“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that 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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Newly Salted

We were recently asked to share our experiences and a bit of our background for the blog Newly Salted.  Our interview is  below, but please also check out the experiences that many other cruisers have shared on their site: http://newlysalted.blogspot.com/

About Us

Stacey was born & raised in Milford, CT and grew up power-boating on Long Island Sound and the Housatonic River.

Jesse was born & raised on the South Shore of Massachusetts and grew up sailing on Buzzards Bay and fishing the Cape Cod Canal.

Summer, our dog, is an Australian Cattle dog-mix.  She is now about 10 years old.  We adopted her as a pup and she has been sailing with us since we got her.

Being typical “Type A” personalities, we spent most of our adult life dedicated to our careers.  Jesse was a geologist and worked in the consulting industry cleaning up petroleum and chemical spills.  Stacey was an accountant and worked in public accounting firms and private investment companies.  The two of us had become disenfranchised with the idea of defining ourselves by our jobs and didn’t want to wait until retirement to live life. So, we sold everything (house, cars, etc), quit the jobs, and, in September 2015, a couple days before Stacey’s 40th birthday, we sailed away.  Now we are trying to fill our lives with experiences and fun.

Our sailing vessel is Smitty, our Catalina 310.  We have owned her for almost seven years now, mostly cruising the coast of New England and living aboard her prior to our departure (yes – we lived aboard in Boston during the snowiest winter on record! See Blizzard of 2015 as a Liveabord ).  In September 2015, we untied the lines and set sail south from Hingham, MA (Smitty’s home port – just south of Boston). We sailed all down the US East Coast (primarily via the ICW), Bahamas, Turks & Caicos, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Spanish Virgin Islands, US Virgin Islands, and British Virgin Islands.

Q & A

As you started cruising, what transitions did you find the most difficult?

Both of our jobs required us to manage various projects at the same time and still meet all deadlines. For us, the most difficult transition was to learn to slow down and enjoy life.

Is there something you wish you had bought or installed before starting out?

When we bought our boat our initial intent wasn’t to cruise on her full-time; we bought a boat that worked for what we wanted at that time. That being said, the Catalina 310 was produced to be a coastal cruiser and does not have capacity to hold a lot of water. We were ok with this fact and set sail anyway, we assumed we could get water in most locations we were going.  This was correct, until we wanted to cruise in more remote areas in other countries.  We have since installed a water maker. 

What pieces of gear would you leave on the dock next time? Why?

Our Catalina 310 came with a microwave.  We would often have microwave popcorn or heat up leftovers.  Once we left our homeport dock, we very rarely stayed at marinas, therefore, we very rarely used our microwave.  We learned how to make popcorn the “old-school” way (stove top) and gave away the microwave while in Puerto Rico.

What mistakes did you make as you started cruising?

I’m not sure if it was necessarily a mistake, but we spent way more money then we anticipated.  We were in “vacation mode” and did not stick to a budget. Our thought was that we would likely only see some of these places only once. I am glad we enjoyed them to their fullest, but I do wish we had more of a spending plan or budget in place.

What do you find the most exciting about your cruising life?

To describe it in one word:  Beauty

The locations, the people, the sailing (well, except all the “Easting” of the Mona Passage),  the wild life (we still get excited when we see dolphins – especially swimming off our bow while under sail!), the color changes of the waters we have sailed, and of course the sunsets! It’s been an amazingly beautiful experience.

What do you dislike about cruising that surprised you?

I have been very surprised to see some cruisers (both US & foreign flagged vessels) having a complete disregard for the environment and ecosystems. We have seen them anchor on reefs, fishing and taking conch and lobster out of season or from no-take zones, and keeping undersized fish, conch and lobster. Even when we have gone over to let them know the rules they did not care!

What is something that you read or heard about cruising, that you didn’t find to be true?

We were told that when you slipped away from the dock you were leaving behind so many of the hassles of land life.  Often we heard the term “Stuff being left to dirt dwellers”.  Unfortunately, we often found that we would be on a beautiful beach, sitting around a fire with other cruisers and there would be talks of politics.; too much talk of politics. We thought that would be left on land but there seems to be lots of talk of politics at sundowners and pot lucks. 

What is something that you read or head about cruising, that you found to be particularly accurate?

“Just Go – Don’t Wait!”  We read and heard this often.  I can tell you from experience, this is a very true statement. If you don’t set a date and just go then you won’t do it.  The boat is never going to be 100% ready, there will always be more projects to complete or things that break that need to be fixed. If you wait until retirement or until the boat is done then who knows what your health or life circumstances will be in the future.

What (if anything) do you wish someone had told you before you started cruising?

I wish someone had told us that it is ok to live “outside the box of normal society”;  that it is ok to live life and you don’t have to do things that are “expected of you” .  We regret investing our hard-earned money into things like a house and cars – we wish we had invested those funds into cruising at an earlier age (like in our 20’s).

What are your plans now?  If they do not include cruising, tell us why?

