Burning down the small treehouse scraps as I type

Burning down the small treehouse scraps as I type

One-way tickets have been purchased. Still have a lot of open questions: When will the INS schedule the appointment to finalize Kaiwen’s citizenship? How many open projects will there be on the house when we go? How will her follow-up dental appointment go? How do I send a pallet of stuff to the virgin islands (do I really need that stuff!?). As well as the 41 open items on the To-Do list need to be completed. The questions do not stop so you just have to pick a date.

Now, we have the tickets and the date. That is the hardest part.

We will be traveling as a family of five: Kaiwen, and her mom Su-kuei, Max, Kyle and me. Our Lagoon 450 has four cabins and four heads (toilets & showers). Here is the floor plan of Ad Astra:

Ad Astra’s floor plan

Ad Astra’s floor plan

Kaiwen and I take the starboard (right) aft (rear) corner cabin. Kyle will take the port aft cabin. Max will take the forward starboard, and Su-Kuei the forward port. When we have guests Kyle will first bunk with Max to free up one cabin, and then both will sleep in the cockpit (rear deck) if we need two open cabins.

Su-kuei has lived with us about 15 years, and we get along absolutely great. She still has not learned much English and I still have not learned much Mandarin. It has been working well for us so far, and so I am a little hesitant to learn Mandarin. 🙂

Su-kuei taking a shot of a ruined sugar mill on St Croix

Su-kuei taking a shot of a ruined sugar mill on St Croix

Su-kuei is a natural sailor, the seas can be rough and she is happily cooking a many course meal, and playing games on her iPad at the same time. Like me, she does not get any motion sickness. She loves to travel, and is very robust and a joy to have as a close member of our family and crew.

How much does it cost to sail away?

And how do we do the homeschooling were the two most dominant themes of the questions, raised so far. Homeschooling is a more nuanced and longer discussion. The financials are a bit more straightforward to I will cover that first.

Give me feedback, if the details are too much tell me, or if not enough tell me.


I grew up in a working blue collar family, first to go to college, studied Aerospace Engineering at the University of Southern California and worked for 2 years at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory on the Galileo and Cassini missions. I grew impatient with the speed of NASA and dropped out of my PhD and started making games. I worked for a couple of game companies, then I started a couple, sold one to Zynga, and then exited Zynga with ridiculous money for the first time in my life. Until then I always had student loan debts and struggled to make ends meet.

I paid taxes on that exit money, paid my debts, bought a house in Austin, led the seed round in Bee Cave Games, made a few other investments, gave some money away, and bought Ad Astra new, hull #161 for ~$675k.

Why did we buy the Lagoon 450 over another boat? Why a cat over a monohull? New vs old? Cash vs loan?

Ad Astra is my 3rd boat. Before Ad Astra, I partnered on a 27′ Newport monohull Knotabus in Long Beach California and had a great time learning to sail with Tim the owner. For the most part just sailed around Long Beach, but I did take her to Catalina twice and really enjoyed those trips.

After taking the job at Zynga, I was hankering for a boat of my own. After searching for a bit, I found an owner that I liked, and a boat I liked even more: Andiamo II. A mono-hull with the very unusual carbon-fiber free-standing masts known as a cat-rigged ketch, even though it is not a catamaran.

Andiamo II — a 36′ Cat-rigged Ketch sailing in the SF Bay

Andiamo II — a 36′ Cat-rigged Ketch sailing in the SF Bay

January 2010; Kyle 8 and Max 5 in the v-berth of Andiamo II

January 2010; Kyle 8 and Max 5 in the v-berth of Andiamo II

Andiamo II was a great boat for me. I paid $30k for her, and she was in good shape. The engine ran well, sails were in great condition, had a strong anchor and chain, and clean. The hull was sound with no Osmosis. She carried me on some truly epic adventures all over the bay: under the Golden Gate Bridge, Sausalito, Angel Island, San Pablo Bay, Napa River, and my favorite: all the way up the Petaluma River to dock in downtown Petaluma!

