Saturday, November 29, 2008


Have you ever noticed how we measure everything? our language is rife with quantification: inches, feet, yards, miles, ounces, pounds, tons, dimes, quarters, dollars, points, percentages, grades, minutes, hours, days, weeks, years, decades, millennia. We measure time, money, age, distance, square footage, height, weight, stock value, temperature, home value, retail sales, anything, everything.

But now that I have something I'm dying to measure, I find there's no tool or unit of measure that applies.

People ask us almost daily when we're taking off, a practical question that begs for a definitive, yes, measured answer, a date and time so we can all mark the days. The future without markers is mysterious, incomprehensible and a little bit frightening.

But there's no time deadline for when the house and business will sell. We long for a ticking countdown clock so hours, days, weeks would become relevant.

There are no projects left to mark our progress.

There's no partial sale of property to show headway.

Each time somebody looks at our house, we do mental math: if we get an offer today, that would be a week to get a contract, 45 days until closing. We would be out by January, February, March.

After a prospective buyer has been in the house, we scour the aftermath for clues. Did they move the curtains to look at the back deck? If not, they must not like the place enough to see the view. Did they take one of our flyers? If so, surely they like the house.

This type of measured guesswork is full of pitfalls and false positives. The people who looked at the house yesterday took both the house flyer and the boat flyer. The curtains had been pushed aside. Three points! We were ecstatic.

Turns out they LOVED the house, but felt it was too small.

Today our ghostly visitors neither took the flyers nor moved the curtains. Minus two points.

Three points forward. Two points back on a scale of all or nothing.

Friday, November 28, 2008


It's there. Our house is on the New York Times Web site. Ours is the one listed under Kill Devil Hills and is the photo on the left with a purple wall.

Honestly, that wall only looks bright purple when you use flash photography. The rest of the time it's mostly dark and muted. Really. It's not garish. Really.

The house is featured in a column in their Great Destination real estate section called "What you get for $XXXX." They choose a price and go to groovy destinations photographing houses you can buy for that amount. They randomly chose our house based on the MLS listing.

The pictures they took are lovely, but they made a few odd choices. Like, I wonder why they would put a picture of that bedroom with only a couch and not the beautiful master bedroom?

But that's just me .... maybe someone will LOVE that couch room and buy the house!

Thursday, November 27, 2008


We often focus on being poised at the brink of something new, but the spot where we're standing ain't so bad either. We have three healthy, happy kids. Two of them, Dylan and Brett on the right there (okay, he's our acquired son), are home for Thanksgiving. They used to be tiny boys, and look at them now. We're very proud. Casey stayed in Asheville, but we get to see her next month.

We have an amazingly successful business, a beautiful house -- that's being shown tomorrow! We have our families, our health, our friends, our senses of humor. What else could one want?

Some pumpkin cheesecake perhaps: great recipe and it's South Beach friendly!

Sunday, November 23, 2008


We borrowed our friend Lawrence's sewing machine to put a 15' zipper in that sail cover there on the right. somehow, between the three of us, we couldn't get the sewing machine to work right. We'll call the dealer tomorrow in hopes of getting some help.

Lawrence's machine is a Sailrite -- a model we might buy for the boat. With a portable machine onboard, we figure we can make some extra money repairing sails and canvas, not to mention making our own repairs.

Tomorrow, we're going to have a look at the Moorish Idol. It's not a religious icon -- or a fish. Actually, "Moorish Idol" is a fish, but the one we're seeing is an Island Packet 35', the one we visited last week in Great Bridge, Virginia. This time we're making an appointment to see inside.

Does it seem like we're "about to" do a lot of things?

In the meantime we're learning to play cribbage, a card game that appears in much sailing literature. We were curious, so we got our friend Coffee John to teach us. It's not too involved but complicated enough to hold your interest, you pone.

--attempted a sail cover fix and failed
--packed up the Froli bed springs from Isabella and stowed all the future boat stuff in closet
--started packing boxes to ship to New Mexico
--polished the brass instruments to put back on the newly varnished bulkhead (photos soon)

Thursday, November 20, 2008


We gave away $10,000 yesterday. That's what it felt like, anyway. We reduced the price of our house by $10,000.

The theory goes: if we stay in the house another 6 months, we'll be spending $10K++ paying interest. Likely buyers will be around in the next 6 weeks, after that, we'd be stuck until May.

The New York Times is coming tomorrow to do a photo shoot for their column "What can I get for $$$." We'll be the "what can I get for $350,000." they focus on 'destination' locations so their readers can dream of living somewhere else. Maybe someone's dream will come true.

A someone is looking at the house Saturday. We'll spread fairy dust around before they get here.

