Yes, Benn, Fuji, Pas de Deux, and I finally have plans to leave the harbor. While we knew this day would come (indeed, we hoped it would come about a year and a half ago), we didn’t expect it to come so soon — or with such little preparation. We had planned to spend a year safely nestled in Ipswich harbour, venturing out of the marina for casual day trips during which we would learn to sail and prepare ourselves for the more demanding challenges ahead. I would find a job. We would save money. Who knows? In a year, we might set off and sail to Cornwall — or even France!
Well, that was before we spent a winter in Ipswich. After a few months of cold and condensation in the middle of a town, we realized that although we were living on a boat, we were acting like we were renting an apartment. We were paying monthly marina fees and utilities, dealing with the noise and hassle of city life, and spending most of our time doing stuff on land and very little time sailing. We decided to stay a few more months in Ipswich, practicing sailing, and then find another harbour. Who knows? In 3 months, we might set off and sail to Scotland — or even around the British Isles!
That was before we tallied up the cost of staying at our marina. Because we were no longer paying an annual fee or winter rates, our monthly mooring fee more than doubled. So, we were faced with a choice: either we scramble get the boat ready as quickly as possible, focusing only on bare necessities, and leave Ipswich at the end of April; or, Benn increases his workload and we struggle to pay for another month or two at the marina while we make certain that the boat is in perfect order before we leave.
Our marina is really nice. It has great showers. The boat still needs some work and it’s much easier to do with pontoon access and an electrical hookup. On the other hand, we’re really cheap, and Benn already works enough. So, at the end of April, we’ll be leaving Ipswich. Where to? No idea.
Yes, we are being thrust from the nest! We are sadly deficient in both sailing skills and experience, and we have no concrete plans as to where we are going or what we will do when we get there. No skills, no preparation, no plan — I guess that is how the best adventures start?
The plan now is to live either “on the hook” (i.e., on an anchor) or tied to a mooring ball and to see how self-sufficient we actually can be. There are a few mooring options nearby, and we seem to be more or less prepared to go off the grid. We have two dinghies with which we can row ashore, and we still have our trusty van to take us everywhere we want to go. (In fact, if things get really rough, we can just abandon the boat altogether and live in the van. Just kidding, Pas de Deux.)
Of course, it is difficult to muster up the courage finally to cast off and abandon life ashore. I’m still not certain how we will ever manage to make this work without having steady jobs, and it’s becoming more and more difficult to imagine abandoning our nice marina with its steaming hot showers in lieu of an anchorage somewhere free, wild, and, on the East Anglian coast, with its drastic tides and marshy estuaries, really, really muddy. We’ve resolved, however, to do just that.
The Orwell and Stour are wonderful training grounds, and we will test ourselves, our boat, and our ability to work together as we learn to sail. At some point in late June or early July, we are going north — first to visit the Suffolk coast we have already learned to love and then to Norfolk, where we’ve heard tell of free moorings and beautiful coastal walks. If we’re still alive by that point, we’ll keep going to Scotland and circle the British Isles, choosing a place to anchor for the winter somewhere along the way. Well, maybe. As I said, we’re still a bit sketchy on the plan.
While we travel, we’ll be trying to find a way to support ourselves financially. This is honestly as daunting a prospect as the Scottish coast, but we have no other choice than to find a way to make it work. We’ll be selling art and antiques, and hopefully Benn can find a few boat maintenance jobs along the way. Plans are in the works for designing a new wind generator, and we’ve set up affiliate accounts for our blog.
And now — the countdown to departure! It’s all moving very quickly now, but we are (mostly) optimistic about the summer ahead. If we survive the next few months, then at the very least we’ll know that we have what it takes to live on the boat and cruise full-time. Probably.