Point of No Return

Posted by John

In April we gave up our marina slip. Now we’ve taken the next step and given up our house. Committed to living on the boat, it is a point of no return.

We put our house under the control of trusted house sitters. In almost every way imaginable, this transition from land to water has been the hardest part, so far, of preparing to cruise. Not so much giving up the comfort and convenience of the house itself, but clearing out enough of our belongings, and ongoing projects, so that someone else could move theirs in.

We built our own house. At the time, it consumed most weekends, vacations and holidays for a period of years. Each major transforming milestone was worthy of celebration. But, like so many do-it-yourself projects, our house was never fully finished. We had no final task after which we could pack up the tools and declare success. There was no project completion celebration. Instead, as the house gradually became our primary residence, the amount of effort we applied to finish the cosmetic details not required for legal occupancy tapered off. We knew it would need to be finished someday, but we also found it easy to start reclaiming our weekends.

By the time we began planning how and when we would do a major cruise, we were so fully moved into our house that the idea of moving everything out again, with no new place to take it, was almost too much to think about. It wasn’t until we found potential long-term house sitters that the process could even be envisioned. But what was envisioned was overwhelming.

We work best under pressure of a deadline. That deadline came into focus when our potential house sitters turned into actual house sitters. They had their own deadline to be out of their current place. Their deadline became our deadline. Their house full of possessions needed to be moved into our house full of possessions. But first, we needed to finish a few things, such as flooring in one room, and bathroom tile in another. Finishing as many house projects as possible, and sorting and moving everything in such a short time, is where the process got difficult.

I suppose we could categorize the things in our house. We could put the things we want to keep forever, old photos and family treasures that have been handed down, as one category, for example. And the useful things that we can’t easily replace again as another. But somewhere on the list must be a category for the tons (I’m almost positive) of everything imaginable that has collected over the decades and now just needs to go. There’s all the old check stubs, bank statements and other papers that were filed away that should’ve been cleaned out and shredded years ago, old magazines that were set aside because of some article we wanted to reference, receipts, books we’ve read in the past, or books we had good intentions of reading but haven’t yet, clothes we no longer wear regularly. But there’s also little unexpected things not previously given any thought, like, for example, unused toothbrushes still in the packaging, given to each of us every time we go to the dentist, that now have multiplied into handfuls sitting in a drawer that needs to be emptied.

In past moves we would dump such drawers into a box, move the box to the new house, and dump it into the new drawer. Sometimes, boxes might get moved and put in the garage and not opened, as new toothbrushes (or whatever) slowly fill a new drawer. But this time there is nowhere for the box to go. We are moving onto a boat that must hold everything we need, or might need, for the next few years. Space is extremely limited, and already spoken for. It seems such a waste to throw out perfectly good, never opened, toothbrushes, which are, in fact, little pieces of plastic that I’ve been told will one day possibly end up floating around in the middle of the ocean.

And so it is with so much of what’s in our house. From the tiniest little memento, yard tool, or left over building material, all the way up to the largest pieces of furniture. We can’t afford to ever replace it all again. We can’t afford to pay to store it. Some must stay. The rest must go somewhere. Do I really need to keep souvenirs of life in 1973? I give myself about three seconds to reminisce, decide, and move on. I wonder why we didn’t complete all of this months ago.

I used to not think twice about giving up such generic things as yard tools, or a desk chair, or a small kitchen appliance. I would figure that I could always get another one when and if I wanted to. But life is different now. I no longer have a steady income. The things we have took a lifetime to acquire. I don’t know what I will do when we are finished with cruising.

When we started preparing for cruising we knew it would be a big, difficult project with many unknowns. But I don’t think we had any idea just how complicated it would become, and where these complications would be the most difficult. A year ago, we were putting all of our energy into refitting the boat. How, exactly, we were going to get out of the house and onto the boat full-time was difficult to comprehend. So we didn’t. We just had a vague idea of some potential options.

Now we know. And now that it’s done, there’s no going back to where we once were. Instead of sitting on the couch watching TV in the evenings, we sit in the cockpit, watch the sunset and talk.

We have become full-time liveaboards. A transformation truly worthy of celebration.