For the last five-plus years, I’ve been living almost exclusively on a boat.
My husband, Jim, and I sold our home and somewhat naively hit the water running. Not exactly sure what we were running from and most definitely in the dark about how this change would alter our life’s predetermined path.
We retired rather early from our professional lives, mine as an art director/designer and Jim’s as a financial advisor. We knew that we wanted to travel and see more of the U.S. and the world; we dreamed of adventure; we craved anything to do with boating and we knew we wanted to do all of the above with each other. So, we combined these “wants” into one jointly shared plan – by hopping aboard our boat, Kismet, a 40-foot (at the time, Silverton Convertible), and shoving away from the dock for an adventure of a lifetime.
What we found out was that it really wasn’t quite as easy as it initially sounded; we were innocent in our assumptions and planning.
It was a big change in our lives and there was a big impact and adjustment, mentally.
Here I was packing up all of our worldly possessions into a 15-x 20-foot storage unit to go live on a less than 800-sq-ft boat. What was I thinking? How could I possibly adjust to this very different lifestyle?
I should be spending my retirement years having long afternoon lunches in quaint little restaurants with my various hometown friends or whiling away the time looking for cute shoes and art/craft supplies. My pre-boating idea and dream (before we heard about the Great Loop trip and available long-distance cruising routes) was to delve into oil painting, digging up all those recipes I’ve saved and cooking fantastic meals for Jim, taking classes and learning web design.
|The Favors spent the winter at a B&B in Seattle, Washington while their Fathom trawler was being built. This photo was taken just minutes after the boat was lowered into the water.|
Before I knew it, I was caught like a fish – hook, line and sinker.
Our original plan was to take a year to do the Great Loop (a boat trip which circumnavigates the Eastern United States from the heartland rivers to the North Atlantic seaboard and Great Lakes) but 12 months quickly turned into 60 and before I knew it, I was caught like a fish – hook, line and sinker.
Originally, a year sounded like an eternity to me. I wonder what I would have thought back then if someone had told me that one-year would stretch into almost six.
I am writing this article as I drive north up the Florida ICW from Key West in our truck (which is packed to the gills with all our boat belongings) while Jim helps the new owner (of our most recent Kismet, a 40-foot Fathom trawler) move the boat North, up Florida’s east coast.
I am finding myself with lots of time to reflect on the twists and turns in our lives since we left our homeport of Charlevoix, Michigan in the fall of 2005. I also had lots of time to think about how this path, the one less traveled, brought us to this point and what and who ended up being most important to me along the way.
|Lisa relaxing on the flybridge of KISMET, in their homeport of Charlevoix, Michigan, just before taking off on their second Loop.|
I learned a lot about myself.
What I know for sure, without hesitation, is that I have fresh and salt water coursing through my veins, kind of a watered down version of blood with tiny little boats running throughout.
|As the Favors headed south on the river system for the second time Lisa was already very comfortable catching and throwing lines and securing the boat during the locking through process. This shot is taken in a lock on the Illinois River close to Ottawa, Illinois.|
I love the smell, the look, and the rhythm of the blue/green stuff, whether thick and murky, light and foamy or crystal clear.
I love to wander through, little, out of the way marina docks to look at old boats and smell the aroma of water, decaying fish and old damp wood. I always wonder what ports these boats have seen and who were the adventurous captains and crew who navigated them there.
Weirdly, I’m also somewhat fascinated by what horrors they may have encountered and, more importantly, what pleasures have made the owners lives worthwhile.
This thought in turn makes me wonder if I’ve done enough myself to see our corner of the world by boat and I always come up feeling like I could do more and then I start thinking how this water, adventure thing is so addictive and maybe even seen as a sickness by a non-water in the vein type person.
I can only wonder about what my “land” girlfriends think about my sickness as they don’t seem too curious about the particulars and almost totally avoid hearing about them, so I try to just keep it to myself – kind of like hiding a bad, disgusting, habit.
