Retirement Living: Home Is a Boat in the Caribbean – Kiplinger’s Personal Finance

Two years ago, Harry Weidman and his partner, Ann Stockton, were visiting the U.S. Virgin Islands, where they were thinking about buying a condo. A friend they were sailing with suggested they buy a boat instead. “He lit a dormant fuse. I couldn’t sleep that night, wondering, could I possibly pull this off?” says Weidman, 62.

For years, he had sailed on other people’s boats and dreamed of living on one. He felt happiest and most serene on the water, especially once land had disappeared from view. Neither Weidman nor Stockton had ever owned a boat, let alone a sailing vessel, but taking a leap of faith, they bought Whisper, a 40-foot catamaran.

Now, Weidman and Stockton, 60, are living the dream. Whisper is home while they spend the next three years of the five they’ve allotted for exploring the Caribbean. “We’re in different places all the time,” he says.

Along with exploring each island’s culture and meeting people from around the world, Weidman and Stockton swim and snorkel every day, marveling at beautiful sunrises and sunsets, the latter with a sundowner cocktail in hand. Stockton loves sleeping while the boat gently rocks. She has woken in the wee hours to bright moonlight streaming through an open hatch overhead.

Their nomadic lifestyle promises freedom and adventure, trades one set of costs for another, requires certain skills and temperament, and gives new meaning to downsizing. After moving out of their New Jersey apartment in early November 2020, the couple filled a 10-by-20-foot storage unit with their belongings and sold Weidman’s car and a vacation-rental home of Stockton’s in Florida. They moved aboard Whisper and its roughly 1,000 square feet of living space with three bags and two backpacks.

Compact Living

Weidman and Stockton live in one of Whisper’s two hulls, where they share a cabin and a full-size bathroom. Stockton gets the boat’s only closet, a space just 2 feet wide and 3½ feet high. The other hull has two small guest cabins and another bathroom. Their “onebutt” kitchen features a propane stove with two burners and an oven just big enough to accommodate a 9-by-13-inch pan. The small refrigerator runs off batteries, and because its freezer doesn’t really freeze, the couple stores their cheese in it. There’s no microwave, dishwasher or washing machine, and a table with bench seating usually gets passed over because Weidman and Stockton mostly eat on deck.

Every bit of space is used, and organization is key. Through one of the guest cabins there is access to the “garage,” a storage area where a chest freezer is kept. All storage bins are labeled, and Stockton keeps a list of where everything is. In one of the bench seats …….


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