How to sail without risking your life: tips from couples who have done it. Patrick and Sheila Dixon explain how they can make ‘hybrid cruising’ work
Seven years ago, like the empty nesters living in London, Sheila and I embarked on a cruise ship. I have been working at a fast pace, flying around the world advising international companies on future trends. At that time Sheila was in charge of our company, working as a magistrate, and holding everything else together.
We were looking to slow down, develop new skills, revitalize our future and rejuvenate ourselves. But we were concerned about hurting the business, neglecting the family, ruining our bank balance, and jeopardizing many other things. Can we make it work by spending a third of each year, like \’mixed sailors\’?
Making a connection
It was a big step to buy our boat after renting a few times. My father was a sailor, but by the time he was 70 in the ocean, he was no longer strong and weak. ”
My early years as a hospice doctor have also shown us both that life is so short that you can spend one day doing things you don\’t believe in – or really don\’t need to do. We both believe in taking this day: when life is uncertain, ‘eat dessert first’!
When we decided to buy Moxie (who had iron ore in Lagos, Portugal) we initially thought we would bring her back to the UK. However, the scenery, the warm sea, and the fascinating landscape of many Mediterranean countries encouraged us to sail eastward.
We left for Lagos several times in the three months before leaving. It was a very busy time, equipping Moxie and preparing her, but the \’normal life\’ continued: the day-to-day running of our company, customer calls, bookings, endless emails and, for me, going to talk events, anywhere in the world they could be.
Making it less expensive
We bought Moxie as a ten-year-old 47ft-old cruise ship, sailed on a sea-going ship, for the price of a large motorcycle. Five million people in the UK have second homes – but you can buy a boat for a fraction of that, and there are bank loans or financial options. Depreciation is low if you want a well-designed old model and keep it organized.
To support the cost of daily living we diverted the use of holiday money into our entertainment, and saved domestic payments such as energy and fuel. Conventional harnesses are relatively inexpensive, and many ports in places like Greece offer very low prices for yacht owners out of season – although hybrid cruises can pay off large marina debt when flying home in the summer.
We also left London to buy a guest house on the seafront Weymouth, which is now releasing large groups at AirBnB – but only when we\’re working, so AirBnB is now covering a lot of boat bills.
Moxie ended up paying for it herself several times. Sitting on the boat quickly rejuvenated our thinking and led us to try new programs. Although I had previously published 16 books, I had experienced a decade of bans on writers. But within three months of starting our new lifestyle, I had a contract with The Future of Almost Everything, followed by the salt in the Blood.
Along the way we came across all kinds of liveaboards, some with creative ways to support their marine adventures. We met a beautiful Australian couple in their 80\’s who often flew to Europe, bought a 20-year-old boat, and set off for Australia.
They sell when they get up to £ 20,000 more than the purchase price (as good quality boats are in high demand there), which is all the money.
However, few rides on liveaboard cruisers are true flowers. Most are retired, living permanently without a family outing. Some are too small for job opportunities. Others take a few years around the world, studying at home as they sail.
Few are fully integrated into the ‘normal life’ at home. For us, we started a time window that we thought might be closed soon – our older children had just gotten married, knowing that our parents might need us more in the future, and we were accustomed to working around the business.
Our \’three-dimensional rule\’ model has helped us, though we do not divide every year equally.
we can quickly switch between sea or land mode,\” Sheila explains.
“It is very common for us to be able to continue floating in the water for more than 6-8 weeks. When we are there, it sounds magical, but it can take a while to adjust and go back to earth.
As a future physician and physician I had repeatedly warned of the possibility of new epidemics – and there may be more to come – but if you are looking for a safe place to back up, tropical anchorage should be at the top of the list.
We recently returned to Antigua, where we stayed for three months at the anchor camp. We made ourselves water and energy, and we had monthly food as a return. I was delivering cemetery speeches from our room, while Sheila executed justice as a Magistrate, presiding over the Poole and Bournemouth court cases.
We were surprised to find that we were usually moving faster with bandwidth on anchors farther away from home in the UK.
Over the years, travel costs have dropped dramatically with the fast-paced data packets now available throughout Europe. In the Caribbean our roaming contracts offered some services but not enough, so we bought a local SIM and wifi device, donating 150GB for £ 80.
Somehow, our live life is simple thanks to Covid, as long as you can get travel restrictions. When your colleagues or your team are working almost anyway, who cares if you are in or out of the world?
However, Covid has also made our hybrid lifestyle very difficult. Clients are usually happy with emails and calls as places of communication between face-to-face meetings. But now they are waiting for a video, which uses more data on the anchor, and requires more reliable bandwidth.
Before Covid, we used about 35GB a month, but now we need 200GB. Zoom can use 1GB per hour.
Many people have made wild predictions during the closure that few workers will return to the physical offices. Face-to-face meetings are especially important if we are physically separated. That’s why Apple is among the companies that recently announced that all employees were expected to be in office for at least three days a week – they were in charge at the time of the closure, but realized they couldn’t invent new things.
So for many busy people who want to keep it, sailing for years will always be a dream come true. But usually you can live your dream and enter it for the third time in a year, while keeping successful jobs. It takes planning – and flexibility.
