The most financially disastrous thing we ever purchased hasn't been a jet ski or a boat. It hasn't even been the very expensive Toyota Tacoma, or the numerous other cars we've gone through over the years (6 in 5 years). No other item in our lives has put us in more debt and costs us more monthly and annually, than this freakin' house.
"Well, you have to live somewhere, so suck it up, Buttercup."
It's incredibly easy to fall into the housing trap. There is a plethora of misinformation floating around about owning vs renting. Period. As if those are the only two options. Let's talk later about housing options and the one that will work best for us, but, first, lets concentrate on why we all think owning a home is such a great investment.
We fell for all the so-called money 'gurus' telling us what a great investment real estate is for the middle class. The big hook for this scam: Real estate always appreciates. The appreciation of our house has been slower than the money we've put into it for maintenance, taxes, insurance, and interest. From talking to other homeowner's, we've found this to be true across almost all homes.
Our house is pretty old, and although it had been remodeled in the few years before we purchased it, we quickly found areas of neglect that had been covered up rather than repaired. We are still in the process of finding and replacing all these areas, so our total costs of owning this home aren't anywhere close to being completely calculated, and until we are finished, we have no idea what the total cost of keeping it standing will be.
That's right, keeping it standing. We haven't even been able to spend our money on areas where we want to, like a new kitchen or bathroom remodel. We've had to do things like replace the roof that wasn't installed correctly, and replace the aging heat pump, and remediate mold because of the previous roof that leaked.
"When you rent, you are paying someone else's mortgage, plus making them rich."
I thought I wanted the "American Dream," and a key component of that dream is owning my own home. A little piece of 'Murica I get to call all my own.
It's a trap. I knew it was as I was signing the paperwork at the closing table, but I couldn't think of a way out of it. We all laugh at people for falling prey to obvious scams all the time. Yet I still allowed myself to fall prey to the most obvious, and biggest scam of them all: Homeownership. Now I'm stuck to a geographic location, and stuck to a job for the rest of my life. Thirty years is a really long time to owe money on something.
In many cases, renting is the best option.
"What about equity!?"
Home equity is a sham; in most cases. If you pay market rate for a home, you are losing money, no matter how long you keep it. Gone are the days, in most areas of the U.S, of purchasing a home and selling it for 500% more 30 years later. Kari and I looked at a waterfront house earlier this year that we really wanted to buy. The sellers purchased the home in 1980 for $80,000 but were losing it in pre-foreclosure in 2019 for $400,000. The home needed extensive work. The after repair value (ARV) would be around $500k, but would need about $200,000 to get there. So now a buyer has $600k in a $500k home. Plus taxes, insurance, landscaping, maintenance and another $100k+ remodel that will be needed to sell it in 20 years, you would have eaten up all the "equity" in that home if it sells for 20% more than the purchase price. Barring a huge market bubble, or millions in renovation/rebuild, that home will not be worth $2 million in my lifetime.
"This sounds terrible! What about those options?"
They say sometimes you have to hit rock bottom in order to realize you ever messed up in the first place. My rock bottom was a mortgage, a couple of car payments, and some consumer debt. I never got in over my head, but I wasn't moving in the financial direction I wanted to. Instead, I was fleecing myself into believing these things were making me happy. Rock bottom was realizing the things I owned were owning me, and they were delaying my real happiness: goals.
My goals are simple: 1. Make my money work for me so I don't have to have a job, and 2. Travel while spending time with my wife, family, and friends on my schedule, not my jobs schedule (vacation/sick days).
I did some math and figured out how much earlier I can reach this goal of early retirement without all my stuff holding me back. Sure, I'd eventually get there with all the nice things, but I'd be too old to enjoy retirement; or dead. I'm not putting my life on hold to obtain this lifestyle, by the way. I'm just declaring enough is enough and cutting things out of my life that are not carrying me towards my financial and life goals. We still travel, eat out often, and have fun. We've always been responsible with our money, making sure to contribute to our retirements and ensure we have money left over every paycheck so we aren't living paycheck to paycheck. But that's how employees think. Now we are thinking more like investors, and less like employees. In other words, we are thinking like wealthy people.
If you read this blog post, you know I sold the cool truck. That was one step in the right direction. Now we are halting putting any more money into the house, while we pay off our consumer debt.
What does this have to do with other housing options?
Housing is our biggest expense. Our house is old, and we got it for cheap compared to the area we live in, but what we save in mortgage payments we spend elsewhere on maintenance and general upkeep. So here are some options we were looking at:
So buying a new home was quickly struck from our list. The huge downpayment, plus the huge mortgage and additional costs just to move in made existing homes look much better to us.
That's another positive to renting: You can move any time you want! Either wait for the lease to expire, or pay the penalty and move early. It's completely up to you when you just walk away from that situation. My mortgage holder pisses me off? Too bad.
The water heater goes out in your rental? Call the landlord. You are out a few days without hot water while they work it out. My water heater goes out? I'm out a few days without hot water AND I pay well over $1,000 to have it replaced. A rental's roof leaks? Call the landlord. My roof leaked and it cost me $20,000 to have it replaced, plus a year later my bedroom is still torn apart and unusable due to the damage that insurance won't cover. So I have about $20,000 more work that needs to be done in there.
