Living Aboard a Boat Ramblings From the Dockside

Dreams for Sale

Friday, July 15, 2016S.V. CAMBRIA



“We’ve moved on, haven’t we?” It was another one of those random questions I like to pull from thin air and throw David’s way, one that was attached to no particular conversation. But he knew immediately what I was asking, and I knew what his answer would be: “Yeah, we have.”

We were sitting in the cockpit chatting about the day or whatever topic happened to pop into our heads. I was looking around the bay, taking in the view and feeling bothered by the fact that I wasn’t motivated to move on to our next anchorage, or any other for that matter. Something was wrong and I couldn’t quite put my finger on it until the question escaped my mouth. And now that the answer’s out there, maybe it’s time to finally fess up and make our plans be known.  

David and I have decided to put Cambria on the market. It’s time for our home of 13 years to belong to somebody else . . . to be somebody else’s dream. We don’t want to go offshore again and she belongs on the open-ocean, sailing fast and free. It’s only fair. We’re still going to finish our season – one last hurrah re-visiting our favourite anchorages and friends along the Inside Passage – but expect it to be our last. It wasn’t an easy decision, but we’re ready to move on to our next adventure and have started taking steps to make that happen.

Where do we want to go?

I’ve written about this before and alluded to the fact that we’d already made our decision, which we had, but the reality is just starting to hit home. Before it was something we said we were going to do and now we’re actually doing it. Cambria’s not on the market yet, but we are laying the groundwork for that to happen . . . and soon.

Our plan is to move back to the UK and explore the canals of England and Wales on a narrowboat. I’ve already picked out the name of our next blog (From the Towpath) and have saved it on Facebook and Wordpress. We’ve been researching information and looking at boats for sale online (we know what we want but haven’t found it yet). But David did something the other day that set me back a little bit: He contacted a friend of ours who’s a boat broker.

We’ve been down this path once before. When we moved back to the States in 2007, there were so many things we wanted to do but felt we couldn’t because we didn’t want to leave the boat unattended for long periods of time. And then we got an idea: What if we sold the boat? We’d be free! So, we sat down with a broker in San Diego and talked about our options. By the time the meeting was over, both David and I had tears in our eyes and knew we couldn’t do it. We loved Cambria; she was our home and we weren’t ready to part ways. But now we are.

What’s different?

We are. We’ve been doing this for 15 years now and we’re ready for a change. We’re also ready to go “home”. It’s been 40 years since David left England and he still has family living there that we want to spend time with. So, after a lot of thought and consideration, we decided that travelling the canals would be a great way to accomplish that and more (like adding another dog or two to our family). But what if we don’t like it? The answer is simple: We’ll go back to cruising aboard a sailboat . . . just not this one.  

That doesn’t mean it was an easy decision to make. It wasn’t. And it took me, personally, a year to get on board but, after carefully weighing our options, I eventually came to the same conclusion as David. So, here we are once again, staring down the face of another abyss – one that requires selling just about everything we own, packing up the rest, and moving half way across the world to start all over. Sound exciting? It is . . . but it’s also scary and a little overwhelming.

The first thing we want potential buyers to know when they come down the companionway steps is that Cambria is well-loved and our heads spin in 100 different directions whenever we think about how to make that happen, especially while still living aboard. And then there are the questions: What stays? What goes? How do we market the boat? Where do we market the boat? But we’ll get there in the end. We always do.

What’s a narrowboat?

A narrowboat is exactly what it sounds like: a boat that’s narrow, 6’10” wide to be exact, and purpose-built to fit the canals of England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland which were created to transport goods from town to town on barges pulled by horses walking along a towpath. In the mid-1800s, railways began replacing the canals and they eventually fell into a state of disrepair. One hundred years later, people started to see the potential for recreation on the waterways and began the process of bringing the system back to life. Today, there are over 2,000 miles of canals in use and more are being renovated and reopened every year. 


At this point you might be thinking, “Six feet and 10 inches, how can you live like that.” Easy. Lengthwise. Not only are narrowboats narrow, they’re long and we’re in the market for one in the 58 to 62 foot range with a owner’s cabin forward, a bathroom with a tub (if possible), a main living area, a walk-through galley with a breakfast bar and an office that seconds as guest accommodation so we can kidnap David’s brother and sister-in-law for long periods of time. 


What does this mean for the blog?

Well, it means that I’m going to bring you along for the journey of selling a boat, the ups and downs of it all. This isn’t our first rodeo; Cambria’s our third boat together, but she’s been our home for the last 13 years and we have a lot of blood, sweat and tears invested in her . . . along with a lot of memories. Saying goodbye and letting go is going to be one of the most difficult things we’ve done as a couple. But it’s not something that’s going to happen quickly, I’m guessing it’ll take 18 months for Cambria to sell. So, in the meantime, it’ll be more of the same: summing it up on Sundays whenever I can, information on anchorages along the Inside Passage and blogs about whatever subject happens to catch my attention (like this one). But now that the proverbial cat’s out of the bag, at the very least, I can be more open and honest about what’s happening aboard the good ship Cambria and why. 




 In 2007, David and I spent 7 weeks in England visiting his family and had the opportunity to spend an afternoon on a narrowboat with his brother and sister-in-law. The photos from the trip are (01) David standing aboard "Longmead", (02) Derek, D's brother, and David at the rudder, (03) me, with about 20 inches less hair, in the companionway, (04) our sister-in-law, June, at the dinette, and (05) David working the locks.

Have you ever sold a boat that was your home? We’d love to hear any advice you might have. Join the conversation below in the comments section or on our Facebook page.

