. 

One experience in my virtual buying experience was that I found a nice Fountain Pajot 42 in Indiana.  It was a 2002 and close to my budget!  I was excited, and sent an email to the seller.  I also had to look on the map to see how I would get a catamaran from Indiana to the Bahamas.  It looked like Indiana was on the bank of Lake Michigan, so no problem!  Well, the guy replied back the next day, and let me know that the boat was actually in Indonesia, not Indiana, and he asked if that were a problem!  That boat dropped off of my radar very fast!  I guess the website that had the boat listed probably had the abbreviation for Indiana as 'IN', and this guy thought that it meant Indonesia.  This could be a long search process!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The Hard Reality of Decisions

OK, I will have to admit that this has been a hard year in deciding to take off work and go cruising for a year, or longer.  It always seems so easy when you read the different cruising blogs where they sell everything that they own, buy a boat, and head for the Caribbean.  I know there are thousands of people sitting in their cubicle, dreaming of when they will cut off the shackles of the rat race and the life of excess to take the simpler life of cruising.  It was easy  reading the blogs and enjoying the experiences that each cruiser experienced, seeing the pictures, living the good life, all from the comforts of my office or couch.  One of the real struggles that I have had is that I am getting very little support from my wife and certain friends.  Everyone was pretty supportive until the realization that I would actually leave my work, buy a very expensive boat, and sail away, at least for a year or so.  Don't get me wrong, my wife has encouraged me to follow my dreams, but it isn't a dream that she is interested in sharing, except maybe on a vacation or two.  So yes, there is a feeling of selfishness creeping in, but after working 34+ years in the IT world, I really need a break and I can't think of a better way to accomplish it than cruising for a year.  At this time my older son, Dustin, who turned 30 last year, will go with me.  This is a huge benefit, as we have been on separate paths for the last 12 years, and this will allow us to get back together.  He is also at crossroads with his life, breaking out of the restaurant industry to redefine himself and plan his next phase.  The most surprising support has been my VP here at Walmart.  He seems to understand the need to redefine and take time to do some of the things that you dream about, before other parts of life take them away.  He also took 5 months off, between jobs, to backpack throughout the islands of Indonesia.  He has encourage me to document the trip, so that my teammates back at work can follow along!
So, I am here still waiting on approval for my LOA, and trying to plan how I am going to accomplish this trip and not spend all of my saving, and still support my obligations.  So, the financial part comes into play...Well, I had sold some property back in 2010, and owner financed the whole amount for a 5 year note.  This really has been a win/win for both me and the guy that bought the property, as I am getting a good interest rate, and he is building his dream house on 91 acres.  I was hoping that he would pay me off early, as the intent was that he would be able to pay me off this spring, but it looks like he is running late, and probably will not be able to pay me until either later in the year or next year.  The other large source of funds was my original profit sharing from Walmart.  I have left a large amount of the original profit sharing all in Walmart stock, which I was assuming that I could tap into without penalties once I hit 55 (a one time withdraw).  I would only have to pay the tax on the principle and then long term capital gains on the reminder.  Well, I was informed by the retirement counselor last week that Walmart did not allow any withdrawals from the plan unless it was a hardship case.  He didn't think that funding a catamaran to go cruising fit the bill as a hardship case :).  So, if I get my 12 month LOA, and don't leave the company, I will have to be more creative in funding my cruise!  I do have a large amount of cash saved, but only about half what I need for the boat and the year cruising, so I will have to finance some of this amount with one of my properties that is currently free of debt.  This can be a temporary fix, until I get the money from my sold property, so it isn't a huge deal....but things are getting more complicated! 
So, we continue to wait on our LOA approval, now that our financial crises has been avoided! 

Stay tuned.....

THE PLAN - Well at least a Sandy Path

Well, now that we are waiting final approval for the 12 months LOA, it is the time to finalize the PLAN.  Of course anyone that has any experience in boating and especially cruising knows that there is never a hardened plan, but a sandy path towards a specific goal. 
* Spend as much of the year LOA in the Caribbean/Bahamas on a cruising catamaran as possible.
* Have a lifetime adventure!
* Have fun!
* Recharge my batteries from working in the corporate life for 33 years.
* Build my sailing/cruising skills.
* Enjoy time with my oldest son, and other family members on vacations/breaks.

