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How NOT to Buy a Cruising Boat | Book Review & Confession

I have a confession to make - I haven't followed a single sailing blog since we lost Rebel Heart. Not a one.

You see all those sail blogs listed over to the right of the screen? I haven't clicked on any save the random link that occasionally led me there via Facebook. For years I avidly followed the fleet of boats that did the yearly Pacific Puddle Jump, dreaming of the day when I'd be one of those boats - with one of those blogs with vibrant French Polynesian pictures in my photo stream.

To use a Monopoly euphemism, when we were dealt our Chance card and sent squarely back to where we had come from, I could not find it in me to follow any of my fellow sailing friends as they finished their crossings and then spent the season in the South Pacific; the season we were supposed to be there too.

I wasn't envious. Trust me, I was overjoyed that everyone made a safe crossing and was having the time of their lives. No, it was the acrid tang of disappointment that curdled at the back of my throat when I glimpsed their lovely photos as they came through on Twitter and Facebook.

We're closing in on the two year mark since the rescue and I'm slowly peeking back into the sailing world. 

I'm still not reading blogs. Not yet.

I'm still not following every post on Women Who Sail. Not yet.

Sometimes, when the girls are asleep and all my tasks for the day are done, I pour a glass of wine, open up www.yachtworld.com and dream.

Enter Deb and TJ Akey's book, How NOT to Buy a Cruising Boat.

I'm a sucker for reverse titles and I'd seen enough of Deb Akey's posts in Women Who Sail to know I should at least check her book out. Rebel Heart was Eric's second boat, and my first, so we aren't new to the experience of buying one, still, we plan on buying a catamaran and I thought I'd take a look at the advice the Akeys were giving.

Doing dishes on the dock. San Diego, 2009.

When we first moved aboard in 2007 I read every single liveaboard & cruising book I could get my hands on, especially if they were oriented toward women (there weren't that many back in the day.) The books I kept turning to were written by Lin & Larry Pardey. To quote myself from this post in June of 2007, "I like Lin and Larry because they're simple, straightforward and honest. They're incredible sailors, and good writers." If you haven't discovered them yet, you need to start reading them today! My favorites being Care and Feeding of Sailing Crew and the Cost-Conscious Cruiser.

Why am I touting books by the Pardeys in a book review for TJ & Deb Akey? Because, like the Pardey's, the Akeys are honest. Their advice to you is to be honest too. A huge theme that runs through the first part of the book is the necessity of being honest about why you are looking to go cruising, what type of cruiser you think you'll be, the amount of money you think/want to spend, and if your partner (if you aren't going solo) is really into this lifestyle the same way you are.  The need for honesty doesn't stop there. One can only be so far-sighted. When the Akey's began their search (and eventual purchase) of their cruising boat they thought there were going to be blue-water sailors. After trial and error however, they've learned they are much happier as coastal cruisers. Again, if you can really concretely figure out what about sailing makes you happy, you'll be better equipped when undertaking the purchase of your own vessel.

A few things that stand out about TJ & Deb's book. 

It includes a comprehensive list of books, blogs, and websites for your reading pleasure. I have followed a tremendous amount of sailing blogs over the years and it is obvious the Akeys have too. They break sailing blogs down into specific types of blogs (resource/instructional blogs, log-style blogs, and journal style). I was pleasantly surprised to note that they included our blog in their list of 20 recommendations and I was entirely tickled when they described us with two words: GRITTY HONESTY.  

That's a compliment I can take, thank you very much.

Do you want the unvarnished truth? Then read this book.

A few quotes to show you what I mean. "The amount of work just to maintain and move a cruising boat can be overwhelming to many." Don't dismay though, they tell you what to do to combat that. Or, they say (and I love this quote), "Anyone who has managed to toss the dock lines and gone cruising on an older sailboat should be regarded with a bit of awe. They have overcome obstacles most people cannot even imagine." Having done this myself, I just wanted to reach right through my Kindle and hug the authors tightly. They get it. But again, don't worry, this book is about telling you how you can do it too.

If you buy their book, what you'll get is some incredibly solid and valuable advice from two intelligent and technical people. In the book forward TJ writes, "This was the book we wish we had read before beginning our journey." Deb is a former pilot, motorcyclist, and computer guru. TJ is a former commercial pilot, airplane mechanic, and motorcyclist. As you can imagine, these are two highly-skilled, detail-oriented people and this is evident throughout How NOT to Buy a Cruising Boat.

