(CNN) — Imagine eliminating most of your worldly possessions to stay on a sailboat you obtain on the Internet — maybe with out even seeing it, or figuring out how to tie a knot or hoist the mainsail.

For some beginner sailors who embarked on boat life through the pandemic, the previous 12 months offered an surprising push to make what could have as soon as appeared unattainable abruptly inside attain.

Randi Hitchcock was 30 days into lockdown final April together with her household in Colorado Springs, Colorado, when she hit the wall.

“The hours upon hours we had been sitting in the house when we weren’t walking our dogs on an essential trip to the park made us think long and hard about our future,” says Hitchcock.

After a number of household discussions together with her husband, Steve, and their then 12-year-old son, Cody, the Hitchcocks determined to promote most of their issues, put their home up for hire and head to St. Augustine, Florida.

There, they moved onto the 38-foot catamaran, Konstantina, that they purchased “sight unseen” for roughly $125,000 off Facebook.
Cody, Randi and Steve  Hitchcock (from left to right) have been living aboard their catamaran.

Cody, Randi and Steve Hitchcock (from left to proper) have been dwelling aboard their catamaran.

Randi Hitchcock

The household had no crusing expertise. But due to the G.I. Bill, Steve, a veteran, was capable of take free American Sailing Association courses and Professional Mariner Training within the Florida Keys and Stuart, Florida.

The Hitchcocks spent a number of months crusing in Florida earlier than crossing to the Bahamas in mid-February of this 12 months, the place they have since logged some 400 nautical miles.

When their Bahamian visa expires in May, they plan to return to Florida to stay in a marina or at anchor so Cody can attend in-person highschool this fall. And whereas Steve’s VA pension can help the household, he would possibly choose up jobs delivering boats and Randi would possibly work in a marina retailer for reductions on boat elements, she says.

One factor’s for positive, says Hitchcock — as quickly as they can, they’re placing their Colorado home up on the market.

“I don’t think we have any desire to live in a house again knowing how easy and fun it is to travel on a boat,” she says.

The Hitchcock's very first Gulf Stream crossing was from Long Key, Florida, to Riding Rock, Bahamas.

The Hitchcock’s very first Gulf Stream crossing was from Long Key, Florida, to Riding Rock, Bahamas.

Randi Hitchcock

Boat life is booming

Life the van life motion that exploded lately — and much more so through the pandemic — boat life isn’t new.

It is, nevertheless, fashionable.

Popular crusing YouTube channels like Sailing Ruby Rose and Sailing SV Delos, amongst many others, function enticing {couples} and households overlaying their dwelling bills (and infrequently way more) with YouTube advert income, paid sponsorships and help from Patreon — a subscription-based crowdfunding platform utilized by content material creators to earn money.

And like RV gross sales through the pandemic, boat gross sales, too, have boomed.

“The pandemic has had an incredible effect on the purchase and chartering of yachts of all sizes,” says gross sales and constitution dealer Mark Elliott, of the International Yacht Company. “In my over 40 years of yachting, I have never seen the market so active.”

“We are selling all size yachts and the inventory has shrunk to an all-time minimum,” he says.

According to the National Marine Manufacturers Association, the US leisure boating trade noticed a rise in first-time boat consumers in 2020 for the primary time in over a decade.

Damien Williams and Maggie Jay traded RV life for boat life in early 2020.

Damien Williams and Maggie Jay traded RV life for boat life in early 2020.

Maggie Jay

One couple’s transition from van life to boat life

Maggie Jay and Damien Williams, who’re digital nomads working in advertising and finance, are amongst these first-time boat consumers diving proper in.

The Denver, Colorado, couple made a brisk transition from RV life to boat life after an accident claimed their beloved motor residence.

After 4 years touring throughout 35 US states in a 1974 GMC Painted Desert motor residence that Jay says “looked like a stretch Scooby Doo van,” an engine hearth in 2019 put an finish to the journey.

“We had restored it ourselves, it was heartbreaking for me,” says Williams. “I didn’t want to start all over again with a new motor home. I just wanted to do something different.”

He’d at all times been intrigued by crusing however thought it was one thing you needed to develop up doing — or at the very least have some huge cash to afford, he says.

When he proposed the concept of dwelling on a crusing boat to Jay, she says she imagined it like “rough camping on the water.”

“I just kind of heard stories from my aunt and mom, who sailed, about peeing in a bucket and cooking on a Bunsen burner,” she says, “I was wondering how that worked for something more than a weekend.”

She quickly discovered.

In late February 2020 — after trying out roughly 20 boats whereas driving alongside the Gulf Coast from Texas to Florida with their schnoodle, P-Moe — the household discovered their new residence.

