How We Got Here

By Jim:

The last week has been a whirlwind for Linda and me. I officially retired from the District Attorney’s Office for Chatham and Orange Counties after more than 32 years. My successor, Jeff Nieman, took his oath of office on Monday,  January 2nd. He will do a great job and take the office into a new era. Good luck Jeff! The fantastic staff at the DA’s Office will always have your back!

Our first sunset. Beaufort NC January 2023

Linda and I spent a couple of days organizing (or maybe disorganizing) in Hillsborough, took the last few things to our storage unit, and moved out of Sam Coleman’s apartment. Thanks for everything Sam! Sam is a great friend. Can’t wait for you to crew for us again on a passage to someplace warm!

We left Hillsborough on Wednesday, visited with my dad, sister, Lynn, and our angel, Pat Anderson, in Princeton. We picked up more than a dozen Amazon packages! Then on Thursday, January 5, 2023, we were off to Beaufort, North Carolina and at 1:30pm, we became LIVEABOARDS!  Our first sunset was a show stopper.

What follows is a little long, but for those interested this is how we got here:

Linda and I had both sailed a few times before we met. For both of us it was day sailing on lakes and on the sounds of the North Carolina coast. A friend introduced us to “big boat sailing” aboard his Ericson 25. We sailed regularly in North Carolina’s Neuse River and Pamlico Sound aboard Dark Horse for several years.

In May 2000, we took our first liveaboard sailing course in the British Virgin Islands. About three years later we purchased a small cruising boat, Kanaloa, a 1986 Catalina 30. We sailed her out of Oriental, NC for over 12 years.

A BVI charter with friends in 2005 was a catalyst for our future cruising aspirations. Charters in Greece and Grenada, interspersed with BVI charters kept us engaged. Most of our charters were on catamarans and that’s what made us initially consider a catamaran as a potential liveaboard, cruising boat.

In 2012 we crewed with two other people aboard an Island Packet 465 on an 8-day offshore passage from Norfolk, Virginia to St. Thomas, USVI. Although a fantastic trip, it confirmed our belief that a catamaran would be the best type of sailboat for us.

By 2015 we were certain we wanted a catamaran in the 40 to 45-foot range. We thought our sweet spot was 42 feet, but there were few 42-foot catamarans on the market in those years. Our collective thinking was that a 40 to 45 – foot cat would be the best choice for trade wind sailing in the Caribbean and perhaps the South Pacific. It would provide ample room, be a great platform for scuba diving and other water activities, and a size we could comfortably handle as a cruising couple. We reluctantly sold Kanaloa to better position ourselves to purchase the right boat if it came along. We developed a long checklist, and the search began.

A May 2016 trip to the BVI to look at used boats, including ex-charter boats was to be the first phase of our search. As things turned out a few weeks after that trip, we signed a contract to purchase and place in charter a 2018 Lagoon 42 catamaran. We didn’t set out to buy a new boat or to get into the charter business; however, TMM Yacht Charters allowed us to buy a 3-cabin, owners’ version, equipped as we wanted her. Our plan was to leave her in charter for only 3 years, then us the charter income to help pay for the numerous upgrades and modifications we would make before she could be a true liveaboard, world cruiser.

Ocean Song arrived at TMM the last week of August 2017. She was to get additional commissioning to be ready for our initial sail the first week of October. It was to be the first time we would see her in person. Hurricane Irma, a powerful category 5 storm, had different plans. Irma arrived in the BVI early on September 6, 2017 and destroyed Ocean Song. We never stepped aboard.

Ocean Song Moored at The Indians

Luckily, we had excellent insurance, and our claim was paid out 100%, without a deductible in less than 45 days! As a result, we were able to order a 2019 Lagoon 42 during the 2017 Annapolis Boat Show. A year’s delay, but that was OK. The “new” Ocean Song arrived in Annapolis for the 2018 boat show. She was TMM’s featured boat at the show. After the show, she made the passage to Tortola to join the TMM fleet. She remained in the fleet until December 2020. We made many trips to the BVI to sail her during that time.

We removed her from the TMM fleet earlier than anticipated because of COVID-19. The travel and charter industries were devastated by COVID. While in charter Ocean Song had done very well and was earning a good income. The charter industry was shut down for months and all the charter income we had saved was completely wiped out as we tried to “wait out” COVID. There was literally not one cent to help pay for future upgrades and modifications. A first world problem to be sure, but it was our first world problem.

COVID was still raging full-force and we had to ransom Ocean Song to get her from the BVI to the USVI. From there a professional delivery crew sailed her to Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. Me, Linda, and our friend, Sam Coleman flew to Ft. Lauderdale to rescue Ocean Song. We made the offshore passage to Wrightsville Beach, NC where we dropped Sam off and Linda and I crewed Ocean Song on our first offshore passage alone to Beaufort, NC. A month later, with an appropriate weather window, Linda and I sailed her around Cape Hatteras and into the Chesapeake Bay. Ocean Song was berthed at Blue Water Yachting Center in Hampton, Virginia for one year. She was then moved about 12 nm to Bay point Marina in Norfolk, Virginia.

During October and early November 2021 and again in August, September, and October 2022 extensive upgrades and modifications were done at Port Annapolis Marina on Back Creek in Annapolis, Maryland. Most of the work we had done were things we had thought about for years. There was a reason for everything. Annapolis became our home away from home.

Many people ask, “Why do you need to upgrade and modify a new boat?” It’s a fair question. The short answer is that unless you have something north of $1,000,000 to spend on a new boat, you will likely have to buy a production boat. Production boats are targeted toward the charter market. In order to make a production boat a more liveaboard-friendly cruising boat upgrades and modifications are needed. That’s a blanket statement and while not always true, the vast majority of cruisers extensively upgrade and modify their boat to meet the cruisers’ particular needs. Believe us, we’re not the first to do it and we will not be the last. We will have more detailed descriptions of the work we had done later.

We still have a few boat projects to finish. One thing we’ve always heard is that if you wait until all your boat projects are done and things seem perfect, you will never leave the dock. On a boat, any boat, there’s always one more project you’d like to get done, one more upgrade to make. Although there are still a few more upgrades and modifications to come, we are now at a stage that we can safely, comfortably, and confidently untie the lines and start our adventure!

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