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How we bought a boat 5 years early

Lest any of you think this boat thing is a last minute whim of ours, let me tell you the story of how we got here. It goes back nearly 9 years as I write this.

Sit back and I'll tell you a long tale.

Fall of 2012 I was getting ready to start my second year of my graduate program and a few months into my 10th year at BYU. Right before fall semester started that year, I caught a cold. A regular old miserable summer cold. Congestion, etc. I started feeling better the Saturday before classes began and spent the day playing at the park with my grandkids. On the way home from dropping them off, I started feeling super weird and not well at all. But I couldn't really put my finger on what it was. I stopped part way home and called John. I was wondering if I needed to go to the ER, but took some ibuprofen and waited a bit. Finally I felt like I could drive the rest of the way home. By the time I got home about all I could do was crawl out of the car and into bed. I felt horrible.

Without all the gory details, what had happened is my body's immune system was still thinking it had to kill that virus I had contracted earlier in the week and when it couldn't find any more virus cells it began attacking me! Yep, another autoimmune thing starting up. I have several. Most are minor or easily controlled. Turned out, this one was neither.

Guillain Barre Syndrome (Gee-yawn bar-a or bar-ey) is what I had. GBS for short. I had a very fast and aggressive version that is called the Miller Fisher variant. My body's immune system was attacking my peripheral nervous system and eating away at the nerve covering or sheath, and, in some cases - mine included, the nerves themselves. The result is a weird mix of extreme weakness, paralysis, extreme pain, respiratory failure if it gets to the nerves controlling the diaphragm, and worse. In my case it was all of the above except the worse, meaning I didn't die. GBS is considered rare. It occurs in 1-2 out of every 100,000 people. Typically it comes on after a respiratory or gastric virus. Sometimes it will come on after surgery, childbirth, or immunizations. In 1976 there was a rash of higher GBS occurrence amoung those receiving the H1N1 (Swine Flu) vaccine that year. Zika virus is known to more easily lead to GBS than most viruses. You can learn a lot more about GBS here: GBS-CIDP Foundation

Once I knew I would survive, it then became a matter of gaining back strength and ability to do everything I wanted to again; walk, talk, swallow, drink, breath, you know, the little things that make life delightful. Initially the Drs told us I may never get out of a wheelchair and that I likely would be hospitalized over a year. I walked - well, shuffled with a walker - out, six weeks later. There was still a ton of recovering and strengthening to do, but I was home. And yes, when it looked like I was in a coma and out of it, I wasn't. I could hear and feel everything. Let's leave it at - not fun.

But one of the best things about that time was George. George was a neighbor who was at the same rehab hospital and who John and I became friends with while we were there. He told us all kinds of stories of wonderful travels he and his family had gone on and made us promise to take a cruise when I was well enough. George didn't make it a lot longer than that, but he gave us huge dreams and goals that we hope he is looking down on us and smiling about.

So almost a year later we went on our first cruise. Now many of you know I'm a germaphobe. So a cruise was always an absolute no-go for me. But we had promised George. So we found a little Caribbean cruise and took off. I was still quite weak and couldn't do a whole lot, but getting out on the ocean was magical. I found that I could easily escape the crowds and find quiet little spots to just sit and watch the ocean go by. I loved it. Our cruise set sail on Sunday and by Thursday, I was totally hooked. I realized sitting there on my balcony that I was more relaxed than I could ever remember in my life. So we booked our next one.

Each year we went on a new cruise to wonderful places - Mexico, Jamaica, Haiti, Alaska, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and our last cruise, a transatlantic journey that took us to the Azores, Ireland, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Denmark. It was the beginning of that last cruise that the idea was hatched to get our own boat.

