(CNN) – Imagine dropping most of your material possessions to live on a sailboat you bought on the internet – perhaps without even seeing it, or knowing how to tie a knot or hoist the mainsail.
For some novice sailors who embarked on boat life during the pandemic, the past year has provided an unexpected boost to bring what once seemed unreachable suddenly within reach.
Randi Hitchcock was stranded for 30 days last April with her family in Colorado Springs, Colo., When she hit the wall.
“The hours and hours we were sitting in the house not promising our dogs on an essential trip to the park made us think long and hard about our future,” Hitchcock says.
After some family discussions with her husband, Steve, and their 12-year-old son, Cody, the Hitchcocks decided to sell most of their stuff, put their house up for rent and head to St. Augustine, Florida.
Cody, Randi and Steve Hitchcock (left to right) live aboard their catamaran.
The family had no sailing experience. But thanks to GI Bill, veteran Steve was able to take free American Sailing Association courses and professional sailor training in the Florida Keys and Stuart, Florida.
The Hitchcocks spent several months cruising in Florida before heading to the Bahamas in mid-February of this year, where they have since sailed some 400 nautical miles.
When their Bahamian visa expires in May, they plan to return to Florida to live in a marina or at anchor so Cody can attend high school in person this fall. And while Steve’s VA boarding house can provide for the family, he could find boat delivery jobs and Randi could work at a marina store to get discounts on boat parts, she says.
One thing’s for sure, Hitchcock says – as soon as they can, they’re putting their Colorado home up for sale.
“I don’t think we want to live in a house again knowing how easy and fun it is to travel on a boat,” she says.
Hitchcock’s very first crossing of the Gulf Stream was from Long Key, Florida, to Riding Rock, Bahamas.
Life on the boat is booming
Life The van life movement that has exploded in recent years – and more so during the pandemic – boat life is nothing new.
It is, however, fashionable.
And like RV sales during the pandemic, boat sales have also exploded.
“We sell yachts of all sizes and the inventory has gone down to an absolute minimum,” he says.
According to the National Marine Manufacturers Association, the U.S. boating industry saw an increase in the number of first-time boat buyers in 2020 for the first time in more than a decade.
Damien Williams and Maggie Jay traded RV life for boat life in early 2020.
A couple’s transition from van life to boat life
Maggie Jay and Damien Williams, who are digital nomads working in marketing and finance, are among these first-time boat buyers.
The Denver, Colo. Couple made a quick transition from RV life to life on the boat after a crash claimed the life of their beloved motorhome.
After four years of traveling through 35 US states in a 1974 GMC Painted Desert camper van that Jay said “looked like a Scooby Doo van,” an engine fire in 2019 put an end to the adventure.
“We restored it ourselves, it was heartbreaking for me,” says Williams. “I didn’t want to start all over with a new motorhome. I just wanted to do something different.”
He had always been intrigued by sailing, but he thought it was something you needed to grow – or at least have a lot of money to pay, he said.
When he came up with the idea of living on a sailing boat to Jay, she says she envisioned it as “brutal camping on the water”.
“I just heard stories from my aunt and my mom, who sailed, about peeing in a bucket and cooking on a Bunsen burner,” she says, “I was wondering how it worked for a while. more than a weekend.
She quickly discovered it.
In late February 2020 – after checking out about 20 boats while driving along the Gulf Coast from Texas to Florida with their schnoodle, P-Moe – the family found their new home.
As pandemic lockdowns were just beginning as they settled into life at anchor, Jay and Williams learned to sail by watching lots of YouTube videos and sailing channels, browsing books, and swapping fishing skills. organizing Maggie’s shed for sailing lessons from a captain they met.
In mid-April of this year, after covering hundreds of nautical miles while learning to sail around Florida, they crossed from Miami to Bimini in the Bahamas and plan to arrive in Puerto Rico by January 2022 for their wedding.
“Even compared to life on earth in the RV, I have never felt so much privacy and freedom,” Williams says. “On dry land in a motorhome you are always worried if someone is disturbing you, if you are parked properly.
“All over the world we can anchor for free, it’s really liberating,” he says.
Damien Williams didn’t know anything about sailing until he bought their boat.
Is it for you?
As glamorous as cruise ship life may seem on YouTube and Instagram, not everyone is made for it.
And just like there are coaches for almost everything these days, there are sailors who specialize in helping people find out if living on a sailboat might be for them.
After that, if customers are still interested in the boating lifestyle, says Brown, the next step is to read the books to study and get certified to safely operate the specific type of sailboat that elicits them. interest.
A common misconception among those new to the sailing lifestyle, he says, is that you will “glide past your next destination with strong winds and calm seas.”
And that doesn’t just apply to changing weather conditions.
“People don’t realize how expensive this lifestyle is, even on conservative budgets,” says Brown. Even ordering a simple repair part that could cost $ 15 online could cost several times more than the time it spends through customs and processing fees, he says.
New sailors might also be surprised by the time it takes to secure spots on wind power.
“If the man could walk on water, that would be a better option if you’re in a rush,” says Brown. “Most sailboats average five miles an hour, so patience is key.”
The Sueiro family have been learning to sail since buying their boat in August.
Jessica and Will Sueiro
A slower lifestyle can be a reward
For families who love the idea of a slower, more minimalist lifestyle (and don’t mind tight spaces), the cruising sailing lifestyle can be appealing.
The family had been traveling full-time since 2014, home-teaching the children while touring all of Europe’s counties by motorhome (among other adventures) before landing in Japan in late February 2020.
Living on a sailboat has always been part of their “endgame,” says Jessica, and the pandemic has accelerated that.
“We realized that Covid was going to last a lot longer than we all originally expected,” she said in an email. “And the urge to embark on a project when we had to take a break from the journey seemed like the perfect opportunity for our family to learn how to live on a boat and how to sail.”
Storage is tight for the family of four. Overflow runs go into lockers under the floors.
Jessica and Will Sueiro
In August 2020, back in Europe, they bought their sailboat, S / V Friendship, a Broadblue 38 catamaran, for around $ 160,000 in the south of France and have been learning to sail it ever since.
The family plans to take a cruise around the Spanish Balearic Islands this summer before crossing the Strait of Gibraltar to Morocco.
“There is a huge learning curve if you’ve never sailed before,” says Jessica. “Hire an instructor, crew on other boats, hire a trainer, read books, attend boat shows, pick brains, watch YouTubers, take specialist courses in CPR / boating / weather / engine repair and more.”
And don’t forget to exploit the vast sailing community in port, at anchor and at sea.
“Other than social media friends, we haven’t experienced much community in the van and RV life at all,” Williams says. He thought the transition to sailing life from RV life would be “a sideways movement,” he says, and was surprised to find an improvement.
“The sailors have been so generous, helpful and friendly to us, even though we had never sailed a day in our lives when we moved around on our sailboat,” he says.