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Retirement afloat
Old 06-23-2002, 01:15 PM   #1
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Retirement afloat

Old-timers might recall that I retired a little over a year ago, and moved aboard my boat for my initial retirement years cruising up and down the east coast.

We made and changed destination plans about weekly (a benefit to retired life!), but spent most of the past year at the 70 degrees Fahrenheit line. That took us to southern Florida mid-December through mid-January, and the north and central portions of the east coast of Florida until early April. Then we meandered north until we reached Oriental, NC on May 1st, a year after I retired and moved aboard.

We decided this was a great place to stop and do some paint and varnish work that we'd never found time to do in the past year. (Amazing how busy you are when you have nothing to do!)

We met hundreds of early retired boaters doing the same thing, and spent a good bit of time with many of them.

It was a great year, and we look forward to retracing our steps, and breaking new ground, err, water in the fall, after we attend our son's wedding in Dallas.

I'll post more details for those interested.

Dory36, resurfacing after a year afloat
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Re: Retirement afloat
Old 06-25-2002, 02:03 PM   #2
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Re: Retirement afloat

Hi Dory36,

Good to hear that you are enjoying your retirement. It is important that anyone thinking about "early retirement" consider the resources necessary to maintain their desired lifestyle.

That may take a bit of investigation to get a handle on the expenses involved. This is one good reason you shouldn't rely on someone else to plan your retirement needs.

Right now, my wife and I really haven't made any significant changes to our lifestyle. We have traveled a bit more than if I were still working, however, we don't have aspirations for big exotic trips. I think we just enjoy the simple pleasures more.

I have more time for projects around the house, learning computer stuff (Linux), and participate in forums such as this one.

Everyone needs to figure out what makes them tick and embrace a lifestyle that meets their needs. I may be boring, but I'm having FUN!

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Re: Retirement afloat
Old 08-02-2002, 09:40 AM   #3
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Re: Retirement afloat

Love to hear about your retirement Dory! I'm an ex- Coastie and spent many years at sea (too many I sometimes think :-)!). My now-ex hubby and I had also lived on our 30 ft sailboat for a bit and had planned on doing that permanently once we retired in our early 40's. Unfortunately we got divorced so that ended that plan. However I retired early (42) anyways and decided to do the full-time travel in a camper van thing instead of a boat and I love it. Not as peaceful as sailing but I like the flexibility and ease of it much better. I would definetly recommend others to look into living "alternative" lifestyle as a way to both achieve FI faster and as a way to live your retirement years.
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Re: Retirement afloat
Old 08-05-2002, 10:59 AM   #4
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Re: Retirement afloat

Hi Dory,
My husband and I are three years from retirement and currently own a 26' power boat. We would love to retire and live on our boat for a year or so. We want to buy a bigger boat - not sure yet of the size. We live now near the Great Lakes and would love to cruise down the Intercoastal to Florida. I'm curious to hear your advice about the size of a boat and some info about your expenses (particularly gas). And then how do you see a city when you stop there since you'd have no car.
Thanks.
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Re: Retirement afloat
Old 08-05-2002, 12:24 PM   #5
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Re: Retirement afloat

Quote:
I'm curious to hear your advice about the size of a boat and some info about your expenses (particularly gas). *And then how do you see a city when you stop there since you'd have no car.
Thanks.
Our boat is 36', and it seems plenty for the two of us plus our large dog. I'd say the average size we saw for full timers (couples) was about 36-42, but there were quite a few in the 28-32 range as well. Boats much over 45' seemed mostly to belong to people who were using them to take friends out, not cruise and live aboard full time. These are trawler (slow power boat) numbers; they tend to be roomy for their length. Sailboats, and perhaps faster power boats, might need 10% or so more length to get the same living space.

Our boat is diesel, and so are most of the boats (sail and power) that we encountered cruising full time. These seem to get about 2-3 miles per gallon (trawler) to 6-8 miles per gallon (sailboats using their engines). Gas boats average about one mile per gallon. (See why we have diesels?)

