(CNN) – Imagine ditching most of your worldly possessions to live on a sailboat that you bought on the internet – perhaps without seeing it or knowing how to tie a knot or pull up the mainsail.
For some newbies who started boating during the pandemic, the past year was an unexpected push to suddenly bring what once seemed out of reach.
Randi Hitchcock was locked up for 30 days with her family in Colorado Springs, Colorado last April when she bumped into the wall.
“The hours we’d been indoors when we weren’t accompanying our dogs on an important trip to the park made us think long and hard about our future,” says Hitchcock.
After some family conversations with her husband, Steve, and their then 12-year-old son, Cody, the Hitchcocks decided to sell most of their belongings, rent their house, and go to St. Augustine, Florida.
Cody, Randi and Steve Hitchcock (left to right) live on board their catamaran.
The family had no sailing experience. The GI bill enabled Steve, a veteran, to take free American Sailing Association courses and professional marine training in the Florida Keys and Stuart, Florida.
The Hitchcocks sailed Florida for several months before heading to the Bahamas in mid-February this year, where they have covered around 400 nautical miles since then.
If their Bahamian visa expires in May, they plan to return to Florida to live in a marina or at anchor so Cody can attend high school in person this fall. And while Steve’s VA pension can support the family, he could take on boat delivery jobs and Randi could work in a marina business for discounts on boat parts, she says.
One thing is for sure, says Hitchcock – as soon as they can, put their Colorado home up for sale.
“I don’t think we want to live in a house again because we know how easy and fun it is to travel by boat,” she says.
The very first Hitchcock crossing of the Gulf Stream was from Long Key, Florida, to Riding Rock, Bahamas.
Boat life is booming
Life The van life movement that has exploded in recent years – and even more so during the pandemic – is not new.
However, it is trending.
And like RV sales during the pandemic, boat sales also boomed.
“We sell yachts of all sizes and inventory has dropped to a minimum all time,” he says.
According to the National Marine Manufacturers Association, the U.S. recreational boating industry saw an increase in first-time boat buyers in 2020 for the first time in over a decade.
Damien Williams and Maggie Jay traded the lives of RVs for the lives of boats in early 2020.
A couple’s transition from the life of a van to the life of a boat
Maggie Jay and Damien Williams, digital nomads involved in marketing and finance, are among the first-time boat buyers to dive right in.
The Denver, Colorado couple made a swift transition from living an RV to living a boat after an accident claimed their beloved RV.
After traveling around 35 states for four years in a 1974 GMC Painted Desert RV that Jay said “looked like a stretch Scooby-Doo van,” an engine fire in 2019 ended the adventure.
“We restored it ourselves, it was heartbreaking for me,” says Williams. “I didn’t want to start over with a new RV. I just wanted to do something different.”
He’s always been fascinated by sailing, but thought it was something you had to do as an adult – or at least a lot of money to buy, he says.
When he suggested the idea of living on a sailboat to Jay, she said she envisioned it as “rough camping on the water”.
“I just heard stories from my aunt and mother who went sailing, how to pee in a bucket and cook on a bunsen burner,” she says. “I was wondering how that works for a little over a weekend.”
She soon found out.
At the end of February 2020, the family found their new home after checking out around 20 boats with their Schnudel P-Moe on the Gulf Coast from Texas to Florida.
Jay and Williams learned to sail by watching many YouTube videos and sailing channels, browsing books, and trading Maggie’s shed organizing skills for sailing lessons from a captain they met.
In mid-April of this year, after sailing hundreds of nautical miles while learning to sail in Florida, they drove from Miami to Bimini, Bahamas, with plans to arrive in Puerto Rico for their wedding anniversary by January 2022
“Even compared to living on land in the RV, I’ve never felt so much privacy and freedom,” says Williams. “On land in a motorhome, you always worry if someone bothers you when you are parked properly.”
“We can anchor for free anywhere in the world, it really feels liberating,” he says.
Damien Williams didn’t know anything about sailing before they bought their boat.
Is it for you
As glamorous as life with sailing liveaboards on YouTube and Instagram may be, not everyone is prepared for it.
And just as there are coaches for almost everything these days, there are sailors who specialize in helping people figure out if life on a sailboat is right for them.
If guests are still interested in boating life, Brown says the next step is to read the books to study and get certified to safely operate the specific type of sailing yacht that piques their interest.
A common misperception for people new to sailing is that you are “gliding to your next destination with good wind and calm seas”.
And that doesn’t just apply to changing weather.
“People don’t know how expensive this lifestyle is, even with prudent budgets,” says Brown. Even ordering a simple repair part that could cost $ 15 online could cost many times the cost of customs and handling fees, he says.
New sailors might also be surprised at how long it takes to get places with wind power.
“If humans could walk on water, it would be a better option if you’re in a hurry,” says Brown. “Most sailing yachts average five miles an hour, so patience is key.”
The Sueiro family have learned to sail since they bought their boat in August.
Jessica and Will Sueiro
A slower lifestyle can be a reward
For families who like (and don’t mind) the idea of a slower, more minimalist lifestyle, the liveaboard sailing lifestyle can be appealing.
The family had been out full time since 2014, homeschooling the children while visiting (among other things) all counties in Europe in a motorhome before landing in Japan in late February 2020.
Life on a sailboat has always been part of her “endgame,” says Jessica, and the pandemic has accelerated that.
“We have found that Covid will take a lot longer than we all originally expected,” she said in an email. “And wanting to take on a project while we had to take a break from the trip seemed like the perfect opportunity for our family to learn how to live and sail on a boat.”
Storage space is scarce for a family of four. Overflow foods are stored in lockers under the floor.
Jessica and Will Sueiro
In August 2020, after their return to Europe, they bought their sailboat S / V Friendship, a Broadblue 38 catamaran, for around $ 160,000 in the south of France and have been learning to sail it ever since.
The family plans to circumnavigate the Spanish Balearic Islands this summer before sailing across the Strait of Gibraltar to Morocco.
“There’s a tremendous learning curve if you’ve never sailed before,” says Jessica. “Hire an instructor, crew on other boats, rent a bus, read books, go to boat shows, search for heads, check out YouTubers, take special CPR / navigation / weather / engine repair courses and much more.”
And don’t forget to tap into the vast sailing community in port, at anchor and at sea.
“Aside from social media friends, we haven’t seen much community in the van and RV life at all,” says Williams. He thought the transition from RV life to sailing life was “a sideways movement,” he says, and was surprised it was an upgrade.
“The sailors were so generous, helpful and kind to us, even though we had never sailed a day in our lives when we went on our sailboat,” he says.