The sun was doing its best to suppress the October chill as we motored across a glassy Juan de Fuca Strait and into the Puget Sound. We were helping our good friends, Jarod and Gennie, deliver their newly purchased boat from Point Roberts home to Shilshole. The weather was settled so we had two relaxed days of lounging in the cockpit or nestling in the hammock, complete with good music and constant “boat talk.” Their yellow lab, Drifter, sat alert behind the wheel, sniffing at the salty air and barking at seals (and logs that looked like seals).
As Shilshole came into sight, the wind joined us just enough to hoist the asymmetrical spinnaker and ghost across the Sound. With Jarod and Gennie grinning ear to ear as their new home carried them effortlessly across the calm water, I asked them to tell me their story. I am always curious about how others come to the decision to buy a boat, especially other 30-somethings. I asked them to take me down the path that lead to this moment – this moment snuggled together behind the wheel of their own boat, with a beer in one hand and a spinnaker sheet in the other on this sunny autumn day.
Jarod, a project engineer from Montana, moved to Seattle with sailing on the mind. He was taken by the simplicity of living and travelling on a boat, propelled by wind and capable of exploring the world. Without any prior sailing experience, he moved to Seattle and slid into the racing community. He raced often, farming himself out to boats looking for crew as he learned the ropes and grew confident in his experience. Somewhere along the way, he caught the bug and started dreaming of buying a boat, living aboard, and eventually going cruising.
Gennie is an interior designer, but her passion for being an informed and responsible consumer has recently become a new business, Eco Collective, that sells environmentally friendly products. She doesn’t remember a time when living aboard wasn’t part of her life plan. Her grandfather raced on the east coast, introducing her to a sailing life. By the time her mom lived aboard on Long Island Sound, the love of water was ingrained. She too started racing when she moved to Seattle. While she always dreamed of living aboard, it never felt like a realistic option until now.
When Jarod met Gennie at a coffee shop, sailing was the catalyst that propelled their relationship forward. They shared dramatic racing stories, a tightknit community and dreams of cruising the world. Their dreams slowly shifted into potential reality as their “one day I’ll buy a boat” savings grew. The impetus came when Jarod got the notice that his lease was up and non-renewable because the owners were going to tear the house down. That’s when he committed. He had already spent years researching what type of boat to buy – something ocean going with good performance, big enough to be comfortable and small enough to single hand, affordable but not too cheap.
With his move-out date looming, they submitted an offer on a 42’ Beneteau First, agreed on terms and scheduled the survey. With butterflies in her stomach, Gennie headed to Portland and followed the surveyor around, texting Jarod with every detail. It didn’t take long for the surveyor to step back with a sigh. There was an issue with the hull significant enough to encourage retreat. With broken hearts and lighter checkbooks, they cut the survey short and walked away.
Jarod had put all his eggs in that Beneteau basket. His bags were packed and the bulldozer was ready. So he split his time between friends’ couches, Gennie’s place, and the back of his truck while he explored all types of boats. He had gotten hung up in his search to find that make-your-heart-pound, love-at-first-sight boat, and then he had to let it go. Tired of city camping and what felt like an endless search, he decided to pursue the boat that made the best logical sense and wait to fall in love until after the papers exchanged hands. It was his plan to spare heartache and move out of his car as soon as possible.
At this point in the story, the cruise ship we’d been watching was bearing down, and it was time for a gybe. So we set our beers down, passed winch handles around, gybed the boat slowly and smoothly, watched the cruise ship power by our stern, gybed back, rode over their wake and settled back down for the rest of the tale.
When a 1986 J/40 appeared on Yachtworld, it fit the bill: a bit light for a cruiser, but plenty of “get up and go,” comfortable to sail single or double handed, the right size and the right price. Their offer was accepted, the survey came back (relatively) clean and they made plans for the trade off in Point Roberts. But on its delivery there, the boat hit a log hard enough to jam the rudder. So instead of hopping aboard and heading south, Jarod and Gennie hauled her in Point Roberts to repair the rudder bearings. Which was why this beautiful sunny day was in October, instead of last May.
We sailed through the fishing fleet off of Shilshole’s breakwater as I turned a question to them that is always asked of us: Why now? What is the inspiration to make this lifestyle shift at this moment in life? Their answers resembled our own, and many other young sailors we’ve met along the way. They want to get out and explore while they are young and healthy, before kids and promotions and family make it harder to cut the lines. They have a bit of money put away, very little debt, and feel like they have been sailing long enough to bolster their confidence. They would not have been ready five years ago, and they may not want to leave family and comfort ten years from now.
The compact efficient space has inspired Gennie’s interior designer side to simplify and prioritize. As they transition from apartment to boat, they will start by adding only the basics to get through a week at work, slowly adding comforts, art and personality without overloading their tiny home.
Still reveling in the delight of finally falling in love with his own boat, Jarod illustrated his enthusiasm for sailing: “In life, we often just go through the motions thoughtlessly; but sailing requires you to be active and to know every aspect in order to do it efficiently and safely. It forces you to be present, be conscious and pay attention. It’s a good reminder.”
It was a meandering path dotted with cross country travel, sailboat racing, a house demolition, and an encouraging community that landed Jarod and Gennie in their new home with big smiles and full hearts. For others dreaming of a similar lifestyle, their advice is to get out there and sail. Make friends in the community, then get on their boats, sail with them, and ask them questions. Whatever your dream is, learn about it and chase it.