When we go down the Intracoastal, we seldom have a problem getting to where we want to go, without a car. Just a few examples from our experience:

- Washington DC: easy walking distance to grocery store and subway stop
- Elizabeth City NC: free dock downtown, with free wine & cheese for cruising boaters!
- Belmont NC: marina provided street-licensed golf carts to boaters staying there
- Oriental NC: free dock downtown, 2-3 block walk to grocery store
- Beaufort NC: NC Maritime museum (at the waterfront) offers free courtesy car for 1 hour to boaters; marinas also provide courtesy cars if you stay at their facility
- Wrightsville Beach NC: just a couple of blocks to stores and restaurants
- Charleston SC: marina provides free point-to-point van service 9am - 9pm
- N Myrtle Beach SC: free dock at enormous shopping center; $1 bus to anywhere else you might want to go
- St Augustine FL: the town is on the waterfront
- A favorite among boaters doing the Intracoastal is Vero Beach Florida. Dozens hang out there for the winter (as we did last year), and take free hourly busses from the marina to anywhere in town.

and so forth. Basically, cruising boaters stop where transportation is either not an issue or easily obtained. There are lots of those, and boaters you'll meet know where they are. Guidebooks show these as well.

By the way - since boats carry their own kitchens, bedrooms, bathrooms, power plants, etc., most full time cruisers will drop the anchor and stay somewhere free most of the time, and use marinas when necessary for bad weather, repairs, etc.

Hope this helps!

Dory36
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Re: Retirement afloat
Old 08-06-2002, 07:07 AM   #6
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Re: Retirement afloat

Dory,
Thanks for all the great information. I shared it with my husband and he wonders how widely available is diesel fuel. Seems like trawlers with diesel get better gas mileage but is their slowness a disadvantage as far as travel time or trying to outrun a storm?
Do you know of any other discussion boards for people cruising or living aboard?
Thanks again.
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Re: Retirement afloat
Old 08-06-2002, 03:17 PM   #7
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Re: Retirement afloat

I never saw a marina that did not have diesel, which makes sense, since all of the cruising and commercial boats seem to use diesel. The only ones that use gas seem to be the boats folks use for weekend outings.

As far as speed goes, most cruising boats are pretty slow. 10 mph is quite fast by cruising/liveaboard boat standards. But beating a storm generally isn't a problem -- going down the intracoastal you are in mostly protected waters anyway.

If going to someplace like the Bahamas, the normal practice is for boaters to bunch up in some place like Lake Worth FL until the weather is good, and is predicted to be good for at least 3-4 days. THEN you make the 10-18 hour crossing, with a pack of other boaters who have been waiting for the same thing.

Most cruisers stay north of Norfolk VA between June 1 and October 1 or so, to avoid the most probable hurricane seasons. (But if one threatens, you just turn up the nearest river and head for a sheltered marina or a local "hurricane hole" -- a place sheltered from the worst of it. Then either ride it out or anchor very well and split for high ground. The wise advice is to split, but I think it's about 50-50.)

Your husband is right about travel time. This isn't a good lifestyle if there are deadlines. We don't commit to making more than 75 - 100 miles a week, and only reluctantly agree to that, when a relative is flying somewhere to meet us, and just HAS to buy tickets. We generally make 40-60 miles a day, but hey - we're retired! If we were in a hurry, we'd pick a different style!


I'm not aware of any specific cruising discussion groups, but search on cruising and boats and related terms on the web, and you'll probably find a lot. Look at articles at sailnet.com, too. Also do a search for mailing lists and living aboard - there used to be one.


Dory36
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Re: Retirement afloat
Old 02-10-2003, 07:11 PM   #8
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Re: Retirement afloat

Cap'n, I've read a little bit about your floating retirement on these messages and your travel site.

I'm a suburban boy used to having everything nearby. When I imagine life along the wet side of the coast I find myself worrying about physical security that I never think about here; things like police protection, the fire department, medical facilities and just everyday retail shops where I might buy meals and such.

How much more isolated is it really? Is there any crime rate (piracy?) at all in the water anymore? Do you carry firearms, and did you before living on the boat? How far away do you typically get from shore?