Both of us have this feeling that everything is at hand ......

--obsessed over staging the house for the photo shoot
--reduced the price of the house
--watched the stock market continue its freefall

Tuesday, November 18, 2008


As we field questions about our new life, it has become clear that we know a lot more than others about how this will work, which makes us leave out some important details that we think are obvious. Here's a short synopsis of how we imagine cruising life unfolding.

We are selling everything: business, house, cars, furniture, everything that won't fit on a 35' sailboat, which has two cabins, a living area, a bathroom and a kitchen. That's a picture of the Island Packet 35 salon.

Part of the money from cashing out will go to purchase the boat for about $100-120K (remember, it's our house). We will allow ourselves to use the interest from the remainder of the cash, but the rest has to come from gainful unemployment. Ideas for that are still forming.

As of now, November 18, we have the house and the business on the market. We're starting to get serious action on both. Once we sell the business, we expect to spend up to several months training the new owner. It's likely to be 4-6 months until we are ready to float.

The sailboat will be our full-time, year-round home. We'll travel from place to place, much like in an RV but on the water. There's an engine we can use to motor in and out of marinas, through tight places that are too narrow to sail and be a backup if there's no wind. The goal is to sail as much as possible, because wind is free.

Some amenities will be similar to living onshore. for instance, cooking will be about the same only with propane instead of gas. Others will be more akin to camping. For instance, we will charge the batteries with the engine and solar panels, but we will have to use power sparingly since it takes a while to renew. Also, we will wash clothes either by hand or at laundromats onshore.

The boat we hope to get is beautiful, spacious (to us) and comfortable. there is an onboard shower (tiny) and a toilet that flushes into a holding tank that has to be pumped out regularly, like an RV. Eventually we plan to install a composting toilet, which naturally decomposes the waste into fertile soil, which can be dumped safely just about anywhere -- eliminating one more land tie.

It will have holding tanks for more than 100 gallons of water, but we plan to add a watermaker. Onboard watermaking gives you more freedom without worrying where your next source of drinking water will be. It also eliminates the hassle of carrying bulky and heavy containers to and from shore to fill up your tanks.

We will most often anchor the boat rather than being at a dock, because anchoring is usually free. However, that leaves us at least 20 yards, sometimes more, from shore. We will have a small boat or "dinghy" with an outboard motor for ferrying to and from the boat. Everything that goes on or off the boat will be hauled with the dinghy, which will be raised and lowered from the boat using either pulleys on the stern (see on left) or using the same halyards used to raise the sails. The dinghy rides on either the pulleys or on the deck.

We will have folding bicycles that we will carry to shore in the dinghy and use to run errands, sightsee and buy groceries. The bikes will be stowed belowdecks either in the back cabin or in a locker in the cockpit.

Ideally, we hope to be as green and as self-contained as possible. It will take a while to get there, but that's the goal. We will buy diesel fuel, which is available all over the world, and food as needed, provisioning long-term for passages and unexpected periods of either no access to food or only to food that's too expensive for a cruiser's budget.

Where will we go? The beauty of this is that we don't know and don't have to know. We will likely start by heading north if hurricane season is at hand. We'll spend time in and around D.C., the Chesapeake and New York visiting friends and family while we get to know a new boat and fit it out before heading offshore.

Once hurricane season has passed, we will head south to Florida and across to the Bahamas. Our first season will be spent island hopping in the Caribbean. That's as far as we've planned. Eventually we'll Cross the atlantic and cruise around in the Mediterranean.

Any questions?

--ordered a zipper for the sail cover

Monday, November 17, 2008


Lisa Todorovich and Rick Porter
November 15, 2008
Richmond, Virginia

It was a privilege to witness such happiness.

On the way home we looked at three Island Packet 35s, two in Deltaville and one in Great Bridge, Virginia. All our homework is beginning to pay off. When we step into a boat now, we can make a call in about three minutes.

It sounds corny and literary, but every boat has a personality. It may be more the spirit of its owners, but there's a definite vibe. It becomes obvious as we look at boat after boat that should be cookie cutter replicas. One feels warm and welcoming, peaceful, the next cold and tense.

The boat in Great Bridge was under pine trees, covered in pine needles. The day was brisk, a little cold, yet something about that boat was warm and welcoming, almost homey. For just a moment, Chip sat in the cockpit with his feet up, sipping his coffee. When I turned and saw him there, it transported me to that day soon, when the boat will be our own and the dream will be at hand.

"No heart has ever suffered when it goes in search of its dreams" -- The Alchemist

--cleared out a few more things in the house
--started cleaning and clearing the boat to take interior photos
--gathered data for a prospective buyer for the store

Thursday, November 13, 2008


No, that's not a serious bike accident. It's seriously on purpose: a folding bike.

