Meet Bruce, Lauren, Sam and Luke, the family who left behind the “normal” life to pursue a dream to live on our sailboat, Vidorra, and travel. Vidorra is Spanish for “The Good Life” or “The Easy/Simple Life.” We love the name because it is appropriate to the life we have always wanted, a life of freedom to travel, live as minimalists and not be tied down to our material possessions. We sold our house, cars, and most of our material possessions so now all we own is our boat, everything on it, and whatever we could fit into our 10×10 storage unit back in the States. This lifestyle transition allows us to focus on what is most important to us; spending time with family, enjoying new experiences, and traveling to witness the beauty of this great earth!
After 5 years preparing for this experience, we finally set sail October 25th from Deltaville, VA and headed South for warmer weather to explore the Caribbean. It has taken an incredible amount of work to get to this point and we are thrilled that our adventure can now begin!
Bruce and I figured this was the perfect time in our lives to put this plan into action. We have two kids, Sam who is 20 years old, and Luke who is a year old. It’s quite the age difference, but it’s so amazing to see the bond these two have and we know it will only get stronger with this trip. Sam is in college and can take time off of school much easier than if he was starting a career and we wanted to do this before Luke started school. As for Bruce and I, we decided we didn’t want to wait until retirement to go sailing since the vision of us at 70 years old trying to hoist sails didn’t seem too appealing. Plus, tomorrow is never promised so what better time than the present to make this dream happen.
The purpose of this blog is to document our trip, provide lessons learned, tips and pointers to others who want to sail, and to keep our friends and family up to date on our travels. You can expect Bruce to write more about boat repairs, electronics, weather, wind and currents, etc. while Lauren writes more about raising a baby on the water, boat fitness, etc. We don’t expect Luke to post much because, well, he’s just a baby with any agenda other than blogging.
So there you have it. A small summary of our story, but there is obviously a lot more leading to this point of departure. If you’re interested in getting additional details on our plan, preparations, and how we pulled this off, please read on.
The Vanderbilt Family
How Bruce and Lauren Met
Bruce and I met in 2007 at a corporate charity golf tournament when we were paired in the same golf cart. We hit it off right away, and bonded over the fact that neither one of knew how to golf, but we sure knew how to drink beer and annoy the serious golfers around us. Real professional, I know, but that’s why we got along so great. We didn’t take ourselves too seriously and we loved to have fun! We married 5 years later in May 2012 and the rest is history!
At the beginning of our relationship, Bruce told me one of his dreams was to live on a sailboat and travel. He insisted that the dream would come true one day. I thought that was pretty cool, but didn’t really think anything of it. After all, who in their right mind would walk away from a successful career, give up their financial security and their home, and move away from everything they have known to live on a boat with little to no sailing experience. That’s just crazy talk!
As I came to know Bruce more and more, I started to realize that this dream was more than likely going to happen. You see, once Bruce gets his mind set on something there is nothing that’s going to stop him. It’s actually quite an attractive quality if you ask me. This guy doesn’t know how to half ass anything!
As the years passed, Bruce and I continually had conversations about how we were sick of the daily grind. Ground hog day had officially set in as we entered the doors of Corporate America day in and day out to a day full of meetings, an e-mail inbox that never ended, and a list full of unrealistic goals. Years and years were passing by with only a few weeks vacations to get us through to the next year’s vacations. We didn’t mind working hard, but we also wanted to play hard. It was beginning to feel a lot like all work and no play and that’s not how we wanted to spend the one life we were given. We often talked about what was important to us and it wasn’t a big house, nice cars, fancy jewelry, or country club memberships that would make us slaves to our jobs. Instead, we believed life experiences, adventure, and time with family was of upmost importance and we wanted to make those things the main focus in our lives. So in 2010, we finally put our foot down and decided to focus on making a life change. We knew that in order to make that transition, we had to have a serious plan!