This is what rock bottom looks like, y'all.
"But paying rent is making someone else rich!" So what!? Every time you spend money you are making someone else rich. You buy groceries, you are making the grocery store owner rich. You buy a car, you just sponsored the dealership owners' next yacht. You aren't going to get rich owning a home, so why not make some rich dude pay for all the repairs to your house so you don't have to?
"So if owning a home is making me poor, and I can't get over the fact that paying rent is making someone else rich, what are those options you keep teasing me with!"
You want to get rich owning a home?
What did we decide to do?
Living on a boat has it's challenges. This is why homeownership isn't for ONE of us (hint: it's me, Aaron!). Kari loves living in a house. She loves living on a boat, too. But she loves living in the house more. For one, she has pets; 2 large dogs and a cat. And they don't get along. Also, our pets are aging, so getting the two big dogs on and off the boat for walks is going to be difficult in the coming years.
For us, the only show stopper to moving onto a boat is the pets. Moral of the story: As awesome as pets are, they keep you poor. Don't get pets. If you have them, don't be an asshole and give them away. Keep them, love them, give them a good life with comfortable beds (the expensive ones) and lots of treats, then don't replace them when they unfortunately pass away. That's Aaron Johnson's guide to pet ownership.
"Uhhhh, you still live in a house that is costing you tons of money. What is your plan to save money until you get the boat?"
Man, we really struggled with this one. I lost lots of sleep, and there were some times I was ready to just give up and accept my fate that I'd made a huge mistake buying this house, and now I would be stuck with it. But, in despair comes mans most creative achievements. In my rock bottom, I got creative and figured it out.
Step 1. Stop working on the house. We replaced the roof and the heat pump at a combined cost of about $40,000. Luckily, we have roughly $70k in equity today. Put no more money into the house, for now.
Step 2. Pay off debt. Minimize expenses, spend no more than $2,000 a year on vehicles, and pare down so we can retire on much less pay. The less monthly income we need, the quicker we can retire.
Step 3. Save, save, save. Invest in our retirement accounts, mutual funds, and index funds. Maybe even buy some real estate and become landlords. We aren't sure about that yet. Somewhere during this step, we lose our pets to old age (NOT looking forward to this. It's gonna suck). When that happens, we move on to step 4.
Step 4. Fix the house on borrowed funds, then immediately sell. Repay the borrowed funds at sale so we minimize the interest paid on repairing the house we don't even want anyway.
Step 5. Buy that boat! This could come between steps 3 and 4 if the pets live a long time and we have enough invested. We aren't trying to live the lifestyle of the rich and famous, we only want to finance our minimalistic lifestyle without the need for employment or sitting on the street corner with a cardboard sign. Although I'll sit on the corner in the Virgin Islands with a cardboard sign before I ask my employer for their permission to go on vacation when I'm 62 years old.
Step 6. Continue saving and investing until we have enough to retire early. Sail away. Spend the summers (hurricane season) in the Chesapeake Bay, and winters in the Caribbean being pirates or mermaids. I haven't decided which one I want to be. This is when Chesapeake Wanderlust will reach its peak.
Y'all are awesome! Thanks for reading, please leave some feedback in the comments. Go do something today that makes you happy!
August 10, 2019
We just made a HUGE decision. We decided to put our earned income to work for us.
What in the world does it mean to put your income to work for you?
For several years we have studied the lifestyles of couples (and singles!) who are living debt free. As with many people that are frustrated with being committed to the "norm," we started listening to Dave Ramsey. From there, we dove down a rabbit hole of information, influencers, and shining examples of people quite a bit younger than us that have made it, or are well on their way to retiring early. People are retiring as early as 35! Yes! RETIRING!
We've had our doubts, for sure! In almost every YouTube video we watched or Podcast we listened to, the people were living in vans or areas of the country, or the world, where it costs MUCH less to live than where we do. It's almost like they have zero responsibilities. As romantic and tempting all of those options sound, we can't do it! We can't live in a van because we have two large dogs and a cat. Plus, we don't want to live in a freaking van. We certainly can't move to the mountains of West Virginia and live off grid in a tiny home, or even an inexpensive real-home. As awesome as that would be, we are tied to our desk jobs in the DC area.
Other factors were equally discouraging. Not only are our housing costs higher than most of the people in this movement, although our housing costs are quite low for the area we live, we aren't making as much money as some of them. Many people desiring to retire early are business owners. Our situation is like most other peoples. We are comfortable in our jobs, and we earn enough that it would be crazy for us to leave to start a business. Unlike some of the other employed people in the early retirement world, we actually enjoy our jobs. Still, we were surprised to learn many young couples are making this work on much less income than what we earn. Despite earning less income than us, they are saving more than we are. That's where we are messing up.
So we can't use the old line, "we just don't make enough money!" We do make enough money. It's not about how much money we earn. It's about the money we SAVE. Obviously, higher earnings can directly contribute to higher savings, which in turn can contribute to an earlier retirement. But the trick to making our money work for us is to live not WITHIN our means, but well BELOW our means and save, save, save. No matter what our earnings are. THIS is how we plan to make our money work for us!
