Remembering back, oh many years ago now, our son had a classmate whose parents were going to take him out of school and sail around the world.  At the time, I thought that those people had lost their minds and I wondered if it was even legal.  There had to be some rule against that. There must be some law against just kidnapping your own children, shanghai yourself some wee deckhands, hoist a few bedsheets and off to the horizon you go.  Blimey mate, they must have completely been off their rocker. Yet somewhere in the deep recesses of my own thoughts, was a wiggling notion of how cool (is that dating myself?) it would be to just scurry myself aboard a craggy old windskiffer, hoist the main sheets, and let the wind carry me away. Being a fan of author Patrick O’Brien, the whole notion was deeply entertaining yet so far off the weather gauge from my reality that it quickly bobbed over the horizon and was gone like a green flash and a wink of an eye.

Fast-forward to early 2019. I am not particularly clear on how this topic resurfaced, but I am blaming it on a YouTube video I stumbled across featuring another couple who had done something very similar.  They sold all of their worldly possessions, bought a boat (something a far cry better than a craggy old windskiffer), and are living this dream.

Low tide along the Lymington River

Before I knew it, I was a frog in a boiling cast-iron stockpot. I started watching a video or two here and there of their experiences. There was so much to learn. Like playing dominoes on a monohull, it just got messier after that.  Deanna and I started spending all of our free time watching sailing videos, doing boat research, and taking sailing lessons.  We soon learned the difference between a sheet and a sail, and a bowline versus a reef knot.  In those early days, I was fairly certain that with a crisp $35,000 bill and a little elbow grease, we could find ourselves a pretty little monohull and we would be living large on the way to some fantastic adventure by New Year.

Two of the questions we asked ourselves and others was how do you find the right boat and where do you look?  The resounding response was, sail on as many boats as you can, and go to boat shows, among other things. Which is exactly what we did.  We flew 4664 miles to the Lymington Bluewater Weekend in the UK and attended our first boat conference.

Boat yard in Lymington UK

Ok, so maybe we could have chosen the first show a little closer to home, but we do love to travel and I am a huge fan of the UK so it seemed a perfectly logical excuse to fly to Europe.

After attending that conference, learning a vast amount of information, and seeing some magnificent boats, some very crucial lessons began to sink home.  There is a lot of learning required to be a safe and successful bluewater cruiser, we are going to need a bigger boat, and you can gather a hell-of-a-lot of information networking with those old salts living the life of a mariner.  We also received many recommendations to attend the US Sailboat Show in Annapolis and make time to enroll at Cruisers University while there. It might be a good time to mention that by now my $35,000 bill had grown significantly larger and we were leaning heavily toward a catamaran.

The US Sailboat Show 2019 was near overwhelming for a newcomer. It was like being in the middle of the pacific, every horizon with no land, and not an instrument to go by. Fortunately for us, we did attend the Cruisers University beforehand. In many ways attending University helped set some expectations, gave us some key ideas of things we wanted to see, and gave us an easy way to start some relationships with other cruisers, who in turn shared some of their previous experiences at the show.

What it did not prepare us for was a flood during our excursion to the show putting us in a swamping downpour and King Tide up to our knickers. We also did not anticipate the need to make a reservation to see some of the exhibits there and so we missed out on seeing a few things we were interested in.

Together sailing on the Chesapeake Bay outside Annapolis

The boats we missed we were still able to get a fairly comprehensive review and tour of by Sailing Ruby Rose, who have completed a wonderful review of many of the catamarans we were interested in.  Listening to their thoughts was very insightful and reviewing their scores, in addition to scores by a plethora of other contributors, was very interesting, to say the least.

I was impressed with the deluge of merchants selling every widget imaginable that you would need for your boat and probably twice as many things you would never put on a boat. What I would deem as the most important take away from the experience is truly how much information was available and how open and eager other cruisers were to share their knowledge, experience, and insights.

Attending Annapolis was an eye-opening experience that left us with a dead reckoning of where we are today, helped us chart a path forward, and left us with an appetite for Annapolis 2020.  Hope to see you there.

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Written by James