I could imagine sailing. Is the east coast weather constant enough so one could set the sail and till and sail for a few hours with no adjustments?

How "modern" is your living out there? I know you have the laptop and internet connectivity, but do you have broadcast TV? Satellite TV? VHS/DVD? Not that those are necessities; I'm just curious.
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Re: Retirement afloat
Old 02-11-2003, 01:49 AM   #9
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Re: Retirement afloat

Generally, it's as isolated as you want it to be. For example, we just departed a 10 week stay at Vero Beach, where 70+ boats are in the anchorage all the time, and folks tend to stay for weeks at a time. One reason they stay is the social aspects of visiting with 70 or so couples (most of whom are also early-retired) at the laundry and the local bar/grill's happy hour just next to the anchorage. Or the free hourly bus that goes anywhere in town.

Other times we've anchored where there were no signs of civilization, and we didn't see other boats until we left the creek we'd gone up to drop anchor.

Usually, boaters will stop at least periodically at places where groceries, mail, and laundry are readily available. Some folks do that only, some only when necessary.

When traveling down the east coast, we are seldom away from civilization. As we left Vero Beach, we stopped for overnights at Jensen Beach, Palm Beach Gardens, and Boca Raton on the way to Miami Beach. In each of these, we were anchored within easy view of the homes (and mansions) on shore.

On the other hand, we'll be cruising up some isolated rivers in Alabama, Mississippi, and Tennessee this summer, in areas where we expect to seldom see other boats (other than the one traveling with us), and towns are few and far between. When we leave Mobile Alabama, the next major city we'll encounter will be Nashville Tennessee, a couple of months later.

Security is not a concern, generally, especially out in the water. I usually feel more secure at anchor 1/4 mile off shore than in a motel on shore.

There are some places where it's reported that some locals will watch for people to go ashore, and then pilfer their boats. But this is pretty rare in most places. And you get to know your neighbors in places like that, I guess. I've avoided going to places with that reputation. The worst I've encountered is St Augustine, where local teenagers like to go out to anchored boats, cut the painter (rope that tethers the dinghy to the boat), and take the dinghy for a joy ride. For such reasons, most folks will padlock their dinghy with a cable (such as used on bicycles) when in these areas, or when at shore in areas they aren't sure of.

There is still piracy in places outside the USA, but it seems to be easily avoided by staying away from known problem areas (off the coast of Columbia, for example) or by traveling in small packs, with 3+ boats together.

Some folks go around the world, and are away from land for weeks at a time. Many stay within a couple of miles of the coast, but also take the day-long cruise to the Bahamas, and island-hop. Many others, including myself, stick primarily to waters along the coast and rivers accessible from the coast. Except for the first group, none of us are often off shore except for the occasional need to cross open water to get somewhere (such as crossing part of the Gulf of Mexico to get from southern to western Florida, as the coastal part in the "corner" is too shallow for most boats) or crossing the Chesapeake. Otherwise, we're seldom more than 1/2 mile from shore.

Anchoring overnight comfortably depends on getting protection from wind-generated waves, usually by positioning the boat downwind from land, within a quarter mile or less. So we always anchor near shore. If we're just stopping for the night, we don't care about shore-side amenities, but if we're stopping for a few days, we'll look for some place to land the dinghy near a grocery store, etc.

Marinas are always at shore, of course. Full time cruisers don't generally stay at marinas. To do so would add $20,000 or so to the annual cost of living.

Let's see .. sailing. We don't have a sail boat, and the Intracoastal Waterway and rivers we've chosen to cruise don't lend themselves to sailing -- the many sailboats on these waters are motoring 90% of the time. Too many turns and too narrow to tack. Those going to the Bahamas, going along the coast, or going across the oceans can sail for hours at a time, I understand. But I haven't done it.

Modern living: Other than lack of connections that require wire (cable TV, etc.), you can be as modern as you want. Most boats have "inverters" which produce 120v AC from batteries, and generators. Most full time cruisers have microwave ovens.