The 5 Year Plan
The change we were looking to make was so drastic and life changing, that we knew if we didn’t have a detailed plan then we would inevitably fall into the category of people who talk about their dreams, but never see them come true. So we gave ourselves 5 years to put our plan into action which seemed like a realistic time for us to take the steps necessary to free ourselves of the Corporate World. Below are the steps we took to get to this point and please note that this is oversimplified so as not to bore you with every little detail. Side note: Bruce and I are total nerds and of course spreadsheeted all of this into a detailed project plan with dates and tasks and dependencies. It’s what we do best. We also made this vision board with our vision of how the trip should be. We each took turns putting pictures on a page until it was full. Can you guess who put which pictures on the page?
Step 1: Sell the house with a large mortgage payment and high electric bills.
In February 2010, we sold our house that added up to over $3,000 a month in bills (add up mortgage, taxes, insurance, and electric bills)
Step 2: Buy a cheap fixer upper house, renovate it mostly on your own, and enjoy the low mortgage payments.
In Feb 2010 we bought a cheap house for $150,000 that needed a complete renovation. We did most of the work ourselves and our monthly house bills were less than $1,000 a month.
Step 3: Save your money!
Limit fancy dinners, big vacations, clothes shopping, etc. and save, save, save!
Step 4: Make your money work for you!
We knew that in order to financially support a long sabbatical that we would need to have some income coming in. In the summer of May 2011, Bruce quit his corporate job to start a real estate investment company. Over the next 4 years, Bruce acquired run down properties in improving areas, renovated them, and added them to our rental portfolio. The combination of sweat equity, principal pay down, and positive cash flow turned out to be better than his corporate income. Bruce’s new real estate investment business was the perfect solution to financially support our sabbatical while also contributing to a long term retirement plan. Meanwhile, I continued working in Corporate America for the steady paycheck and the family health benefits.
Step 5: Get married and charter a sailboat on your honeymoon!
So a wedding doesn’t really contribute to a financial plan to quit your jobs and go on an adventure of a lifetime. We should have just eloped, but yes, I’m that girl who just had to have a wedding. However, I did make sure to keep the wedding spending in check with a tight budget and DIY mentality. So Bruce and I married in May 2012, about a year after Bruce quit the corporate world. It was a lot of change, and to be honest, tons of stress to plan a wedding while Bruce started his own business. However, our DIY wedding turned out amazing and was even better than we could have imagined. Then it came time to plan the honeymoon. We decided to wait a year to take that highly coveted couple’s retreat. Since Bruce’s dream was to sail, we decided to test out the lifestyle by chartering a sailboat in the British Virgin Islands in July of 2013. The main question when we told people our honeymoon plan was, “So who will sail the boat for you?” Ha! That was my question too, but for anyone who knows Bruce, he is not one to be carted around by some stranger/tour guide when he can do it himself. Plus, it would have been super awkward to have a random third wheel stranger tagging along on our honeymoon with us. So we decided to live on the edge and take our chances with putting in a charter application for a 36ft Fountain Pejot (Catamaran). Let’s just say our application might have been a little embellished, but it worked and before we knew it, we were alone on a sailboat in the BVI’s.
The great thing about the BVI’s is it lends itself to some of the easiest sailing in the world. You are always in view of land, the waters are protected by islands so there are not a lot of huge swells, and the water is very deep so novices like us have less of a chance to run the boat onto a coral head. It didn’t take us long to get the sails up and we were off hopping from one island to the next and jumping off the back of the boat to snorkel wherever we pleased. The fact that we were not confined to a resort and could explore the BVI’s on our own schedule made the trip amazing! It truly was one of the best experiences of my life and then it happened. Bruce’s sailing dream then became Lauren’s dream as well!
Step 6: Let’s have a baby!