To get started making our money work for us, Kari and I followed Dave Ramsey's advice and made a budget. Let me tell you something about budgeting: It's freaking hard. Our first attempts were miserable failures. We ignored all the warnings about budgeting being difficult. Until you make that first budget, I mean a real budget, you honestly have no idea where your money is going or how difficult it really is to figure out how to track it.
For example, our first mistake was underestimating how much we were spending on things like gas for the cars and groceries. We had to guess on how much money to leave ourselves for pocket money, which many times we guessed too low. Making a budget is a lot of work. That's why successful businesses hire people specifically for that role and hold regular budget meetings. Unless you are incredibly wealthy, it doesn't make sense to hire a CPA to do your budget for you. Taxes, yes. Budget, no.
Not to sound like a Boomer (which I'm not a Boomer), don't be lazy. You just have to figure it out. This is one of the few Baby Boomer philosophies I've found that still work with the younger generations. "Don't be lazy. Grow up, work hard (on this goal), and figure it out."
Although we are still growing up and still figuring it out as we go, after a few pay cycles, we had a self sustaining budget. All of our bills are on autopay, we have a small emergency fund set up so we don't have to rely on credit cards, and we have been able to put away money for "normal" retirement and save for vacations and fun stuff.
But we still aren't financially independent. We aren't anywhere CLOSE! Being on a budget, and living within our means hasn't been enough. We've realized the secret ingredient to FIRE (Financial Independence, Retire Early), which is what we really want, is SACRIFICE. That word is in bold and caps for a reason. Dave Ramsey says it best, "If you will live like no one else, later you can live like no one else." He is telling us to make sacrifices now. Learn to NOT live within your means, but BELOW them!
We thought we had it all figured out. A few years ago we began contributing to our retirement accounts at work. We have been making payments on student loans, two cars, a mortgage, a couple of jet skis (you gotta live!), and some work we've done on the house. In addition to our retirement accounts, we've been able to contribute to a high yield money market account. If we kept this up, everything but the house would be paid off in 10 years, the house would be paid off in 15, and I might be able to retire at 55, followed by Kari a few years later. But that is relying solely on our retirements from our jobs, what we call "normal" retirement.
The problem was, the money market account and emergency fund have always been eaten away by unexpected expenses. That money is meant for investments, but a dog gets sick, then the other one. The roof needs to be replaced, the heat and air conditioning died, mold grew in our bedroom (which led to a whole host of other very expensive problems). The list goes on and on. This means we essentially have nothing in savings, outside of our retirement accounts.
Retirement accounts are useless and a pretty bad investment strategy for someone that wants to retire early, so even though we are putting money in them, we don't count that money as savings. We say it's useless because I'll be damned if I'm working until 75. That's ludicrous! I want to see the world and spend all my time with my family, not working and being dependent on a job for the rest of my life just to make payments on things that aren't getting me any closer to my goals.
Our goals for FIRE involve saving cash for easy access, investing in markets and businesses, purchasing a rental property portfolio, and maybe even starting some businesses of our own that can we can run remotely. The cash flow from all of these sources will provide us enough income to quit our jobs and live the life we want, like no one else.
We want a boat (not a yacht), and to travel the world on it. We don't want our vacations to follow someone else's schedule (I'm looking at you, jobs). We want to live on our time, not vacation time, and spend as much time together as possible. If we ever have children we don't want to miss a moment with any of them. We don't want our jobs and nice things with monthly payments telling us when we can have time with each other and travel.
So we looked at our budget again to see where we could make sacrifices to save more. 'Nice things' should have been a category in our budget. It would have made it easier for us to find the extra money we need in our savings column of the budget. The first sacrifice we made for an early retirement? The nicest nice thing we have:
I sold my one year old truck.
Last year we were seduced by a beautiful, brand new Toyota Tacoma. If you follow us on Instagram, you've probably seen it. We had heard all about the reliability and great resale value of the vehicle, but what really sold us was the leather interior, premium JVC audio with subwoofer, moonroof, power everything, and all the bells and whistles that screamed to everyone that saw it, including us, "WE ARE SUCCESSFUL!"
What other purpose does a vehicle serve? If it's flashy, the owner is successful (aka, rich), if it is practical, the owner is middle class, if it is crappy, the owner is poor. Of course none of these are true, they are all stereotypes. What is the net worth of the lawyer driving the Porsche? Most would look at him in his $1500 suit and waterfront home and assume millionaire, right? Statistically speaking, you would be very wrong to assume any real amount of accumulated wealth with that person.
One of the best books I've read is The Millionaire Next Door. This is a great book that explains the correlation between high income earners and high spenders. Cars and houses don't make you wealthy. In fact, they do the opposite and will keep you middle class forever. I don't want to be middle class forever, I want to be independently wealthy and not have to worry about a job. Getting there will take sacrifices. My sacrifice is to drive a beater for the rest of my life. Being independently wealthy doesn't mean yachts and mansions and trust funds. It means living BELOW your means!
I plan to spend about $2,000 a year on cars for now on. That includes purchasing and repairs. I came up with $2,000 based on three things: 1) it's something I've done before, so I know it's possible, 2) I don't want to ever spend any more than $2,000 a year owning a car ever again, and 3) it's a practical number for me. I consider $2,000 as below my means. $2,000 is a small enough percentage of our combined income that we can still meet our goals for FIRE. For others, it may be more or less, it all depends on your income and how quickly you want to reach your goals. I would much rather put that money towards life experiences with my wife and family, and owning a boat!