We have a small TV with rabbit ears (remember those?) that we pull out once in a while, when we are stopped at one spot for more than a few days. We also have a VCR and a couple of dozen tapes that we thought we'd watch -- after nearly 2 years, we've only watched a couple. But that's just us -- lots of folks watch movies, and swap tapes and DVDs.

Some folks have satellite dishes; these are more and more common. They have some mechanism to keep them aimed when the boat is rocking gently at anchor.

The hour is soon to be beyond the free cell phone time (which is how I connect to the Internet) so I'd better stop. Wish I could type 60+ words a minute -- I'm a 2-finger typist.

Dory36
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Re: Retirement afloat
Old 02-12-2003, 09:11 AM   #10
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Re: Retirement afloat

Hey dory:

Sounds wonderful, and the way you talk about it I can almost picture the lifestyle. I can almost see myself doing such a thing, but I tend to get seasick if it gets rough. I'm OK in sheltered waters if the wind isn't too high (from my experiences in Barnegat Bay, NJ), but I tend to start "chumming" pretty quickly in open waters (ocean). Have you heard of anyone successful dealing with this in a lifestyle such as yours?
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Re: Retirement afloat
Old 02-12-2003, 05:32 PM   #11
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Re: Retirement afloat

Quote:
I tend to get seasick if it gets rough. *Have you heard of anyone successful dealing with this in a lifestyle such as yours?
Very common problem -- and very few cruisers venture out of protected waters when the unprotected waters are rough.

We have watched dozens of boats wait for many weeks, even months, for a "weather window" to make the day or two crossing to the Bahamas -- they would all prefer to stay in the protected anchorage in Florida to taking on even questionable waters.

It's not just personal discomfort. We live on these boats. If the waters are rough, we have to take extraordinary precautions about stowing away everything we use in daily life. Sort of like preparing for an earthquake every day. That's a real pain! And easily avoided by just staying put until favorable weather occurs.

Working stiffs on vacation don't have the luxury of waiting a few weeks for good weather, but retirees do!

Dory36
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Re: Retirement afloat
Old 02-16-2003, 05:37 AM   #12
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Re: Retirement afloat

Hey Cap'n Bill, can you explain what you do about getting mail and paying state taxes and other "domicile" issues. Does Dory have property taxes or how does that work? I'm considering a gypsy lifestyle and trying to determine what the domicile issues are.

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Re: Retirement afloat
Old 02-16-2003, 12:42 PM   #13
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Re: Retirement afloat

Quote:
Hey Cap'n Bill, can you explain what you do about getting mail and paying state taxes and other "domicile" issues. Does Dory have property taxes or how does that work? I'm considering a gypsy lifestyle and trying to determine what the domicile issues are.

1HF
We're Texas residents, so no state taxes . Property taxes vary all over the place -- many boaters register in Florida where taxes are quite low -- like under $100 a year.

As for mail, we use a forwarding service. We use www.vmfs.com but there are many. The key is to use one that has many clients with the same lifestyle, and not one that doesn't understand what you are doing. Ours deals with hundreds of boaters, so we never have to explain that driving 10 miles to a different General Delivery post office just isn't an option.

Dory36
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Re: Retirement afloat
Old 04-04-2003, 08:26 AM   #14
 
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Re: Retirement afloat

Capn Bill,
Do you have a web page outling your travels? A friend sent me a note about you since I have recently retired (Sep 02) and am currently working on our boat in Clear Lake, Tx.?

John Esch
Fet-Esch
a 48' Chung Hwa Seamaster
Clear Lake, Tx.
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Re: Retirement afloat
Old 04-05-2003, 12:50 AM   #15
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Re: Retirement afloat

Sure -- it's at http://www.capn-bill.com/dory -- updated every week or so when we're moving, less often when we're stationary for a while.

Enjoy!

Dory36
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Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover. Mark Twain
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Re: Retirement afloat
Old 04-13-2003, 10:59 AM   #16
 
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Re: Retirement afloat

can you give some idea of cost to buy and outfit Dory as well as yearly operating cost .
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Re: Retirement afloat
Old 04-13-2003, 05:30 PM   #17
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Re: Retirement afloat

A boat like Dory can be had for anywhere from $60,000 to $160,000. We were at the lower end, but spent a ton to get her to the way we wanted her for full time living. New refrigerator, new electrical system, new electronics, new plumbing, and so forth. However, many folks live on equally livable boats that cost $25,000 - $75,000, and don't spend all that much for changes.