Ok, we know having a baby doesn’t really set us up to continue this plan of freedom to travel, but we really wanted to have a baby and we were not getting any younger. Waiting to have a baby until after we came back from the trip wasn’t realistic. I read a lot of blogs of families who sailed with their kids and they boasted it was such a great experience to raise their children on a boat. So I was able to gain more confidence that we could do this with a baby. And of course this adventure wouldn’t be the same without our 20-year-old son Sam. His plan was to take a year off of college and join us on this epic adventure. We agreed that we would still find a way to live out this dream even with a baby in the picture. And so in August 2014, Luke was born.
Step 7: Time to Buy a Boat
We wasted no time searching for a boat after Luke was born. Bruce and I packed up Luke at one month of age in October 2014, and drove down to Florida to find our new home on the water. A catamaran was very appealing to us since that is the type of boat we chartered on our honeymoon and we loved it. Not to mention having two hulls tends to be more comfortable sailing since they provide more stability under sail (stays flat). We searched tons of catamarans, before we came across one that was affordable and met most of our requirements. It was no surprise that the one we purchased was in need of a major refit. In true Bruce fashion, we had to buy a project boat and it turned out to be a bigger project than we had originally anticipated. To see more about Vidorra’s refit, click here.
The Year of Prep
Bruce and I gave ourselves a goal of one year to move aboard Vidorra after we bought her. That would allow us enough time to refit the boat, sell our house and cars, and figure out a million other things that were necessary to transition from land based life to living on a boat (ex. how to receive mail?) So from November 2014 to October 2015, we were laser focused on reaching that one-year goal. It was a busy year, but somehow we made it happen! Here is a VERY brief timeline of what took place during that year.
November 2014 – Sail the boat from FL to VA
Bruce sailed the boat from Florida to VA with his buddy John most of the way. His stepdad, Craig, also did a leg of the trip with Bruce, and then his dad flew all the way from Texas to finish out the journey to Virginia. The trip was not a dream sail to say the least. Frigid temperatures, no bimini to shield wind and rain, extensive engine trouble, and uncooperative wind and currents made for a tough trip, so I heard. While Bruce was determined to get the boat back to VA, I was determined to try and figure out how to be a mom to our newborn and sleep more than a few hours a night. Bruce and I were both challenged during this time, just in very different circumstances, but we continued to have our eye on the prize.
December 2014 to October 2015 – The Refit
Our boat was docked in Deltaville, VA, about an hour drive from our house. Bruce would make that drive at least 4 to 5 times a week to work on the boat and worked through one of the coldest winters on record. In order to make the most of the day, he would leave the house about 6 am and get home around 7 pm. He put in long days to make this boat a great home for our family. I think the most impressive upgrade to our boat was the new electrical system Bruce installed with some help from his dad and brother. I don’t know much about it although I have seen the diagrams and schematics and they are super complex. The fact that my husband can rewire a boat and draw schematics could not be any sexier! I love that he can do all of this work himself. Not only did it save us money, but now Bruce knows the boat inside and out and can troubleshoot almost anything. For more about the entire refit, see our page About Vidorra.
January 2015 to October 2015 – The purging process
Realizing that we would be moving from our 3,000 square foot house to a 500 square foot boat forced us to think long and hard about what we actually needed to move aboard for our cruising adventure. While Bruce worked on the boat, I tended to Luke while also going through our entire house to start the downsizing process. I think I severely underestimated what this entailed. Moving from one house to another house is a major chore, but at least you can pack stuff up in boxes and throw them in drawers and closets of the new home. But that is not a luxury you have when moving onto a boat. You must think long and hard about what you actually need since there is not a ton of storage, and added weight can hinder your sailing performance.
So the purging process began and I proceeded to sift through every junk drawer, kitchen utensil (why on earth did we have 5 spatulas), toy, linen, book, appliance (yes we brought the blender), and piece of clothing until we had all possessions placed in 3 categories: boat necessity, storage, or sell/donate. It took almost a year to get through everything and many items moved from one category to another before they landed in their permanent spot.