Last night I met a woman sailor in Melbourne, Florida.
Debbie was restoring the ornate wood trim on her sailboat. I had arrived on the dock a little early to help the crew on Kismet dock. We talked a bit and I found out that she and her husband, who are originally from Connecticut, had been living aboard their boat for four years in Florida.
She had the relaxed look I know so well. I could identify with her. As we talked, I couldn’t help but inhale the salty, musty aroma that surrounded the little harbor. After just a few minutes chatting, I knew she shared the same condition as I and, finding myself suddenly in-between boats, I envied her spot at the dock. She would not judge or dismiss me as a crazy, lazy vagabond, she would understand.
This encounter also got me to thinking about all the other women cruisers I’ve met over the years.
They were all varied in their strengths and weaknesses. Some were tenuous and cautious and just as many, if not more, where strong and determined. Most all ended up in the same place, true long-distance cruisers. I learned things from these women, things I may never have encountered in my life if I had not left the warm circle of my non-adventurous women friends.
I feel strongly that women need to share their experiences with other women about boating. We have some great stories to tell. My life is greatly enriched by the daring women boaters I’ve met over the years. There is something to be said about finding other human beings who share a similar passion. As you probably have already surmised – for me it’s boating.
I had the great pleasure of meeting Carol Gordon at dock in Burnham Harbor, Chicago, Illinois. We had just started out on our first Loop trip and Carol was the first Looper we’d met.
Carol, a captain, is the kind of woman boater I greatly admire. Smart, friendly, and VERY capable, she knew the insides and outsides of her boat intimately.
I also have to say that Jim and I first got to experience the famous “southern hospitality” while visiting Carol and her husband, Mike, at their hometown and port of Fairhope, Alabama.
Another woman boater who left a lasting impression is Cyndi Perkins, a sailor along with her husband Scott. We met them on our first Loop trip and spent a few days with them in Tarpon Springs. They work in Houghton, Michigan in the summer (Scott is the harbormaster – Cyndi is a freelance writer), and sail in the winter months, around Florida and the Keys.
Cyndi can be best described as earthy, sunny and incredibly friendly.
I love her fun pigtails and I admire her for her ability to connect with the simple natural beauties found along the water routes.
(Both women are contributors in our recently published book Women On Board Cruising, Favors Ventures, LLC. They are just two of 25 women who love to share their boating stories in this book – see below.)
I guess you could say that one of the real benefits of long-distance cruising is the chance to build friendship with people from all over the world.
My relationship base with women, boater friends, has grown so much that wherever I travel, either by boat or land, I seem to have a ready opportunity to hook up with one or more at their home towns or homeports all over the eastern half of the United States. Many of them have ready invitations to visit us on our new “turf” when we’re not off boating.
|Thinking about the women I’ve met while cruising brought me to an observation I’ve had about the seemingly vast community of male boaters. I’ve been to many marinas over the years where there were absolutely no women to be found but plenty of mostly single men, of all ages, who’ve chosen this lifestyle – permanently. Because we traveled almost twice around on the Great Loop route I was fortunate, most of the time, to be in the company of couples who cruise long-distance (but pretty much mainstream paths). Many times, in our side trips or trips outside the Loop, we visited marinas, especially along the coastal waters, not necessarily in the company of other Loopers; this is where my observation took shape. The last few stopovers during this trip up Florida’s coast were at a few of these out of the way marinas, mostly off the beaten path and as I have observed over the years the majority of these marinas are, in my estimation, overstocked with testosterone.This always gets me to wondering even more about my craziness. Where are all the women? What on earth am I doing here? Am I lacking some normal female gene?|
We recently came to the sober realization that we needed to feel some dirt between our toes and more face-to-face time with family and hometown friends.