Annual costs: figure $1000 to $2000 for required maintenance. Make that $500 - $1000 if you do most of the labor yourself. The biggest cost is pulling the boat out of the water for cleaning and repainting the bottom -- yearly for a cheaper wood boat like ours, maybe every 2 years for a fiberglass boat. The part you can't do yourself costs $300 or so; $200 for materials (bottom paint). *Costs for repairs depend on what breaks. We're averaging about $500 a year for that stuff.

Insurance is about $750 a year, and is effectively the same as homeowners insurance.

Fuel depends on how much you travel. We travel full time, and figure about $1000 - $1500 a year. Before we started traveling full time, we were spending under $200 a year. We plan on about 50 cents a mile for fuel.

Marinas are killers. We seldom stay at marinas -- they charge anywhere from $30 to $100+ a night for their daily rates, and anywhere from $300 to $1000 for their month rates. For that, you get to tie a rope to a pole. *(You already have your bed, your kitchen, your bathroom, etc.) Instead, we drop an anchor, and pay nothing. Right now we are anchored in a delightful spot in St Petersburg FL, and the only hassle is we have to either move the boat to refill our water tanks, or take jugs ashore to replinish the tanks. *If we were at the marina, we could use their water hose to fill our tanks -- at a cost of about $50 a day for being at the marina. (I expect it's sort of like staying at no-cost or low-cost national parks in an RV versus staying at a fancy campground.)

Hope this helps --

Dory36
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Re: Retirement afloat
Old 04-14-2003, 06:35 PM   #18
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Re: Retirement afloat

Well, it's a big help to me. Just today I was working out the finances involved with owning a big boat. We would not live aboard to start (4 dogs), but might at some point. Anyway, the costs and things to consider
are most appreciated.
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Re: Retirement afloat
Old 04-19-2003, 07:29 PM   #19
 
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Re: Retirement afloat

Dory- I have a few very basic (and very naďve!) questions about your actual day to day life that I hope you could give me insight on. You said you mostly anchor in the bay, rather than use a marina. Then do you use a dingy to go ashore? I live on an island off the Washington Coast- just south of the San Juans, and people cruise like this a lot- but it is somewhat undeveloped, and often they are going ashore to more or less deserted beaches. In your case, I guess you are usually going to a dock. Can you use marina docks temporarily, or do you find a municipal dock? Do you get hassled? I can imagine that boaters in general are desirable to officialdom and business owners for the heavy bucks they pass around, but if you are more on a budget, that might not apply.

Also, I would guess that when you are underway, it is lot like a very slow car trip, except the scenery is better and it takes a bit longer to get in trouble. But what about when you are stopped, as now? Do you generally go ashore every day, or do you hang out on the boat? I know that daily chores take up a fair amount of time when you live in a small, mobile space, but you still must have quite a bit of time left over. Related to this, how do you get enough exercise? Rowing your dingy? Walking while ashore?

One particular question- would it be possible to hang out at Myrtle Beach all summer? Is there a cheap way to do this, and still get ashore nightly?

One last thing I would also like to mention. In 1946 my grandfather finished building his last boat. It was 35 feet, and also had twin diesels. He took it down the Mississippi all the way to Tampa, over a time period that I am not sure of. Various buddies would meet him and go part of the way, before they had to return to jobs or families. Then he left the boat-the Tommie Lee- in Tampa, and took commercial passage to Havana where he stayed for the winter. He then returned home, and planned to go around Florida and up the intercoastal on the Atlantic side, but he had a heart attack and died before he could get back to Florida. I believe that his cruising years were some of the best of his generally adventurous life.

Thanks for anything you can tell me! By the way, this is a very easy to use message system. Good work!

