Enjoying the Freedom of a New Life at Sea

Take a typical New York City studio apartment and then halve it. That gives you an idea of the living space of 44-year-old Mark and 36-year-old Amélie Meadows and their son, 18-month-old Zephyr. They call The Blue Goose, a 38-foot sailboat, home.

Far from feeling constrained by this living or work arrangement, the couple feels it’s helped them strip down to the essentials. And their truly mobile home has allowed them a life of adventure. They’re currently docked in San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua, but it’s just a waypoint on a multi-year trip through Central America. Their rough plans are to go another 10 years at sea.

They cook meals in the galley—at sea they often catch their own fish. In port they’ve scouted all the best deals on food (and good Nicaraguan rum) at the local markets.

When the weather is good, which is most of the time, they hang out on benches on deck in the stern. And at bedtime, Mark and Amélie get cozy in a small bed at the bow, with their son dozing in a crib suspended from the ceiling.

The Blue Goose doubles as their workspace, too.

“Daily life is an adventure. I tend to start work at around 4 a.m.; then Amelie and Zephyr get up at about 6 a.m.,” explains Mark. “There’s some breakfast time, then a few hours of work. I like to take Zephyr to shore in the dingy, and we play on the beach, and that gives Amélie some time to work.”

Both Mark, born in Biloxi but raised in Colorado, and Amélie, from the Brittany region of France, are freelance writers. Mark is an author of several books, as well as an expert in artificial intelligence, and an artist. His latest art project is a handcrafted, limited edition, illustrated book of nautical fables called “Seven Fables.”

Amélie writes for a French sailing publication and a women’s health and beauty magazine, Top Santé.

They set sail from Los Angeles, where they bought the boat for $50,000, six years ago. They’ve weathered storms that tested their skills and endurance and seen the power of the sea firsthand.

They left with virtually no money in the bank, determined to make their way on what they earned from their freelance projects. It helps that they’ve learned to do most of the maintenance themselves. And repair costs are much lower in Central America.

They’d seen many people save a lifetime to spend their retirement sailing the world, only to have illness or some other unexpected setback stop them before they even left port.

“We made a decision to leave with an excess of time—not money,” says Mark.

Heading south, they sailed the west coast of Mexico for three years, including a year-and-a-half in Mazatlán. In March 2011, they left and headed south, with stops in El Salvador and then Nicaragua.

Working on board does come with its challenges. “I don’t tell clients I live on a boat,” says Amélie. She explains that many can’t understand how somebody can work reliably in those conditions. They do, though sometimes they’ve had to get creative.

In Mexico and Nicaragua, they’ve been able to get 3G signals, even offshore, by staying in range of cell-phone towers dotting the shoreline. That gives them Internet, email, and Skype, which they use to keep in touch with clients.

But in some locations, they were too far from civilization. Once, when Amélie had an important interview scheduled, they were scrambling. It was in the Sea of Cortez, which lies between Baja California and mainland Mexico. No cell signal. But they did spy some homes on a cliff. The residents hailed them on VHF radio, inviting them up.

She did the interview—on the roof, with a homeowner’s satellite phone.

Mark, a lifelong surfer, started sailing when he was 18. When they bought The Blue Goose he earned his captain’s license. He’s now rated up to 100-ton vessels. Amélie has an edge. She learned to sail at the age of four in France.

With so much time spent on the water, Mark and Amélie have found that their perspective on life has changed.

“You can never be in a hurry. You learn to let go,” says Mark. “You have to have respect for the present. “The open ocean, for me, is truly wild land. This ‘Blue Continent’ we live on is profoundly beautiful and I wish more people could see it.”

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