“It pays to plan ahead. It wasn’t raining when Noah built the ark.” or as Winston Churchill said: “Let our advance worrying become advance thinking and planning”.

First, the dream

When Steve told me that he dreamt of one day sailing around the world, my first reaction was – well who doesn’t dream of that? But it was ‘pie in the sky’ – unrealistic, unattainable, and even if it weren’t, I felt he needed to be realistic and replace some of the idyllic sailing in tropical paradise images in his head, with some dangerous-storms- high-wind-overnight-anchor-watch-cold-wet-weather-fog-exhaustion-sea-sickness-physical-toil-and-strain-noisy-party-makers-in-bustling-port images. Besides which, we did not know how to sail! And me…well my dream was to retire early and take an international development contract through an NGO like Care Canada in the heart of Africa for two years – a different form of escapism, but one which I thought was more meaningful, less selfish and less costly.

So how did his dream become mine? I am not sure! I am constantly amazed that amiable, temperate Steve constantly wins battles of will against me – vocal, outspoken, passionate about ‘my’ beliefs and interests. Perhaps he just whittled away at me till finally I caved. But the truth of the matter is that after learning to sail, I met him part way. It was a slow and gradual dawning for me…a realization that it was not only practical and attainable, but that there was more overlap in common interests than I thought. I wanted to:

  • escape from the rat race
  • get back to the basics
  • live a purpose driven life
  • connect with good people
  • live simply
  • dispossess
  • eat locally
  • keep active
  • apply our skills usefully
  • increase self-sufficiency
  • learn more
  • laugh more
  • spend less
  • get away from winter
  • feel fulfilled each day

I started to feel that the cruising life could do this for me too, and that I did not need to give up the goal of caring/helping others and receiving from other cultures in the process.  And anyway, Steve and I have 30 years of marriage and companionship under our belts and are looking forward to sharing the rest of our lives together. After agreeing to do the CYA basic keelboat course with him (partly to keep him safe), I started to see the light. I enjoyed it more than I thought I would. I have always had an affiliation for the sea…and almost studied marine zoology inWalesfor my undergraduate degree, only switching toDurhamat the last minute because I fell in love with oldDurhamtown. And I love planning big adventures, and then making them happen. I am very goal driven – the bigger the goal the better – and this was a BIG goal I could really sink my teeth into. When I turned 50 I determined I would do a marathon – so joined a training program to take me from the couch to the Washington Marine Core Marathon in 8 months. This was similar but bigger – from no previous sailing experience or boat ownership to living aboard and crossing oceans in 10 years!

After we jumped the first few hurdles, and took our intermediate cruising standard together in the British Virgin Islands in 2004, the vapoury, unclear cloudy images of the dream starting to fill in, colour up and become more real. We started our seven year plan to sail away. But I still come at it from a different perspective:

Steve Liz
All about the journey All about the destinations
Loves the action – adrenaline and excitement kick in the more we heel and bury the rail Loves calm sailing –  fear kicks in the more we bury the rail, tends to want to spill sail for a more comfortable time
Wants a beautiful boat that sails well Wants a practical boat for live-aboard
Fastidious about sail trim Fastidious about route planning and destination research – knowing where we will be and what we will eat!
Connects with other sailors to share and hear stories of sailing adventures Connects with other sailors for information, resources and advice
Happiest at sea with good wind Happiest at anchor in quiet bay or docked on a wharf
Prepared to make the boat into a life-long camping experience Wants to make the boat into a home not a tent
Critical to be ship-shape Critical to have excellent ship to shore communication

In the end, we saw our different perspectives as complimentary. Not only could we do achieve this dream together, but together, we could achieve more: the whole is more than the sum of the parts!

The Seven Year Plan


Year Steps Actual
  • Get CYA Intermediate  Certification
  • Get more experience
  • Get VHF license
  • Get PCOC certified
  • Get Toronto Harbour license
  •  Completed intermediate in BVI’s aboard a 40 ft CS.
  • Chartered a 30 ft sailboat in Vancouver and spent 4 days in Howe Sound.
  • Both got VHF license
  • Both PCOC certified
  • Steve got harbour license
  • Get more sailing experience
  • Research boat options
  • Read sailing logs/blogs
  • Take coastal navigation course
  • Joined Humber Sailing Club
  • Steve attended mentoring and racing and became a ‘Skipper B’, qualified to take out larger boats (up to 30 ft)
  • Took coastal navigation course and passed certifcation
  • Get more sailing experience
  • Get house stages, decorated and fixed up for sale
  • Get Advanced CYA Standard and Offshore Certification
  •  2 week charter in Croatia
  • Got house redecorated and fixed up, ready for sale.
  • Started to organize and sell stuff
  • Steve did not get his course in – cancelled
  • Sell house!
  • Buy boat!


  • 1 week charter in BVI’s
  • Sold house in July
  • Bought boat in July
  • Steve got his offshore certificate in August
  • Take Diesel Engine Maintenance Course
  • Get more sailing experience
  • Move into boat!
  • Get HAM radio certified
  •  Both of us suffered through 10 week course in diesel engine maintenance
  • Took T’ai Chi on a one week sailing holiday in western end of lake Ontario; got out a little more on her in the summer. Flew the gennaker.
  • Steve started his HAM radio course
  • Get more experience handling and maintaining the boat
  • Ensure boat complies with coastal cruising safety standard
  • Develop our website.
  • Develop comprehensive inventory and list of spare parts.
  • Scan or download all boat system manuals….improve our backup options/strategies.
  • Take a weather course.
  •  2 week trip to the Thousand Islands – first overnight sail on Tai Chi, first night docking, speed records under sail!!!
  • Created our website
  • Completed safety retrofit for coastal sailing
  • in progress – spares, inventory, manuals
  • Ensure boat complies with offshore cruising safety standard
  • Equip with alternate power (Solar, wind)
  • Improve Nav Equipment.
  • Stock up on necessary charts and cruising guides.
  • Complete cockpit enclosure.
  • Improve our weather knowledge/resources.
  • Leave for one year shake-down cruise to Bahamas!
  • Practice storm tactics.
  •  Taking Seven Seas U weather course with Chris Parker
  • Completed energy audit
  • Project Plan – installing wind and solar
  • Decided to leave complete electronics upgrade to Phase 2 – for now will keep Furuno nav and get FP chips for trip
  • Cockpit enclosure progressing
  • After much deliberation and assessing we are getting a thrid reef put in the main rather than a storm trisail.


And this is just Phase 1. As per our current plan, in Phase 2 we return to Toronto for three years until Steve can retire completely, and we live aboard while we do more retrofitting. In Phase 3 we head offshore across the Atlantic to spend a few years in the Med – either part time or full time (TBD).