Thursday, January 28, 2010

On Freedom

You know, anytime somebody titles a piece of writing with "On Something" it is going to be an overblown, self-loving, pompous piece of work. This may be true, but I can't resist the title anyhow. :) That said, I really wanted to write up a little piece on freedom in regards to what it means to Jenny and me in terms of cruising, sailing, and living aboard. It is a very important part of our lives and our goals. Visiting our friend Mike, a full time cruiser, in the Virgin Islands for a week really changed the way we look at things.

Part 1: Financial Freedom -

I'll have to start at the beginning and hope that I can use a bit of a story format to convey my thoughts in a remotely intelligible manner. Once, I had a house. I had a mortgage. I was broke. Incessantly. I had to work nonstop to make house and car payments and although I may have wanted to move, I couldn't. I couldn't move about the city even. All my friends in apartments had moved to the other side of town and I had to drive across town to get home every day. That sucked, but there were worse things in life, like bad housing markets. My house was small, but entirely remodeled and very pretty inside and out; however, it was in Lansing Michigan amidst closing car factories and slumping economic times well before the rest of the nation caught up. When I got divorced I wanted to move and to go to grad school, which had always been my intent anyhow. I couldn't. The house would not sell in such a market. I HAD to stay and pay for a house I did not like. I couldn't move the house or myself. There were no better jobs in town. When Jenny came along personal life got better and eventually we had decided to rent my house out and move to Boston, on a boat. I LOVED the idea. Moving across town when I want to will become an option. Moving to a new city will become an option, whenever I want. This was my ideal vision.

Boats and marinas, however, cost money. Significant amounts thereof. The saving grace is that a liveable boat can be bought for cheap money. Our first boat, the Fitzcarraldo, was a powerboat which cost $10k in really rough shape. We overpaid a bit, but it was exactly where we wanted it (I had no idea how to drive a boat at the time) and it was convenient to buy from a seller who was friendly and helpful. Soon we realized the limitations of a powerboat and within a year we bought our Ericson sailboat from a friend who was in a hurry to get rid of one. Madrigal only cost us $6500 as a sale price. We lost a fair bit of money on the Fitz and had to roll it all into a loan of about $14k for both boats, cost of having 2 boats for a while, haulouts, surveys, etc... What it all came down to, was a little bit of that freedom we sought had been lost to debt and job tethers. Jenny is working constantly. I work part time, but have to go to school as well. The marina is expensive, and we've had a boat loan (personal loan) to boot. In the meantime, the market took a dive, I lost my renters, and we decided to just let my house be foreclosed and go back to the bank. A house I had paid $58k for in 2003 sold for $15k in 2009. Ouch. But we have been VERY happy with that decision. We both hate credit, and have sworn off new loans as terrible ideas. What it all boils down to is that the same week we went to visit Mike in the Virgin Islands is when we finally paid off our boat loan. We've also found a cheaper marina within distance of our jobs for next summer. And a beautiful little quiet marina at that, with better access to the somewhat remote Boston Harbor Islands.

So things are looking up financially, which is key to cruising. Cruising under debt is next to impossible without high paying work-from-home jobs. We have student loans, but those are small and we've been paying on them all the while. We should be able to pay those while cruising as long as our Jigsaw Indexing company keeps growing as well as it has been lately. We also get some income from small archaeology jobs that I do on the side and from ad revenue on various websites and blogs we keep up, much like this one.

Madrigal, at $6500 for a purchase price, was not and is not in cruising condition. We've put a ton into her, and she is much closer to being ready. By next year at the latest we should feel more than comfortable as far as the boat is concerned. We need a new sail or two, some new rigging, and better ground tackle, at the least before we can go and go safely. That should be roughly doable.

So as it stands, we may have finally achieved enough financial freedom to be able to think about cruising in the next year or two. It is a wonderful feeling. Accomplished and prideful, but it also keeps us respectful to all those who have already been able to leave and knowing how hard they had to work at it.

Part 2: Political Freedom -

Politics and freedom are touchy topics when placed together and viewed critically. I'll try not to say too much on here, so as not to offend anyone with my anarcho-libertarian-capitalist-pig-dog-freemarket-Austrian school economic views. But this article by Lew Rockwell is a good starter.

Basically, my own country scares the daylights out of me more and more with every passing day. I've never seen anything like it. Unending war. The federal reserve prints money out of thin air like there is no tomorrow. The US Dollar is most obviously being inflated away. George Bush started a regimen of stripping away liberties and imposing 'Homeland Security' forces in a very startling and scary kind of way. It has fascism and national socialism written all over it and I sure don't see Obama rolling any of that back. Don't get me wrong, I don't mean this in an America-bashing kind of way. Our founding fathers, the drafters of the Constitution, founded a very good thing. I've been happy growing up here, but the more we kill random people in foreign countries because we have some obscure fear of 'terrorism' the more it scares me. I see much of our original country eroding away. And really, the economics of it all is my biggest fear. I do think the dollar has a limited time on this earth, and the economic crash that is looming on our horizon will be dreadful. Having a sailboat, having our own solar and wind power (which we don't have yet, but hope for soon), having our own means of transportation via the coasts of the world is a great freedom to know that we have. I keep a blog at with an ongoing critique from a few individuals of our current situation regarding economics and freedom.

In the end, freedom and the concepts thereof, are big factors in our life. Spending a week in the islands with a full time cruiser was kind of life changing. We'd stop at a new anchorage, he'd look around and say, "hmm.. . I like this, maybe I'll live here for a few weeks." He works from home, at his own pace, and makes enough to live and enjoy himself, but lives within his means all the while. It is a good way to avoid excess expenses, absurd prices of city living, and all the rest that goes with life on land and a full time overly ambitious "career". We want to live simply, live within our own means, and live on the ocean. Wherever we want. Free.


  1. Justin, what an excellent post. Boatwise, finacially you have described my life. Politicaly, I won't comment because I'm from Canada and whatever you people do to your country is only your business, sad to say is that Canada is tied to America with a very short but stout

    I have been reading you for a while now and I'm so glad to finally come across someone who doesn't have oodles of dollars hanging from their pockets. Next year, or the year after we will be moving onboard our 'economy' boat. and in 6 years we should be going where the wind blows. The only glitch is that we are paying for the daughters university starting next year.$$$$ Again, great post....Allan

  2. Your political views are beyond belief.
    "some obscure fear of terrorism" GET REAL
    Do you group Osama Bin Laden with those random people? Obviously you have not lost a friend or loved one to terrorist activity. If it not for the efforts of the American military your sorry a$$ would be living if fear of terrorist on a daily basis.

  3. Haha, good arguments. Well reasoned with compelling background evidence. Mr. Bin Laden himself has stated that they are angry with us because of our military occupation of their countries, but hey, what would he know of it.

    You missed the point though, whether or not you agree with the politics of it. We are on the receiving end of terrorism and we retaliate by killing millions, so one way or another I don't like it. The freedom to take our boat away from the trouble that so many governments and terrorists alike are causing is what I was trying to get at. A freedom to move about and stay out of the way of the horrors caused by war and retaliations. It isn't foolproof by any means, but it is an important personal freedom that provides a sense of security that only we can provide to ourselves.


  4. Kudos to you Justin for putting your name to your views. An anonymous shout from the shadows hold very little weight with most people.

  5. Allan,

    Yup, we're definitely not rich. We realized that the blogs we enjoy reading the most are the ones whose authors are brutally honest about finances, so we figured we would be too. Glad it could be of use to you. We're always happy to answer any questions that you (or anyone else) might have.

  6. What a great idea and thanks for sharing with us.