Prior to leaving to cruise, both of us got our Captains license, with the expectation that we would need to pick up some work at some point, doing something, so why not do something we love!  We are currently anchored in Elephant Bay next to Water Island and St.Thomas in the US Virgin Islands, where we live on our boat and go out sailing as much as possible.  Jesse is a Captain – taking guests out sailing and snorkeling daily.  Stacey has been both Crew and Captain on various vessels but has most recently transitioned to an accounting-financial management position.  Our current plan is to continue to enjoy this beautiful paradise, build up the cruising kitty, complete more projects, and contemplate getting a bigger boat.  We are not done cruising, just on a break for a bit. But we continue to live on Smitty in the Caribbean as we explore these options. 


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Last Week

One week….

Very strange and mixed feelings.  It’s Monday morning of our last week of full time employment.  We’ve both had jobs of some sort since our teens. Since graduating college I have basically had the same morning routine: wake up, take a shower, walk the dog(s), get in the car, get a coffee, sit in traffic (anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours).  It will be really strange to not have this morning routine dominate my life.  But there is still a lot of work to get done in this last week.

Our last two weekends have been filled with get togethers with friends and family.  Many of whom we won’t likely see for several years.  Seeing relatives and friends, eating some great food, sharing old stories.  It’s bitter sweat to see everyone and know we won’t see many of them again for some time.


Project wise it has been a bit of an epic fail.  My Bride somehow managed to climb into the back of the boat to change out the fuel tank sender unit.  But this didn’t fix the problem and another hour of trouble shooting still hasn’t identified the source of the malfunctioning fuel gauge.  We tried to fix the holding tank level sensor but no luck.  Still have piles of stuff we need to find space for on the boat.  This week will be a busy one between work and dealing with the last of our stuff.

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One Month!

It’s August 4th and within 31 days we will be unemployed, full-time cruisers.  We started this blog more than two and half years ago with the dream of quitting our jobs and heading off cruising.  We are now one month from fulfilling that goal and moving on to the first real big adventure of our lives.

We only have one more “must complete” project left, the long overdue maintenance to the steering system.  After that we have a couple of “it would be nice” projects that we would like to get done while it’s more convenient but they could be finished along the way as well.


Some of the last sunsets we will see from our slip in Hingham.


Officially Captains

I wrote back in May that Smitty Now Has Two Captains. That is when we had passed our tests and received the certificates from New England Maritime.  Shortly after that we submitted the actual paperwork to the US Coast Guard.  After going back and forth a couple of times about the medial forms that the doctor had filled out incorrectly, we have finally been issued our Merchant Mariner Credentials.


Here’s the funny thing. We literally submitted the exact same application. I did the sea time form once and just changed the name on it for my Bride.  All of the information was exactly the same….

We applied for 25 ton Master on inland waters and OUPV on Near Coastal Waters (this is “off shore” based on how the USCG handles these things).  I received a credential for a Master of up to a 50 ton vessel.

j lic

However, my Bride received a credential for a Master of up to 100 ton vessel.

S Lic

I guess this makes her the true captain of s/v Smitty!


Departure Dates, Corporate Life and To-Do Lists

One of our biggest motivations for wanting to cruise is the rejection of the corporate life.  Neither of us are happy getting up every morning to commute to a box to sit at a desk and stare at a computer screen.  I know, we should just suck it up.  That’s part of being an adult. How else are you supposed to live?  Blah, blah, blah!  We’ve already established that we reject those assertions.


But we have been letting our corporate lives control one aspect of our cruising plans: the departure date.  Our October 17th date for cutting the lines was based on a work thing.  It was based on my Bride’s bonus which is typically paid out on at the end of September.  Her company has made it clear that if they know you are leaving the company for any reasons….no bonus for you!

So our plan was get the bonus in the account, give two weeks notice and then cut the lines. This meant we were leaving a little later than we would like and we would end up rushing south until we were ahead of the cold.  So we wouldn’t be relaxing and enjoying our time until we got to around the Carolinas most likely. Based on some recent events we have figured out that the bonus is not likely to be as large as past years and our expectations.  This brought up discussions of not waiting for the bonus. After much deliberation we have decided to forgo the bonus and leave earlier than expected.

Our new departure date will be September 8th!

That means we have just a mear 64 days before we go.  Only 44 work days at our jobs! Holy sh@t that seems close.

A little explanation of the new date. For the past 4 years or so on the Labor Day Weekend we have done a trip to Gloucester with a large group of boats.  Last year there were 18 boats that made the trip.  We had already booked the trip for this year and over 20 boats are expected to go. So we decided that a Labor Day Weekend trip with friends would be a great way to celebrate our escape from the corporate world.

