Stop and Go

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Making tough decisions to keep the cruising life afloat  (published October 2017)

Sitting on a pebble beach, I poked our fire with a stick while Jill and I discussed what our next moves were going to be. A deep fjord lay in front of us and jagged mountains shot up into the evening sky. With an amazing spring and summer of cruising Alaska coming to a close, we had lots of options, but literally no idea what we were going to do.

The one thing we did know was that, after three years of cruising, we wanted to keep going: the cruising life is for us.

But the hard part was coming to the painful realization that, though we could keep sailing on what I make, the kitty needs to be properly replenished. And though Yahtzee is ready to go far and wide at any moment, it also needs some love after being lived on for five years. In essence, we knew that if we wanted to keep cruising, we’d have to stop.
Our situation isn’t uncommon amongst our cruising brethren, and if there is one consistent truth about cruising on a sailboat, it’s that everyone out here makes it work in different ways financially. There really is no one size fits all approach.

Some save money and go for a set amount of time — 1, 2, 3 years, etc. Some use their retirement to sail off into the sunset. Others save and then save some more before setting out to see how far they can make it before needing to refill the kitty. Yet others employ an on again off again approach. Still others — like us over the past three years — work from the boat as they go. And many employ a combination of tactics to make it happen.

With all of these varied approaches, there are tough and sometimes stressful decisions to make about when to leave, where to go next or whether to stop for some time in order to get back out. For the crew of Yahtzee, our cruising miles have stopped … for now.

By the end of 24 hours we’d paid for a year of moorage in Seward, Alaska, not far from where we had that beach fire, found a quaint winter cabin and Jill got a job. Making all these decisions was surely difficult, but the reasons became more sound as we thought it all through.

Our time in Alaska (Jill’s home state) was far more incredible than we ever imagined, and it quickly became the only place we envisioned ourselves living and working. Moorage was inexpensive and so too was a place to live so we could take everything off Yahtzee to dote on her properly.

The more it came together, the more we found Seward to be the perfect solution. Jill’s new position pays well enough for us to work on the boat and save. And we’ll be in the rental cabin from October through the end of April and then living on Yahtzee from May through September. That will allow us to focus on working on the inside of the boat during the winter months, and then we can tackle some outside projects once we move back aboard in the spring. Then when summer arrives and we’re not working or working on Yahtzee, there is plenty to keep us busy. Numerous stunning anchorages are ready to explore, the Kenai Peninsula is a cruiser’s paradise and Prince William Sound is just a hop away.

Alaska, you got us. We’re staying for now so we can keep going later.

Andrew, along with wife Jill and sons Porter and Magnus, are currently cruising Alaska aboard their Grand Soleil 39 Yahtzee. Follow their adventures at threesheetsnw.com/yahtzee.