We also started to feel a sudden, burning, and mad desire to host a full-blown family holiday get-together. I guess I could best describe this newfound revelation we’re having this way… Just as the all consuming and passionate need overtook us, five years ago, to sell all our accumulated “stuff” and head out for parts unknown as free spirits – now, we’re starting to feel the pull as the pendulum begins its swing back. We became more aware of our need to reconnect with family, hometown friends and experience the good things about being landlocked.
Last April, we returned to Traverse City, Michigan and bought a house. We enjoyed unpacking our past lives’ saved memories and trinkets. Normal life feels new again from the perspective of a returning wanderer and after all we are still adventurers, we’re just away from sea for a while.
Being in-between boats is a hard place to be for someone with my “addiction.”
There is a popular saying amongst boaters, “the best 2 days of a boater’s life is the day they buy the boat and the day they sell the boat” but, I have to say, I’m having a little problem with the “selling” part and this new void in my life.
|Ellen Langer: “Congratulations and condolences”|
My friend Ellen, also a boater (and another contributor in the book, Women On Board Cruising) sent an email to me with “congratulations and condolences” when she heard of the impending sale of our boat.
On the eve of the last day aboard our Kismet, I felt a little melancholy. Later that night just before we dozed off, I asked Jim for a little reassurance and a glimmer of hope that this was not the end of boating for us but just a small lull. You never know what life hands to you.
So, until I am once again hanging over the railing of a boat, nose into the heady spray while proceeding out of a harbor with a destination and a dream – I am partly the fish out of water waiting to be rehydrated, after all the cure for my “sickness” is really just one boat purchase away…
© 2010 Lisa Targal Favors. All rights reserved.
Used with permission by Lisa Targal Favors (12/2010)
About Lisa Targal Favors
Lisa, a native Michigan artist/writer/photographer, retired as Art Director/Designer at Knorr Marketing in Traverse City, MI, to take off, with her husband, Jim on a boating adventure of a lifetime – America’s Great Loop (a boat trip circumnavigating the Eastern US from the heartland rivers to the North Atlantic seaboard and Great Lakes).
Lisa Targal Favors currently serves on the Advisory Council of America’s Great Loop Cruisers’ Association (AGLCA).
She writes twice monthly articles for BoatUS Cruising Logs and the Favors have edited and published two books, Women On Board Cruising and When the Water Calls… We Follow. They maintain a popular cruising blog: www.favorsgreatloopblog.com.
Lisa also sells her stock photography to boating magazines. During a recent boating lull she has been helping her son start a website hosting and design company, Tasti Media.
Lisa and Jim lived and worked in the Traverse City area for 20 years while raising their family. She has been houseless and cruising for the better part of the last five years with almost 20,000 miles and counting under her belt. Her passions include first and foremost – time spent with family and painting, gardening (more recently – herbs on the back deck of the boat) photography, and boating – of course!
Women On Board Cruising
Twenty-five seasoned women boaters including editor, and long-distance cruiser, Lisa Targal Favors of Traverse City, are sharing the trials and tribulations of life aboard in this newly released book.
Conceptualized, edited and published by Ms. Favors, the book is designed to inspire and inform women and their significant others who are planning on – or just considering – spending an extended period of time on the water.
The contributors humorously recount their very personal experiences and openly share life lessons learned about this little-known lifestyle. Several women tell their story with a rare, revealing vulnerability. Not all initially welcomed the thought of life within the confines of a boat but were cajoled by partners who had a greater desire and competence for this type of adventure.
From doing the “Loop” (a boat trip circumnavigating the Eastern United States from the heartland rivers to the North Atlantic seaboard and Great Lakes) to sailing around the world, their stories are sure to warm the hearts of male and female readers alike.
Read also on this website
- International Women’s Day then and now: Women rocking the world in their own Way, by Michelle Elvy
- 6 Mistakes men make in sharing their sailing passion (Lessons I learned the hard way), by Nick O’Kelly
More information (external links)
- Women On Board Cruising is available at FavorsVentures.com and Amazon.com.
- The Favors’ cruising blog
- Boat US Articles by Jim & Lisa Favors
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