Here's the logic (or illogic, however you want to look at it) that led me to this decision.
We purchased the Tacoma in June 2018 with $5,000 down and made 12 payments of $586.45 throughout the fourteen months or so we owned it. All maintenance was included since it was under warranty, and I won't consider any other costs of ownership, like gas.
$5,000 + (12 * $586.45) = $12,037.40.
I spent over $12,000 in ONE YEAR on a CAR! Factoring in insurance, I paid another $900 for it. To me, I threw away almost $13,000. To me, I look at this and think to myself that I could have $13,000 more in my money market account than I do right now. If cars are your thing, spend your money how you want. I still have a jet ski. But I want experiences. The only experience this truck gave me was at a red light I could look at the guy next to me and think to myself, "My truck is nicer than his." This isn't the person I am, and it isn't the type of experience I'm looking for. I'm not going to lay on my death bed thinking about the cars I've owned. I'm going to lay on my death bed remembering the good times I had sailing the Chesapeake Bay with my wife and seeing the world. I'm going to think back at how crazy we were for riding a Sea Doo ALL OVER the Chesapeake Bay! That's fun, man! It's L.I.V.I.N.! Sure, I'll think about road trips, but I won't think about the car I was in.
I'm going to do some math to show my $2,000 justification for selling a new truck. I'm not any good at math, so let's say we agreed to pay $40k for it, although the final sales price was a little more.
$40,000/$2,000 = 20 years.
I would have to own the Tacoma for over 20 years, without any repair costs, to make up for spending $2,000 a year on beaters. I won't even want that truck in 20 years, even if it hasn't needed any repairs. For the future we are planning, we won't need cars. In the words of Doc from Back to the Future, "Where we're going, we don't need roads!"
A lot of new cars today are about $30,000.
$30,000/$2,000 = 15 years
$20,000/$2,000 = 10 years
$10,000/$2,000 = 5 years
Can a $10,000 car go 5 years without repairs? The more I spend on it, the longer I have to own it to make up for the $2,000 rule of thumb. In my recent search for a new vehicle, cars are very expensive. I'm not sure a 20 year old Jeep Wrangler for $10k will last another 5 years without major repairs needed.
This doesn't mean I have to spend a max of $2,000 on a car, then throw it away if it needs repairs in less than 12 months. If I can find a really good deal on a $10,000 car, you bet your ass I'll buy it. I'd rather not spend any more of my precious time working on a beater than I would mowing the lawn. But I'll work on a beater before I make the mistake of ever spending more than $2,000 a year on a car again. I'll just be stuck with the $10,000 car for a very long time.
What I haven't mentioned, yet, is that we still have a new car. Dave Ramsey acts like anyone can drive a beater, but he's wrong. Sorry, Dave. We had no need for two new cars, but we live in a rural area where public transportation and Uber don't exist, and we still make trips, both for work and pleasure, that require one reliable automobile in our household. My $2,000 a year formula actually does factor in the peace of mind of driving a reliable car. For example, in December 2017 we purchased a new Volkswagen Jetta. Here's the math on it:
Volkswagen was going through some hard times with the diesel scandal, so they were selling gas cars for dirt cheap. We got a mid-level Jetta, brand new, for $17,000. The payments are $263 a month, insurance is about $70 (which is well over $2,000 a year), no down payment. Going by my $2,000 rule, we will have to keep this car problem free for at least 10 years, which we plan to do. I don't mind extending the time we have to own the Jetta if a repair is needed that pushes us over $2,000 a year in 10 years. We drive less than average miles a year, so making this car last 10 years free of needing repairs beyond normal maintenance is possible. It's a practical car that meets all of our wants in a vehicle, so we will have no reason to get rid of it before it is completely dead and has to be sold to a junkyard.
Where's the sacrifice?
I grew up without much. My mom did a superb job with what she had. She was very resourceful and provided very well for us. But we didn't drive the nice trucks my friends parents had (I grew up in Texas), and we didn't have a nice house (we lived in a necessary house that happened to be a trailer). We did get a go-kart for Christmas one year, and motorcycles another. But they were old, and didn't run for very long. I got really good at working on small engines; I was being resourceful with what I had!
But it bothered me we didn't live like other people. Yep, we didn't live like the Jones', and I was bothered by that. So when I grew up, I worked hard to make good money. I bought a house, and I've had some nice cars over the years. I was trying to impress 16 year old Aaron and the neighbors. I was not trying to impress 30-something Aaron that is resourceful and knows better.
Now I'm 40 and behind in the retirement game. I wanted to be retired at 40. But I also wanted to make good money, own my own home, and have nice cars. I had to experience those things in order to realize they weren't what I wanted. Now I'm scrambling to fix those mistakes so I can quit my job and live the life I want.
I loved the Tacoma. I'd always wanted one. They are nice trucks, and this one was especially nice. I received compliments on it almost every day, which made it even more difficult to get rid of. Not only did I like it, I was receiving positive reinforcement from complete strangers on nearly a daily basis that THEY liked it, too.
