Article

 December 7, 2016   Jon Henderson

We’re here, and we’re not talking about a physical destination. We’re cruising! The route wasn’t easy, but we did it and you can too.

Many people dream about sailing off into the sunset someday. My wife, Michele, and I shared this dream. During a winter cruise in the San Juan Islands we started a notebook titled, 27 Months: Countdown to the Callaloo Cruise Team Epic Adventure of Awesomeness. The date was chosen because Michele’s youngest daughter, Isabel, would be graduating high school and getting her Associate Degree at that time, then going off to university. When that window opens, you have to jump!

michele-and-noj

Michele and “Noj” try out some matching cruising outfits before putting them to the test in faraway destinations!

We dreamed about different ways to accomplish such a voyage. Budget was going to be a consideration for us throughout the 27 months and beyond. We decided that we wanted to be able to accommodate guests as a “Sea B&B” to help financially. For this reason, and to better handle offshore passagemaking, we needed a larger boat.

Buying a bigger boat meant that we were going to have to sell the house and the old boat. Suddenly 27 months didn’t feel so long, so we broke down our time-line and made monthly goals and lists to move forward.

It took us 12 of those 27 months and the investment of a crazy amount of labor, but we finally we got the house ready to put on the market. Fortunately, we were able to find a buyer fairly quickly. Check.

At the same time, we enlisted my sailing buddy and friend since childhood, Ben Braden, to work as our yacht broker. He showed us many options that met our requirements of two staterooms and two heads, while keeping within our limited price range. Eventually, he found the perfect boat. We test sailed the 1984 Beneteau Idylle 1350, agreed on a fair price, and purchased our new home Ardea. Check.

Because of our limited budget, we had a real fixer upper on our hands. We spent the next several months, getting ever closer to 27, renovating. We have replaced, or are in the process of replacing, nearly everything on the boat.

yard

The new-to-them boat, “Ardea”, needed a fair bit of work before departure. Michele and Noj did almost everything themselves, with some help from the generous sailing community.

We have been very fortunate to be part of an incredible sailing community. We have had so much support. A couple different people upgraded their electronics and gave us their hand-me-downs. Another friend gave us an SSB radio. Someone else gave us safety equipment. We have had so many friends and family members help us on projects along the way that we couldn’t possibly name them all. Top to bottom, we have done just about all of the work ourselves, from electrical and diesel engine upgrades to rigging and interior replacement.

With our deadline drawing seriously near, we shifted our focus to preparing to leave, or so we thought. We encountered number of setbacks – they were difficult, but we tried not to let ourselves be delayed or discouraged. We spent a lot of time in the yard that we had not planned for. We had to redo several projects because we didn’t do them properly the first time.

Significantly more challenging was Michele’s long and arduous recovery from a massive concussion. We tried to cross off the “clean bill of health” item from the checklist, only to have another major health problem turn up, literally during our final pre-departure exam. These were all roadblocks that drained our time and money, but we had our date and we’d come so far. Sometimes you look for a weather window to go sailing. Well, we began to think we might be looking for a health window. With this in mind, we felt more than ever that our time to leave was now or never!

So, we set sail on schedule, with plenty of things on the list that remain unchecked. We joke that we will be ready to leave by the time we reach Mexico!

Fortunately, we are very thrifty, and Michele is a talented and dedicated fisherwoman! We love to do our own boat projects and learn as we go. Thanks especially to Michele, we are able to eat exceedingly well, enjoying not only fish, but also things we hunt and gather from nature or grow on board. Our meager cruising kitty, however, doesn’t afford luxuries like moorage fees along the way. We have gotten quite good at finding unique places to anchor, to say the least.

crab

Crab… it’s what’s for dinner! Michele is a talented and dedicated fisherwoman.

In our first 90 days of cruising, we spent our summer sailing up the Inside Passage through British Columbia to Juneau, AK, and back. We are now in California, en route to Mexico for the winter. That’s a lot of miles for a couple of people and a boat who were maybe/mostly/almost ready! We are planning a trip to the Galapagos Islands (and beyond). Rest assured, we and our dream are as alive and well now as we ever were!

ardea-chatterbox-copy

The “Ardea” in his (yes, his) natural habitat, at Chatterbox Falls in Alaska.

When we tell people about our adventure, they often say, “I wish I could do that.” Really, anyone can! You just need to be willing to make a series of difficult decisions and sacrifices. And set a date! Without our 27 Months: Countdown to the Callaloo Cruise Team Epic Adventure of Awesomeness time-line and plan, we never would have gotten so much accomplished in such a short time. Others say, “you’re so lucky.” Certainly, we all are, but after loads of work and countless hours dedicated to making this dream come true, it doesn’t feel so much like luck as a choice. It’s a choice that we made and live and still love. You can do the same!

Noj and Michele are eager to share their adventures with you. Follow along at their website, www.callalooblue.com, and Facebook page.

This article was originally published in the November 2016 issue of 48° North.