Getting Ready to Go…

Sovereign of the Seas

Let’s see…what have we forgotten? We made a list a year ago, of projects and purchases that seemed important in preparation for our departure on January 18 of this year. Buy and install the new autopilot. Check. Buy and install the water maker. Check. Find and test a mail forwarder. Check. Get SCUBA certified. Check. Take all of the classes we could at the Power Squadron – Boating, Seamanship, Engine Maintenance, Piloting, Advanced Piloting. Check.

Even though we’ve made steady progress on the big things, with only two weeks left before the first leg of our long journey home to Seattle, the list just seems to get longer. Get vaccinated against all sorts of nasty mosquito-borne illnesses. Take the HAM license exam. Get health certificates for the cats. Put together a ditch kit. Create a stowage plan and provision. Clean out the lazarette. Buy enough Velcro to stick everything down in case of rough seas. Oh, yeah — buy seasick medication. I’m about to have an ulcer just worrying about what hasn’t made the list yet.

So how did we end up here?

It started with a crazy idea on New Year’s Day 2004. As part of our New Year’s resolution process, we pondered how to make the best of life for the limited time we were in South Florida. We started by asking, “What would be the most outrageous way we could think of to get home to Seattle?” By boat, of course–our own boat! We brainstormed the type of boat that would make the journey safely, comfortably and economically and settled on a trawler. We arrived at a dollar figure that was a stretch, but within reach.

The next question became: “What do we need to know, to do, and to have to make that crazy idea happen?” We spent that New Year’s Day like little kids, creating a plan with poster board, magic markers, post-it notes and magazine pictures. We put together three years’ worth of posters, with lists and target dates for each achievement, including the drop-dead date to buy the boat, and ending with a target departure date. We hung those childlike posters on our bedroom wall, so we could seem them first thing each morning and last thing each night.

Then we went to work. Ole was on every night. I browsed bookstores. We attended boat shows from Palm Beach to Miami. And before we knew it, six months earlier than we planned, we got Emma Jo, our 1988 DeFever 49 raised pilothouse trawler. Then the list got serious. Fiberglass and teak repair; new carpets, drapes and furniture; all new electronics; canvas; Awlgrip; and lots and lots of sweat equity.

At times it seemed that we’d never get everything done – each purchase and repair revealing yet another unexpected project or expense. BOAT: Break Out Another Thousand!

A shakedown cruise over to Bimini added even more items to the list, including procedures we hadn’t thought of and didn’t know we needed, as well as equipment it was just plain stupid not to have.

One piece of advice we found helpful was to separate the items on our list into three categories: Safety (training and equipment), Administrative (communication, banking, etc.) and Convenience (want to do, nice to have). Using this system, we prioritized and began hammering away at our list, adding, subtracting, and reprioritizing as necessary. Gradually, the dream began to materialize.

A salty English sailor from our marina gave us the best advice of all – the last item on the list should be: “Destroy this list and cast off.”

By the time you are reading this, we will have taken Trevor’s advice, thrown away the list, and made it from Fort Lauderdale to Miami to Key West to Isla Mujeres and Belize, and learned a lot along the way—about our boat, about each other, and about lists.

We’ll keep you posted about our progress periodically, as wi-fi allows.  If you want to e-mail us, and are willing to wait a few days for an answer, please use

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