Yesterday whilst sifting through the hundreds of spam emails I get every day now, and special thanks to the son of bitches who felt it necessary to put me on said email lists…We will meet someday…I happened across a comment from Martha, down in the Caribbean. Normally if I get a good comment I might reply in kind in the comments post but given the nature of what she said, I felt it would be more better proper to address said comment with a full post. Here is the full comment below and what I have to say will follow. And no, it isn’t a bad comment, quite the opposite…
Hi Capt. Fritters,
I recently discovered your book on Amazon & read it (since I’ve been trying to figure out how to both live on a sailboat & eat at the same time for approx. 30 years, with no success, yet). I had almost succeeded a couple of years ago, when I was working in St. Maarten (which I loved). But just as I was deciding _which_ boat, my job went belly-up & I found myself in Aruba (which I hate) – working & still eating, but with zero chance of living on a sailboat, because all waterfront property is owned by the gov’t who charges _very_ high_ lease rates, therefore only tourists (spending 20 yrs savings in 2 wks) can afford to regularly see the water.
Finding myself in this situation, I wondered if maybe I’d gone too far down-island… so I thou’t perhaps a move back “up-island” (perhaps even the Keys) with my cat (of course) might be an option…
And I discovered this book telling me how…
I went to your website & I was very sad to to discover that you’ve since had to give up living on a sailboat and have also lost both your kitties – those combined losses are grievous…
– So now, I’m sad for your losses & I’m also sad for myself (because I still can’t figure out how to make a “BOTH eat AND live-on-sailboat with cat combo” actually work).
But, I’ll keep checking in on Manatee Fritters, cheering for your solution(s) & while trying to find one of my own.
So, for the rest of this post I’m going to be addressing you, Ms. Martha and anyone who is in a similar situation.
First of all, let me thank you ever so much for your support here on the Fritter. Thanks for grabbing a copy of my book, thanks for finding a bit of inspiration, and especially thanks for taking the time to write to me.
You say you have been trying for 30 years to live on a sailboat in the islands with a cat and eat too? Funny, 30 years is about how long it took me to do the same thing. From the first time I set foot in Key West until the day I got here 7 years ago, it was a dream which many a time I thought was unreachable. I had more than a few false starts, way too many setbacks, and more than a few times I thought it would never happen. Yet, here I am, although sans boat and cats, but I am still here. I cannot tell you how discouraged and depressed I was when things were on a downhill slide and there seemed to be no hope of ever living on an island, let alone on a sailboat. Constant debt, jobs which suck the very life out of person, and more than a few people from relatives to friends to coworkers, all seemed to conspire to convince me I should shut up, keep working a dead end job, pay a mortgage on a house I hated, buy more shit on credit, and be thankful to Jebus I was alive. The very idea of living on a sailboat in the islands was for children who hadn’t had their dreams snuffed out by a rigid education system incapable of teaching individualism. Be one with the hive, buy more shit, and shut up. As you might have guessed, I paid no attention to any of it.
No matter how bad things got, no matter how much debt I was into, no matter how bad the jobs were, I never lost sight of the prize. I made a point of going to Key West at least once a year. Even if it was for a weekend, I would jump at a chance to go. When I was down here I didn’t act like a tourist. I went around the island acting like it was my home, checking out things like the grocery stores, the banks, and marinas. When I was back in Orlando I subscribed to the Keynoter, this was pre internet days, just so I could keep up with the news. And you can bet I went over the want ads with a fine tooth comb, looking at jobs, ads for places to live, rv and boats sales, anything which might give me the one thing I needed to get a foothold down here.
But, as I said, it took a long time. Around the turn of the century, I woke up. My high paying job was going away, and it was time to do something. It was then I discovered minimalism and started to downsize. I went from a house to an rv and finally, after years of looking and dreaming, it happened. I found a beat up old 27 foot Hunter in Key Largo. It was junk but it came with a live aboard slip and I could afford it. I sold the rv, told my boss to go fuck himself, and headed to the Keys.
The Hunter was a learning experience. I had some experience with a lot of boats but not so much with a sailboat. It was really not sea worthy, but it was home. KC and Charley were with me by then and the three of us made do for a couple of years. But, I was getting the itch to go further south and I didn’t want to try to sail the old boat down there, so I sold it and eventually found a small apartment in Key West. I was there for almost a year when I got evicted as they were tearing the place down. As it happens, the very day I got the notice, another boat, a 26 foot Seacraft came up for sale on Craigslist, again with a live aboard slip, the rent for which was the same as I was paying for the soon to be demolished apartment. It was an easy move to make.
I lived about a year or so on the Seacraft but after realizing it needed more than I was willing to put into it, I managed to trade down to the 23′ Free Spirit. A lot of people questioned my sanity for going to such a small boat…well, they question my sanity about a lot of things, but I was pleasantly surprised by how well the cats and I fit into the small space. The boat was simple in design, needed very little, and was comfortable. But, at that particular time, all the bullshit was going down with the marina from hell and hewhoshallnotbenamed. I did manage to snag a slip over at Sunset for about the same rent, and stayed there until this past spring.
