Why Retire Afloat?

We love the water, either being on it, in it or beside it. In 2004 friends purchased a large power catamaran and invited us to spend a month cruising the coastline of the Ionian Sea (Greece) with them. This led to owning a boat in a charter fleet in the Whitsunday Island and then operating our own charter company. In 2012 we “exchanged” boating holidays with another couple. They took one of our boats in Queensland for two weeks and we had their boat located on the Burgundy Canals of France. Best holiday of our lives. We met lots of Brits, Kiwi’s and Aussies that had already made the decision to retire to this wonderful lifestyle and thought why not? But most of these people spent up to six months on their boats in Europe and then went back to their homes, we couldn’t afford to do that. Retiring in Australia anytime soon was way outside of our financial means and dreams were put on hold. That is until one day a friend said “Why come back to Australia, there are cheaper places around the world to live.” Once again that got us thinking and planning. I spent many hours looking at “boat porn” on the internet and researching the best vessel for what we were looking to do, the lifestyle we wanted and what came within our budget.

We set a dream date of retiring mid 2018 but then things took an unexpected turn.

Lea’s position was made redundant in July 2016 and the prospects of a 55-year-old finding another job on the Sunshine Coast were slim. We did some investigations and were absolutely gobsmacked to discover that our superannuation pension entitlements would only increase by $1,000 a year if we waited another 18 months to retire, rather than retiring now. Why were we working for $20 a week? Why not just retire now? We sought some professional advice to confirm our figures, double checked with a second opinion and then triple checked (did I mention that Lea is cautious).

We officially retired on 23 December 2016, spent the next few weeks selling or giving away all of our possessions, rented out our home of 20 years, re-homed our two much loved dogs (hardest part), packed a suitcase each, bid farewell to family and friends and left Australia on 6 February 2017 – Destination Penang, Malaysia. People have asked why did you choose this boat.

Our two favourite holidays have been cruising around the coastline of Greece and cruising the canals in Burgundy France. Cruising the coastlines of Europe as well as the internal rivers and canals are both things that we would like to do again in the future so we wanted a boat that was versatile enough to do both.It’s easy to find a dedicated canal boat or narrow boat but these are not suitable for open oceans or coastlines. Most coastal cruises have an “air draft” (the height from the waterline to the highest fixed point on the boat) too high for getting under many of the bridges crossing the rivers and canals within Europe.

After a lot of research, we came across Broom Boats and were immediately impressed. Broom have been manufacturing boats in the UK for over a 100 years, have a wonderful reputation for safety, stability, reliability and workmanship. We also loved the large aft cabin layout and the fact that while there was room for one or two other couples onboard, Lea and I could easily handle one of these boats on our own. The boat at the top of a large list of “contenders” was a Broom 39 designed as a coastal cruiser but with the versatility of being able to lower the radar arch to allow her to pass under virtually any bridge in Europe. Even the windows on the top deck are hinged to lower her profile even further.

Take a tour of the Sunshine Coast here

Unfortunately, it was well outside of our price range though. That was until Brexit which saw the value of the Pound plummet against the Australian Dollar. Suddenly she was within our price range and we grasped the opportunity. I took my first ever trip to the UK in November 2016 to conduct sea trials and organise a marine survey to check everything and the purchase was finalised soon afterwards. Many thanks to James Dickens from James Dickens Marine for the outstanding customer service both prior and post the sale.

At the time of writing this, Lea hasn’t actually seen the boat. She’s seen the video so you now know as much about the boat as she does. I said earlier that we renamed the boat Sunshine Coast in honour of our former home. Well that was only half true….Lea is generally a cautious person and plays the part of Devil’s Advocate to some of my ideas. She likes to know all the facts, check them, offers alternatives and “what if’s” before coming to a decision. We’re actually a very good partnership, best friends with mutual respect on both sides, a sort of ying and yang if you like. Well in September/October of 2016 when dates were being set, contracts organised and plans confirmed, Lea started to get a bit nervous about the whole scheme and who could blame her. She had managed to gain a full-time job that she enjoyed but we were planning to give that up along with secure pay packets at the end of each fortnight, a great network of family and friends, rent out our home of 20 years and leave a region that we knew well and were respected within.

We were going to jump off the precipice of early retirement and go and live a roaming life with no fixed address for an indeterminate period of time.

One day she verbalized this by saying “You know I love the idea of cruising around Europe on our own boat – but I also love living on the Sunshine Coast.” Being the problem-solving genius that I am I replied “No problem, we’ll rename the boat Sunshine Coast so that you can have the best of both worlds – you can cruise around Europe and still live on the Sunshine Coast.” She thought that was a great idea and hence MV Sunshine Coast.