Sections not to miss:

1. What kind of cruiser are you (and why do you want to be one)?

2. How capable are you of doing work? (Be honest and don't be disheartened).

3. How willing is your significant other?

4. Blogs & websites, books, classes, charters (super comprehensive lists)

5. Surviving online boat shopping. Direct quote from book, "Boat shopping online is addicting. Ask any person currently looking for a boat or any person who has recently purchased one and you'll either get a flat denial, a horribly underestimated count of hours, or a sheepish grin." Haha. ALL THIS!

6. The Akey's own checklists of requirements in a boat they were looking for (helpful as a starting point if you don't yet have a list or to compare to yours.)

7. How to survive boat surveys, sea trials, and con men (no really.) As well as eight mistakes they made in buying their boat.

8. When to walk away. I put those words in bold because I cannot emphasize the importance of this chapter enough. Their wisdom and experience is really laid out bare in this one. Read it slowly and consider their words seriously. Favorite quotes from this chapter:

I know sailors like to give their hearts to a boat. Trust me, the boats do not love us back. A boat is a collection of fiberglass, wood and metal. Maybe, after we have been with one for while, it will share a bit of our soul. But it will not come with one of its own. The only rational way to approach buying a boat is with a mindset that, if a boat really is necessary (and if the plan is to go cruising, a boat is certainly necessary) any particular boat is one that should not be bought. That's right, look at any boat as one that should be walked away from, and then try to find reasons not do so.

Once a real deal is in the works, never be committed to seeing it through.

A specific instruction to any surveyor must be that every single item on the equipment list is actually on the boat and functioning properly in every single mode it has. Any that do not function perfectly should be stricken from the list and the price adjusted accordingly.

No boat is perfect, but don't let that be an excuse for buying one that should have been left alone.

Walk away, walk away, walk away. This phrase is repeated often in this chapter and I found this section to speak to me the most as someone who is just about to embark on buying their own [used] boat again. The Akeys words of warning are strong in this chapter. I repeat. Don't skip this one. Read it word for word.

Doing laundry by hand - on the list of things I will NOT do.

9. Maintenance, engines, rigging. My eyes glaze over when I read this stuff but this is no fault of the author's writing style, these are just three things I dont' do. Eric, on the other hand, said the entire section would be invaluable to someone looking to buy a boat for the first time.  One piece of advice offered in this section:

Any component that has oil that gets changed as a maintenance item -engines, generators, transmissions, v-drives -should have a sample of that oil sent in for analysis.

Did you know you could do that? Send oil samples somewhere for analysis? Well, I didn't either. See, another piece of sound advice. (Eric is nodding and saying yes, he knew that, but he admits, he could see how someone new to all of this would not. Thanks, Eric.)

You'll need some baby equipment too!

10. Boat equipment - a long and detailed list of all the types of goodies you can get for your sailboat. Again, more lists and a great of explanation to start you on your way. This might be the longest chapter because it covers so many different sub-sections: auto pilots/wind vanes, heat pumps/air conditioning, hot water heater, VHF/AIS/SSB/Sat Phone/EPIRB, Radar/Chart Plotter, Power Generation/Battery monitoring, Galley Equipment/Water Delivery, Lighting/Entertainment, Head types, Dodger/Bimini/Full enclosure, Safety Equipment, Dingy & related handling, Line handling equipment, Anchoring equipment, Sails/Furlers/Related Gear, and lastly, Outdoor water. WHEW. One of the coolest things about finishing this chapter was the realization that I knew everything the Akeys were talking about in each section. There is a lot involved in buying and maintaining a boat. Don't let all this info get you down. You'll eventually be able to wrap your head around it, I promise.


I could stop my review here and say this is a book I recommend, highly.

I can't stop though, because I still haven't mentioned the end.

I wasn't expecting the last three chapters of the book when I dove into them. They contain a gorgeous depiction of the lifestyle I miss and love so much.

People I miss. Fellow adventurers.After going through all the finer points of what you'll need to do to buy a boat (or NOT buy one), the Akeys then talk about who cruisers are, and they get it. Boy, do they get it.

If you are wondering if you are inherently fit for the world of leaving the shore and becoming a cruiser, read everything in the book from the chapter We Be Gypsies until the end.

If I could, I'd copy the entire aft section of the book and paste it herein for your reading pleasure, but I'll leave you to purchase it on your own and enjoy it in solitude. 

On the lifestyle transition (from Deb Akey): "Nerves can become frayed, patience thinned, and unless communication is frequent and filled with a boundless sense of humor, relationships can become strained."

On whether it is all worth it (from TJ Akey): "Do I wish the the path to this place had been far, far less difficult? Could we have done without the emotional and financial beating administered by an industry apparently set on being as hostile and uncooperative as possible? Of course. Do I wish Deb had never leaned over the railing of our condo and asked, 'What do you think about retiring onto a boat?' No. It has been an adventure of a lifetime in a life full of adventures. And now I can't imagine never having come this way at all."

