The beginning

(By Jean-Marc)

2015 or was it just another year? Does it really matter? But…

So, it has been decided!

We will leave on a world tour with a sailing yacht within the next (few) years to come! What do we need to do to be able to make these plans reality? The answer to that question is not that easy as we figured out in the years to come after that decision.

During a five year step plan, we should be able to prepare ourselves. Many things that are easy to prepare, some things more difficult.

Now, when I look back at those 4,5 years (yes, I am writing now April 2021), I see clearly the steps, progressions and set-backs we faced!

Who would have thought in 2016 that we had to take in consideration a global pandemic in our planning?

To be clear about my/our Blog, we started writing about the present and some about the past, but merely for some background information for you, the readers and not to repeat history!

Do we need to introduce ourselves? Well, I suppose so, but again, where to start and what to write, as our lives are already so filled with information and adventures.

So a brief introduction is in order, to at least tell you who we are, now on board our SY Blowing Bubbles:

Karen, my partner in crime and my better half, she writes the Dutch Blog and her point of view on things and believe me, she is the real thing when talking about boats and the ocean!

Leander, my son and the future to our life, 10 year old and full of ideas

Jean-Marc, that is me, thinking every day what I should write and what not to write!

So, April 2021 and here we are. Why did I not started the Blog earlier? Well, easy answer, I just did not have the energy (not be to confused with ‘time’) as my days are those that have 28 or even 30hours. During the last months, I had daily ideas for the Blog, as we were in the final stage of preparing our departure from beloved Belgium towards our new home at sea, our sailing yacht Blowing Bubbles.

A very brief sumup of things that were achieved/needed to be done in the course of preparing for a change of lifestyle:

  • financial planning (how to survive financially during the coming 10 years as we are not ‘born’ with a trust-fund containing the needed €€€/$$$)
  • steps to disconnect from a life on land towards a life on the ocean
  • finding a future (all options: selling/closing/…) for our businesses (Time To Dive + Time To Boat) in Belgium that were the foundation of our lifes during the last 32years
  • sell our house or not (rent, move, buy another, my god so many options)

To be honest, I could write a complete book, just about these steps and how they turned out and what happened along the road during these 4,5 years. And that is exactly NOT what I am going to do!

The final result is what counts, here we are on board our Blowing Bubbles, 4,5 years later and (almost) ready to depart!

I am sure, if you are a regular follower of our blogs, things/events and information of the past will surely fly by during things to happen in the future.

One important step above all that I didn’t mention: what about buying a boat??

Maybe that was by all means, even the most easy step, thinking back now about how that went!

During Covid times in 2020, we had a lot of free time as during the many lockdowns, our businesses (scuba diving + boating) were heavily affected and so, instead of complaining, we used these free times to plan, look ahead and prepare. (Well, there is something to be said about being of positive attitude in your life, maybe Karen/Leander and I are just over blessed with positive attitude).

Our Jeanneau Sun Odyssey 509 came on our path in the summer of 2020 and the decision was made in just over 10 minutes that this would be our new home for the next many nautical miles to come, adventures to undertake and guests to welcome to.

A 3 cabin version with lots of living space, comfort and equipment to live on board and most of all, very suitable for scuba diving (just imagine the amount of scuba gear you need to bring on board to be able to offer scuba services to our future guests).

We decided to bring the SY Blowing Bubbles towards the marina of Port Leucate in France, so it would be easy to prepare the boat for our future adventure, taking in consideration the many drives up and down to Belgium to bring all things on board that we would need/want on board!

Moving fast forward.

How fast can you  go?

3 days after ‘welcoming’ the yacht in Port Leucate and getting face-to-face with our new home, we started our first guest trip!

After deciding buying the boat and finding Port Leucate as base for preparation, a simple phone-call made things go fast forward! Due to Covid and many cancelled trips worldwide, the person on the other side of the call, asked for a destination to get away, preferred combined with some scuba diving! And if we knew some good options with some kind of certainty that the trip  would not be cancelled?

“Are you in for some adventure?”, was my answer/question to him and oh yes, he was!

Just a few days later and Bart and his daughter Fien were our first guests for a 1 week liveaboard scuba trip around the coastline of Southern France bordering Spain. An area with a national maritime area (Cerbère), very known for the big groupers or ‘Merou’ in French.

We combined the scuba diving trip with land visits to Collioure, Salses, Banyuls and more.

As the saying goes: Du vin, du pain et du plonger or something in a similar way! We adapted it.

A week of pure fun, adrenaline, laughter, learning about our boat, cooking breakfasts, lunches and dinners, having serious and non-serious talks with our guests, just too much to tell.  The week just flew by.

The week gave us a view on how our future would become, how we would be living the next years and guess what: WE LIKED IT! This was exactly what we wanted to achieve!

Don’t get me wrong about our boatlife! In the past, we have organized, arranged and guided 100’s of liveaboard trips worldwide , but mostly with groups of 10-20 guests. A very hectic and busy lifestyle to please all guests from (early) morning to (late) evening, both with scuba diving, but also teaching special scuba dive classes, entertaining guests, etc.

A lifestyle that we wanted to continue, but with more quality and less hectic. More personal touch and less stress. Now, having to deal with maximum 4 guests on board and this ‘test run’ with 2 guests, gave us the view on our future.

After a week of full service to our clients and making endless lists of what to change, what to add, what to enhance, we were ready for some months of preparation. Winter was coming soon again, time was going to be available to us to attack the points on our listings.

Bullet Points

Listings and more listings….

Yes, when you buy a boat and want to use it properly and wisely, you need to adapt, in many ways! Personally, I wanted too much and by good relationship management, Karen is always there to keep me in balance! It is not a 50 meter yacht that we bought, but a 50,9 feet sailing yacht (for those that are calculating now: 1 foot=30,48cm).

I can’t fit a 4 meter “tender or dinghy” on the boat, 15 dive equipments, 1 decompression chamber, 1 jetski and sooooooo much more items on my listings. So like all reasonable people, we settled!

  • Our tender/dinghy (named Bubbles): A 3,6 meter RIB equipped with a 25hp engine (fast and strong).
  • 8 top-rated dive equipments, why settle for less?
  • 2 dive compressors to fill our 12 tanks up to 300bar
  • An underwater drone to be able to ‘have a look’ when we are not diving (up to -100mtr)
  • A DPV or Diving Propulsion Vehicle to be able to go a little faster underwater while diving
  • And no jetski…as who really needs a jetski when you are mostly scuba diving anyway.

But what about surface time?

As scuba divers know, we can’t spend unlimited time underwater, so in between dives, there is surface time! But also non-divers will be our guests, so what about their entertainment?

Well, they are not forgotten:

  • 2 Stand Up Paddle boards (SUP)
  • 2 Sea Kayaks (each 2-seater)
  • Snorkeling gear with communication system
  • Air drone with camera system
  • Waterski, wakeboards and a strong tender to take you ‘out of the water’.

Believe me, the list goes on a lot further!

Preparing the boat, is/was not only just ‘toys for boys & girls’ as we needed also to invest in updates and safety!

A new life-raft, new sails and new navigational equipment were ordered and installed.

Living aboard requires a lot of (free) electricity and to have this for free, solar panels are the solution. The boat was already pre-installed with 2 solar panels and off course, we wanted more!

Never enough electricity to have onboard, but where to find space to install more solar panels?

An arch or stainless steel aft solar support construction was ordered by a local company (DC Soudures) and 2 months later, 5 extra solar panels were installed by my brother Jean-Marie.

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