We’re not ready to retire yet. In fact, I may never retire in the sense that I will always need to have something to do. We’ve tossed around the idea of one day living on a sailboat full time. It started when we were on Little Tybee. We so fully inhabited beach life for those 4 days that we started talking about ways to make that lifestyle a reality. About a month after we got back, in October 2021, was the annual Annapolis sailboat show. If we wanted to see what boat living may look like this would be an excellent opportunity.
Back in the early 90’s Shannon bought and planned to refurbish an old sailboat. It was a Windrose monohull, and he had high hopes for that boat. He bought a stack of books at the time and learned everything there was to know about sailing, and about refurbishing boats. He was in his mid-20’s and soon realized that the project was not going to jive with his income, so he ended up selling it before ever getting to take a maiden voyage.
When I was a child, my grandparents lived in Detroit Michigan, in a subdivision right on Lake Michigan. My grandfather bought a small yellow sailboat with a multi-colored sail and took up sailing. When we’d go up to visit in the summer he’d take us sailing. I loved the boat and loved being out on the water.
All of this to say that I wouldn’t necessarily call us experienced in the nautical life. So, before we went to Annapolis, we got out Shannon’s old sailing books and re-acquainted ourselves. There are 2 main types of sailboats we were looking at; monohulls (boats with one main hull) and catamarans (boats with twin hulls in parallel).
There are pro’s and con’s to both. Monohulls are generally less expensive and there’s a bigger used market for them. But the main living space is usually down below deck and you can feel the motion of the ocean much more profoundly. The Catamarans tend to be a bit more luxurious, better suited for living up at ocean level, and feel more stable in the water. The monohulls are said to be quicker and easier to navigate, where the Catamaran’s are bulkier, and therefore less agile.
What’s great about the Annapolis sailboat show is that you can step onto each and every boat, and look inside every nook and cranny. The way it’s set up in the marina, is that each boat company gets a few slips much like you’d have a booth at a trade show. The staff sets up a podium near their section of the slip to take your name, email, and home state. Once you’ve registered they give you a sticker with their company’s logo. Once you’ve gotten a sticker, you can come and go freely for the rest of the show. At times, you may be standing in line for a little while to get a sticker but we never had to wait more than 10 minutes. On occasion on some of the larger multi-level yachts, they wanted you to sign up for a time slot to tour it with a salesperson. We had the great fortune of being somehow overlapped with someone important and got to tour one of these by ourselves.
So if today we could buy whatever we wanted it would be the Bali 39 foot Catamaran. Our favorite Cats beside the Bali, were Fontaine Pajot, Lagoon, and XCS.
The Sailing community has a distinct culture that I wasn’t familiar with prior to this. For starters, they have an entire vocabulary that is best to learn if you want to be able to talk to them. There is a good bit of vocabulary with nautical origins that land dwellers have adopted. Here’s a link for some of those common phrases if you’re interested. This is my personal favorite as I’ve used the phrase ” stayed till the bitter end” many times…….:
Bitter End. – In sailing ships, the anchor line was attached at one end to the anchor (of course) and at the other to a bitt, a stout timber or beam. The end of the anchor line at the bitt was the bitter end. If the bitter end comes loose, the anchor is lost and the vessel adrift. from edtenengineers.com
Something else that the Sailors seem to enjoy is a cocktail called the Painkiller. It is made with Pusser’s Rum (site and info linked there) “The Pusser’s Painkiller™ is a blend of Pusser’s Rum with 4 parts pineapple juice, 1 part cream of coconut and 1 part orange juice served on the rocks with a generous amount of fresh nutmeg on top. ” We quite enjoyed these throughout the show, end left with a couple of souviner mugs
In the course of learning about the nautical life, I discovered many blogs, podcasts, and YouTube channels by people who are living full time on boats. Everything from a young couple who found it to be far less expensive to purchase and live on a stationary sailboat in a local marina than to pay for rent, to a family of 6 from England who wanted to try something different. There are 2 couples in particular that I have enjoyed following and have learned a lot from on Youtube. Here’s an example post from each of them:
What we now know is that it’s not something you can decide to do and immediately jump in. It takes extensive planning and preparation. You’ve got to know how to sail, and in order to do that you have to get some instruction both in the classroom and on the water. I took a Sailing 101 course online and got a certificate. In no way has this certificate prepared me to dock a boat, raise a sail, navigate, or fix a repair. As with many things, the reality of it is far less glamorous than the idea. In no way does that fact discourage me from continuing to consider it as part of our retirement plan. Like taking off in an RV, but on the water. I think it sounds pretty fantastic. Especially the destinations. And have I mentioned how much I love seafood?
I have family in the area who we were fortunate to be able to spend some time with. They graciously hosted us for dinner, overnight, and breakfast, in nearby Frederick and New Market. That said, Annapolis is a beautiful little town, and the sailboat show participants were mostly coming and going from the Annapolis Waterfront Hotel. There is a beautiful little town with adorable shops, restaurants, and museums. We rode a shuttle to the event from here:
And of course the Naval Academy is there on the harbor as well. Other than the traffic in and around Washington DC, the drive through Georgia, North Carolina, and Virginia is nice and scenic through the Shenandoah mountains. It was on the drive home from this trip that we visited the King’s Mountain National Military Park (linked there).
Even if you’re neither looking to live full time on a sailboat nor own one at all, it’s a lot of fun to go and see the sailboat show. There is a full section of vendors who are selling everything from belts made of rope to official boat show swag, candy, ice cream, beer, and crab cakes. They offer hands on learning opportunities, classes, seminars, and a beautiful harbor setting as a backdrop.