It was fun to drive, it was convenient having a truck, especially as a homeowner. No restrictions on when to make runs to the hardware store or dump. It was comfortable. It was safe. The safety factor was another one that was hard for me to get over. Beaters are not as safe, and there is something to be said for that. It had a great stereo system, something I've always wanted in a vehicle but have never had. It had every option available on a Toyota Tacoma, except for some of the off road options offered that I would never use.
I loved driving this truck. It made me happy. It didn't break the bank for me to dish out $650 a month for it, so it made me happy that I could "afford" it. Driving with the moonroof open made me happy. Watching through the auto dimming rear view mirror as the back window opened at the touch of a button made me happy. The feel of the fancy interior made me happy. I truly enjoyed driving this truck, and now I'm driving an old Jeep Compass with the check engine light on and a broken air conditioner. Instead of playing on the water next weekend, I'm going to have to take it apart and try to remedy the check engine light so I can get it to pass emissions testing in October. But, I'm $650 closer to my goal of sailing away with my wife forever, and that makes me even happier than the Tacoma.
For now, I'll use the money from payments and insurance to help pay off other things we can't get rid of, like student loans and loans for repairs to the house. After that, we will make that money work for us. It'll go into a high interest money market account to save for our first investment property.
There's a lesson in here, what is it?
The tl;dr version: We fell in love with a new truck after driving a few beaters, bought it, realized that was stupid, sold it, driving beaters again. Will be retiring early by living BELOW our means instead of WITHIN them.
Earlier this summer I discovered a YouTube channel called, "Nine Hundred Dollar Luxury Yacht." I LOVE this channel and it's creator because he thinks so much differently than most YouTube sailing channels. Instead of spending a ton of money on a ready made boat, he found a boat with years of neglect; the type of boat that most people think is beyond repair. With some sweat, he brought the boat back to life and...well, go see for yourself! His channel is worth getting lost in for a couple of hours, in my opinion.
Some time before I found Nine Hundred Dollar Luxury Yacht, we were deciding whether to buy a boat or invest more in our jet ski's. We looked at a very nice 1997 38' Catalina. It was love at first sight; we didn't even bother looking at the other boats on our list. The asking price was in our range, the boat was in great condition, and it was the exact boat we were looking for. As anyone who has ever owed a boat will tell you, purchasing the boat is only step one in spending money on a boat. After a few days of researching the cost of insurance, and asking around about marina fees, we realized we were in over our heads. Buying a boat is easy. It just cost too much money to own a boat.
The following week, I was the somewhat-happy owner of a brand new, shiny Toyota Tacoma. The up-front purchase price of the new truck and two new jet skis is about the same as the cost of the boat, but the cost of ownership is drastically less. We can't travel the Chesapeake Bay as comfortably on the jet skis as we could have in the boat, but we can get there much faster. For whatever the trade-off of comfort vs speed is worth.*
Notice I said somewhat-happy owner of the truck. Don't get me wrong, Toyota did a great job designing the new Tacoma, but it doesn't replace the hole left in our lives by no longer owning a boat. If we were in a position to pull off ownership of the "luxury yacht" we want right now, we would happily sell the truck and skis for best offer!
You are probably asking yourself what all this has to do with a YouTube channel called Nine Hundred Dollar Luxury Yacht, and the difference between us buying a boat or a truck.
Let me tell you about a 27' sailboat called Rhumb Line.
I purchased Rhumb Line for $2,000 around 2007. Little did I know how much Rhumb Line would affect me throughout one of the worst decades of my life, coincidentally, but completely unrelated to the boat. Rhumb Line became my salvation when I had nowhere else to go. In better times, Kari and I had our first date on Rhumb Line. I fell in love with Kari when I realized she liked spending more time with Rhumb Line than she did with me. We had our honeymoon, and our first big fight on Rhumb Line. Rhumb Line was a literal physical extension of me.
Like all of us tend to do, Rhumb Line got old. Kari and I loved sailing because of Rhumb Line, but despite it all, we were ready to move up to a larger boat. As she aged, more and more parts seemed to fall right off of her. I grew tired of working on a boat, and decided I'd rather be sailing. So in the late winter of 2017 as she sat in the boat yard with a pile of used-up sandpaper and various broken parts collecting under her hull, I wrote a sign with numb, blistered hands that simply read, "It's been fun, but it's time she goes to a new home. $100."
A young man from Virginia bought her for my asking price, cleaned her up, replaced a few parts, and sailed off. For the second time that I know of, Rhumb Line had helped a young man become a yachtsman on a shoestring budget.
After selling Rhumb Line, we decided to get a boat that is ready to go in the water without anything other than a light dusting off. Fast forward over a year and a half of unsuccessful shopping for a turnkey boat that meets our standards, and we are both ready to take on another project boat. I really can't stop laughing at myself over the irony.
I'll spare you the details and fast forward to the next part:
How to Become a Yachtsman on a Shoestring Budget!
"Awwww. I was going to go yachting in those feet!" -Bender
We found a project boat. It was shockingly easy to find. We actually had options and had to choose one! We didn't find this one on Craigslist, but it's a really good resource. Search "boat" on the Craigslist "Free" category. There is a $1 sailboat on there right now. Be honest with yourself and don't waste people's time. This is a decision that you need to think through, and realize buying a boat is the easy part, but owning a boat, even a $1 boat, is very expensive. By the way, we spent way more than $1 on our project boat. Part 3 of this series will detail all of our expenses.
