Cruising Through Midlife

These cruisers took a time-out from the rat race, the schedules, and the pressures to make their dreams come true BY BETH A. LEONARD

Most cruisers fall into one of three categories: young people who set off before settling down to the responsibilities of career and family, retirees who've completed th eir careers and moved into the next phase of their lives, and people in the middle of their careers who've decided to take a time-out. The majority of people we meet out sailing belong to the retiree category. The young-cruiser category has dwindled over the last

decade, thwarted by the misperception that cruising on a shoestring is no longer possible. My partner, Evans Starzinger, and I fall into the last category, and we've grown used to being a decade or more younger than most of the cruisers we meet. But during our time sailing the South Island of New Zealand, we've come across half a dozen couples like us, people who walked away at the apex of their careers to chase their dream right over the horizon. Some of them are out on their second voyages, like us, while others are in the midst of their first. I asked them to share their thoughts on the choices they'd made, on the ways they've financed their cruising, and on the advice they'd give others thinking about taking the plunge.

Mark Austin, 37, and Kim Elliott, 38, aboard Vagabond Blues, a Hans Christian 38, sold their successful restaurant in Palmer,

Alaska, to go cruising. Kim and Mark started the business as an espresso bar, expanded it to a café, and eventually moved it into a 3,000-square-foot space that they'd renovated themselves. By 1995, they'd transformed the business into a full-fledged, 75-seat restaurant (also called Vagabond Blues) with a statewide reputation. For most of the early years, Kim and Mark worked 120 hours a week. But over the course of nine years, "we worked ourselves out of a job," Mark says.

They left the restaurant in the hands of a valued employee, bought their Hans Christian, and cruised down to Mexico in 2002. They flew back a year later to find that the manager had been embezzling. "We realized it was difficult to truly do a good job of running the business while being away, and then we received an offer that we couldn't refuse," Kim says, adding that they'd decided they were ready to move on to new ideas and new dreams. They sold the restaurant and threw themselves into their next adventure, sailing to the Marquesas, then on across the Pacific to New Zealand.

Steve and Laura Ahearn of Moonshine, a Jonmeri 40, were in their late 40s when they left on their voyage in June 2000. They'd both studied law; Laura had spent 19 years as an environmental lawyer, and Steve had worked in a variety of customer-relations positions for large organizations. Sailing started for them when Laura got involved in 1993 with a top-notch racing crew aboard a colleague's Swan 47, shortly after she and Steve had moved to Washington, D.C. By 1996, they were both serious enough about sailing to take a sabbatical, borrow the friend's Swan, and spend six months cruising the Caribbean. By the time they returned, they were committed to sailing away. Three years later, they'd saved enough money for a five-year circumnavigation, with plans to reach New Zealand in time for the America's Cup in the fall of 2002. Five years on, they're only halfway round the

A small, hearty number of the cruisers who've taken a hiatus from life on land make their way to Nelson Marina, on New Zealand's South Island. It's a place that makes visitors feel welcome by charging reasonable prices for high-quality boat work.

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How To Have A Perfect Boating Experience

How To Have A Perfect Boating Experience

Lets start by identifying what exactly certain boats are. Sometimes the terminology can get lost on beginners, so well look at some of the most common boats and what theyre called. These boats are exactly what the name implies. They are meant to be used for fishing. Most fishing boats are powered by outboard motors, and many also have a trolling motor mounted on the bow. Bass boats can be made of aluminium or fibreglass.

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