How does one become liveaboard cruiser? What do they do with their land based stuff? How do they get a boat? What motivates them to do it? How do they fund it? What are the biggest lessons they’ve learned? What would they change? What’s their favorite memory? What recommendations to they have for you? In this edition of Liveaboard Cruiser Insider, you’ll get all this and more from the lovely Julia Weeks, author of PrepareToTack.com
1. What boat do you have, who’s on the boat, where have you been and where are you going?
Our boat a 35 foot Richard Woods Design Flica F3 sailing catamaran built in 1987 in Cornwall England. Myself and my partner, L.J., are on the boat. We started out in the South of Spain, explored the Western Mediterranean, the Canary Islands, Cape Verdes, and now are in Grenada in the Caribbean. Once hurricane season is over, we will start sailing up island, and we hope to be in the Western Caribbean for next hurricane season.
2. What motivated you to set sail?
The turning point for me was in 2011. I randomly downloaded a book on my Kindle (The Motion of the Ocean by Janna Cawrse Esarey). I have always loved reading and stumbled across this book on Amazon at the time. So I figured, why not? The description seemed interesting. I started reading about this couple’s story of how they moved onto a small sailboat and took off on a sailing adventure. They were normal people… I think she was a teacher and he did something in business. But neither of them had struck it rich or anything. They were just regular people, like me.
I didn’t know that people did things like that—I was in disbelief!
The more I thought about what they did, the more intrigued I became. I started wondering if other people were doing things like that. I ran searches on Google and, much to my surprise, I found a lot of people online who were pursuing different lifestyles — traveling the world with nothing but a backpack, living in a new country every few months, living on a sailboat and exploring the world… you name it, I found someone doing it. And I was astounded.
Sailing was specifically appealing to me. I had never sailed before, but I knew that it was something I wanted to do. The ability to live off grid, travel with the wind, take my home with me to different parts of the world, and have a smaller footprint fascinated me. The more I read about it and the more I communicated with people who were full time cruisers, the more I wanted to do it.
So, I started making some life changes.
I knew that I would need to do things differently if I wanted to pursue that kind of lifestyle. I left my management job and started working for myself, eventually becoming a freelance writer and editor. Embracing minimalism, I and paid off all my debt.
During that time, I decided to list my house for sale. At the time, it was taking some people a year or more to sell a house, so I figured that by the time the house sold, I would be ready to do something different. I was shocked when it sold in a matter of months. I had no plan, and I had to be out of the house in 30 days. The pressure was on!
About that time, I learned that L.J., a close friend of mine at the time, had recently purchased a sailing catamaran in the Mediterranean and was learning to sail. He invited me to join him, since I had expressed my interest in sailing. The timing was good, I was selling my house and belongings, was ready to do something different.
Again, I said, “Why not?” (A phrase I’ve been embracing more and more over the last several years!).
I left the only country — only state — I’d ever called home and learned how to sail along the Mediterranean coast of Spain and in the Balearic Islands.
After that sailing season, I spent some time on land in France for several months, recruiting internationally and freelancing. Then I went back to the boat and got some more sailing experience under my belt. Next thing I knew, I was joining a new business venture in Germany and spent around a year and a half there, before I realized I would rather be sailing. That was almost two years ago now, when I moved back on the boat full time with L.J., my friend and now partner, officially calling Snowflake home.
3. What was the biggest learning curve or lesson you learned when you first started out?
Personally, it was a challenge for me to relax and let go. When traveling, especially by sailboat, there are so many things out of my control. This was extremely difficult for me in the beginning, because I have always been the classic Type A personality.
A great example of this is when we first started sailing, I would plan out timelines of where we would go, when we would be somewhere, and so forth. But things never went as planned. EVER. Weather would prevent us from leaving, maintenance problems on the boat would hold us back or we would have to wait on parts somewhere for days or weeks.
And for a planner like me, it was really a struggle.
We took some unnecessary risks with bad weather to be in certain places by certain dates that first year. Because we were both new to sailing, we didn’t quite understand how much time to allow for planning and such. After cutting things a bit close and making it through some rough weather, we learned our lesson after that.
Kind of a funny story: in that first year, we had planned to sail to Greece and we shared that plan with a lot of people. In reality, we never made it out of the Western Mediterranean until we sailed into the Atlantic last year. Still, today there are people asking us how we enjoyed Greece. It provides us with a good chuckle from time to time. 🙂
So, it took a while for me to realize that I wasn’t as in control of my day to day life as I once was. And as soon as I came to that realization, things became much more enjoyable and less stressful.
4. What has surprised you the most about being a live aboard cruiser?
That I am never bored. Someone we met a few years back said he couldn’t imagine being full-time (he sailed part-time on holidays). He asked, “What would you do, but sit around and drink all day?” And I laughed… and still laugh when I think about that comment. So many people think we sit around and drink umbrella drinks all day. But I can’t really blame them. When they ask what we do all day, I give examples and then I ask myself…
“Did that really take up the whole day?”
