Life ashore seems easy after six years on the water
From a young age, my parents taught me that if you “follow your heart, the money will come.” Right after high school, I heeded their advice and pursued a career in golf. That, obviously, was short-lived. I eventually discovered life as a sailor and thought I’d never look back.
For six years, I more or less lived aboard a boat. First, on my dad’s Wauquiez Hood 38, Sojourner, then on my own 35-foot yawl, Arcturus, after meeting my now-wife, Mia. Over those six years we sailed many thousands of miles. When on shore, we lived in my parent’s basement in Pennsylvania or Mia’s childhood bedroom in Sweden, but it was always a boat we came “home” to. We’d found a way to make a living on yachts and we assumed we’d always be full-time sailors.
But I had a hard time considering myself a “sailor.” I grew up around boats, but my family never identified as “sailors.” I like sailing, and I’m pretty good at it, but it’s not what makes me, me. I like to cycle, but I’m not a “cyclist.” I love to run, but I don’t think of myself as a “runner.” If anything, I wish I could call myself a “skier”, and yet I do that the least.
In the spring of 2012, everything changed. Brain cancer claimed my mom’s life, and Mia and I moved in with my dad, partially to save money, but mostly because he needed the support. (So did I, for that matter.). We still did plenty of sailing, but “home” was again Pennsylvania, and we re-adjusted. During an offshore delivery from Annapolis to Maine that year, Mia and I talked about pursuing a career on megayachts. But then something clicked: why change our lifestyle? We realized we enjoyed it.
So we accepted an offer to work for the World Cruising Club. We had been working for them part-time for the previous four years, but this felt different. We realized we enjoy the job (which doesn’t feel much like a job at all) and that we’d never have been content as full-time sailors after all. In retrospect, I get bored after a while and yearn for something different. Then, eventually, I want to get back on the water. So it goes.
Now, sailing for Mia and me comes in spurts: summers in Sweden on Arcturus, a few deliveries throughout the year and some ocean racing for good measure. The life we’ve chosen—a base ashore where I can bike around the countryside and where it’s cheap enough to afford both a small house and a small boat—gives us the best of both worlds. When I’m tired of one, I can escape to the other.
Of course, living with my dad obviously couldn’t last forever, and this past summer in the foggy haze of a hangover after a night at Fell’s Point with the boys during our annual father-son cruise, I started Googling properties: first in Portland, Maine (Mia and I yearn for a Swedish-style winter), then in Annapolis and finally in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. In the end, we chose Lancaster for its compact city center, affordable cost of living and fantastic access to local, organic food and raw milk, thanks to the Amish. It dawned on me that maybe, just maybe, we could buy a place of our own. For once, Mia agreed with me.
Between seeing off the Caribbean 1500 in Portsmouth, Virginia, and meeting the fleet again in Tortola, we had three days to spend in Lancaster with a realtor. We saw lots of properties, but nothing got our blood flowing. Finally, as the sun was setting in the west (a sunset my dad was enjoying offshore, five days into the Caribbean 1500), we discovered 12 North Plum Street. A newly renovated kitchen and living room that retained the house’s 1867 charm; exposed, random-width original wood flooring; original brick fireplace in the kitchen; original wood doors with iron knobs and handles, none of which actually close tight; newly painted walls, brand new windows and a new, stainless steel kitchen; the instruction booklet still in the oven.
We left with the same feeling we had when we first looked at Arcturus: the debate was over before it started. The next day, we drove back to Lancaster and put down an offer that was quickly accepted. Then we flew to Tortola for the end of the 1500, followed by St. Lucia for the end of the ARC. We flew back to PA on December 30 and moved in on New Year’s Eve.
So far, as sailors accustomed to living aboard, the transition has been pretty easy. The fridge hasn’t arrived, so we’re working out of a cooler on the back stoop. No need for ice: the leftovers stay in the pan under the six inches of new snow. We slept the first two nights on a mattress on the floor and joked that it just made the ceiling feel extra-high.
I’m still amazed by the conveniences I think most people take for granted. Filling the Brita this morning, I smiled at not having to use the foot pump. Doing the dishes in warm water required nothing more than moving the spigot to “hot,” rather than putting the kettle on the stove. Showers? We’ve got two of them! And the storage! The house is just over 1,000 square feet, small by most standards, but impossibly huge by ours. It seems there is no way we will ever fill this place!
So now, Lancaster City, Pennsylvania, the heart of Amish country, is our new home base. We’ll still travel, still sail. But this place, our home, is a place to recharge. To dream big and plan our next adventure. It is the furthest point, philosophically anyway, from sailing and the ocean. And that’s just how we want it.
Read Andy and Mia's Sailfeed blog here
Photos by Maria Karlsson
courtesy of World Cruising Club