We select our wider locations based on the connection to the airport. On the way, we stop during the days when we may have a good cell phone signal. Weekends that will go far to the grid.
We have learned to allow a lot of time to get in, filter out, get out of the boat gear and online.
What lies ahead?
The epidemic has rocked millions of long-term work plans, and the next year or two will be a ‘recovery period’ – I predict big spending on unforgettable experiences and holidays. A large number of people will make major changes in their dream-tracking activities, under the ongoing shadow of Covid.
Some will sell and sail, cut off their land bonds, but many others will be reluctant to do so, after seeing the importance of family in locking. So I expect a rapid growth of hybrid travel. This will force a change in the construction of yachts – for example more electric sockets, larger batteries and better desk areas.
As for trading? One time to stay at home. We press the things of the world into days or weeks. There are family and friends to see, clients to meet, events to attend, we find that we are more busy than ever at home.
But for us, the benefits of this new lifestyle have been great, especially the joy and relief we feel as we sail to another destination. We feel healthy and ten years younger.
Top tips for sailing a hybrid boat
Prevent movement of the anchor
Rolly anchorage needs to be avoided when attending a video conference, as well as getting comfort on board. Choose your position carefully, and try to get under the cliffs away from the swelling. Use the second line of the anchor to hold the bow in place, and adjust the last shaft to keep your bow pointing in the air.
Agree offline time
… And keep to it. It is important to be guided offline at the same time, or you will lose the very reason for being on the ship. That’s why remote signal anchors are some of our favorite places on the weekends.
Keep plans flexible to reduce costs
Navigating a Hybrid boat means packing face-to-face meetings in shorter, more powerful ways to reduce the frequency of flight. At the same time, give yourself plenty of information on which flights to take and where you are from – you will get a big difference in prices on budget flights.
Data, data, and other details
Get local wifi SIM cards in addition to roaming smartphone contracts. Networks vary – even 100m without the same anchorage, so give it a try. We always have three active contracts: one for each cell phone, and one for the wifi dongle. Internet cafes are often unreliable, have a lot of noise in video calls – and can be shut down when needed. You can get a signal of 25 miles at sea, but otherwise enjoy the tranquility. Forget satellite comms: these programs can cost thousands of pounds per month for heavy use and cannot control video streaming.
Do your best to reduce annual maintenance when you have a limited amount of time to float. For example, Coppercoat means the end of an annual uplift of distractions. The mini-scuba kit allows 15 minutes under water to turn anodes and clean propellers. Our most useful contacts are friendly taxi drivers who take us to repair shops, and make future messages.
Lights are important
Cabin lighting is often weaker compared to a typical home or office, energy saving. This is a false economy where it works. We have upgraded all cabinet lamps with larger LEDs that include and add more. We also create emotional lighting with LED strips behind covings.
Make your screen green
Some partners or clients may be interested in seeing you on the boat, but others may be upset or upset. We bought a green sheet as a background so that we could easily switch to another image – the office, bookcase, or Court logo could appear behind us during calls. This works better than relying on apps or software functions to hide your wardrobe.
Life without a grid depends on a lot of power without using sound generators when making calls. That means bigger batteries, with more charging options. Upgraded to 800Ah battery storage, as well as a fast charger. We are re-energizing the beach; engine; generator, air; who blows in the water while sailing, and thinks of sunset.
Two rectifiers + 12v chargers
We rely entirely on mains to charge computers. We have two rectifiers (which always back up everything), which I re-built hard so that more electrical power would come out of all the electrical sockets.
Put in your fridge
Our boat was already fitted with a large fridge and freezer but both quickly drained our batteries – so I stopped spraying more than 200lt of foam closed cells into the holes around them with amazing results. Closed cell foam means non-traction, but it requires mixing at the site and is complicated to apply.
The water maker blows the wind con
Few things feel as comfortable as hot showers when you sit inside. That means big water tanks, and enough water maker. Two people can easily use 70lt a day (25% of it is usually used at home), so we are happy with 600lt tanks. Our water maker runs when we drive cars in clear water, and makes 105lt an hour, which means full tanks can last for weeks.
We have a (noisy) air but you need the generator to work. The most effective is to throw a tent over the boat. We made ourselves from a large sheet of fabric, cut to make it. Pull it over the boom, around the pillar and secure it from the rails and curves – it provides quick shade, an air tunnel to drive the air down, and lowers the cabinet temperature by about 10 °.
Backups of all tech
Things can go wrong and go wrong – salt rust, wires thrown into the sea, coffee spilled on the keyboard. Even replacing a cell phone can take a long time in an unknown world, so we have backups of all the essentials – enough to allow both of us to work simultaneously, even if two devices are broken. Don\’t forget the printer, and the paper. You will need to get official documents, and other reasons from faraway places. Many times we still need a print, or a physically signed contract.
Using a business boat and hobbies, serious sailing and sitting on the anchor, requires a lot of pride. If there are no guests inside, both of our support rooms are used for sails, bicycle folds etc.
Keep your body clock in the office
The Caribbean has a four-hour time difference in the UK, so we usually aim to work at 0600, and finish by 1600 later, enjoying a late swim before dinner.