Mike
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Old 04-20-2003, 02:45 AM   #20
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Re: Retirement afloat

Quote:
You said you mostly anchor in the bay, rather than use a marina. Then do you use a dingy to go ashore? I live on an island off the Washington Coast- just south of the San Juans, and people cruise like this a lot- but it is somewhat undeveloped, and often they are going ashore to more or less deserted beaches. In your case, I guess you are usually going to a dock. Can you use marina docks temporarily, or do you find a municipal dock? Do you get hassled? I can imagine that boaters in general are desirable to officialdom and business owners for the heavy bucks they pass around, but if you are more on a budget, that might not apply.
Yes, our "taxi" to land is a dinghy. Every place is different -- probably 2/3 of the time we go to a dock, and the rest of the time it is to an undeveloped spot such as a beach. Generally, we find out where people prefer that we take the dinghy, so we've not seen any hassle. Anchoring in the nearby waters is also usually no problem. Some places officially restrict stays to a few days, but usually enforce these limits only to deal with derelicts.
Quote:
Also, I would guess that when you are underway, it is lot like a very slow car trip, except the scenery is better and it takes a bit longer to get in trouble. But what about when you are stopped, as now? Do you generally go ashore every day, or do you hang out on the boat?
In some ways it's just like a home on dirt -- we stay in some times and go out sometimes. Because there is so little space aboard and because we travel on foot or via public transportation when ashore, we go out for groceries etc. more often, carrying back smaller quantities. Ditto for trips to the laundromat.
Quote:
I know that daily chores take up a fair amount of time when you live in a small, mobile space, but you still must have quite a bit of time left over. Related to this, how do you get enough exercise? Rowing your dingy? Walking while ashore?
Walking. We probably average a couple of miles a day just going to the library, grocery store, etc.
Quote:
One particular question- would it be possible to hang out at Myrtle Beach all summer? Is there a cheap way to do this, and still get ashore nightly?
Hmmm... Myrtle Beach is a special case. You wouldn't anchor in the ocean, as there is no protection from the wind and the waves, and you'd feel like you were on a roller coaster all the time. The Intracoastal Waterway in that area is unusually narrow and straight, with few places to pull off and anchor. I have anchored at Calabash Creek, perhaps 10-15 miles north of Myrtle Beach, and see no reason you couldn't anchor there for a while, but that's too far to dinghy. At North Myrtle Beach, there is a large free dock at the Barefoot Landing shopping complex where many boaters will stop. They officially say you can only stay 72 hours. We've stayed a day longer than that when weather made it unwise to travel on the day we had intended to leave, and no one noticed or cared. With perhaps 30-40 boats at a time stopping there for a few days, one overstayer doesn't stand out for a brief period. But after a couple of weeks, you might be noticed. Further south, there are several nice but isolated anchorages, too far to dinghy. The first place where it seems people stop and stay for extended periods, perhaps even permanently, if Georgetown SC. The anchorage is right in town, and the town provides a free dinghy dock. But it's perhaps 30 miles to Myrtle Beach.

Now, if you don't specifically need Myrtle Beach, there are many wonderful places with great beaches -- we've stopped at dozens. Many have boats anchored semi-permanently, as determined by looking at the accumulation of barnacles on their anchor chains!
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One last thing I would also like to mention. In 1946 my grandfather finished building his last boat. It was 35 feet, and also had twin diesels. He took it down the Mississippi all the way to Tampa, over a time period that I am not sure of. *Various buddies would meet him and go part of the way, before they had to return to jobs or families. Then he left the boat-the Tommie Lee- in Tampa, and took commercial passage to Havana where he stayed for the winter. He then returned home, and planned to go around Florida and up the intercoastal on the Atlantic side, but he had a heart attack and died before he could get back to Florida. I believe that his cruising years were some of the best of his generally adventurous life.
We're retracing his route, having come down the Atlantic Intracoastal, now in Tampa Bay, and headed up. We'll take the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway at Mobile, rather than the Mississippi, since it has negligible current versus the strong opposing current of the Mississippi, but it's close to the same vicinity. Sounds like he had a great time -- it's good he could have that adventure before his heart attack.

Best wishes,

Dory36
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Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover. Mark Twain
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