We ended up purchasing a 1980 25' Catalina sailboat that needed some TLC. After many hours of labor, and over $1,000 in supplies, she has been cleaned up and looks real pretty.
Part 2 of this series will include all the work we did every weekend one August to bring this boat back from the boneyard. Stay tuned and sign up for email alerts to be the first to know when the next post has been published.
*It's worth absolutely nothing! :)
We are all guilty of this: We want a quality item that will last a long time, but we want to get it for the cheapest price we can find. So we usually turn to the internet and start reading reviews. We find the item we want, we sort by price (lowest to highest), we select the cheapest one...
Then we are deeply disappointed when the reviews suck. 3 stars or less. "Piece of junk. Broke the first time I used it. Sending it back. Would not recommend. Would give 0 stars if possible."
Some of us buy it anyway and hope for the best, some of us move on to read the reviews on the higher priced items. In the "Amazon Economy," as I call it, we demand quality, but we refuse to pay for it.
That leads me to the topic of this post. Would you be surprised if I told you that most of the items we use everyday are available at incredibly low prices, and will last virtually forever? I say virtually, because forever is a long time. Let's face it, what actually lasts forever?
Products made of these space-age materials last anywhere from a few hundred years to several thousand years. We can get just about anything we want in this stuff: Cups, utensils, plates, clothes...even cars!
This isn't some magical material of the future. You are already using this stuff. The weird part is that you may not be aware how long it lasts, so you've been throwing away these items after just a single use! Imagine that! All you've wanted your entire life is to get something for cheap that will last forever. You actually have it, and you're throwing it away after only one use.
If you haven't guessed already, I'm talking about plastic.
A sturdy set of utensils can easily run $50+ a place setting (fork, knife, spoon for one person). We hold on to these items. Take care of them. Pass them on to our grandkids. They become family heirlooms.
For less than 2 cents, you can purchase a fork that would last just as long. I bet you've purchased or been given thousands in your lifetime. But instead of taking care of it and passing it down to our grandkids, we've been throwing them away after a single use.
It's absurd that we demand quality at a low price, in the first place. It's even more absurd that once we have a quality item at a low price, we chuck it in the garbage after using it only one time.
To demonstrate the absurdity, here is a short list of single use plastic items we use every day. Items that could last generations and become family heirlooms if they were taken care of. If you are interested, we have posted links to alternatives that we have been using ourselves. For transparency, we get a kickback if you purchase from the link.
What are your tricks for moving away from plastic?
Work on our house!
The best things you can do to protect the health of the Chesapeake Bay start with your home. Chesapeakify your yard (Brent's Native Plantings term for making your yard Bay friendly), and make your home more energy efficient.
Chesapeakify your yard!
A Bay friendly yard reduces runoff and the pollution it carries to the Bay. Blame farmers and construction sites all you want, but there is more surface area of yards in the Chesapeake Bay watershed than there are farmland and construction sites. As homeowners we are not regulated, or very good at measuring correct doses of all the chemicals (fertilizers, pesticides, weed killer, etc) we spread across our lawns to keep them beautiful.
A Bay friendly yard consists of local plants (non-invasives!) that are hardy enough to need less water and need no chemical fertilizers or pesticides. Our yard is beautiful and safe for pets and kids, and other than regular weeding in the beds, requires very little maintenance.
Be more energy efficient!
On this rainy day I've been in the attic adding insulation and sealing holes that are allowing cool air from the house to escape into the hot attic. By making your home more energy efficient, you reduce the need for fossil fuels being burned to produce electricity. The burning of fossil fuels lead to poor outdoor air quality, but also pose a hazard for our waterways. Pollution from power plants is a source of heavy metals in the water, which is the cause of seafood being dangerous to consume.
Prevention is the best medicine!
The first run of Chessie stickers are available! If you missed your opportunity to win one on Instagram last week, they are only $3 and we will ship them for free!
The stickers have been really popular, so get them before they run out. This first batch is a very limited run, and we probably won't offer this exact sticker again.
Proceeds from the stickers will go towards Chesapeake Bay conservation efforts.
When Kari and I first met, we were working at REI. Working for the largest outdoor retailer in the US had many perks, as you may imagine. About five or six years ago, a big perk fell out of it's packaging during shipping and landed in my lap.
Standup paddle boarding was relatively new to the East Coast, so the East Coast REI distribution center hadn't quite figured out how to properly package the boards for shipping to the stores. During the summer of either 2011 or 2012, I can't remember, almost every board shipped to our store arrived damaged.
Sometimes the customer was ok with the damage and would accept a few bucks knocked off the price. Other times they wanted a pristine board delivered to them without any damage. The guy that ordered a Surftech 11'6" Bamboozle was a member of the latter group of customers. He was not willing to accept the board with a small ding on the rail and missing fins. As I would have been as well, had I paid full price for the board.
The board sat in the warehouse for a few months until the store had their famous Garage Sale. If you aren't an REI member, you should be (not a paid endorsement!). The Garage Sale happens at every store at least once a year.
What is the Garage Sale!? The story of the REI Garage Sale begins with REI's now defunct return policy. It used to be that any item you purchased from REI could be returned, no questions asked, for the life you owned the item! As you can imagine, there were numerous returns. When the warehouse fills up, the store hosts a Garage Sale.
