What do you mean “intentionally irrelevant?” It’s my company. How can I be irrelevant?
I mean “irrelevant” to the day-to-day, even week-to-week aspects of running and managing the firm. This does not mean unimportant. “Intentional” is the difficult part. It implies that the necessary policies and procedures have been put into place so that the firm can operate in the absence of the owner – intentionally irrelevant.
Not everyone can sail away on a boat like you. What are your top 3 tips for helping me reclaim my independence or work-life balance?
Truly understand your best skill/talent as it relates to your company and focus on that activity, then… Hire great people to do everything else, whether in the company or outsourcing to specialists, then… Empower your people to make their own decisions, allowing them to make their own judgments and mistakes.
When will you leave on your trip?
Late spring to early summer of 2011
Briefly, where will you go?
From June 2011 to May of 2012, we will be in the Caribbean. Around May 2012 we will go through the Panama Canal then sail to the Galapagos Islands. From there 20 days straight sailing to Tahiti. November 2012 we head south to get out of hurricane season, and will go from New Zealand to Australia until around April of 2013. From there we will jump off from the Great Barrier Reef to the South Pacific, then Indonesia and Micronesia, ending in the summer of 2014.
What are some basic facts about the boat? Type, size, cost, etc.
We are sailing on a 50-foot catamaran. The boat has 4 cabins, each with a queen size bed and its own full head (bathroom), split in the two hulls. Between the hulls are a large great room that has the galley (kitchen) and dining/living room, with 360-degree views. These boats are very stable; they provide a great deal of redundancy since it has two hulls, two motors, two rudders, etc. Also, since a catamaran does not require a heavy keel to stay upright – unlike a traditional single-hull sailboat – it is virtually unsinkable (I know, they said that about the Titanic). In addition to the two motors, the boat has a 13-kilowatt generator, water maker, washer, dryer, air conditioning, solar panels and a wind generator. We like to think of it as an ocean-going, sailing house boat.
How will the family manage living together in such a small space? Won’t you make each other crazy?
Probably. While the boat is small, everyone has their own space, their bedroom, to be able to get away and have some private time. Also, the design of the boat has created four distinct common “living spaces.” Of course, even though the boat is small, the world around us is very big. There will be plenty of time to be off the boat; exploring the local towns, playing on the beach, snorkeling, surfing, fishing, hiking, and when the kids are driving us crazy, we have a water polo goal floating off the back of the boat.
How will you keep your family safe? And what safety hazards are you anticipating needing to prepare for? Weather, crime, etc.?
Just like living in the States, we face many of the same hazards relative to health, accidents, etc. The biggest difference with being on a boat is that it can take longer for help to arrive. It is similar to living out in the country or up in the mountains. As a result, everyone needs more first aid training. Scott was a lifeguard growing up and an EMT. The whole family is certified in CPR and emergency first aid. We will also have an extensive medical kit on board.
Weather is always an issue on a boat, but it is also something that is always being monitored. The rules that you never need to be anywhere if getting there requires sailing in bad weather. The boat has full-weather satellite feeds and full storm tracking systems and software. Growing up in Southern California, where it feels like it is a constant 72 degrees and sunny, it will be a big adjustment for us all to have to really focus on the weather.
Crime and piracy are concerns. We are staying out of the dangerous parts of the world. We also take similar precautions that everyone takes here in the city.
How will your kids get their education? You’re pulling them out of their schools for three years?
We will home school them on the boat. For the most part, the programs are self-study and the boys will be finished with their schoolwork by lunch. We plan to augment the basic bookwork with learning about the places we visit. We are really looking forward to having the opportunity to help craft the educations for the boys.
How will you conduct business on the boat? How will you interact with clients, staff, colleagues, etc.?
The boat will be “connected” via wifi, cellular, or satellite at all times. We plan to leverage the recent advancements in video conferencing. Scott’s business has 4 locations across the United States, so he is used to working remotely with clients, staff and colleagues. The business has been designed so that all it takes is an internet connection and you can work from anywhere.
Additionally, Scott will fly back to the States quarterly to meet with clients.
Are you writing a book?
I am working on one right now called “Intentionally Irrelevant.” It is for small business owners to share what I have done to build a company that will allow me to sail around the world.
I have plenty more in my head, which I hope I will find time to write when I am on the water.
How will you communicate with family and friends on your trip?
Modern communication has evolved tremendously in the last two years. We live in a very exciting time. With Facebook, a blog, Skype, Apple’s Facetime, etc. we will have plenty of ability to stay in touch. Also, we hope to be a great excuse for friends and family to visit us along the way.
How much time will you spend on the boat compared to time on land?