They purchased their 1979 Pearson 35 (which they plan to christen Sailing Dipity) for $12,600 in Dunedin, Florida.

With pandemic lockdowns simply beginning as they had been settling into life at anchor, Jay and Williams discovered to sail by watching quite a lot of YouTube movies and crusing channels, poring via books and bartering Maggie’s shed-organizing abilities for crusing classes from a captain they met.

By mid-April of this 12 months, after logging lots of of nautical miles whereas studying to sail round Florida, they crossed from Miami to Bimini within the Bahamas and plan to reach in Puerto Rico by January 2022 for his or her wedding ceremony day

“Even compared to life on land in the motor home, I’ve never felt so much privacy and freedom,” says Williams. “On land in an RV, you’re always worried if someone will bother you, if you’re parked okay.”

“All over the world we can anchor for free, it feels really freeing,” he says.

Damien Williams didn't know anything about sailing before they bought their boat.

Damien Williams did not know something about crusing earlier than they purchased their boat.

Maggie Jay

Is it for you?

As glamorous because the crusing liveaboard life can look on YouTube and Instagram, not everyone seems to be minimize out for it.

And simply as there are coaches for almost every little thing lately, there are sailors who specialise in serving to people work out if dwelling on a sailboat may be for them.

Sailing Totem provides “mentoring, guidance, resources, and practical support to help YOU make a successful transition into the cruising life,” based on its web site.
Jim and Judy Brown of Sail Dauntless invite would-be sailors aboard their 55-foot Jeanneau crusing yacht (based mostly out of Sag Harbor, New York this summer time) to “get soaked and go sailing for a week with a seasoned crew with offshore and island hopping itineraries” whereas experiencing the realities and rewards of a liveaboard life-style, Jim Brown wrote in an e-mail.

After that, if friends are nonetheless within the boating life-style, Brown says, the subsequent step is to hit the books to review and get licensed to soundly function the precise kind of crusing yacht that sparks their curiosity.

A standard misperception for people new to the crusing life-style, he says, is that you will “glide along to your next destination with fair winds and calm seas.”

And that does not solely apply to altering climate.

“People do not realize how expensive this lifestyle is, even with prudent budgets,” Brown says. Even ordering a easy restore half which may price $15 on-line may price many instances that by the point it’s gone via customs and processing charges, he says.

New sailors may additionally be shocked by how lengthy it takes to get locations on wind energy.

“If man could walk on water, it would be a better option if you are in a hurry,” Brown says. “Most sailing yachts average five miles an hour, so patience is key.”

The Sueiro family has been learning to sail since they bought their boat in August.

The Sueiro household has been studying to sail since they purchased their boat in August.

Jessica and Will Sueiro

A slower life-style is usually a reward

For households who like the concept of a slower, extra minimalist way of life (and do not thoughts shut quarters), the liveaboard crusing life-style might be interesting.

Jessica and Will Sueiro, who run a journey teaching firm, WorldTowning, to assist people navigate the logistics of longterm journey, just lately determined to embark on liveaboard life with their two kids, Largo, 13, and Avalon, 16.

The household had been touring full time since 2014, homeschooling the youngsters whereas visiting each county in Europe in an RV (amongst different adventures) earlier than touchdown in Japan in late February 2020.

Living on a sailboat was at all times a part of their “endgame,” says Jessica, and the pandemic accelerated that.

“We realized that Covid was going to go on much longer than we all originally anticipated,” she mentioned in an e-mail. “And the desire to take on a project while we had to pause travel seemed like the perfect opportunity for our family to learn how to live on a boat and sail.”

Storage is tight for the family of four. Overflow groceries go in lockers under the floors.

Storage is tight for the household of 4. Overflow groceries go in lockers below the flooring.

Jessica and Will Sueiro

In August 2020, after returning to Europe, they purchased their sailboat, S/V Friendship, a Broadblue 38 catamaran, for round $160,000 within the South of France and have been studying to sail it since.

The household plans to cruise round Spain’s Balearic Islands this summer time earlier than crusing throughout the Strait of Gibraltar to Morocco.

“There is a huge learning curve if you have never sailed before,” Jessica says. “Hire an instructor, crew on other boats, hire a coach, read books, attend boat shows, pick brains, watch YouTubers, take specialized classes in CPR/navigation/weather/engine repair and more.”

And do not forget to faucet the huge crusing neighborhood in port, at anchor and at sea.

“Other than social media friends, we didn’t experience much community in the van and RV life at all,” says Williams. He thought transitioning to crusing life from RV life would “be a lateral move,” he says, and has been shocked to search out it an improve.

“Sailors have been so generous, helpful and friendly toward us, even though we had never sailed a day in our lives when we moved on our sailboat,” he says.



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