Some returns are worn out, or broken; even after twenty years of honorable service to REI members taking advantage of a good situation (members that eventually ruined it for all of us by causing the demise of the lifetime return). Most of the time these items are thrown away or recycled before going to the Garage Sale. But most items are just returned because they were in less-than-perfect condition, or simply not wanted for various reasons. Our joke was that some people thought REI stood for Rental Equipment Incorporated.
The Bamboozle was in the Garage Sale, and I was working that day. I think retail on the board was around $1500. When I took lunch it was still available. Management had marked it down to $1,000. I knew their bottom price would be ~$600, so I asked if I could have it for that. I was told to wait one more hour to give REI members a chance at it. One hour later, I had purchased my first SUP!
I had a prodeal through REI with several surf companies, so I was able to order all three fins (more on fins and board style later when I give up the secret for buying an SUP) for less than $50. I squished some epoxy into the ding, then proceeded to add very many more dings over the last five or six years.
The board is big and heavy, but it's stable, easy to paddle, and fun. It has been on just about every sailing trip I've taken. I've lost count of the number of people that tried paddling for the first time on this board, including me. Kari fell in love with the sport while sailing with me and playing on the board while at anchor. So this year, it was finally time to get her a board of her own.
I've learned so much about paddle boarding in the last few years, that I thought I knew exactly what I wanted to get for her first board. She needed something lightweight that she could load and unload on her own, yet stable enough for her beginner abilities. Based on these needs, we settled on the BOTE 10'6" Flood. Check it out here. It weighs 28 pounds and has a paddler weight capacity of 230 pounds.
Those are excellent stats for a beginner board! So we bought it, and promptly hated it. Not because it's a bad board! But because it wasn't nearly as stable as the 11'6" Bamboozle we had both become used to, even though the weight capacity, width, and rail size are all similar (the most notable difference is the Bamboozle is 1' longer. Remember this!). Eventually, I got used to the smaller board and fell in love with it. It was fast, maneuverable, and challenged my skills.
But we learned an expensive lesson. Kari had no intentions of learning to paddle all over again. She wanted a board that she was comfortable on from the first moment she set foot on it. That is a very reasonable request for a $1200 purchase (not including paddle and pfd). Luckily, we purchased the board at REI. Although they no longer allow lifetime returns, they still offer a one year return policy. They took the board back, no questions asked (although they did check it for damage first. And we were returning it very lightly used with all the original manuals and parts, including the bottle opener that comes with every board. I even washed it for good measure.). Unfortunately, they did not carry the Bote 12' HD that we decided to get her.
We purchased the second, and final, board at Annapolis Canoe and Kayak. They let us try out a few different boards before we settled on a purchase. We did not have the car with us that day with the roof rack, so they held the board and graciously loaded it for Kari when she came almost a week later to pick it up.
Our take-away from this purchase was to disregard the manufacturers specs almost entirely. The details that I had always sold boards on had failed us, miserably. Looking at weight capacity may work if you are willing to practice, or are already very good at paddle boarding, in case the manufacturer tends to inflate that number. Weight capacity is arbitrary, and no two manufacturers calculate it in the same manner. Use this number as a guide and NOT as a hard and fast rule!
So here it is! My secret to picking your first SUP:
Choose the biggest board with the highest weight capacity that you are willing to lift on top of your car and shell out your hard earned cash for. That's it! No matter what the shop tells you, nothing else matters. Rail size, weight, rocker, weight capacity, fin configuration...The list goes on forever, and is totally useless to beginners and most non-pros. Don't try to memorize all the details. This is a recipe to go into a shop and not purchase a board because you're afraid you forgot some little detail that you'll hate yourself over just after the return policy expires. Boards are expensive, but do your best not to research this purchase to the point of freaking yourself out.
What about surf, flatwater, river, etc.? Don't worry yourself too much over these details. You will scare yourself out of purchasing a board! Besides, life is too short for just one board. Pick one, then get a more specific one next year. But, here is a handy guide:
If you live at the beach and want to surf, get a surf-style board. They look like a big surfboard, like my Bamboozle. Which also does fine in flatwater, rough water, and deep rivers.
Live near a river with lots of rocks? You may want to consider an inflatable. Inflatables are awesome, by the way. They are in no way like a pool floatie. You know that's what you are thinking! Your favorite SUP shop will almost certainly have one inflated on the floor. Go stand on it and be amazed!
Paddling mostly on a large body of water that is relatively flat with maybe the occasional boat wake, or you want to race; or you want to surf occasionally; or yoga? Get any Bote Board, or some other racing/touring board. Annapolis Canoe and Kayak carry several to choose from.
If you are in Virginia, do yourself a favor and make the trip to Appomattox River Company!
Don't over complicate your first board! Remember to get the biggest board that you are willing to lift onto your car that you are also willing to pay for.
You've reached the end of your research. Go do it!
We want to hear from you! Please leave your own buying tips that have worked for you and your preferred spelling in the comments!
P.S. I still don't know how to spell it. Manufacturers and shops are spelling it "standup," "stand up," "paddleboard," and, "paddle board." I spell it "stand up paddle board" because I don't like the red squiggles under misspelled words. Keep in mind the abbreviation is "SUP," not "SUPB," or "SP," or any other variation. Maybe that will settle it? SUP = Stand Up Paddleboard?
