That Pesky Address


“So what’s your address?” “Somewhere out there…. That little moving spec, see it?”

So where do you live?

For most people, that’s an easy question that usually has a geographical answer: A state, a city, a neighborhood. For cruisers, it’s also an easy question, though the answer is more of a design choice: On a Beneteau, a Brewer, a Pearson. But in our preparations for the next chapter, I’ve been circling around a far more difficult question for those who live the nomadic lifestyle.

What’s your address?

Surprisingly, the IRS and the Department of Health and Human Services don’t view the great blue sea as an acceptable response. The more I try to prepare for our next chapter, the more I’m realizing that the United States government really doesn’t look favorably on those whose location isn’t a pin on Google Maps. For us, it will change depending on the month, or even the week. Florida, the Bahamas, the BVIs, the ABCs…  (Side note: how AMAZING is that?!)

Here are just a few of the hurdles I’ve come across in the past few weeks that require a physical address:

Passports: First off, we need to get a passport for Claire. With how long it takes to process, having it sent to our current address likely won’t work. But where will we be in six to eight weeks? Exciting changes are coming…

Our licenses: As soon as this condo sells, our licenses are no longer valid. Aaron’s license also happens to expire on his birthday at the end of April. So one way or another, we’ll need to update these. But to what? A temporary address? I’d rather not, to avoid having to handle this at the DMV multiple times. Who needs a license when you’re sailing, anyway? I thought about that. But what about when we want to splurge and rent a car in a port to explore further inland, or when we’re home visiting family and friends?

Our healthcare: Come this summer Aaron will no longer be full time with his firm and his insurance plan won’t be available to us once 2017 rolls around.  Then, we will need to apply for coverage through the Affordable Care Act. The plans that are available to you are based on what state you live in. Unfortunately, Atlantic Ocean is not one of the options on the menu.

Our taxes: As Aaron and I both plan on working, albeit at a lower capacity, while we’re cruising, we’ll need to file taxes. And the IRS requires an address so that they can chase us down for every last cent.

Our banking accounts, cellphones, etc.: Most all of these things can be handled online now, with no paper mail – BUT – an address is still required on the account.

The wonderful thing is that we certainly are not the first people to live the cruising life, and our fellow community members have paved the road with a few options. One option, and likely the easier option, is using a friend or family member’s address.

Another option is signing up for a mail forwarding service. Many cruisers who have traveled the grounds we’re hoping to explore have used St. Brendan’s Isle, a Florida-based outfit. For a nominal setup cost and monthly fee, you essentially purchase a Florida address and the company will collect, scan and email you your mail.

The mail forwarding option is almost a no-brainer, except for a pretty big hiccup: If we start our journey from the Great Lakes, or purchase a boat anywhere but in Florida, as soon as our Oak Park address is no longer valid, we’ll need to fly out to Florida for a time to establish our residency there and get Florida licenses. Certainly doable, but a financial and time commitment that’s less than ideal.

Oh, right, and there’s that pesky healthcare question. The state that offers us the best plan, either Florida or where our families reside, may make the decision for us. I’ve been doing quite a bit of research into this, too, but more on that in another post, when my brain stops smoking.

So that’s my conundrum for right now. A seemingly simple question. There’s a huge sense of pride in a pied-a-terre, having your own little slice of the world pie. I just can’t wait till ours floats.

Also, I have this recurring dream in which I wake up one morning in the middle of the Caribbean Sea and Bed Bath & Beyond coupons will have been delivered to our cockpit. Wherever we go, they will find us :).

A Message From Louise

When the wonderful Wisconsin couple found our message in a bottle last weekend, it was Pat, the husband, who originally reached out to me. We exchanged a few emails, and it was so surprising and exciting to learn that our bottle had been found!

A few days later, his wife, Louise, also reached out to me. I fancy myself a writer, but Louise shares her experience like a true storyteller.

Here’s what she wrote:

Last Sunday it was delightfully warm on the beach in Wisconsin. I was “beach combing” after the winter, as we walked looking for stray toys and such that we typically need to clean up or find when I spotted your bottle in some grass way up from the edge of the water. Truly one of the most delightful fun surprises of my life!  Who would have ever imagined actually finding a bottle with a message in it?!  Stuff of literature and movies, but actually?

I considered saving it to open with my grandsons but couldn’t wait. Don’t worry, as you can see by the picture, I carefully replaced everything and will let them explore and enjoy it for themselves this summer. I know my two year old granddaughter will love the necklace. I placed the refilled bottle on a mantle in our house with other treasured natural mementos from walks on the beach like driftwood, turkey feathers, sea glass, a monarch butterfly, zebra mussel shells, coal, rocks, pine cones and a vase that was my great grandmother’s.

My husband and I have 8 kids and so far 10 grandkids. We love and respect the lake in all seasons and weather. It constantly changes and surprises. It reminds us of our place in this awesome universe and our responsibility to live well and respectfully in it. I will think of your family and wish the best for you whenever I look at my unexpected gift from the deep.

Bless you and safe travels.

Our message in a bottle, displayed with other treasures on Pat and Louise's mantle.

Our message in a bottle, displayed with other treasures on Pat and Louise’s mantle.

Message Received!

Ready to Throw!Our Message in a Bottle was found!

As some of you may remember, during our sail back from Door County during our cruise this summer, Claire, Aaron and I spent a few days putting together a message in a bottle. (Read the original blog post here.) We drew pictures and wrote a note, Claire made a special bead necklace, we corked it, and Claire tossed it overboard on a chilly and overcast afternoon, somewhere offshore between Kewaunee and Sheboygan, Wisc.

Knowing that it would likely never be found, I viewed it more as a fun exercise with Claire and an offering to the mighty Lake Michigan that had taken such good care of us.

But yesterday morning, just shy of six months later, I booted up my computer to check my email and was greeted with a wonderful note from Pat, from Belgium, Wisc. It seems that he and his wife took advantage of an exceptionally warm late-February weekend to take a stroll along the beach for the first time in months, and lo and behold, his wife spotted our repurposed Door County wine bottle sitting on the beach.

What are the chances?! I tried to do some research on this. A quick Google search for these time capsules found in the Great Lakes yielded quite a few results, and some captivating stories of artifacts preserved for more than 75 years. But 10, even 15 accounts (at least, covered in newspaper articles) in the grand scheme of things is almost nothing. The truth, also, is that fewer people are doing this, for two reasons. First, writing actual letters with pen and paper is a forgotten art. Second, throwing anything into the water is considered littering and a non-starter, both in and out of the boating community. It’s definitely something we take very seriously on Clarity, though I was willing to make this one exception.

In all accounts, though, finding a message in a bottle was a momentous and fascinating occasion.

Our bottle’s journey was determined by a combination of waves, winds, weather and current. We also never ventured more than 10 nautical miles offshore during those sails back south to Chicago, and in Lake Michigan, it’s not as though tides or the gulf stream can further influence the trajectory.

Calculating the distance from where we likely tossed the bottle, to the shoreline just east of Belgium, our little care package traveled 40-50 nautical miles. The true miracle is that the bottle happened to wash ashore and be preserved (albeit a short time) long enough to be found, and in a location that just happened to be visited by a couple on a random afternoon walk.

Pat and I exchanged a lovely email correspondence, and it warms my heart to know that he and his wife treasured receiving our bottle as much as we treasured making it those cloudy, foggy days back in September. All the best to you, Pat! I hope the beaded necklace is just your size :).