SimplySailingOnline.com shows by example how easily you can eliminate stress, become more independent, raise your children in a safer environment (while spending more time with them, instilling values not based on the mighty dollar) and avoid the traps of commercialism. Because we live and sail simply, we have been wandering for 11 years with no intention of stopping. This is not a trip for us; it is our life, and I hope to share our success with stories of laughter and tears, as well as how-to tips and DIY projects for preparing, sailing and making a boat a home, so that others can join us.

Investment or Family Member?

May 23, 2016

It's no secret that I'm a proponent of composting heads. As such, I spend a bit of time correcting misinformation about the product (spouted by people who have no clue what they're talking about, but they sure say it loudly) and helping those who are looking for advice from people with real-world experience. Meaning I sift through a lot of nonsense on forums. A comment that I have seen repeated over the last month or so has started a dinner-table discussion onboard Eurisko that finally formed into an idea for this post.

When a boater finally decides that a composting toilet is their best option, takes the plunge and buys the unit, the advice that is often given (even from people with experience) is NOT to tear out the holding tank or remove the hoses and Y-valve, and certainly NOT to remove (and fiberglass closed the remaining holes) the associated thru-hulls. The first time I read this I thought, "Then why bother getting a composting toilet? That's one of their greatest advantages is the space you gain and the smells you lose!" The reason? Resale value.


Treat her like she's the ONE, and she'll repay you.

Finally, when one person even suggested that the recently converted composting head user KEEP his old manual head in storage "in case the next owner wants it," I could hold my tongue no longer. What are you guys talking about? Are you living on someone else's boat (i.e. the "future owner") or are you living on YOUR boat? Is your boat worth nothing to you above her resale value? Are you just maintaining the boat until her REAL (future) owner takes possession? Why this obsessive concern with resale value? Is your home just an investment? Because ours is more like a member of the family.

While we were still in the States, a friend drove several hours to have dinner, spend the night, and hang out with us on Eurisko before we sailed away to where he could no longer drive to see us. As he was crawling into his bunk, he looked around, ran his hand over the nearest piece of wood and smiled as he said, "Your boat has a soul." Yes, she does. But only because we allow her to. If every project we completed for her was done with only resale in mind, she would be exactly what we expected of her: an investment. Instead, every improvement is done to make our (and her) lives easier, to make living in and sailing her safer and more enjoyable. The hours and cash we pour into her aren't given begrudgingly. They aren't donated to the next owner. They are given with love. And she returns it.


Eurisko on vacation.

A few years ago we bought a little Sharpie for playing around in for a year or so in shallow water. (She drew 13 inches, Eurisko draws 5 1/2 feet.) We put Eurisko on the hard for that year so she would be safe, and posted pictures of her safely stored on Facebook. Within an hour I got an email from our middle son (who is not the least bit interested in boats, sailing, water, or anything having to do with life outside his suburban neighborhood). He was livid. "Are you getting rid of Eurisko? You can't get rid of Eurikso! Where is she? Can I buy her from you? What can we do to keep her in the family?" It was as if we were giving a family member up for adoption. We assured him we were just giving her a vacation, not getting rid of her. But his urgent tone hit me straight in the heart. Even Garrett won't let us get rid of her, not just because he grew up on her, but because she's part of the family. We can't even discuss "resale," much less resale value. So why would we treat her as if we were saving her for someone else?


Walküre

I understand that not every cruiser lives aboard their boat for 15 years. I get it that not everybody gets so attached to their boats. I can see the value in buying a boat as an investment. What I can't wrap my head around is how some people don't enjoy their boats while they have them, just so the next owner can. (My favorite example of this are people who put covers over their cushions. Who are you saving the cushions for, the next owner? I'm sure he thanks you, but wouldn't YOU like to enjoy the cushions you paid for while you own them?) Even if you buy a boat with the intention of the selling it before long, you can still make the improvements that YOU want to make, to make the boat comfortable for YOU while YOU own her. After all, YOU paid for her, so why not enjoy her while you have her? This is the philosophy we applied to our Sharpie.

We bought Walküre for the sole intention of living on her in the Keys during hurricane season because we wouldn't keep Eurisko there. With 5 1/2 feet of draft, there was no safe place for her. But drawing 13", Walküre could (and did) tuck up into the mangroves where she would be safe if (when) a tropical system threatened. We knew we'd only have her for a year or two. Yet the first thing we did (the DAY we exchanged cash for keys) was rip out the head, holding tank, hoses, etc. and prepare the holes for fiberglass. (The former owner walked by her in the boatyard and wailed, "My head!" I said, "You want it? You can have it." Then I bit my tongue to keep from saying, "OUR head." We sold the traditional marine head for $20, installed Eurisko's composting head, and never even thought about resale value. Why would I put myself through living with a holding tank and its smells and worries just in case the next owner was willing to? That's just silly.


Walküre's interior the way WE wanted it

The next thing we removed was the fridge. We sold it for $300 and replaced it with a cooler into which we never put ice (We've been living with warm food for a decade, why change now?) but it was a great way to store condiments and other items usually kept in a fridge. We made several other improvements to Walküre: we removed the hoses and faucet from the head sink (Who needs two sinks in a 29-foot boat?), we installed a foot pump for water at the galley (I refuse to wash dishes with a hand pump.), and we installed solar panels. We removed the frame work for an enclosure, built a mechanism that allowed us to steer the outboard, and painted her a lighter color. Not a single project was completed with any thought other than OUR comfort and safety and enjoyment. We sailed her around for over a year, put her on the hard to live in a van for 5 months (which we also made improvements on as WE wanted, with no thought to resale), and sold Walküre for twice what we paid for her. We laugh because one of the first things the new owner did was install a fridge and paint her. So her resale was not affected at all by the changes we made to make her right for US. And we got to enjoy her the way WE wanted while we owner her. As I see it, that's the whole reason for owning a boat.

I know there are people who will argue that in order to get their money back from a boat upon resale they HAVE to cover the cushions, keep the thru-hulls, and keep their traditional marine head. If you think you must, who am I to argue. If your intention is to simply maintain the boat for the next owner, I suppose that's the wisest move. But if you want to enjoy your boat, make her a family member, give her a soul, try living in her as if she is the ONE. Try treating her like you'll never give her up. You might be surprised to find that if you take good care of her, she'll reward you in ways the next owner's checkbook never could.

MONDAY we'll share our birthday cake solution when we have no refrigeration and haven't been able to get to the store for 3 weeks.

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Connie McBride's work has been published in Good Old Boat, Sail Magazine, Small Craft Advisor, Cruising World, All at Sea, and Blue Water Sailing. As a full-time liveaboard cruiser for over 15 years, she has written several books and in her spare time, well, who has spare time?

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