On rejecting society, just a little bit! (from TJ Akey): "...but "going cruising" and "leaving" are synonymous terms. Doing the former requires that one do that latter. And that is not always an easy thing to do."

You also won't want to miss the chapters called Life is short...eat dessert first as well as the chapter called Understanding.

The night I finished reading the Akey's book I was practically in tears. In those last few chapters TJ and Deb had managed to put into words exactly how I feel about not only the cruising life, but life in general, which just goes to show you the common bond all cruisers have.

Living on the ocean means admitting life is fleeting and capricious instead of living on land and pretending life is permanent and predictable.

Their book reminded me that I hadn't dreamed it all up. That life on the water was as I remembered. I turned off my Kindle, picked up my laptop, and opened YachtWorld.


Deb & TJ have graciously offered to give away a copy of their book How NOT to Buy a Cruising Boat. To enter the givewaway, leave a comment on this blog post and tell us which section of their book you'd find the most helpful. The giveaway runs through Monday evening, PST.


All thoughts in this book review are my own. I purchased my own copy of the Akey's book. I truly don't recommend things that I'm not completely enamored with. Enjoy! 


Palomar Mountain Observatory | Camping with Kids

In September we packed up the car and headed up to Palomar Mountain Observatory Campground. Every few months amateur astronomers hold "Star Parties" at this campground and when the sun goes down, their telescopes are up, and available for anyone who'd like to stop by and take a peak at the universe.

We had no idea if the kids would stay awake late enough into the night to actually be able to see any stars, but even if we missed the party, camping with our family is always worth a trip.

We stayed in spot 29 which is, randomly, my favorite number. The girls were thrilled by this.

During the day we took long walks circling the campground and exploring nature, different walking paths, and the mini-amphitheater provided for educational meet-ups.

This image series demonstrates Lyra to a T:

Me to Lyra: "Lyra, don't touch those. You'll get sticky sap all over your fingers."

Lyra to me: "Touch what, mom? Touch these?"

"Nothing to see here, mom. I touched nothing."

And then she is off to a giant pile of leaves on the hill next to her.

If you know me and Eric, you know we eat fairly clean; camping is an exception. I love making comfort food when we are out in the woods.

And there's coffee. Always coffee. We each have a West Marine stainless steel, insulated coffee mug, and a stainless steel Frieling French Press, so we just bring those along. Why have a camping set and a home set? Keeping things streamlined is the name of the game.

My latest decadence is pouring a bit of Baileys into a mason jar and dipping roasted marshmallows in to create an explosion of heaven in your mouth.

(Yes - :sigh: - adults only, do you even really need to ask?)

Plus, a nip of Baileys in your coffee in the morning isn't the worst thing in the world...

Eric and I try to split being in charge of meals while we are out. I love a man who cooks. A buff man who cooks is even better.

Growing up in Alaska, I spent a lot of time in the woods and a lot of time learning survival skills. When we take the girls to these very tame car camping spots I still try to teach survival skills throughout the day.

We collect kindling and practice different techniques for starting fires and discuss and demonstrate fire safety.

Of course collecting kindling is also a great time to talk about local flora and what to look out for!

Is this poison oak?

Or is this? (Or are they both?)

When we explore we talk about orienteering and situational awareness.

Where is our campsite from here? Can you show us how to get there?

What do you do if you get lost? Who is a good person to ask for help?

Where is a good place to shelter if you need to? What could you use to keep warm?

Children wake up talking and don't stop until they fall asleep at night, but we try to talk too. We are constantly trying to pour our knowledge into them, giving them as much as we can, while we can.

After the learning and exploring, a mid-day nap is always a great idea.

And once naps are done? Performances!

Per the kids' requests, we each took turns giving performances. Here is one of Lyra's:

This child adores animals, of all kinds. If we ever end up with a pet (and this possibility is next to ZERO,) it will be via persuasion from Lyra.

Thanks to Dan and X who came out to join us for the weekend. We hope to be back out camping soon.


1 Second Everyday | Kaufmans in September 2015

Via the 1 Second Everyday App. (Everyday is spelled that way purposefully, as explained by the app here.) Check it out!

Because of C's retirement from social media, her video is now private.


Why I'm Retiring my Daughter from Social Media

In January 2013, when Cora was 2.5 years old, I wrote for the first time about my desire to retire Cora from social media. As I explained in that post and several posts proceeding, I had been rolling the idea around for awhile, ever since I read about another blogger, Ryan Marshall from Pacing the Panic Room, who planned to stop blogging about his kids as they turned five.

