Postcards from the Water’s Edge – Part 1: Financial Reality

ED: This is the first in a casual series of blog posts from member Graeme Tait. Graeme joined the club in the first month and has recently moved to Port Townsend in Washington State.

Late in 2018, after a decade as a liveaboard in Westpoint Harbor, and having retired in 2016, I reluctantly decided I would sell my sailboat “Sula” and buy a house in Port Townsend, WA. A good year’s worth of soul-searching went into this decision, plus a lot of financial and geopolitical analysis. But perhaps the first thing a Westpoint native might (and did!) ask about this double transplantation (aquatic to terrestrial, and CA to WA) is, why leave sunny California waters for the Dreary Land of the Pacific Northwest?

In a word, Money! (Particularly so in the context of a more-or-less fixed retirement income). And it ain’t necessarily that “dreary” up North!

But why Port Townsend? Well, I’ll let this blog answer that question over time. Actually, Port Townsend may turn out to be perhaps the best “reason” of all.

Having decided to sell my boat, I realized I could choose to live practically anywhere in the world. But I wanted to stay based in the US, ideally on the West Coast as my family nearly all live in my home country of Australia. I also wanted to be on or near the sea. Perhaps in the long run, I will buy a small ($) boat to get my nautical fix in the wonderful cruising grounds of Puget Sound, The San Juan Islands, Vancouver Island (especially the city of Victoria), British Columbia in general and even South Eastern Alaska if I get seriously adventurous. Bay Area Delta Browsers, eat your hearts out!

Much as I have enjoyed many aspects of the Bay Area in my decade here, I had long since discovered I could not afford anything better than a modest, land-based home near the middle of the SF Bay Peninsula. Indeed, that putative home was increasing in modesty with the passage of time. With good reason have many of us lucky souls have chosen to live in nautical luxury at Westpoint Harbor.

At first, my financial analyses had been largely hypothetical, but after I actually bought a house in Port Washington, I could make a more accurate calculation. I won’t bore you here with all the numbers, but the basic comparison I made was between:

  1. living aboard my boat in Westpoint Harbor, CA (status quo); and
  2. living in my newly purchased house in Port Townsend, WA, having sold the boat.

Comparing running costs only, I was stunned to find that Case 2 was over $21,000 per year cheaper!  Now add in the effects of depreciation (for the boat) or appreciation (for the house) and opportunity costs, the annual cost comparison is much worse. It’s obviously difficult to compare other, often erratic costs like maintenance/refitting/remodeling between these two cases (sort of crab apples vs. blood oranges), but given that my boat needs a major refit at this point in its life, and that the house came almost turnkey with no pressing needs, I’m sure this comparison would work substantially to the detriment of the boat.

So now my home is 900 miles away from The Club but I will be back often. I will tell you more about my adventures and about the amazing and surprising things I am learning about the area.

You’re welcome to visit anytime. You can contact me here.

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