She had a great V-Berth and a large Quarter berth, a galley and a fantastic fridge, head and shower. She was comfortable. I could have lived myself in that boat for the rest of my life and I would have been happy. It had a huge drawback though: it was a mono-hull. Problem with mono-hulls is that they heel. While I do not get sea-sick, and enjoy seeing the rail in the water for fun, over-all I prefer sailing flat than having to constantly deal with the lean. It gets really annoying if you ask me. For Kaiwen heeling is as absolute deal breaker. The only way we could pursue this dream is to have a catamaran.

If you are reading this blog and you have not been on a full sized sailing catamaran (not a Hobie) — you simply must go and try it. Bluff your way at a boat show (Oakland, Miami, Annapolis, etc) and tell them you are a serious buyer and want a test sail. It will blow your mind. The boat rides over and through the waves and your beverage does not even slide.

So it had to be a catamaran. Why the Lagoon 450?

While I love to sail, I love to cruise even more than sailing. What is the difference? Sailors prioritize sailing, cruisers prioritize cruising. Neither is better, but I prefer cruising. What is cruising? Seeing new places, dropping your anchor, going into town, getting provisions, cooking on the boat, snorkeling, hiking, swimming, sampling the local restaurants and bars, meeting people, seeing natural wonders. Sailors are concerned with how high the boat can point to wind (how close can the nose of the boat be relative to the direction of the wind), how fast does she sail for a given amount of breeze on a reach, a run, etc. And hundreds of smaller details. I too care about those things, but not as much as how comfortable is the boat at anchor. For when cruising, most of your time you are not going anywhere, so the boat needs to be a home.

Lagoon outperforms all other multi-hull manufacturers when it comes to setting the standard for livable space. A 45′ Lagoon has much more space than a 45′ boat from any other manufacturer. Sure, a Catana is a much more performance sailing craft — but it has way less livable space. Other brands are not performance and nor do they have as much space as the Lagoon. Go to a boat show and walk around — you will see what I mean. Or go visit the Lagoon Wedsite and see their videos.

Okay so it is a Lagoon catamaran, why the 450? Frankly, it was the largest new Lagoon that I could afford comfortably. I wanted new and I wanted to pay cash and still have money for other things. But it is more than that, the L450 I think is the best boat Lagoon has created. It is much bigger than their 39′ & 42′ boats, and the Lagoon 560 (56′) and Lagoon 620 (62′) are (to me) a bit over the top in size. The L560 and L620 are very impressive and yes from time to time I get size lust for especially the L560; they are bigger than I need. Last summer I had between 11 and 13 people on Ad Astra for a month. Five people is very comfortable. But Lagoon has recently come out with a Lagoon 52…

How about used? Checking out Yachtworld I see prices from $435k to $550k for a 2011–2013 L450. So they hold their value pretty well. I was able to charter Ad Astra out and make about $100k a year off of her, and I was able to accelerate some depreciate when I bought her to offset some taxes on the exit, and at this time Ad Astra has pretty much broke even for me!

Heck, you could even buy one used for $500k and dock it in Emeryville for about $1k a month and it would be a far better value than any home in the bay area.

A used catamaran coming out of charter might be beaten down, or it might be very well kept. I switched the charter company I was using at first and for the last 3 years have been with TMM Yacht Charters. I love these people, amazing staff, super skilled. They have kept Ad Astra in fantastic condition and knowing what I know of both new and used boats and TMM, I would buy a used boat from TMM without hesitation.

So do you need a $500k boat to sail away? No. Many many families have sailed away on much more modest boats. $100k boats, $50k boats, even $30k boats. Below $30k you are getting into discomforts and risks I would not take with family, but I would alone or perhaps as a couple. And it is hard to find seaworthy cats below $100k.

For $200k you can get a 47’ Lagoon from the late 1990s, that would be a great boat. Big and roomy, but does not have the upper flybridge of the L450 that I love. Is that worth ~$300k more for the flybridge? No.

So let’s say you have between $100 and $500k for a boat.

What else do you need?

Not much. Insurance for the boat costs about $6k a year for $450k of coverage. That is your biggest single item outside the boat itself. How about maintenance? Not as bad as people talk about. If you live on your boat full-time then you catch things right away and take care of them. All of those boats in marinas are rotting for the most part.

My next update I will discuss budgeting for the daily expenses of cruising.

Also, really important — take some of these books this weekend:

Bethkania Not Little Free Book Library

Bethkania Not Little Free Book Library