There are other people and other articles out there about parents who are choosing not to have their children be a presence on their blogs, social media, or the internet entirely. In the Ethical Implications of Parents Writing about their Kids, author Phoebe Matlz Bovy details some of the most recent articles and "confession" type writing in the new genre of parental over-sharing. Quoting writer Sarah Kendzior, Bovy makes the case that "[t]he greatest threat to children's privacy online does not come from corporations. It comes from parents."

In a Sept 2013 Slate article, Amy Webb published We Post Nothing About our Daughter Online and went into depth on why she and her husband choose to post not a thing about their daughter on the internet. They ask this of their friends too. They have a "nothing about our kids online" policy and their close friends know and understand their reasons. While Webb's main reasons focus on why she and her husband are trying to avoid facial recognition, Facebook profiling, and corporate data mining, she also touches on the idea of parental overshare and its potential negative affects.

It’s hard enough to get through puberty. Why make hundreds of embarrassing, searchable photos freely available to her prospective homecoming dates? If Kate’s mother writes about a negative parenting experience, could that affect her ability to get into a good college? We know that admissions counselors review Facebook profiles and a host of other websites and networks in order to make their decisions.

I can relate to the arguments asserted by Webb and Malz Bovy and herein I add my own considerations:

Cora's Childhood is her Own

From her birth until she turned five, I participated in the 'sharenting' that so many of my Gen X peers love to do on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. From even before her birth, I had images of her ultrasounds, and then her birth, smack dab on my blog, this blog. There are videos of her crying, singing, sailing, paddleboarding, swimming, and her very first zombie-crawl.

I've now drawn a line in the sand, and I realize this line is completely arbitrary. I picked five because so many children start kindergarten at five, but really, there is no rule book for this. At some point children should be allowed to control their own life story, including the narrative of their youth.

If I write about and document every memorable, (and non-memorable) moment of her life, I feel as if I will mute her own interpretation of her childhood. I also take away the opportunity for Cora to share moments of her youth when she wants to. When Cora is 13, 23, 33, or 43+, and wants to share her memories of her first lost tooth, her kindergarten crush, the time she fell off a slide and broke her arm, really any memory from her OWN life, I don't want her to have to write it as a comparison to my interpretation of those events.

I know people my age enjoy Throw-back Thursdays (#TBT) on Facebook because they get to share hilarious images of the past when they were gangly and awkward or when they are finally able to laugh at their old mullets. Parents who share intimate photos of their own children online don't seem to realize that they are taking away this same opportunity for their children. And not just the opportunity for their kids to share the geeky photos from their childhood, they are actually removing their kids' ability to curate their online lives the way their parents can/could. 

My Self Worth is Not Wrapped up in Sharing Things about my Kids

While I LOVE sharing photos of my kids and documenting their growth into incredible human beings online, my self-worth is not validated by doing it. I don't need to to publicize what my kids do and don't do in order to feel like I have something worthwhile to share with the world. I have my own life, thoughts, and feelings. I CAN post pictures that aren't related to my children and I have more to say than commenting on the daily progress of my kids as they grow. In fact, I think my daughters will be better served by being able to look at my social media footprint and what I wrote about and posted that wasn't about them, than if I spend the next 13 years documenting them publicly. Personally, I'd be fascinated to look back at what my parents were posting and talking about on social media as I was growing up. Which leads me to...

I'll Still be Documenting their Lives

People have privately messaged me and asked if I'm going to stop taking photos of the girls when I retire them. And if I'll stop writing about them too. This is crazy-sauce. OF COURSE I'M NOT GOING TO STOP TAKING PHOTOS AND VIDEOS OF MY KIDS. They're the cutest kids in existence! Why would I stop? I'm just not going to be sharing these pics and vids with the whole wide world. I guess this is the 'ole "If you didn't post it on Facebook, did your kid's childhood really happen at all?" argument.

YES. I'm still taking pictures and videos of Cora. I frequently send her emails about what she is doing in life currently and how proud I am of her. I do not make those emails and pictures public. If Cora decides to share these photos and my writings to her one day, she is free to.

Future Education and Employment

The numbers of companies who do social media research on job applicants continues to rise. Do you really want things you post about your children online to potentially interfere with employment opportunities? What about universities who may do the same searches? If your child wants to be a politician or participate in the public sphere, and you've already shared online that one time you came home and caught her/him skipping school and smoking some sweet, sweet, Mary Jane, well, how will your musings as a parent potentially affect their lifelong digital profile or career aspirations?