While I do freelance, I don’t work as many hours as I did when I worked the normal 9 to 5. You would think that I would have heaps of free time, but that’s not the case. There is always something to do on the boat—especially an older boat.
We are constantly busy on boat projects, and even the everyday things take longer. Going to the grocery store can take up half a day easily, sometimes longer. I typically do a small load of laundry by hand each day to prevent it from piling up — that time adds up. When we tackle one boat project (you know… one of those “simple, quick fixes”) it seems to always take longer than expected, or leads us to another project that needs to be tackled.
Because we are working in super cramped spaces on board, hanging upside down in lockers, squeezing in between spaces that we would swear only a small child could get into… it takes much longer to do simple repairs vs. when I lived in a house.
5. What has been your most favorite sailing memory to date?
My most favorite sailing memory so far has been our Atlantic crossing in December of 2017. We left Mindelo in the Cape Verdes on 29 November, which just so happened to be my birthday. And what an amazing birthday present it was!
We had planned for that moment for quite some time. It was this big dream for us and we were so excited! After watching the trades start filling in, we became very eager and ready to leave. We let our excitement get the best of us and we left a bit too early — the trades were teasing us.
A day out of Mindelo, the winds died down and the rest of our crossing was very slow (22 days, 21 nights to Grenada), but it was easy and enjoyable. It was only the two of us on the crossing and we alternated shifts, 4 hours on, 4 hours off.
That took a few days to get used to, but soon we were in the groove.
I will always remember the stars at night. There were so many — even more than I remembered from our other long distance passages. And the bioluminescence was gorgeous — like diamonds exploding in our wake. During the days, I was amazed at all the flying fish that would jump up out of the water.
It was such a nice passage and allowed me to learn more about myself, think about where I’d been in life and where I want to be. Being disconnected from social media, email, and the news was refreshing and something I long for quite frequently now.
When we finally sighted Grenada, I was thrilled to see land and explore a new country. But deep down, I was a little sad to reach the end of the passage. It was a momentous feeling when we set our anchor in Prickly Bay just before sunset. A feeling unlike any I’ve experienced before.
6. If you had to do it all over again, what would you change?
I would’ve planned better. Of course, I would—I’m Type A! 🙂
When I sold my house I had just started focusing on my freelance business. I was making very little money at it, because I was just starting out and building my client base. Once I no longer had a “home base” with reliable internet, it was more difficult for me to focus on building that business.
Fortunately, I had savings that I had started long before I knew I wanted to leave my career and do something different. When I sold my house, car and other belongings, I was able to add more cushion to my savings. So, that has really helped me over the last several years while I have been building up my freelance business.
Looking back, if I were to do it differently, I would have waited (perhaps 6 months longer) until I had an established freelance business behind me with a solid customer base and steady earnings flowing in.
7. What are the top three things that you’d recommend newbie sailors to get to grips with before sailing away?
- Understand that it is a lovely way of life, but it is not without stress. While it is a simple way of life, simple does not mean easy. Talk to as many cruisers as you can and be sure to ask them about the challenges they face. Try to get a good feel for what it’s really like – the good and the bad.
- Embrace flexibility and go with the flow. Traveling by sail is completely different from traveling by plane or car. If you are able to go without a strict schedule or plan, it will be much more enjoyable and you won’t find yourself taking unnecessary risks in order to get somewhere by a certain date.
- Figure out how you will fund the lifestyle ahead of time. It will take a lot of pressure and stress off your shoulders if you have a plan in place.
8. Anything else?
Don’t let people talk you out of it. If it’s something that you really want to do, and if you have a plan in place that you truly believe will work for you, don’t let others convince you that you shouldn’t do it.
There will be people who tell you that it’s impossible or unrealistic. Some people will try to make you feel guilty for trying to do something different. They will look at your lifestyle change negatively — the nay-sayers. But don’t lose focus. Talk to the people who are there for you and are supportive of your dreams and visions in life. They are the ones who will help you keep your eye on your goals and will celebrate with you when you achieve your dreams.
Where to find Julia online:
I’ve recently decided to start sharing the stories of others who are living alternatively through my website, Prepare to Tack. If you’re interested in learning about different ways of life from real people who are out here making it happen, check it out.
I’m also on Instagram, where I share photos and thoughts of my day to day life. Give me a follow there and send a message — I’m always happy to connect with others and answer any questions they may have about my alternative lifestyle. @traveling_jules https://www.instagram.com/traveling_jules/
Other Articles You Might Find Interesting:
- The 11 Secrets To Long Term Cruising
- How To Fit In As A New Cruiser
- Read an article/interview that Julia did with me here: Family Of Three Sold Everything To Go Sailing: Kim Brown on Sailing Britican
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