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Revisiting The List

I was just kidding about not being able to find The List, aka Wondertime’s To Do List aka The List of Stuff We Must Get Done Before Leaving the Dock Next June. It was right there on Google Docs all the time. What we did need to find was an evening for both of us to sit down and go over it with a fine-toothed comb. Not only has it hit us that we only have six months left to knock out a good portion of this list, but also that we have a finite number of dollars left with which to do it. With a couple of glasses of $2.50 Buck Chuck (inflation is everywhere!) we did just that one night this week.

It seems in our society that there is a taboo on talking about money, as in how much you do or don’t have or how much things truly cost. (Note that I do not mean the appearance of having a lot or a little as [collectively] we have no problem with creating such an image, whether we actually have a little or a lot.) Perhaps everyone is afraid that everyone else will know how broke they really are. But when it comes to setting sail, the most often question is probably “how much does it cost?” Most people will just punt the question back with “as much as you have to spend,” which, I suppose, is fairly accurate. But a number of other sailing writers have taken the question seriously and have been publishing their monthly cruising expenses for all to see (see s/v Third Day and s/v Hotspur). We plan on doing the same to help answer the allusive cruising cost question as well as to help us to keep detailed records of our spending and stay on budget.

For now, if you take a look at Wondertime’s Current To-Do List you’ll see that we’ve included a column with estimated costs to complete each item (you’ll also notice that much of it is not filled out yet…like everything else about getting ready even our to-do list is a Work In Progress!) We’ve also switched around our prioritizing system a little bit. Where we had been labeling only safety items as #1s, we’ve now included those items that we feel are imperative to get done before we leave town in six months. #2s are things that we’ll probably tick off as we work our way south. 3s and 4s are things to get done as time and funds allow. At the bottom are (hallelujah!) completed projects.

As we sipped our Charles Shaw we examined each item on the list thinking long and hard about how much of a priority each really is. Our focus was those items that we truly felt we could not set off on our long-term cruise without completing. Most of these are the same safety-related to-dos but many are items we simply don’t feel right without doing, like painting the bottom and installing a halyard to hoist our Canadian courtesy flag. Some things we took off the list altogether (such as installing wind instruments) which was a relief.

As we added cost estimates to our #1 priority items and saw the total tallying up at the top of the spreadsheet it became clear to us that a number of items we’d placed as high priority were going to have to be demoted. Two of these included installing a watermaker and upgrading our refrigeration system. While both of these would be really really really nice to have, their sheer cost total (about $2-3K each!) made it clear to us that they are just not going to get done before we leave. With about $10K remaining in our outfitting budget the less expensive (and, admittedly, more critical) items have to take priority. Perhaps it is the influence the Pardey’s still have over our cruising style, being theirs were the first sailing books we read so many years ago, but strong lifelines, anchors and copious amounts of chain are at the top of our list over creature comforts. (Not that we would hesitate to install such systems if, ahem, a great deal was found….)

Just like sticking to a budget, now the difficult part is to stick to our list — or more specifically those #1 items on our list. It will be tempting to drift off course and want to get some easy “nice to haves” done but before we know it our outfitting funds will be depleted and it will be time to leave the dock for good. Money spent after that comes directly from the cruising kitty which means less time “out there.” And time out there is worth more than any item on our List.


  1. Tucker Bradford says:

    Good reminder about straying from the #1 list. I have a tendency to do that 🙁

  2. Susie Hasty says:

    Sara! I just saw your entry about heading out in June, Congrats! WOW! It’s really happening huh? I do want to be on your “list” of people who are interested in following your travels. May steady winds and rolling seas be with you. Thanks for including me, Susie

  3. Nicole says:

    Wow, Sara! I am so impressed with this post. You two are so organized! And to think you are doing all this with two young children to care for just amazes me. Thank you for your willingness to be earnest and to share your planning experiences and your financial realities. I hope to learn a thing or two as we plan for our April departure. You’ve inspired me to take a closer look at our “to do” list and really re-focus on the priorities. Let us know if there is anything we can do to help you in your preparation for departure.