Lessons From A Circumnavigation

Story & Photos By Scott Flanders
Published: October/November 2013

Big adventures start with baby steps, a yearning to get more out of everyday life, learning boating lessons the hard way, and a giant leap of faith.

Is This All There Is?

Mary and I began our boating career as complete novices, reading about the adventures of the cruising gods in various magazines and thriving on every word. When we were young and beginning our careers — I was in the boat-parts business and Mary was a pediatric physical therapist — we worked hard over the years to climb our various professional mountains. By the time the children were grown and our mountains climbed, we found ourselves in the routine of just making more money. For what? To buy more things? We wanted to change our lives to something more productive and stimulating, with a bit of adventure tossed in. Previously we'd owned a small Blackfin sportfishing boat and enjoyed fishing trips both offshore in the Blackfin and inshore with smaller boats, so naturally boating came to mind. To see if living aboard was for us, cautiously, in 1999 we bought a lovely 32-foot Grand Banks and renamed her Proud Mary. A year later we took an unprecedented month off work and went to the Bahamas. We came home hooked.

Our original intent was to sell our home in Ft. Lauderdale, keep a small weekend place in the Florida Keys, buy a used 42-foot trawler, and follow the sun north and south. But once the long-distance bug bit, we sold everything to buy Egret, gave what we could to friends and our two boys, then donated the rest to a veterans' charity. The process of buying Proud Mary and learning more about cruising; ordering and taking delivery of our little white fiberglass ship Egret; and then liquidating our possessions took four years. In April 2002, we retired. A few days later we left the dock for the rest of our lives — a decision we've never regretted.

How much is enough? That's everyone's big question as the years march on and you think about retirement. Mary and I spent more than a few sleepless nights worrying about it at first. Then we took a 40-hour course on retirement at a local junior college. One big lesson that came out of that course was that compound interest is the trustworthy friend of retirement. As a test we examined our credit-card bills and checkbook, then subtracted all shore-based expenses for a month, including yearly expenses such as homeowners insurance, auto insurance, and such. We were shocked at how much we'd save if we got rid of most of these expenses. These days, we live comfortably on a small fraction of our former income. The bottom line is: You spend what you have. Period. It can't be put any simpler. You have a lot? You'll spend more. You're on a shoestring? You'll spend very little. And it doesn't matter where you go on your boat. It's all good! So go sooner than later because, for many, later never comes. Life gets in the way.

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