Decide on personal priorities – Let’s face it, living aboard a small boat is never going to be the height of luxury. You need to understand clearly the things that are important to you for the way you and your partner live and to recognise the things you might have to do without whilst you are on board. For example the dishwasher is not a practical item on most small boats and you will find little opportunity for gardening either. You also need to be sure that your eating and sleeping arrangements suit you – you’ll be spending a lot of time here.
Expect the worst and try to have a fallback position – Carefully laid plans have a habit of going astray – this is quite normal. If you can anticipate in advance the things that might go wrong then you might, just might, be able to plan for them. But the real problem with the unexpected is that it is just that, unexpected. A recession in the economy arrived just before we were due to retire and as a result we had to make a tough decision to rent out our home when we could not sell it. This was unexpected and unforeseen, causing us much heartache until we had reasoned it all through and begun to make it work.
Take your partner with you – If there are going to be two people living on your boat then both of you must be fully involved in the planning process. If this sounds obvious then just bear in mind that men are from Mars and women from Venus – we don’t always say what we mean. The retiree population is full of failed dreams and failed marriages and you will need to work hard to avoid being one of these.
Be realistic – Being realistic for you may mean sailing around the world without ever touching land. We have different and slightly more limited horizons which are within our own capabilities and which we know we have the experience and knowledge to fulfil. To many people what we are doing is a bold adventure, to others it may be tame and rather dull. What matters is that we comfortable with what we are doing; it is right for us.
Think of the effect on family. Your plan may involve you being at sea for long periods of time and out of touch with those who most care for you. You will need to think especially hard about how to manage communication – how frequently and by what means. We rely quite heavily on the Internet for our world news and for correspondence with family and friends so we have invested in a good mobile Internet service which we can use almost anywhere within sight of land. Mobile phones may be fine within Europe but if your plans involve going further afield then you may have to invest in satellite or shortwave radio systems.
Be prepared to make some big scary decisions – One of the really big scary decisions we made was to leave our home and move onto the boat six months before our retirement was due to start. Our thinking was that this would acclimatise us to the reduced space on board and give us a better idea of what was essential and what wasn’t, all whilst we were both still working and therefore earning money. In hindsight this was one of the best decisions we made and it taught us a lot, although it wasn’t exactly a picnic as it meant living on board through a severe UK winter.