It is important to keep in mind that the boat is only sailing about 10% of the time. The rest of the time it is either in a marina or anchored right off shore in some beautiful location. If we are not sleeping, eating, or working, we will be off the boat either on land or on the water.
How will you deal with client needs – what if there’s a work crisis or someone insists on a face-to-face meeting? Will you need to (or are you prepared to) come back to California if needed?
The short answer is yes. However, since I am planning on being back every quarter, it should not be a problem. By design, the office is fully capable of handling emergency situations without me. I will still be in contact via phone or videoconference. I would actually be more out of touch if I tried to rush home than if I stay put on the boat and handle the crisis from that location.
What if something goes wrong on the boat, such as kids getting sick? How will you prepare for or deal with that?
We have had emergency medical training and we will have an extensive medical kit on the boat. However, there are not too many places left in the world that are really remote. Most of the places we will visit have hospitals and medical clinics. We can always fly back to the States or to another country for proper medical care.
What’s your plan for supplies on the boat? What supplies do you need? How will you handle things like food/groceries, etc.?
This is not much different than how one would prepare for a motor home trip across the country. Seldom will we be away from grocery stores for more than 5 days. We will stock up on canned and dried food, “just in case.”
The biggest adjustment will be getting used to preparing meals with what we find in the local stores – and not being able to jump into the car and grab something we forgot at a moment’s notice.
Do you or the family have any kind of specialized training or safety instruction? What happens if the kids have to act in an emergency? Will they know what to do?
When was the last time you did a fire drill in your home with the whole family? Learning what to do in case of an emergency is something that is practiced all the time on the boat. Also, every member of the family, with the exception of the 4 year old, has the knowledge and experience to deal with the boat in the event of an emergency.
We have had special medical training. There are very strict rules around lifejackets and other safety equipment. Every family member follows the same rules.
For people unfamiliar with sailing – do you have to file any kind of trip plan with any authorities, etc.? How about with family, friends, etc.? How will people know where you’re going and if you’re proceeding normally and safely?
Sailing can be a very free, gypsy type of lifestyle. No float plan is required with authorities. However, it is very prudent to keep family and friends aware of your plans, especially if you will be out of touch for any length of time. There are emergency beacons on the boat, and if they go off, the first people contacted are the Stateside representatives, usually family members. The more informed family is about your plan, the quicker you can be found if necessary.
With the technology on our boat, we can be in constant contact at all times. Also, there will be sufficient redundancies relative to our ability to communicate.
How will you handle passports, etc.? Can you just sail anywhere you want? Do you need any visas up front before you leave the U.S.?
This is one of the challenging aspects when traveling by sailboat. In the Caribbean, most countries – and sometimes there are two on a single island – want you to check in with their immigration and customs immediately. This is often only an option in major ports, which may not be as accessible to a small sailboat. On one recent trip when we were test-driving boats in the Caribbean, I had to clear immigration 4 times in 3 days, and we sailed less than 20 miles total. This is a process that you have no choice but to figure out as you go along.
Where does the boat dock in other countries? How will you know there’s a place for you and that you’re welcome when you get there?
Fortunately, we will not be the first boaters to come along. Due to wind and currents, there is a pretty well established route around the world. And in most of the places we will visit, tourism is a major part of the economy.
Most of the time the boat will anchor in a protected cove. We have a dingy that we use to get us from the boat to shore and travel quickly around an island.
What does it cost to run a trip like this? What are some of the big line items on your budget?
The biggest cost is the boat. However, it is not really any more expensive that owning and maintaining a home. The other major expenses will be the satellite communication costs back to the States.
However, we don’t have cars. We are our own utility for electricity and water. And since we don’t have much room on the boat for items, we don’t really spend money on toys (both big kid and little kid) since there is no place to keep them.
We expect to actually cut our living expenses down by 25 to 50 percent compared to what it cost us to live on shore.
Sounds like you plan to go to some less-advantaged or less-advanced countries. Do you anticipate any culture shock and how will you prepare or educate the kids on what to expect and also how to anticipate and respect local customs?
As part of the homeschooling process, we will all learn about the countries before we visit. Then we plan to really visit each country, get off the tourist roads, and experience the local customs. We see this as an integral part of our trip.
Will you always sleep on the boat or will you be in hotels, houses, etc. when you reach a foreign country?
We will almost always sleep on the boat. It is quite comfortable. In fact, the boys will have larger beds on the boat than they do in our home. The exception to this will be when we take multiple day trips into a country.
Do you or the kids need any kind of shots or immunizations for foreign travel?
We do not need anything. The US is ahead of many places in the world with vaccinations of our population. There are some minor-virus vaccinations that are recommended by some medical professionals. For the most part, since we live on the boat on the water – less exposure to mosquitoes and other nasty bugs – and we make our own water, what little risk there might be is greatly reduced.