We did it. We sold our house, bought a bigger boat & moved aboard.
Truth be told, we did this about 15 months ago. Actually, we need to rewind all the way back to late 2018 when this whole crazy idea started. With our youngest of three headed off to college in the fall of 2019, and our two older kids launched into the world (one living on the actual other side of the world in New Zealand); we were both 50 and facing empty nesthood. We started talking seriously about the kind of empty nest life we wanted to have – I should mention here that we don’t shy away from big life changes; in fact, I think we crave them, having moved across or halfway across the country a few times, either as a couple or as a family of five with the kids in various formative years of school. We had been dreaming about selling everything, buying a larger boat and moving aboard. At one point in my life I would have thought that to be a completely ridiculous idea. But living in Seattle, its not entirely that unconventional and wasn’t out of the realm of possibility. With the kids out on their own, it was actually something we could do. It didn’t have to be forever. If we didn’t like it, we could move back on land. Still though, this entire idea was met with a little trepidation on my part. You see, simply living aboard in a slip in Seattle was just one part of the dream, the other part was possibly going really far on the boat: i.e., crossing an ocean someday. But at the time, that seemed terrifying and was WAY down on my list of empty-nest adventure. (Spoiler alert: the pandemic changed my mind. I’m much closer to being ready to just GO)
We had a lot of friends who had already taken the plunge and did nothing but sing the praises of their new lifestyle. It was highly recommended. The hard part, and the part that sometimes brought me to tears, and hurt my heart a little was when we thought about when the kids would come home to visit. Would they hate us for not having an actual house to come home to? Would they still even come back to visit? Should we even do this? While we researched, and vacillated between excitement and fear, and talked with the kids about our ideas, we looked for boats.
One of our favorites was in Vancouver, BC. We drove up in January 2019 with both of our daughters (one of whom was home from NZ for the holidays) to have a look at a 68′ DeFever. It was big, beautiful, checked all the boxes of what we wanted in a liveaboard, and, of course – it needed a ton of work. As Steven checked out engines & mechanicals – the girls and I walked around picturing family gatherings and dance parties in the massive salon, figuring out where the Christmas tree would go and marveling at the fact that the kitchen was roughly the same size as the one in our house. Kudos to the broker who let us imagine our lives on this boat for three whole hours. Our youngest pulled me aside and said – “listen, if this is what you and dad are talking about, I’m cool with selling the house right now”.
A few months later, Steven and I went to New Zealand to visit our daughter – she was at school in Wellington and we had planned a two week visit, the first week was spent road tripping all over the North Island, the second week devoted entirely to Wellington, and so we splurged on a swanky Airbnb. All 400 square feet of it. We were relaxing one evening and our daughter spread her arms out to gesture at the small space in which we had just entertained a handful of her classmates and said – “see, this is all we need. As long as we are together, who cares where we are”. This was all I needed to realize the kids would be okay. We all would be okay with this next chapter.
We returned home to Seattle and resumed our search, which by this point had pretty much been narrowed down to two choices: that 68′ DeFever in Vancouver that felt very luxurious and yachty: I pictured myself on the bow, in a caftan, martini in hand – waving to friends on the dock as we came into port. And this vision stuck with me. I looked marvelous.
The other contender was a much saltier, 54′ Kadey-Krogen (hull 8 of 8). Steven adored it – he was beaming from ear to ear. I didn’t like it. At all. It wasn’t giving me any good dance party vibes. And I certainly wasn’t getting any martinis in a caftan vibe. Steven saw it as more of a coffee & cargo pants sort of boat. Seriously though – she didn’t show very well. The owner was a very reluctant seller and made no effort to spruce things up or make anything look at all inviting. She looked rough and dirty. It took two more visits with boating friends to get some more perspective – to have all the positive attributes (massive amounts of storage among other things) pointed out for me to feel a connection. Don’t get me wrong, there were definitely things that I liked, not the least of which was the uniqueness of the boat – the fact that it was hull 8 of 8, the fact that it had sails(!) – (yes, a trawler with sails), just added to the overall salty, cool vibe. It also took the realization that if we ever did get up the gumption to cross an ocean, this was the likely boat in which to make such a voyage.
We made lots of phone calls, lots of pro/con lists. Steven called a DeFever guy to ask about ocean-crossing ability. He said, “the best way to get a DeFever across an ocean is to put it on another boat”. Which really defeated the purpose. Or at least defeated the dream.
I loved the DeFever, but didn’t want to be ready for a big passage in a few years only to then realize we were in the wrong damn boat – so I fully agreed that we should go with the boat that will allow us to do what we think we might want to do, and even if we don’t ever actually do it, we’ll still have a kick-ass boat. Once we made the decision that the Kadey-Krogen was the one – it set in motion a frenzy of making offers, ready-ing our house for sale and crossing fingers that everything would line up and happen – and happen it did, swiftly. We moved onto “Little” Fortitude during the showings and open houses and 3 days later we had an offer on our house. Added bonus: the buyers wanted all the furniture too. Talk about making things easy. A week later we went to survey on the Kadey Krogen. We closed on our house a month later, and one week after that, we took delivery and moved aboard. In between all of this, we dropped our youngest off at college. Bam. We’re empty nesters. And we’re living on a boat. Head-spinning whirlwind of a lifestyle change.
It’s been an interesting first year of boat life — much of it deserving of dedicated posts. But to summarize: we moved aboard at the start of a Pacific Northwest winter – (our kids did all come home for Christmas and it was just as festive and cozy as it always was in our house); and 5 months later, we’re in a lockdown, our daughter came home from college and moved into the forward berth. It wasn’t always easy and we all certainly had our moments, but it turns out the boat is a lovely place to hunker down for months on end. Pre-pandemic we even had a dance party or two. Hell, post-pandemic the starboard deck makes for perfect social distancing from other friends on the dock and we can still have distanced dance parties.
I totally wear caftans onboard and the lockdown gave me plenty of time to work on martini making (I prefer them on the slightly dirty side: gin, with just a splash of vermouth and splash of olive brine. Stirred.) Caftans and martinis aside: I’m never wearing one as we come into a port because I’m usually hyper-focused on getting our aft spring line onto a cleat so I can get off the boat and secure the rest of the vessel. A caftan would totally get in the way and I’d spill the martini everywhere. That look I envisioned is best for apres-docking.
But seriously, bottom line here: We made the right choice, both in lifestyle and boat, and the kids are onboard with the new gig and digs.