Never has it been so easy for someone to be found in this world. When I think about all the reasons why I SHOULD protect information about my daughters' whereabouts, it takes only a nanosecond to recognize that not discussing where my child may or may not go to school, where my child may or may not play sports, or where we live and where we frequent on a day-to-day basis can only serve to keep my girls safer. 

The Mean Mom

If retiring my kids from social media is 'old fashioned' or 'mean' or 'selfish,' I've perfectly fine with that. I'd rather my daughter be upset with me for not sharing pictures of that time she got a nose bleed and oh-my-gosh-blood-was-everywhere-lol, then have my online postings about her childhood color her memories or her own voice when it comes to remembering them, or have my postings negatively impact her future life in any way. If that makes me the Mean Mom, then I am SUCH a meanie.

You Don't Need to Know

Ultimately, my child is not here for your entertainment. Every time I have mentioned Cora's upcoming retirement there are people who leave comments like, "but I'll miss hearing all these updates!" and "I REALLY hope you change your mind" or "how will I get my Cora fix?"

I realize these comments are not intentionally possessive or dismissive of my child's right to privacy, but they do exemplify people's implied ownership of shared online content, in this case the content is my children's lives. I greatly appreciate anyone who has responded with "I get it," or, "I very much respect your decision." OR, "This is interesting, can you tell me more about why?"

Not posting about my children online means that my children's lives will be shared with whom they are meant to be shared with, our close friends and family. If you want more of a "Cora fix," then you need to be or become a close friend, and call me old fashioned, but that means making a friendship the old fashioned way, not by 'likes' and picture comments on Facebook.

What Cora's Retirement Means

I have no guidebook for how to effectively retire my kids from social media at age five.

For me:

  1. I will begin referring to Cora online as 'C.'
  2. I will only occasionally post photos and any accompanying commentary about her online on any platform.
  3. C will still appear in our blog and in photos of our lives, because C is still in our lives, what will no longer be present however, is my own narrative or interpretation of her life events. You may see her in glimpses in my 1 Second Everyday (1SE) monthly video clips, though the 1SE I make specifically about C  will now be private and only sent to her for her to share or not share one day as she sees fit.
  4. I will not discuss information about C, including her schooling, her friends, her hobbies, or her location(s).

For my friends and family:

  1. I ask that you do not post photos of C online without my permission, nor tag photos of her as well.
  2. I ask that you call her C online.
  3. I ask that you do not discuss details of C's life, her schooling, her hobbies or her location(s) on social media.
  4. If I email or message you privately with news or photos of C, I ask that you do not reshare those messages.

For Cora:

  1. When we deem C old enough and mature enough to enter the world of social media with her own voice, than we will let her do that and we will guide her and mentor her as she navigates the internet and begins to narrate her digital life.
  2. If C ever decides to pursue acting or a sport or hobby that will garner her a greater social media presence than we had originally planned in her youth, we will cross that bridge if we ever come to it.

For Lyra:

  1. I'll still be blogging and posting about Lyra as I did for Cora until Lyra turns five as well.

The I Don't Care Clause (IDC Clause)

I've learned that no matter what I do in life, there is always someone who disapproves. If you don't like that I'm retiring C, or you find it hypocritical that I shared her life with you for five years and now I'm stopping, please know that I don't care what you think. And please know how creepy it is that you do care

Additionally, my husband is his own person. I do not control him. He knows how I feel and agrees with me on the reason for C's retirement. If he posts differently than I do about our kids, I don't care that this bugs you, oh-weird-person-on-the-internet-who-has-invested-entirely-too-much-time-into-thinking-about-me-and-my-family. Please know going forward that if you are one of the internet commentators who will inevitably say at some point "I THOUGHT YOU WEREN'T TALKING ABOUT C ONLINE, " I will instantly refer you to Clause IDC of this blog post, and to the Rules for Me section where I distinctly state that I still may occasionally post photos of C online.  You creep-a-rific internet weirdo.

Questions | Comments | Like-Minded Individuals

I'd love to hear your questions and comments on Cora's retirement. If you also plan to retire, have retired, or never had your kids enter the digital world, I'd love to hear your thoughts on how it is going for you.


More on this subject:

Give Your Children a Chance at Privacy, Amy Webb

Be Mindful of Sharing, because Toddlers Grow up, by Stephen Balkam

Learn to Avoid the Traps of 'Sharenting', by James Steyer

How to Raise an Adult, by Julie Lythcott-Haims, Sunday Book Review, NYT


1 Second Everyday | Kaufmans in August 2015

Via the 1 Second Everyday App. (Everyday is spelled that way purposefully, as explained by the app here.) Check it out!

Because of Cora's retirement from social media, her video is now private.