Hatching the Plan, Part Two: The Boat

Thirty years ago Hallie and I sailed across the Atlantic and back aboard a 43’ monohull (single hull, as opposed to a catamaran with two hulls or a trimaran with a main central hull and two smaller outrigger hulls). I spent long hours sailing home in the trade winds, wishing we had a multihull (catamaran or trimaran). Monohulls have weight added in their keels to keep them from tipping over. Multihull rely on the stability of their shape, so they have no ballast, and they are lighter weight (at least if they are designed for sailing, as opposed to being floating apartments). Here I was sailing in the perfect trade winds, downwind all the way, dragging 10,000 pounds of lead ballast across the ocean. And rolling from side to side in the waves, making it hard to get dressed or cook or handle the sails or even sit and read. A multihull would be faster and more comfortable, and would be my next offshore boat.

 My preference was a large (50’) trimaran. In my experience as a cruising sailor (not a serious racer) trimarans are faster and more fun to sail than catamarans. The drawback is that the accommodations are limited to the long narrow central hull, which means they are fine for a singlehander (solo sailor) but poor if living aboard with my wife and hoping to have guests aboard for a week now and then. Would I care about that? Well, it’s hard to imagine working on a boat for a year or two to get it ready, then sail it around the world, and then have to get rid of it because it wouldn’t work for Hallie and me to hang out for the winter in the Caribbean…

 So is there any boat that could satisfy my sailing desires, and also be a good live-aboard afterwards (and still be affordable)? A catamaran might compromise the sailing fun somewhat, but would have much more accommodation space. But I did not want what is commonly called a “condo-maran” which makes all the design trade-offs in favor of comfort over sailing qualities. These thoughts led me to the Atlantic catamarans designed by Chris White (www.chriswhitedesigns.com).

 I googled “chris white atlantic catamaran” and stumbled upon a message board post by a guy in Vermont who was looking for a partner to share ownership of an Atlantic 42 for cruising on the coast of Maine. The Atlantic catamarans are not production boats. There may have been 20 of the 42’s built over the years. The fact that this guy was specific about wanting this design caught my interest. I had to contact him. So I had a nice exchange of emails with Bill, and we agreed that our goals overlapped only in that we had an interest in the same design (and we both love the Maine coast), and we ended with, “Good luck. Stay in touch…”

 I flew to Florida to look at an Atlantic 46. My reaction? “Holy crap, that is a BIG boat!” The idea of trying to singlehandedly maintain all the systems aboard scared me. Instead of enjoying a year of sailing I would be spending a year repairing things and being scared about what would go wrong next. (Some say the definition of cruising is repairing a boat in exotic places!) I met with Chris White, who offered some perspective. “Yes, it’s a big boat when tied to the dock. But it gets small very quickly when you’re sailing offshore.”

 Then I got another email from Bill. “There’s a guy who just bought an Atlantic 42 on Chesapeake Bay. He wants to sail around the world, but he’s looking for partners. Want me to put you in touch with him?” A few hundred emails, two days of sailing, and a lunch in New Hampshire (midway between my home in Maine and Bill’s in Vermont) later, the three of us formed a partnership. Yes, three of us – because the opportunity was irresistible to Bill, too.

Bill, Zeke, Tim

Hatching the Plan, Part One: My Wake-Up Call

You might say that this adventure started a year and a half ago, when Hallie (my wife) and I were sitting in bed reading, and I said, seemingly out of the blue, “When I sail around the world, I’m going to focus on the sailing, and only stop in a few places, like Cape Town and somewhere in Australia.” To which she replied, “You’re not going to sail around the world. You’re getting too old for that.”

  Wow, did that ever get my attention! I’ve always thought that I might sail around the world; that it was an option that I might exercise. The idea that the option might be expiring soon was a wake-up call. And I knew she was right that I didn’t have much time left before my physical abilities would decline, and my internal drive wane, and it just wouldn’t seem worth it to take the big plunge. Little did Hallie know that her comment, made without looking up from her book, was changing the trajectory of our lives.

No Regrets 010

At approximately the same time, a conversation about retirement was happening with my mens team (much more about that at some point, but for now: we are seven men who have met for an evening every other week for 30 years, to support each other to be the kind of man we each dream of being). I reported that I had achieved a financial goal that I had set 14 years earlier. My intention had been to retire when I reached this goal, but now I was comfortably enjoying working three days/week, with no end in sight. The team challenged me on this. “When are you going to retire?” “Why are you continuing to work if you’ve met your financial goal?” “What is your purpose at this point?”

I didn’t see anything wrong with continuing to enjoy my work, continuing to have an income, and besides – the dollar target that I had set 14 years prior didn’t look so big and “safe” as it did back then (even after adjusting for inflation). The threat of permanently shutting off the income spigot changed my perspective on finances. One of my teammates said, “I know when you’re going to retire. It will be when something shows up that pulls you away, rather than you choosing to get out.”

 This resonated. Something was brewing that would pull me away. But still I thought things would proceed in a logical sequence:

  1. I would finish building the small boat in my basement boat shop, that I had started building 20 years before and was 2/3 complete. Although I hadn’t worked on it much for many years, now that my work was only 3 days/week I would put more time into boatbuilding.
  2. Meanwhile I would shop around for the right boat for a circumnavigation, buy it in a couple years, and spend a couple years getting ready to go.
  3. I would retire perhaps at age 65 when Medicare would kick in, and go. Probably the voyage would only be about a year long, as I planned to spend my time sailing (going East below Cape of Good Hope and Cape Horn) rather than “seeing the world.”

As John Lennon wrote, “Life is what happens to you while you are busy making other plans.”

Getting underway (figuratively)

I’ve told so many people I will do a blog so they can follow my adventures…  Here it begins.  “No Regrets” is a 42′ sailing catamaran, and Tim and Bill and I are going to sail it around the world.   188 days until we depart from Florida.  I think we’ll need every one of them to get the boat (and ourselves) ready, and to sail the boat from its current home in Maine to our point of departure.  Not to mention that I have a project at work to complete before I retire…

"No Regrets"
“No Regrets”