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14 comments

  1. Wow! We've sold houses and boats before, and once the decision has been made, it's been straightforward - the house and previous boats have "become dead" and the only thing to do is move forward. Everything has always fallen into place much easier than I've thought. It's hard when a place / boat holds so many good memories, but you don't have to sell the memories :-).
    I'm compiling a list of things I know you like (puppies, brownies) so we can bribe you to check out your new narrow boat in the UK. Matt's talked about his interest to end up in the UK at some point and I've always been "whatever". In the last year, watching Distant Shores episodes in the UK and finally going to Matt's hometown in New Mexico, it's become clear I'll get back to the UK (even though I'm cross about Brexit - I loved having an EU passport) - whether for just a season or longer is unclear. We're both super excited about the new blog and can't wait to follow your new adventures!

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    1. Well . . . there's this fantastic Oru Kayak that I have my eye on. LOL. We definitely don't have to be bribed. One of the things we're most excited about is how many people say they want to come for a visit once we get situated. Sure, they said it about Cambria too, but this time I actually believe them!

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  2. Oh wow! How exciting!! I can't wait to follow along with your new adventures :-)

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    1. Thanks, Ellen! We're pretty excited. It's going to be a great way to see the country and visit some excellent pubs.

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  3. Wow big changes ahead! I get all upset when. I think about selling Wildwood which we'lol have to do in a few years time when we are ready to sail around the world. Boats have a personality don't they.
    Anyway I think the canals look amazing! Great idea :)

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    1. They really do! We promised ourselves we wouldn't fall in love with a boat again, but that was a fool's errand -- it can't be helped. This is definitely one of those things in life we're going to have to plow our way through and just push the emotion to the side until all is said and done, but we've been wanting to do the canals of Europe for years and the timing's right.

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  4. Oh wow, just wow! Kind of wish we were in the market. But how exciting to be looking forward to canals! We may be doing that someday ourselves. I'm excited for you both, but admit I was a bit sad hearing this news at first. Still 15 years is a long time. We know a good broker in Seattle if you want to list her. Dang, wish we were in the market!

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    1. That's so sweet, Melissa! And I wish it were that easy! We're going to try to market Cambria hard in the UK (VAT has been paid), New Zealand and Australia because she's a 220 volt boat and SE Alaska is a dream for most people but difficult to get to from those parts of the world . . . which is another reason we decided now is the right time -- location, location, location.

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  5. I am very excited for you! Your photos are beautiful. :)

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    1. Thanks, Linda! We're really excited, too!

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  6. Bittersweet, Stephanie. I think that is the term to describe what you are and will be going through. Quite the decision, but it makes sense to me. And, all the pieces from your previous blogs fall into place now as well. 13 years (or even 15 years) of full-time living on a boat is a long time. We lasted 8 and that was one year too many. That last year was, seriously, hell, since my husband had had enough for a while, and I was still holding on to the cruising life, hoping he would change his mind. I did! Of course, trying to sell our boat in the "middle of nowhere" (Tahiti) didn't help either, but we could not muster up the energy anymore to move it elsewhere or pay heaps of money to let someone else deliver our home to Australia or the US. We listed Irie with three brokers. Since the one in French Polynesia only charged a 5% commission, we came to the same agreement with the other brokers, under a non-exclusive contract, which allowed for us to sell it as well if we privately found a buyer. It took about 10 months to sell her after we listed her with brokers. You will have an easier time, because of your location. Our starting price was way too high, which is why it took longer than expected to sell her. Once we tried more aggressively to sell her, within months the deal was done. We sold her for about $10K less than we hoped for, but we really needed to move on.

    We had family saying the same thing about visiting, but it hasn't happened yet. Of course, we still don't live in one location... Good luck selling Cambria and enjoy your favorite places one last time!

    When we were cruising, we were blissfully (some would call it ignorantly) unaware of the news. Back on land, it is a bit tougher to be unaffected by the news and it all feels much closer to "home" as well. I still try to not get depressed by it and often feel like I want to escape (on a new adventure). A temporary remedy now is to go out into nature and walk or hike, or read a good book.

    Liesbet @ Roaming About

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    1. Liesbet, we're optimistic about our location as well (one of the driving factors in doing it now, really) but it's also going to be challenging for a couple of reasons: we're a 220 volt boat (though we hope that turns out to be a bonus for someone wanting to do the Pacific run) and we're UK registered which means no duty or taxes have been paid in the US (again, could be a bonus for someone from the UK where VAT has been paid) but, worst of all, it means a broker in the US can't bring people aboard our boat (I believe we can though and then there's always Canada). Ten months on the market makes me feel optimistic, especially since you felt it was a bad location to sell.

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  7. Those are a few hurdles, but if you find the right person... And, I'm sure you will. We sold our 110 volt system boat to an Australian couple who took Irie to their home country, so even the voltage difference might not be too big of a deal. Advertising yourself is quite easy now as well, with the internet and social media. Good luck! When you start spreading the word in time and the asking price is fair, you will be successful. :-)

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  8. Close to having goose pumps for you two .. and all those perspective dogs ! I see your story here, so you won't have to reply to my inquiry of this morning earlier . Thanks for your rich writings.. you two have been a rich inspiration for me .. obviously for many !
    Riding a train from London = Inverness,northern Scotland ... allowed many rich views of waterways and narrow boats. Got me thinking too ! An absolute sweet manner for exploring .. I'd keep a bike or two and a small displacement motor bike on board for zip'n off for supplies and rides and grins ! I've been looking at UK sites strong on river boats too .... maybe we'll tie up one day ... Much peace and love to you forever ! Sincerely Canyon

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