An exercise in letting go

How much stuff can you fit inside a 35-foot boat? Less than you hoped for but more than you can imagine. As I empty every locker and clean out every nook and cranny I feel like we were given all this crap on a dare to which we responded, “challenge accepted.”

I’m brought back to the day two weeks before setting sail, when we held our garage sale to find new homes for 90% of our belongings. Our living room sat furnitureless – a Sonoma fire survivor had taken it two days before. In its place stood hundreds of items and knickknacks that had adorned our walls, cupboards and drawers. Some of them forgotten until now, others had fulfilled their need in our lives and no longer had a place in the new life we were designing. It was astonishing to see what we had accumulated, and I felt distraught by what most of the clutter represented: hard earned cash spent mindlessly. I felt dread and sadness watching strangers rifle through stuff we had personally selected for ourselves; sadness turning into relief as the living room cleaned out. A clear visual of another task near completion.

Two future sailors in their empty home

Eleven months later the sailing portion of our sabbatical has come to an end and during a two-week period we dismantled what we had worked tirelessly to create: outfitting our life as sailors. One month is left on our year-long sabbatical and this is when we transition from traveling by sea to traveling by land. A more drastic transition awaits, but for now will remain unacknowledged.

Instead of a living room sitting at treetop level in Marin county, we were now in a 10-by-15-foot musty little hostel room in Southport, Australia. Personal effects we had deemed essential for our sailing trip cover every square inch of space. Corners were designated as toss, keep, donate and TBD, and in longer than expected, our lives were once again boxed up. We struggled with indecision in figuring out the most cost-effective way to handle our items and sadness where we had to let go. Once again, clutter and stuff were zapping all of my energy.

We moved from a 3-bedroom house in Denver, to 900 square feet in California, to a 200-square foot boat in the Pacific Ocean. Bravo may be considered small but I never felt constrained. Everything we needed, we had. Where we didn’t we adapted. A home for everything and everything in its home. I transitioned into a life as a sailor, and in turn into a life as minimalist.

We let go of material possessions in order to make this dream work. But what happens when you are supposed to let go of the one possession that made the dream come true? For those of us who follow the coconut milk run down the Pacific, a return to the US can mean needing to sell your boat. The timeframe required for sailing back, costs of shipping the boat, or costs of hiring a captain for delivery are not in the cards for us. Very thorough and careful consideration of possibilities and constraints led us here. Some say the happiest days of a boat owner’s life are the day you buy the boat and the day you sell it. For us, this isn’t completely true. Bravo holds a special place in our family and a special place in our heart.

I feel equal disbelief that we are selling Bravo, and that we actually pulled this off. 11,179 nautical miles sailed, 328 days at sea and a massive tick mark on our life’s bucket list. As we walk off the dock one last time, I feel as if I’ve been punched. We adapted to a life at sea and now we wish it farewell, but what breaks my heart is leaving her behind. No, I’m not crying…those are allergies. We are really gonna miss our girl.

Safely docked in a Brisbane marina, she has arrived to her new home. She’s sitting high and proud on her clean and freshly painted smurf blue water line, stainless glistening in the sun, her dashing 130 giving away her history as a racer, the swirling turbine giving away her history as a blue water cruiser.

Bravo, we promised we would take good care of you and you returned the favor. Thank you, sweet Bravo. This is the end of our journey, but not the end of yours, and in the same way the torch was passed on to us, today we passed it on to others. You are a dream maker. Thank you, sweet Bravo, here is an Ode to you.

Coming to you for the last time…..

SV Bravo, out.



328 days and 11,179 nautical miles separate these two pictures. Oh how far we’ve come…