Ambassadors for all we America was. Apologists for all America is.

Letting it all go … and casting off!

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”  Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities (1859)

One of the hardest things described by many who go to sea is letting go of  “so much”.

Our process was one of both disappointment, disillusionment, and finally, discovery and freedom.  The American economy and political system in no small part both helped us and frustrated the process.

My wife, a tenured college professor, left her position to join me in Oregon in 2007.  I was, at that time,  the General Manager of an ambulance service in Oregon.  Six months after she joined me, the economy’s problems finally became manifest and obvious.   A few months later, I was fired from my position in a financial belt-tightening managerial lobotomy that the owner of the company decided was in his best financial interest.

How did this help, you may ask.  The answer is, we were already preparing to do what we are now doing.  Like many of the middle-class, we were working towards retirement and saving and waiting for the “golden years”.  Like many of you, we were looking forward to having enough time to do somethings you never seem to have time to do when working 50-60 hour a week.  So, when the firing came unexpectedly, after a few short months of soul-searching about how I might have brought it on myself, I finally realized, no one in those days brought their economic demise on themselves … we were, like so many others … “economic road-kill”.

I started a private consulting firm so I could work from home.  Depending on Federal Grants funneled through major health systems, I began working as a disaster planner on a Regional EMS systems coordination plan in one of Oregon’s Trauma Regions.

This also allowed for a slow descent into poverty rather than a sudden crash that shattered so many hopes and dreams of the middle class.  We continued the preparations we had already begun with the realization that reemployment for a male in my age group was nearly hopeless.  Doesn’t mean we didn’t try.

We also realized that suddenly, we were unexpectedly free to pursue our retirement plans about five years earlier than planned.  When you reach the age of 60, you suddenly realize that those 5 years are next to priceless.

Unemployed and in possession of a very nice (if old) boat, we started getting rid of things that locked us in place.  Others caught in the “economic downturn” will recognize many of the things we let go of as the same ones the economy was stripping them of.  Lost health insurance after the COBRA provisions for continuing it ran out.  A major injury after the insurance was lost, and a slow downturn in income from my consulting company, as the economy further contracted, continued to keep us preparing.

We began having yard sales.  We began making trips to Goodwill to drop off stuff every time we went to town for groceries. We sold many things too valuable to just give away on Craigslist or Ebay.

We had two garages to empty.

We got rid of a couple of closets of clothing, mostly professional attire since without a profession, you don’t need to maintain attire.

Get rid of cold weather clothing ’cause we are headed for warm climates of Central America and Mexico.

Got rid of books, a college teachers library is not a small thing.  28 boxes of books more or less to get rid of in a society that no longer values the printed word.

Got rid of TVs, stereo, computers (desktops), phones, furniture, cookware, appliances and everything we have hauled around for years because it could never be replaced.  Got rid of art on the walls. Got rid of rugs on the floors.

Got rid of guns since few foreign countries allow their possession (even on a US registered boat) in their waters.

The goal to get what we need as absolutely essential from a 1400 sq foot house on a river with two garages, two cars, two dogs, and a cat into a 280 sq foot boat.  You do the math.

Pets were very problematic.  We have always been good pet owners meaning we take as good a care of them as we do of us.  So, found a home for our 2-year-old Golden Retriever, Hannah.  Finally, the month before we left, we had to have our 13- year-old Golden Retriever, Becka, put down because her seizures made her impossible to place and were becoming so serious that she could no longer swim because we were afraid she would seize and drown.  Neither could have lived on the boat.  We know this because we tried some weekends with both and neither could negotiate to the boats deck to the cabin without getting hurt.

Our 11-year-old cat, Jerusha, found a nice home by advertising in Oregon’s Coast Craigslist.  She was placed two weeks before we moved onto the boat.

We sold my wife’s trusted 1994 GMC Sonoma pickup.  Only had 150,000 miles on it.  I transferred the title for the family VW bug to her ( a woman has to have a car).

Made sure passports are up to date.  Made sure all bills are not set to electronic.  Made sure bank account is online.  Made sure we had a will.  Made sure we had advanced medical directives in place.

Finally, the last asset we had was our home.  Home of Dreams

We prepared to sell it, partially in preparation for the move to the boat, but mostly in recognition, like many others, that the real estate market was so trashed that even the value of a person’s home was no longer certain or even a reasonable assumption.  We looked at the finances over the last three years and realized we would inevitably lose the house to the bank anyway.  This, is in spite of never missing a payment in our lives on anything.  The house, insurance, and home related bills, and continued unemployment, were draining us like some economic vampire.  Time to wake up and recognize that dreams in America of a middle class life and stable retirement were just that, dreams, and more likely a nightmare.

In April of 2012, we finally made the difficult decision to cut our last economic ties and list our house with a realtor.  We bought this house, not as an investment, but like many as they near retirement, as the place we would live out our lives.  We bought it carefully and maintained it well.  It sold in August and we closed around the end of September.  We were scheduled to set sail for San Diego on October 15, so that was cutting it pretty close.

Many of the appliances, much of the furniture, and household goods that could not fit into the boat or the sailing lifestyle, we gave as part of the sale of the house to the young couple that bought it from us.  The rest, we loaded into a Volkswagen Bug and drove to Newport, Oregon where the boat was moored.

Plan B.  We owned, outright, a 38 foot Ingrid Ketch.  Seaworthy, safe, dry, and self-sufficient.

Spiritus ... plan B!

Plan B is now at play.  After my wife and I spent two weeks on the boat, a crew of two and I sailed it away, leaving (for me at least) Newport, Lincoln County, and Oregon behind. Like some farmer leaving the family farm during the dust bowl of the Great Depression, I did not look back.

My wife went initially to spend some time with her remaining family in Arkansas. A few weeks later she sold our remaining vehicle, the VW Bug, and flew to Australia to spend time with out new grand-baby.  She will join me in La Paz in February.

Her definition of adventure has always been “well, nobody died!”

Me, I am reminded of a line from the “Eiger Sanction” with Clint Eastwood.  In the movie, after deadly  injuries and desperate climbing, he looks at his younger partner and says “Don’t worry, we are gonna make it”.  The younger partner looks back and says, “I do not think so, Johnathan . . . but we shall continue with style.”

If the explanation of our transition and motivations for this adventure seem schizophrenic, such are the times we live in.

Maybe Crazy Cora in “Quigly Down Under” said it best, “Just because the road is rocky doesn’t mean your spirit has to get rocky, too.”

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