Now the downside of this is that it compresses our to-do list time frame.  Originally, I was going to stop working about a month before my Bride and that would give me time to get some stuff done. Now we have just 8 weekends and what ever time we can fit around working to get things done.  We understand that no boat will ever be “done” and that there are plenty of things that can be done along the way. So we aren’t overly stressed.  But there are some things that will have to be (or we really want to be) done before we go.  So here is our short list of things we need to work on:

  1. Check Dates on Flares
  2. Install Port Visors (2)
  3. Add Anchor Chain or system to prevent keel wrap
  4. Install the Sonarphone from Navionics
  5. Install Stern Anchor and Line Holder
  6. Check Steering Cables
  7. Install Inverter
  8. Install 12 volt outlet at Helm
  9. Rebuild Winches
  10. Cockpit Table Upgrade
  11. Tune Up Outboard
  12. Install Tank Sensors on Holding Tank & Water Tank (about half done)
  13. Change Head Intake Plumbing & Fix Leak on Head
  14. Security Doors for the Companionway & Bars for Large Hatch
  15. Organize & Store All of Our Parts & Supplies Stored at my Office, Sell the Rest
  16. Summer Vet Checkup & Get Full Copy of Vet Record
  17. Apply for Bahamas Import Permit for Summer
  18. Close PO Box
  19. Donate or store work clothes
  20. Sell Car


Smitty Now Has Two Captains!

Sorry again that our blog has had little activity but I can tell you it has been for a reason.  For the past couple of months all of our non-working hours have been consumed with taking classes to get our captain’s licenses.  This past Saturday we passed our final exams and we are both certified as Masters of up to 100 Ton Vessels. We need to submit our applications to become licensed but they are done and it’s just a matter of sending an email to the US Coast Guard with all of the info.

JK Master 100 T STK Master 100TWe are so glad this is done. It took way more time and effort to get this done than we thought it would.  The classes were every Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 6-9:30.  We also had to do homework almost every off night and on weekends.  Near the end we just wanted the whole thing to be done and over because it felt like it was consuming our whole life!

We initially decided to get our 6-pack captain’s licenses due to a conversation with our insurance company.  They said we would either have to hire a professional crew for our crossings or pay twice the rate.  When we looked at the cost of getting our license vs. the increased cost of insurance it seemed like a no brainer.  The 6-pack allows you to take up to 6 passengers on an uninspected vessel and is actually call the Operator of Uninspected Passenger Vessels (OUPV). They are further classified as Near Coastal or Inland based on your boating experience or sea time.  You need 360 days of sea time to qualify for the Inland and 90 of those days must be beyond the “Boundary Line” if you want the Near Coastal.  Luckily the “B” Buoy is the local edge of the Boundary Line and we often sail out beyond this area.  When I added up all of our time on Smitty and Splash we have 464 total days with 153 being beyond the Boundary Line.

Image from here.

Image from here.

Once we started the course it seemed like getting the 6-pack was kind of foolish.  The difference between the 6-pack and the Masters is only 2 and half weeks of class and you have 10 additional questions on one part of the exams.  Also, after talking to a couple of the instructors it looks like it will be relatively easy to pick up some work along the way with the Masters license that will help keep the cruising kitty going.  So we paid the extra $150 to upgrade to the Masters.  Based on our sea time on Smitty (a 7 Gross Ton vessel by USCG standards) we should qualify for a 50 Ton Master’s Inland and OUPV Near Coastal.  This would mean we could deliver private yachts going offshore up and down the coast and work on larger boats like ferries, working boats, launch tenders, etc. inside the Boundary Line.

We both also got the sailing endorsement, which allows us to operate sailboats.  For that we needed 180 days of experience on a sailboat.  That was no problem since all of our days were on a sailboat.

I also decided to get my tow endorsement.  This would allow me to work for an assistance tow company like Tow Boat US or Seatow.

Here is a little outline of the process.

  • 10 weeks of courses Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 6-9:30 and you must attend 90% of the classes to sit for the test (school rule)
  • an additional 4 hours of course time for the sailing endorsement
  • an additional 4 hours of course time for the towing endorsement
  • Pass all the exams
    • Rules of the Road – 30 questions, no resources, 90% correct required to pass (hardest test for most)
    • Navigation General – 20 questions, you can use the Pubs and CFRs, 70% correct required to pass
    • Plotting – 10 questions, you can use the Pubs and CFRs, 70% correct required to pass (actual paper chart plotting including taking wind and current drift into account)
    • Deck General – 70 questions, you can use the Pubs and CFRs, 70% correct required to pass (this is only a 60 question test for the OUPV)
    • Sailing Endorsement – 20 questions, no resources, 70% correct required to pass
    • Towing Endorsement – 20 questions, no resources, 70% correct required to pass
  • USCG Physical & Drug Test – This includes some different stuff than your typical physical like a test for being color blind, a functional hearing test and it has to be on their specific forms
  • Get a Transportation Workers Identification Card
  • Get 3 Letters of Reference from non-family members

We could have studied on our own and just went into the USCG office in Boston and took the exams.  Given the info that was on the exams we felt the best option was to take a review course.  We went with New England Maritime; they are out of Hyannis but have a satellite location in Quincy.  I am really glad we went with the course.  We learned a lot of good info that isn’t covered in the exams but we should know.  The main instructor, Charlie, was great and really prepared us well for the exams.

Another step to leaving the cubicle life behind us!