Spring and Summer of 2015 Yard Sales – Never Again!
We had two HUGE yard sales in 2015 with piles and piles of random stuff. It was absurd how much we had for these yard sales. Since we lived at the end of a cul-de-sac in the back of a neighborhood, we really didn’t have a good location for yard sale traffic so we decided to have the sale at my Grandma’s house which was located on a busy street. We loaded the trailer full of stuff at a ridiculous 5:00 in the morning so we could set up before the early birds came (people like to be at yard sales first to get the good deals.) After about 5 hours in the hot sun practically giving our possessions away, we would load up the items that didn’t sell and take them to Goodwill because I really didn’t want all of that stuff back in our house. All in all, we only made $200 at each yard sale, which isn’t too bad, but if you calculated the amount of hours making signs, lugging everything around, setting up, organizing, etc. it came to pennies an hour. Not to mention, it sucks haggling with someone over an already extremely discounted price for possessions you worked so hard for. Bruce, Sam, and I vowed that the next time we had a bunch of things to get rid of that we would donate everything to Goodwill and just take advantage of the tax write-off. We refuse to do another yard sale ever again!
January 2015 to October 2015 – Craigslist is Where It’s At!
I swear we sold half our house on Craigslist. We sold all of our big items using the site including furniture, generator, baby items, bikes, lawnmower, boat parts, motorcycle gear, and even our cars. When we sold something, we would just put the cash in our boat fund jar and deposit the money when the jar was full. It was a great means to get some value out of the items we needed to unload (unlike yardsales). Craigslist is definitely where it’s at!
May 2015 – What do you mean we have to replace the engines?!?! Ouch!
Bruce had planned to do a rebuild on the original engines, but as he and the mechanic dug further into the rebuild it became clear the engines weren’t salvageable. What stinks was the boat inspection at time of purchase showed the engines were in decent shape. Bruce soon found out that was false after he experienced engine failure time and time again when sailing the boat from Florida to Virginia. Having to replace the engines was definitely a punch in the gut and hurt our wallet pretty bad. Who knew that a boat engine costs almost as much as a car and we had to get two of them. Ouch!
June 2015 to October 2015 – Last Minute Doctor’s Appointments
Our family did a lot of last minute medical checkups before we moved onto the boat and before we lost health insurance with me quitting my job. Luke had all his shots, we stocked up on meds, and fit in dentist and eye doctor appointments for everyone. I will blog more about what we are doing for health insurance at a later time.
June 2015 to October 2015 – Wait, let’s buy and renovate another property!
As if we didn’t have enough crap going on, Bruce decides to buy another rental property that required a major renovation. So not only were we preparing for a major life transition, raising a baby, refitting a boat, but now we had a property to renovate. It felt like we bit off more than we could chew, but Bruce once again came through with flying colors. I am not sure how he does it, but the man works his ass off and then some. It proved to be a great decision since the property cash flows nicely and is in a high demand part of Richmond, but damn if it didn’t add one more thing to our already overflowing plate.
August 2015 – Shakedown Cruise
Before moving onto a boat and setting sail to the Caribbean, it was important to us to do a shakedown cruise to ensure everything was working properly, especially since we had the new engines, new electrical system, new rigging, etc. We had a family vacation in Beaufort, NC so Bruce decided to sail the boat there so the family could use it on the trip. Once again, Bruce’s buddy John accompanied him on the long passage and once again it proved to be very challenging. Fortunately, this time it wasn’t engine trouble, but a sudden change in weather around one of the most difficult places to sail, Hatteras, NC. To add to the adventure, the topping lift broke on the boat while under sail during a severe storm which couldn’t have been worse timing. I am sure Bruce will blog about the Hatteras trip in more detail, but let’s just say, I might not have been moving on this boat had it been me accompanying Bruce around Hatteras. A big thank you to John for saving our dream! John actually made a cool video of the passage that you can check out. Anyways, the boat did amazing in extremely rough conditions, which gave me confidence that we were on a sturdy vessel should we ever run into bad weather. The shakedown cruise was a success, at least in my opinion!
