Cruising preparation is filled with things that seem totally unrelated to the actual sailing part.
For us, it involves things like getting our oldest off to college, helping our youngest choose a college and go through the application process all while maneuvering through senior year. It involves getting the house ready to sell, and working on the boat like fiends. Eating through all the food that’s in the freezer and pantry. Setting budgets, downsizing. Keeping on top of jobs and projects and family adventures.
We’ve planned to drastically simplify. No cars, no house. Just us and the boat, with a few college bills to keep it interesting.
This plan was changed completely in mid-July, when my aunt died unexpectedly in her house in northern Vermont.
The house has been in the family for years. There’s a complicated history that involves my great grandfather and a caretaker, an interim sale, and a sudden death. My grandmother (Marge) and her sister (Dotty) and mother (Edith) jointly bought it in (I think) the 1950s when the state put it up for auction; they were the only bidders. It’s a property that abuts the larger family “compound” that encompasses a large part of the northern end of Averill Lake. Marge and Edith bought Dotty out, and when Edith died she left her part of the house to my aunt Sue; when Marge died, the house became fully Sue’s.
Are you confused yet?
Bottom line, though? Sue left the house to my brother, Zach, and me. The idea is that the house will remain in the family, to be used and loved and left to our kids and then their kids and so on.
We had some idea this was coming. Sue had talked to each of us about it years ago, wanting to make sure we were okay with the responsibility. She left us some money to help with maintenance as well, though it won’t go as far as we’d like it to go. Funny how houses do that, take more money than you think. And though she had talked to us and we knew we were in the will, having an academic understanding of something is drastically different than living the reality.
We’d rather have her still with us than the house, thank you very much.
Our time at the lake this year, normally filled with mundane tasks like blueberry picking and skipping stones, playing tennis and creating amazing meals, kayaking and listening to loons and trips to see the sunset, was still filled with all of those things.
It was also filled with things like ripping out carpet and pulling endless staples. Discovering a hardwood floor under the carpet. Talking about furnaces and dehumidifiers in the basement, oil vs propane heating, whether we need a TV in the house, and what color to paint the walls inside. Making lists of projects both practical (finish exterior siding) and wildly pie in the sky (a water slide from the bedroom directly into the lake) continued far into the night and even on the ride home to Virginia.
I was worried that Jeremy was going to have a hard time with this. I thought he might say “no” to a house in the far north reaches of Vermont, a house that’s quirky and old. A house that’s very far from where we’re likely to land when the sailing is done, whenever that may be. He loves it in Averill, but loving an area is a far cry from owning a house there.
Instead, he’s enthusiastic. He’s seeing it as a positive. A home base for the kids and for us. A place we can come to when we’re taking a break from the boat, a place we can hang our (limited) artwork. He’s even mentioned wanting to try living there for a winter. (Whether I want to try living there for a winter is a different story . . . we’d certainly kill any tropical bugs if we did that!)
What this will do to our cruising budget has yet to be determined. We hadn’t exactly figured on a house line item, and things like taxes and insurance and basic utilities add up even though there is not a mortgage on the property. Yes, we’re sharing the house with my brother and his family, but expenses are still there. We’ll have to run the numbers and adjust accordingly.
Cruising is about being flexible, even when life throws you unexpected happenings. Adjusting to new circumstances happens a lot, whether it’s a weather shift or not finding your favorite ingredient at the store, or the loss of a family member. What we can do is adjust the sails and trim for the new course.
See you out there.