Before that cruise started we spent a few days in Florida, driving down to Key West and snorkling off Key Largo. The couple we were on the snorkling trip with had moved onto a sailboat in Texas and sailed around to the keys. They planned on living aboard for a couple of years as they traveled around. John started talking about maybe we could do that. My quick response was always, "we can't do that!" I had never been sailing and didn't know a thing about it. All the way across the Atlantic we talked about it. When we were walking the track on deck or in the workout room, we would sometimes spot a little sailboat in the big ocean and he would point it out, saying, "see, people do that!" I, of course, would always say, "we can't do that!" As I was whining about needing to get back on the cruise ship in France because there was still so much I wanted to see and do, John said, "well, if we had our own boat, we could stay as long as we liked." That shut me up pretty quick and got me thinking.

When we got home from that AMAZING trip - add Germany and Sweden in there plus two weeks in Denmark! - John found and started watching some sailing vlogs on YouTube. I still had plenty of days that just going to work was all I could manage so I had to crash in the recliner at the end of the day. I started watching the vids with him. Then I got sick and had to spend several days in bed so I binge watched one channel, Jason and Nikki at Gone with the Wynns. I watched them bravely seek out and find a boat for them, buy it, move aboard, make repairs, get sailing lessons, and then head out on their own. I will be forever grateful to them because I finally began to believe that, with John and how very very smart and strong he is, WE COULD DO THAT!

So we started planning. We immediately stopped going on cruises so we could save our money, worked out a plan of what kind of boat we wanted, and then decided when I could retire. John already had retired when I got sick so he could take care of me. We began downsizing and selling things so we could prepare to live in a tiny house that floats. We even decided to move into a fifth wheel trailer to see if we could stand living tiny. Turns out, I LOVE it! Very little spaces take very little time to keep clean! We decided I could retire in 5 years so we would go to the sailboat show and learn about the different catamarans so we would know what catamaran we were going to buy in 5 years. We figured the new boats then would be just right for us to buy later. Plus we decided to go 100% electric because my body really doesn't like to be around oils and gases, so we didn't want to have diesel engines and deal with all that mess.

We bought plane tickets to Baltimore and show tickets to the 2019 United States Sailboat Show in Annapolis. Pretty exciting!! John had been looking at used boats already and wanted to go look at one that was near Annapolis. I didn't really want to because we weren't going to buy a boat for 5 years, right? But I agreed to go look at it with him and he made the arrangements. Unfortunately our flight to Baltimore was a red-eye and the drive to our hotel was nightmarish with the Chesapeak Bay Bridge being under construction at the time. We only got an hour or so of sleep before we had to head back over the bridge to go see the boat. We got there and I was cold, hungry, and tired. Every time I moved in the boat I was bumping into something or hitting my head. The outside of the boat was UGLY!!! I have to admit, though, the inside was beautiful, but felt very very cramped. I couldn't wait to get out of there and said no way are we buying that boat, I don't care how inexpensive it is.

Some pics of our boatshow days. NOT the boat we bought - even though the Leopard 45 with the front cockpit is still my dream boat!

We got to the show, I got some food and got warmed up, and we started talking. We went in and out of countless boats and found they all were about the same in terms of squishiness inside. We got some tips on how to move around in a boat going up and down companionways and through bulkheads. As we also saw the prices of the new boats and did some thinking about how much they might depreciate in 5 years, John said we should go look at that used boat again before we left. I agreed to do it and we made arrangements with the broker. The next morning I was rested, we ate before we went and looked at the boat, and I wore a sweater so I wasn't cold. As we went through it again, more and more of it's interior beuaty was apparent (the outside was still butt ugly - but that's just a face lift, right?) and the price was much more attractive. Even so, I still didn't think we were ready. I still had 5 years of work to go. John suggested we make a really low-ball offer, like less than 2/3rds of what she was asking. We had been told she had a new boyfriend in TX she wanted to move to be with. So I told John, thinking it would never happen, that he could make his super low-ball offer on one condition. That condition was that if she countered with even $1 more, the deal was off! Yep, you guessed it - we bought our boat!


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