August 2015 – House on the market
We tried to do for sale by owner and listed our house in August 2015. We did get some showings, but no bites. Since we were so close to our departure date, we decided to hire a realtor to move things along. That proved to be a good decision. We had a contingent offer on our house pending the sale of the buyer’s house. It was nerve racking not having a solid offer, but we knew everything would come together for us and so it did. The buyers ended up selling their house and we had a closing date set for October 23rd, right near the time we wanted to set sail. It couldn’t have been more perfect timing.
September 2015 – Rent Storage Unit
We decided we needed to rent a storage unit for the stuff we just couldn’t part with, but couldn’t take with us on the boat. So we rented a 10×10, climate controlled unit and proceeded to fill it up with our belongings. I challenge anyone to pack a 10×10 space better than we did. I swear we used every inch of the unit with literally nothing to spare. God forbid we need anything out of there because unpacking it just to get to what we need would be a nightmare. It’s hard to believe that everything we own (other than the rental properties) are either on the boat or in a small 10×10 space in Richmond, VA.
September 2015 – Hire Property Manager
Bruce found a property management company to manage all of our rental properties while we are away. This is no easy task as Bruce has extremely high expectations and has built processes and systems that have worked very well for his business. To turn those over to a property manager was going to take a lot of documentation, training, and trust. Bruce did a ton of research to find a reputable property management company in Richmond, Virginia and spent a lot of time training the company to ensure everything runs smooth while we are sailing. While having a property manager helps our peace of mind that all properties and tenants are taken care of, it hurts the wallet. After you pay a property manager, your rental income goes down substantially, but there really is no other option.
October 23rd – Sell House and Cars
We closed on the sale of our home on October 23rd, 2015 and also sold both our vehicles on the same day. We actually had sold our vehicles earlier in the week, but negotiated to not hand over the keys until the day we sold our house since we still needed wheels. It was crazy to see our house and vehicles vanish on the same day. It felt weird, but kind of freeing at the same time. I thought I would be more sentimental than I was about saying goodbye to our house and having this big transition in lifestyle, but I turned out to be more excited about the adventure to come. We had worked so hard for our house and vehicles, but unloading them meant we could travel and experience life. We were no longer tied to these material possessions and it felt great!
October 23rd – 24th Move onto Boat
The day we sold our house and cars was the day we moved onto the boat. Bruce’s mom drove us to the boat with loads and loads of stuff that we were going to move aboard. Once we unloaded the car, we could barely walk on the boat. I am not a neat freak by any means, but I do like order and let me tell you, I had some major anxiety looking at our situation. Pillows were stacked to the ceiling and boxes were piled outside the boat and inside the boat. It was a mess and I wasn’t sure where everything was going to go. The entire next day was spent sorting, organizing, inventorying, and storing all of our belongings. Thank goodness Bruce’s mom and my sister were there to help with Luke, because there was no way we would have gotten the boat under control. It turned out the boat had a ton of storage and we found a place for most everything. The only caveat is it’s super hard to get to all the storage on the boat. Bruce likes to call it boat Pilates where you have to contort yourself to get to the farthest nook and cranny to retrieve something you need. There was still some purging of belongings going on as well, as the organizing forced us to think about if we really needed something or not. Finally, after an exhausting day, we were organized and ready to settle into our new home on the water.
October 25th – Leave VA and Embark On Our New Adventure!
We set sail Sunday, October 25th, 2015 out of Deltaville, VA (two days after selling our house and cars). All of our hard work had paid off and the moment we were waiting for was finally here. We were ready to go on a sailing adventure of a lifetime and we realized that the dream had finally come true!
So here we are. Not sure what to expect exactly, but super excited for what’s to come and feeling blessed to be on this amazing adventure with our family!