Overall, despite the economic hardships, mainly brought on by myself, I loved boat living. While there were times when the winds were a blowin’ and rains a fallin’, it would have been nice to be on dry land, and with all the politics of the marinas, causing me to wonder if it was worth it to stay on the water, there were many more times when living on the boat seemed just the right thing to do. I remember more than a few evenings sitting out on the back deck with KC, (Charley wasn’t allowed outside), and just watching the harbor. Really some nice memories.
But, all good things come to an end. Economics got worse, and then I lost KC. It hurt me bad, still does. I decided to find Charley a more better home and get off the water for awhile. I hated to do it but for the moment it has proved to be the best decision. I’ve been living like a hermit in town, trying to get some passive income going and plotting some travel out to Maui, just to see what it’s like out there.
But it doesn’t mean I still don’t look at boats. About once or twice a week I take a peek at the ads, just to see what is out there. Last week a nice little Prout catamaran showed up for sale, and don’t think it didn’t get my full attention. There were also three nice Catalina 22’s up in Key Largo for sale. Boats are out there, you just need to look.
The reason I’m boring you with such a long post is to let you know no matter how hard it may seem sometimes, no matter how far away some dream may be, always be in pursuit of said dream because you never know when the right situation will fall into your lap. You may have given up completely on the idea of living on a sailboat with your cat, and be walking along some dock one day, look over, and there it will be. Exactly what you are looking for. You’ll know it’s the boat for you. It will wink at you, shiver it’s timbers, and the next thing you know, you are living on it. It will happen.
As for the whole living on a sailboat and eating thing. Well, eating is over rated anyways. But seriously, take a long hard look at your finances. What are you spending every month to live? Where can you cut back? How much will it cost to live on said boat?
Go back into the archives of this here blog and look at the series ‘Living on $50 a Day’. For three years I chronicled every penny I spent, from food to boat to cat. Every penny. And at the end of three years I was doing it. I was living on a sailboat in Key West with two cats for $50 a day. It’s doable if you learn how to discipline your spending and learn to live without some of the things you thought you had to have.
Boats can be had at any time. There are always bargains to be found, just set yourself a price range, a preferred size, and start looking. The tricky part is of course, where to moor it. I’ve talked many a time on here about the problems live aboards face in the Keys. Few slips in the marinas, hostile local governments, it’s tough here and I imagine worse in the smaller islands, as you have pointed out in your comment. There is some give and take here. Which is more important to you? Living on a particular island or living on a sailboat? If the sailboat is more important, then it’s going to limit the places you can live. You can chose the cruising lifestyle, which would be my choice if I was a bit younger and had a more seaworthy boat, but staying in one place all year round, is a bit more difficult. When I eventually go out to Maui, there will be no living on a sailboat there. The marinas are small, expensive, and every slip is needed for more experienced sailors. the type who sail around the world and stuff. Maui may well suit me fine but if I want to live on a sailboat again, Key West will be the place.
You never said what you did for a living but I get the impression you do something within the tourist industry, given you have been living in St. Maarten and Aruba. This is a good thing, it gives you a step ahead. You can go to any island or tourism based area which is live aboard friendly, and probably find gainful income without too much trouble. You also know what island living is all about so it gives you a definite advantage.
Overall, Martha, you seem to be on the right track, it just sounds like you just need to make some adjustments to your lifestyle. Your biggest decision, as I mentioned earlier is finding the right place where you can still live on a sailboat, and be on an island. Key West is an option. I am sure there are more out there. The boat is the easy part. There are plenty of them for sale out there. It’s just a matter of finding the right one at the right time. It worked for me several times, no reason it can’t work for you.
The best advice I can give you right now is don’t give up. Keep looking, research, explore, and be ready to jump when the right deal comes along, and it will. Figger out your budget, what you spend every month on food, shelter, and such. You’ll be replacing apartment rent for slip rent. Boats are expensive so you’ll need to factor in what you can afford to fix and not fix. This is important to know before you go out and buy a boat. When looking, see what the boat needs, and they all need something. A boat which is selling for real cheap may not be a bargain once you find out how much is needed to make it safe and seaworthy again.
If you can, find a sailboat you can rent for a month or two. See if you like it or not. Some people are fine with living in confined spaces while others get claustrophobic very quickly. And of course, how will the cat adjust? Some animals go onboard and fit right in. Others, like my Charley would fall overboard the first time they go out on deck. There is a lot to consider here but it sounds like you can do it.
Go back and read some of the archives here on the Fritter. Go look up some other live aboard blogs, there are hundreds out there and see what others are doing and not doing to live their dream. When you get discouraged, go hang out at a marina and just look at the boats. Get online and peruse the ads. And while you are at it, start up your own blog. Chronicle your journey, let people know what you are doing. Tell them good as well as the not so good, and put lots of cat pictures in there. But start up a little blog. Your story is unique and there is an audience out here. It can be great therapy when things are not going so well and even more better when you achieve your dreams. Everyone loves a good escape story and you are at the beginnings of one. Share your’s with the world.
Don’t give up. And don’t be afraid to come back here and ask questions. Myself and the other Fritter fans will be glad to help. One of these days I will expect to hear from you again. Only this time you are going to be telling me you are sailing up Key West channel in front of Mallory Square heading for home port. I’ll come out and wave to you when you do.
Your dream is out there, floating around somewhere. Now go find it.