So here is my Sandy Path:
* Find a catamaran that fits into my budget.  I am still looking online trying to find a boat that is for sale that is not a scam or is not for sale and the ad is still out there...never responding emails...numbers that are wrong, boats that have been in a fire...This will continue to be a challenge...The last boat I emailed about, said that it was in Indiana...so I looked on the map, not knowing my geography of that area of the US, and noticed that Indiana borders Lake Michigan.  Well, that will work, but strange for a 41' Fountaine Pajot to be on the Great Lakes.  I emailed the guy, and it turns out that the boat is in Indonesia, not Indiana!  The guy actually asked it that were a problem!  Ha...that would change the PLAN a little!  I passed on the boat!  Still searching....
*  Finish up some projects at my house and lake cabin.  Month of June and July.
* Upgrade boat to cruising standards.
* Head to the Bahamas, depending where the boat is purchased.
*  Cruise either in Bahamas for the 90 days and either extend another 90 days.
*  Head down to the Dominion Republic or where ever we plan on keeping the boat after the year LOA. 

My oldest son, Dustin, is planning on joining me in this adventure.  When he was growing up, we spend many days on the water, on Beaver Lake Arkansas, or Panama City, Florida.  We have some great memories in Florida, scuba diving, swimming with the dolphins, fishing, and boating.  In Arkansas we water skied, built the cabin, and enjoyed many weekends at the cabin.

The PLAN is set in sand and in motion!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Catching up and waiting - March 12, 2013

There has been a lot of things going on since I went to Sailing School.  After taking the class, the dream that seemed to be 'just dreamin', now had some reality to it!  The life of cruising in my mind was very close to what I experience during my week at school.  I already own a couple of boats, so I understand the boat maintenance part!  The largest challenge is to find a way to make all of the stars align, so that you can take the time to cruise.  I don't believe that the stars ever align...let me repeat....the stars NEVER align!  Each person has to decide when to follow their dreams, and there is never a paved road with the dream at the end.  In my situation I have family and work obligations, along with some final alimony payments, and I just turned 55 in December.  I am also not ready to retire, but I really need some time off, as this year will be my 29th year at Walmart Information Systems!  I feel that if I wait until I am 60 or 65, that it will be harder to handle the learning curve, and I will not be physically as strong as I am now.  I also want to have a very active cruising style, with snorkeling, spearfishing, fishing, hiking, etc.  So for the last few months I have been struggling on whether to pursue the dream, or give in to the growing list of why this is a bad idea.  I believe there are thousands of people, just like me, working in an office space, reading the blogs of others, and hoping that something would motivate them to go for it!  I think that most of those people will still be reading blogs and dreaming many years from now.  In some cases that is OK, as there are many ways to enjoy dreams, but for me, I have a strong desire to do it, or I will regret it for the rest of my life. 

Cruising Life
I had to throw in a picture of the cruising life...just to remind everyone of what the end of the day looks like when cruising. 

So to be honest, the only way that I could figure out how to go cruise was to turn in my notice at work, after bonus time, and head out cruising.  Well, after some discussion with people at work who were nearing retirement age, I learned that Walmart has a great program that would allow long term associates, and I qualify for that, a leave of absence (LOA) up to 12 months!  I have been most of my career with Walmart and they have been an incredible company to work for!  Like any company, there has been ups and downs, but I have enjoyed almost 29 years working for them.  Out of that 29 years, I have had about 4 different careers, from programming, technical leads, to managing different areas.  I also spent two years as an expat in Costa Rica, which really allowed me to see things in a different way!  I have also travelled to more than 13 countries, working for Walmart.  So, last week I spent some time visiting with my manager and VP to discuss whether they would support me in a 12 month LOA, which they seemed very supported.  Today I met with our HR (Human Resource) representative.  Well the meeting went pretty well, but of course there are many approvals that are needed for a request like this...so I will just have to wait for a week or so to see if it is approved or not!