This article does NOT contain any paid endorsements. We've linked to shops and boards that we have personal experience with and are happy with. This is not an endorsement from us, and they certainly don't endorse us. So please don't tell them we mentioned them on our website. :)
This article was posted on our original site in the fall of 2017. The original comments did not carry over. :(
It can be done!
It feels like it's been a lifetime since we've owned a boat. Counting back from the day I think we sold Rhumb Line, it's been roughly ten months. But, the boat sat on the hard for the last seven months we owned her, leaving us closer to a year and a half without the freedom of cruising the Chesapeake Bay on our own. On the other hand, some could easily say we have been unshackled from the burden of the cost of boat ownership, thus saving thousands in the past ten months. To us, money is of no concern when it comes to having our own boat that affords us the thrill of exploring the bay all on our own!
To me, the scariest burden of owning a boat has always been the threat of sinking. Following very closely behind sinking; an engine suddenly falling silent in a busy, narrow channel. Rhumb Line, at 40 years old, kept these two fears at the front of my mind any time we were out of a boat hook's reach of the dock. Two things eased my worrying mind enough to take the chance of leaving the safety of the dock: BoatUS membership, and having the Sea Doo in tow behind us.
At 130 horsepower, the Sea Doo is powerful enough to tow just about any boat on the water. I once towed a 40ish foot sailboat that had run aground in the West River. The Sea Doo struggled to get the big boat off the bottom, but it did it. The tow to the fuel pier was uneventful from there. Imagine what the bigger personal water craft (PWC) out there can do with as much as 300 horsepower!
In addition to being a great tow vehicle if...ahem...when needed, the jet ski comes in handy in many other situations. For one, sometimes sailing gets boring. Especially cruising. You are at the mercy of the weather, wind, and tide, and if they aren't lining up for you, 30 miles on the Chesapeake Bay can take ten hours to cover. Might as well take turns doing 60 mile per hour circles around the sailboat!
Secondly, a PWC can reach distances most powerboats can't match in as short an amount of time. Want to run up to Vera's on the Patuxent River from Solomon's Island for an orange crush at the tiki bar? That trip could take hours on a sailboat, but only a matter of minutes on the wave runner.
And just like a tender or dinghy, the Sea Doo is great for tooling around ports and harbors. Just remember to enjoy sunset back at the boat, because in the US you can't ride a PWC after sunset. And ALWAYS wear your life jacket while riding, no matter what! Not only is it the law, it just makes sense. You don't want to look like you don't have any sense, do you?
It's worth noting that PWC's aren't designed to be towed at planing speed. In the case of our Sea Doo, we aren't supposed to tow over about 13 mph. There are ways to safely tow at planing speeds on faster boats. See our YouTube video (below) on this topic for more information! And please leave a comment about your adventures on the Chesapeake Bay.
Would a PWC be nice to have along, or would it get in your way?
When Kari and I were first dating, I was living mostly on my 27' Hunter, Rhumb Line. For some reason, this did not deter her. The boat leaked from every crack and crevice anytime it rained anywhere within a 50 mile radius of our location. Sleeping was a combination of freezing our asses off, sweating so badly it was best to sleep in swim trunks, and being water boarded by rainwater pouring in through closed hatches.
I thought it would be a good idea to move to Maryland when Kari's father said he had a 36' Silverton Express laying in a boatyard that he wasn't using. There's more to this story, obviously, but let's keep it interesting and short. I spent the better part of July, 2014 cleaning the boat up and getting her ready to go back in the water. Six zincs and two bug bombs later, she was in the water and being towed to her new home at Shipwright Harbor in Deale, MD.
Yep. Towed. Although this boat was cleaner, dryer, cooler, and warmer (cooler and warmer when it counted) than Rhumb Line, it didn't run. I guess you can't have it all.
In states with four true seasons, like Maryland and Virginia, the marinas turn the water off on the docks around Labor Day. It comes on again around Memorial Day, depending on freezing weather. So all winter, we made wonderful memories walking to the marina showers on frozen docks, returning with frozen hair, including my beard. It wasn't too unlike being in the Coast Guard in Alaska, again.
We both got a little sick of making these memories and dreamed of home ownership. For reasons that make no sense at all to me now, I wanted a yard to mow and garden in. That desire is so dumb to me once a week during the summer, now.
All summer this year we spent most of our time at the marina, even though we don't even own a boat right now. It seems like we were only coming home to walk the dogs. Both of us decided we want to move back onto a boat.
Wellll...Let's not get ahead of ourselves! Now we are approaching winter here near the end of fall. We are both thankful for the house and all it's insulation. Perhaps the boat could be our summer home!
But don't just take our word for it (sorry Levar Burton and Reading Rainbow). Check out our friends at Life's a Port for loads of great information on living aboard!
Spacious boat living
Winter on the chesapeake bay
We are an adventurous couple exploring the Chesapeake Bay by boat, paddle board, jet ski, and whatever other means necessary!
Friends Of chessie
For the best in Chesapeake Bay liveaboard lifestyle and reviews on boating products, visit our good friends at Lifesaport (hint: say it out loud).