It has been 2 years without posting to Simple Follower. Up until recently, the last two years have been uneventful. I was living a fairly normal life here in Florida: going to work, coming home and going to my second job (mowing yards) and then having supper with my wife before going to bed and repeating the next day.
The main thing interesting was the mowing business which was documented on a YouTube channel (PartTimeMowingMan). I just received another $108 check from YouTube today, so those videos do get some views. In two seasons I built the mowing business from this:
After working up to maintaining 20 regular accounts, I quit it all when life got in the way.
Marriage life has been great, and it was nice enjoying our first couple years of marriage together fairly stress-free as we got to know each other better. For our two year anniversary (May, 2017) we went on a 7-day Caribbean Cruise which was an awesome experience, and a great way to cap off this slow, calm period in our lives. Things started picking up soon thereafter when we found out Anachemy was pregnant! She is due at the end of January with a boy. That’s super exciting, if not daunting.
Then things really started picking up in July when we received notice our landlord would need his home back on short notice, within three weeks, due to pressing health issues.
The first of those three weeks we looked at options of rental houses and apartments and weren’t thrilled by the prospects. We applied for one home but were denied because of requested a shorter term lease than he wanted.
One evening we were searching listings on our phones as we lay in bed. My wife was fighting down vomit from morning sickness (even though it was evening, apparently “morning sickness” hadn’t got the memo). We had been trying to think outside the box for lodging options. A brilliant idea crossed my mind, “Why don’t we buy a sailboat and live on it?” I blurted this idea to my wife and – would you know it – she very enthusiastically gave me a thumbs up while jumping out of bed and running to the bathroom to throw up. When she returned she excitedly added, “Yes! Let’s do it!” I count my blessings for having found such an adventurous woman to share life with.
Our boat search lasted all of one week (our second week of three before needing to leave the house).
We started the search online, but I knew we needed to see boats in person. “Boots on the deck,” so to speak. Living in Tampa Bay there are no shortage of used sailboats for sale. We decided 30′-34′ in length would be a sweet spot for us between affordability and livability. We made appointments. Since this boat would be our home and not just a weekend pleasure vessel, livability was key.
Unfortunately, after driving to look at several sad, dilapidated vessels in our price range, discouragement set in (at least for me). Then it happened, we widened the search to nearby towns and the perfect deal appeared: a Hunter 31′ in “great” condition, judging from the few grainy photos. It had been used in a sailing school. “If it was used in a school, it must sail ok,” I thought, while naggingly wondering how many students had run it aground or into a dock.
We drove down and it was love at first sight. Maybe second sight. But she floated and was sea-worthy enough for a day sail with the owner. What an auspicious start. One of the previous boats we had visited was in a repair yard where we had to climb a ladder to get aboard, while yet another was – in my opinion – never moving again, unless down to the bottom of the ocean.
Anachemy seemed happy with the amount of storage, which was significantly more than other boats we had toured. I was happy it had systems, even if most of them were not necessarily working at the moment. It had central air that didn’t work. It had a Raymarine auto-pilot that didn’t work either. It had an expensive 12v fridge that wasn’t getting cold. It had a freshwater system that wasn’t hooked up. It had a toilet leaking effluent on the ground. But, overall, the boat appeared good to us, and after looking at each other and exchanging a nod of understanding, we put in a cash offer on the spot for $7,900 and…
… we were boat owners!
Here is how it looked when we purchased it:
No survey was done, both because we didn’t have time for such trivialities, and also because I could see for myself the boat was a floating pile of deferred maintenance without needing to pay hundreds of dollars for a professional to confirm the same. The cabin floor was caving in, hoses were patched with duct tape, the hull badly needed new paint, portholes were leaking, but worst of all there was a stink that would knock any landlubber over. “Nothing a little elbow grease can’t fix,” we thought to ourselves. Little did we realize how much elbow grease!
The first item of business was to remove all the previous owners possessions we had inherited for “free.” From antique, stained life jackets to stale cans of beer, it all had to go. We piled a dumpster high with things not worth saving, including the revolting marine toilet which was one of the first items to go. We also filled our pickup truck with stuff deemed worthy enough to save: a dizzyingly amount of line, bins of spare parts, gallons of new engine oil, swim flippers, hoses, hardware, a bosun’s chair, and much more.
Saturday came and it was time to move our home to its new slip, 25 miles away. Having found a marina with availability was in itself a miracle, as the waiting period for boat slips around here can extend up to a year. Some friends came along for the ride. We arrived early but were stalled by a terrific thunder storm. The rain and lightning came with fury as we huddled down below in the stinky cabin, waiting for the weather to pass so we could leave Twin Dolphins Marina for our maiden voyage.
The rain let up and we were off. But what was this? Our engine overheating? No wonder the owner had been so keen to cut the engine and enjoy the “wonder of sailing” the moment we had cleared the breakwater on our sea trial. The strainer wasn’t clogged, everything seemed ok, but above idle the overheat light would come on for the inboard Yanmar diesel. The ocean was glass, there was not a hint of wind, our sails hung limp. 10 hours later, after motoring 25 miles at idle, we pulled into our new slip!
Over the next week (our last week in the house) deep cleaning commenced in the evenings after work, including ripping out the floor, drilling holes through the liner and rinsing untold gallons of soapy water through the bilge, repeatedly flooding the boat and pumping it overboard until the black moldy water ran clear. Templates were made of the rotten cabin sole, vinyl flooring bought from Home Depot and new floors went back in. All this while packing up our possessions in the rental house and moving them to a storage unit.
Utterly exhausted, the end finally came: we turned in the house keys and moved aboard. Sort of. Since the floors weren’t done yet, the first two nights were spent in an Air B&B instead. But then we moved aboard, living the dream. That is, the dream of an overwhelming number of boat projects. 72 of them, to be exact. At least that was what our preliminary spreadsheet said.
Now, three months later, all the stinky smell is gone, the plumbing works, the new toilet doesn’t leak, the central air blows hot & cold, and the refrigerator stays cold. All in all, our boat is quite habitable. We have made new friends with other liveaboards at the marina and had the opportunity to visit their boats. In hindsight, I’m happy to say I still think we made a good choice. This Hunter 31 seems to have hit the sweet spots of big enough to live on, old enough to be inexpensive, luxurious enough to be comfortable, and seaworthy enough for coastal cruising or touring the Caribbean.
With a baby on the way, I have a feeling our new adventure is just beginning!