We would have never dreamt about this 10 – or even five – years ago, but here we are, aboard a sailboat in the Bahamas and seeing a bit more of the world one day at a time
New Yorkers Conner Esworthy and Karl Gerchow wanted a simpler life, so they quit their jobs and set sail for the Bahamas
You could start your day squeezed between other commuters on the subway, or you could start your day by weighing anchor and setting sail for the next tranquil bay… New Yorkers Conner Esworthy and Karl Gerchow, both 33, chose the latter. After spending 10 years climbing the corporate ladder in the Big Apple, the couple thought that must be something more to life… maybe a simpler life.
“After a decade or so of living in New York, we were ready for a change,” says Esworthy. “We would have never dreamt about this 10 – or even five – years ago, but here we are, aboard a sailboat in the Bahamas and seeing a bit more of the world one day at a time.”
The idea of living on a boat attracted the couple for two reasons – it offers simplicity and at the same time, challenges them to learn a new set of skills. Neither of them grew up sailing. They had taken out a dinghy a few times on the Long Island Sound, but until they signed up for a sailing course in Grenada this was the extent of their knowledge.
With their new American Sailing Association qualification under their belt they were then able to charter a boat in the Caribbean. “We used the trip as a test to see if living aboard a sailboat full-time was for us,” says Esworthy.
However, they never seemed to find the right to quit their jobs – Gerchow working for an investment firm and Esworthy working for a healthcare start-up. Then three months later, they met by chance a retiree who wanted to sell his boat Contigo.
The couple then announced on their new blog that they had bought a boat, and they then quit their jobs ready for a life on the ocean. They knew that they had a lot to learn, but this was a case of now or never. The boat also gave them a starting boat as it also came with crisp charts for navigating the South Pacific Ocean.
They sold or gave away almost all of their land-based furniture and gave the keys to their rented apartment in Brooklyn back to their landlord. And in February 2017 they moved out and changed their life forever.
They had already been preparing themselves for a life change by living more frugally than their salaries required and were ready to live on their savings.
They started with a plan to explore the Eastern Seaboard, sailing from Chesapeake Bay to Penobscot in Maine, then move onto the Bahamas for their second leg. Next, they decided to head towards the Southern Caribbean to avoid the 2018 hurricane season. However, they gave themselves the flexibility to stop and get off the boat when they wish and if they didn’t like a place, just weigh anchor and move. The cruising paths they chose were also well-trodden so they could find plenty of information on the internet by sailors who had been there before. They are well-aware that they are new to this, they are going to make mistakes and when they are not working on the boat, they are devouring sailing blogs and getting advice from other sailors.
The first lesson that the boat gave them was to reset their expectations. They had to accept what they could and could not control. “They say that sailing frees you of the expectations and confines of society, but in exchange you forsake its security and comforts,” says Esworthy. “We are now more comfortable being uncomfortable and accepting of the things we cannot change, such as weather and boat maintenance.”
But then there are certain things that they would never want to change – including the fact that they wake to some of the most picturesque sights. “On Christmas morning in Gun Cay, south of Bimini, I watched the sunrise over water that was so still I could see fish jumping on the horizon,” says Esworthy. “On another occasion we arrived under thick fog in Blue Hill, Maine, and woke the next morning to see a picturesque New England harbour.”
Life on the boat also comes with stress, but it was a different kind. “In New York, it could seem constant (too much traffic, too little time in the day), while life aboard has its moments of stress and panic when action must be taken, but happily it subsides,” she adds.
One particularly challenging time on the boat was when they sailed from Bimini to Freeport in the Bahamas. “The conditions were less than ideal for sailing and we forced our departure to get a repair done. Our destination lay straight upwind, so we spent the day tacking back and forth and bashing bow first into choppy sea. The turbulence left the inside of our boat in total disarray and the nauseating smell of a broken gas canister pervaded the cockpit. What should have been an eight-hour journey turned into a tortuous 14-hour expedition.”
However, Esworthy says that while she is sure that they are sure to face many other issues, they wouldn’t change this for the world. “We have had so many beautiful and rewarding days on the water. There is a feeling that hits us, every so often, which sums up everything that we love about cruising. The expansive beauty and power of the ocean, the freedom of being out here answering only to ourselves, and perfect wind and sea-state conditions that make for a great afternoon sail. We have had many, and it never gets old.”
Follow Conner Esworthy and Karl Gerchow’s adventures on their blog Two Anchovies