Part 1: Hey all, If you’ve been following along, you can probably tell that this has been quite a ride. As we sit here in Cascais (just outside Lisbon, Portugal) on a rainy and windy day, I figured I’d take some time to write a bit how we got here and a little insight to what I’ve learned over these last several weeks on the boat and months leading up to the boat. As our readership is growing (thank you!) I realized that there are people following that are outside our group of friends and family that have been around since the beginning of this journey. As such, you may be clueless as to our journey here. Let me start there… Rewind to Christmas break two years ago, Megan and I were sitting on a beach in West Bay, Roatan, Honduras. She was reading, I was scrolling through endless crappy Honduran real estate websites looking at condos and houses. My thought was “we love this beach, let’s find a place to buy and rent out when not here!”. While I was looking at my phone, there was a catamaran just above my phone in my vision. I kept looking from screen to catamaran. Screen to catamaran. Screen to catamaran. Before I knew it, my browser was showing me different boats. Having grown up on a lake with boating being a common summer activity, I always loved it. Always loved water activities in general. The idea of sailing and boating great expanses was always a dream, but nothing I ever really thought much about from a “this could happen” perspective. It was there, but under the surface. Over the next days in Roatan, I found myself searching and learning more and more and boats. The ultimate thought was, “why buy a condo in one place when we can buy something that allows us to take our house anywhere we want!?”. I have to admit that from that point on, it became an obsession. This had to happen. So, I have this crazy idea to buy a boat and sail off into the sunset. At this point, my sailing experience was a couple hours in a sunfish sailboat that my dad had ages ago. Step one was to get on a boat and try it. As luck would have it, several months later, our neighbor Kirk was scheduled to go on a trip out of Key West with some friends. Someone backed out and Kirk asked if I’d like to go. I don’t think I hesitated one second to say “yes!”. Five of us aboard a Jeanneau Sun Odyssey 45 sailing from Key West to Fort Jefferson. This trip included coastal as well as sort of ‘blue water’ sailing. I was immediately hooked. The feeling of being on the boat with only wind propelling us forward was amazing. My only thought was that I needed to make this dream happen. Many decisions since that point have been to architect getting to this point. This involved making difficult life decisions regarding leaving family and friends for months at a time and difficult business decisions. All around, many things had to align for this dream to happen. Luckily, they all did, and all of our family and friends have been helpful and supportive. Thank you! From there it was a series of boat shows to get on boats and many countless hours of research. When at the Annapolis boat show, we fell in love with Lagoon 450F. The Lagoon brand was actually low on my list of boats with other models much more desirable. However, after walking in, on, and through every catamaran at the boat show (~20 boats), Lagoon quickly climbed the list for what we wanted. Our desires for our first boat was less about sail performance, which is obvious as we would’ve been pushed to a monohull, but more about ease of life and use. Meaning, we wanted to be comfortable but also have the systems to help us learn. Many in the sailing world call catamarans “Condo-marans” because of the space and of it being a floating apartment. I would agree. From a systems perspective, we wanted to be comfortable… we wanted a TV, we wanted solar power, we wanted a large lounge area outside. Again, it might not be for the die-hard sailors, but who cares, it’s what we wanted. And, I feel our decision was right, as we love Blue Infinity. The decision has been made. The brand picked out. What’s left right? A lot. With Hurricane Irma wiping out a ton of boats in the Caribbean, manufacturers were slammed with orders. Build dates were out 14-18 months. So now what? All we could do was keep moving forward. I’ll skip the long story of divesting some business interests, but finally in April, 2018 I called the broker we met in Annapolis and said we are ready to get a boat. The decision now was new or used. They both had their ups and downs. New is more expensive, but everything is… well, new. Meaning that it should all work and had a warranty. Used, is cheaper but even with a boat survey, who knows what you’re getting. Speaking with our broker, it seemed the only option for a new boat was a Lagoon 40. I felt it was a bit narrow and wasn’t what we were looking for. Speaking with our broker, I informed of this and he went back in search of something else. Luckily for us, there was a Lagoon 42 sitting in France. The dealership that ordered it went bankrupt and the boat was available. I don’t know how/why/when this all happened, but all I knew is that it was available and a US spec’d boat for power and etc. Win! I put some money down to hold the boat with a condition that we could back out with our money back after 2 weeks. I scheduled a flight out to LA to get on a Lagoon 42 that the dealer had just delivered. We went out for a couple hour sail and I loved it. We had found our model… had a hull sitting in France that was ours. Next on the list is get our personal, business and household affairs in order. To add context, this was June and we were planning on taking delivery of the boat in September, so we had a lot to do. I won’t bore you with the details but once you make a list of items you think you need to do, triple it. Everything from finding a way to receive postal mail while at sea, to ordering and learning satellite communication devices… all of this had to be done alongside getting our house prepared to close up. We had to divide and conquer. If this wasn’t all enough, in the middle of this, we got married! Boat purchase was June. Engagement July 4th. Wedding August 18th. Departure for France, September 25th. Megan took the enormous task of planning the wedding while I was in charge of boat and some house items. Hard to believe, but we did it. This brings us up to where the blog starts. So, if someone were to ask me, “What do you think now? Would you do it again?”. Short answer, “Abso-fricken-lutely.”. Let’s get into the long answer.