We've been looking at, riding, pondering folding bikes for several months. I prefer the Dahon, which I rode at the boat show. Chip likes the Downtube, whose inventor lives just south of us in Avon. We went to visit him a few months ago and rode these Jetson-like bikes. We were like kids on Christmas morning when it arrived yesterday, the big box, the shiny new bike inside.

It opens up to a full-sized bike and, more importantly, folds down to a compact mass of metal and wheels. It has two important features for our salty boat environment: all stainless steel construction and gears enclosed in a drum. It has one feature that makes me rethink the Dahon: front suspension.

We'll play around with this one until we decide if we want another Downtube or a Dahon. In a continued effort to avoid all matching gear, we've decided if I get a Downtube, it will have to be red.

Oh, one other feature, Chip's favorite: the bell.

--third coat of varnish on Isabella's bulkhead

Tuesday, November 11, 2008


The teak. I started stripping the bulkhead in Isabella so long ago now, it's hard to remember. Then we had a beer festival.

Today, rested and renewed, I got back to it. Chip helped me sand off the last of the varnish. After a couple of sanding rounds, I got the first coat of 50/50 varnish on and cleaned up all the teak dust. What a mess. Tomorrow will be coat two and, if I get an early start, coat three as well. By the end of the week, we'll snap some interior photos and make some flyers. If it doesn't sell by January, we'll list it with a broker.

Remember those beautiful toe rails? They've started deteriorating around the edges, damn it! If the warm weather forecast next week comes true, I'll sand and get some more varnish on there. I guess six coats wasn't enough. Sigh.

We'll be looking at another Island Packet on Monday! Maybe that will bring our dreams closer. We're both feeling far, far away from the cruising world. Far, far away.

--got the first coat of varnish on the bulkhead
--Chip ordered his Downtube bike!
--varnished the boom gallow wood
--cleaned the teak dust out of the boat

Monday, November 10, 2008


Waiting has made us watchful. We look for signs. Signs that the waiting is worthwhile, signs that we need to change course, signs that we need to keep steady.

Some cultures think a praying mantis can direct a child home, point toward Mecca or even raise the dead. We just hope it means good luck.

The day we listed the house we found a praying mantis perched on the front porch. Last Saturday I found one in front of the store. And that night as we sat on the back porch with cigars and port, I saw a shooting star.

Quick! Make a wish.

Friday, November 7, 2008


As history unfolds around us, we maintain daily life and attempt, when times allows, to dream.

Three people have looked at our house in the last week.

More prospects for the business have emerged. It's a little reminiscent of the early presidential field. You look at a lot of candidates and wonder who will remain standing at the end. Or maybe it's just that time of year ....

In all this, we try to keep focused on the true goal. We have an appointment a week from Monday to see a boat in Deltaville, Virginia. It will be a good reminder of what we're working toward.

And that's my plan next week on my days off: get my head back in the RIGHT game.

Monday, November 3, 2008


This election has been as slow in coming as Christmas to an 8-year-old. Right now, 25 hours before the first results come in, the whole country, maybe even the whole world is listening for Santa to land on the roof, wondering if he'll be the usual old gray-haired guy or a Santa of a different stripe.

Chip says if McCain wins he'll denounce his citizenship. (Actually, I think he's serious. He's been country shopping.) I say if Bush wins a third term, I'll denounce mine.

So what do we do? Go shopping. We bought Chip some pants to wear to a wedding next week and those hot hiking boots. It's all part of the buy-while-you-have-an-income plan.

He's also been bidding on Downtube folding bikes on Ebay. They cost $459 new, so he's trying to snag one for $350 or so.

Me? I've been working on my election spreadsheet. More on that tomorrow.

--bought Chip's hiking boots!
--did some more house staging

Sunday, November 2, 2008


In the evenings we sit on the back deck, have a cigar and a drink. We talk about our lives, what happened today, what might happen tomorrow, our progress toward our goal. It's no easy task measuring progress in units of waiting.

What constitutes a waiting unit? 24 hours? I waited one unit today. Do we get extra waiting points if we wait nicely?

We are admittedly bad at this part, this waiting thing. We worked so hard to get trimmed, slimmed, planned, ready. And here we sit.

We talk about the order. We want the boat to sell first, because if the house sells first, we don't have a place for the boat. But if not the boat, we want the house to sell first, because it costs money. If the business sells first, we don't have an income.

First: boat
Second: house
Third: business

Or simultaneously, of course. Unlikely. So we wait.

--painted the bowsprit
--installed the back porch light
--stripped the wood on the boom gallows
--looked longingly at the new Island Packet 35s on the market.