Or: How will we pay our bills and take care of our house while cruising?
This page was last updated on 22 June 2002
This section is dedicated to highlighting some of the details of shoreside life that must still be dealt with when going cruising for an extended period. This listing shows what we are doing...but some of the thoughts may be imperfect. Two months is sort of an awkward length of time, in a way: too long to just ignore things while you're away, and too short to make any of the drastic simplification changes that would be in order for a very long cruise.
Our House and Dogs
We have two dogs, and their care was of the utmost importance to us when we started thinking of taking this cruise. They are too large to come on the boat, much as we would like them to (we have a 100-lb Golden Retriever and a 60-lb Border Collie mix). We don't kennel the dogs, and certainly wouldn't dream of doing so for such a long period.
As luck would have it, my sister decided it was time for a change in her life, and planned to move from the Boston area back to Maine. This worked out nearly perfectly for us, because she was willing--and enthusiastic--to live in our house and take care of our dogs while we were away, giving her time to find somewhere more permanent to live. This was a dream come true for us--someone we trust to look after our animals and the house, with no worries about incorrect references or people who don't deliver as they promised. She gets to live for free, and we get someone to watch things for us for free. It works out well. I was less concerned about shutting up the house and leaving than I was about the dogs. Fortunately, this will work out extremely nicely for all involved. Her living in the house also eliminates the need to deal with mail stoppages or forwarding...she can just collect the mail at home.
Paying the Recurring Bills
There are several options for this. Having never tried any of them, I wasn't sure how to proceed. After all, it's only two months or so...not a lifetime. We try to keep bills to a minimum, but it's amazing how many ridiculous bills relating to the drudgery of everyday life there are when you start to add them up: mortgage, truck payment, insurance, telephone, cell phone, electricity...how annoying. Obviously, since we'll return to "normal" life after the cruise, we weren't planning on stopping or disconnecting any of these services, so they must be paid in our absence.
One thing I considered was automatic withdrawals, but I don't really like some entity taking money from my account automatically. I prefer to get the bill, decide how much float I can take before it has to be paid, and then mail the check. It's on my terms. Plus, setting these up for a short time would mean that I would then have to cancel them as well, later. Too much effort.
In the end, I went through my monthly bills, looking specifically at the payment dates, and simply made a list of the amount and date to be paid. Most of the bills are consistent enough on a month-to-month basis that paying a set amount for 2 or 3 payments will not pose a problem. What I will do is write all the checks beforehand, and have them ready to be mailed on specific dates. Amanda (my sister) can just drop these in the mail at the appropriate time. Problem solved. Unfortunately, I discovered that our property tax bill will come due while we're away, so that makes the total amount to be paid out seem all the worse. Yuck. But they'll be all paid up front, and we can enjoy a carefree cruise as a result.
"How can you just take off and leave work--how are you able to do that?", ask people who are at once fascinated, envious, and incredulous when hearing of our plans. Certainly, for most people with regular jobs working for someone else, with the typically stingy American 1-2 weeks of vacation a year, our 2-month cruise must seem unreachable. Well, I am fortunate to be a self-employed marine surveyor, a one-man shop with no responsibilities to any other employees, employers, or dependents. This means that if I want to leave, I can leave...obviously to the detriment of my own business for the period, but not affecting anyone else in the process. My clients tend to be non-repetitive--that is, by leaving on our trip I will not be affecting any particular client or company that sends me assignment after assignment and might be nonplussed if I were to leave them hanging. Instead, my clients are usually new to me, one at a time...certainly there are repeat customers, over time, but not during a short time span. So while we are away I will miss whatever jobs I might have gotten during the period if I were in the office answering the phone, but I expect that upon our return, when I begin answering the phone again, things should pick up nicely as if I had never left. Basically the same thing happens every winter, anyway...I'm here, but the business essentially shuts down simply because of its seasonal nature here in Maine.
Heidi's situation is a little more complex. Our thoughts concerning the possibility of this cruise began last fall, when she was laid off from the company she worked for--which had just been purchased by a generally unfriendly, out of state company after the fledgling company she worked for went into Chapter 11. Because she had made it through several layoffs previously, the ultimate end, as unsettling as it was, was really not a surprise. After a couple weeks to get over the impact, she decided to work at some temporary jobs until this summer, so that we could take off on the cruise we had dreamed of. It sounded great to me, and, after a few months working the Christmas rush at LL Bean, she signed up with a temp agency specializing in placing professionals, and has been working at a variety of jobs since. The current assignment has been in place since March, and ends in July just before we leave. Perfect timing.
The Costs of Cruising
Cruising itself is really very inexpensive, particularly when you're on a 28' boat with simple systems and no mortgage. But the costs of maintaining our shoreside existence for our eventual return are fairly high, when lumped together. Obviously, our cruise is finite, and we aren't paying out any bills that we wouldn't have if we stayed ashore. The difference is the absence of income during the time we are away; certainly we could not afford to do this type of cruising regularly and still maintain our shoreside home and life in our absence. If such a time comes that we feel we want to do more frequent cruising of this nature, we will have to take a hard look at how to greatly simplify our life. But the actual cruising aspect of this...well, it's cheap. It's the cost of food, fuel, and whatever entertainment (dining, etc.) we may choose during the cruise. That much we can handle; paying for annoyances like two phone lines and business insurance (among other things) while we're away grates at me, but what else can we do, short of giving it all up for the cruising life? (Of course, except for the dogs, that would be my choice!)