Intermission –(This might be a good time to refill your coffee if your reading this in the morning. Or, refill your beer/wine if reading in the afternoon. Or, if you’re reading this in Wisconsin…. refilling your beer/wine if reading this in the morning.)
Part 2: We are currently 680 nm into our 1200 nm trip to Las Palmas where we will kick off the Atlantic Crossing. We are crossing with the ARC which is Atlantic Rally Crossing. It’s the largest and most well known rally to cross oceans and put on by World Cruising Club. The idea here is that you have safety in numbers, professional weathermen planning, coordination of marinas and of course the group atmosphere for social events. When we left France, it was the first time I had slept on a boat at night while at sea. Yes… we put our land life on hold, bought a boat, moved onboard a boat and neither had slept on a boat at night at sea. It was also the first time I was ever on watch at night. How was it? Not that bad! The moving, creaking-ness of the boat makes for a nice sleep. And yes, new boats creak. It takes a bit of getting used to as you have to walk like a drunk to get a straight line from bed to bathroom… but it’s not that bad. Night watch is interesting. For those who haven’t done it, the only way I can describe it is like deer hunting in November in Wisconsin. For those not familiar, whitetail gun deer hunting happens during a 10-day period in November. This is as the weather is turning cold and sitting in a tree becomes miserable. What happens is that you wake up at 4:30-5 AM, make some coffee, put on 4 layers of clothes and walk out to your tree for a day of looking around and shivering. Night watch, in October in France/Spain regions of Europe is very similar. With three on board, we did 3-hour shifts, so you’d have 6-hours off, then 3-hours on watch. This meant waking in the middle of night, quietly stumbling to the bathroom, putting on layers of clothing, making some coffee then making your way to helm. Once there, you get a 5-10 minute briefing on the last 3-hours of watch. What has the wind been doing, how are the sails trimmed, ship traffic to watch out for and etc.. You clip your safety harness to the boat and begin your watch, Once that is done, whomever you relieved goes to get some rest and you basically stand there for 3-hours. In the middle of night, hundreds of miles from shore, it’s just the wind, your instruments and your boredom. At first, you’re still waking up and enjoy the warmth of the coffee. This is akin to getting into your tree deer hunting… you’ve walked in, you’re warm and excited, you are clipped in to your tree and now you just wait. The next stage is what I call the ‘fiddle stage’. This is where you look at the chart and find all of the boats around you. By using AIS (automatic identification system) you can see nearby ships, their name, direction, speed and etc. (This system can also be used to see where we are, got to www.marinetraffic.com, type in Blue Infinity and you’ll be able to see where we are). Then, I zoom out to see where we are, how far had we gone in the last 6 hours I was not on watch? Did we stray from our course to our next waypoint? Then, I always zoom out to the max, and swipe right following the latitude lines to see where we are parallel to in the States. Not having a ton of context around Europe, it’s easier for me to look and say “Oh, we’re even with Rockford, IL, okay… only a couple hundred more miles until it starts to warm up!”. Next is the boredom stage. You look around 360 degrees looking out for…. Well, honestly anything. In deer hunting, you are looking for an unnatural movement. Trees, branches and leaves move together, but it’s the little movements that catch your eye, the squirrel, the deer leg that you briefly see between the twigs. It’s amazing what the eyes can pick up. In sailing, it’s a random bird, dolphin fin, whale blow that catch your eye. Then you begin to wonder… we’re 200 miles off shore, what the hell is a seagull doing out here?! You scan to see which way to whales are traveling, you count the dolphins and hope they stick around a while to keep you company. Then you begin to wonder if dolphins sleep… they must, right? A glance at your phone reminds you that you are hundreds of miles from land and can’t google the answer. Shit… days and hours until you can figure out if dolphins sleep. (in case you’re wondering, they can shut off half their brain and stay aware enough to breathe and watch out for predators while still getting rest). Right as you get in a groove of boredom, boat monitoring, navigation, you see a light turn on. A glance at the clock shows that someone just woke up to make coffee to relieve you. Shift done. During the first 600 miles, this usually meant that I would try to sleep a bit and rest up for the next watch. Like deer hunting, the boredom and cold are eventually regarded with moments of excitement. The dolphins like a group of deer running near your stand. The end of the shift like the end of the day of hunting when you can warm up and have a beer. All in all, it’s a great experience that I wouldn’t undo or take back. We are certainly looking forward to continuing south and getting to warmer climate before taking on the Atlantic and eventually getting to slow down in the Caribbean. Shift after shift, mile after mile, day after day, we are ever so slowly making progress. It’s been great meeting new people, it’s been great learning new skills, it’s been great seeing new things. It’s great. Bob