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Old 29-05-2019, 16:48   #1
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Soon to be empty nester, what should I do?!

Attempt at a very long story short.... My kids are 20.5, 19.5, and 17.75. The two oldest live away at college and my youngest graduates high school in exactly 12 months, May 2020. In 2016, my family suffered a major life changing event when my ex wife was tragically killed in a car accident...

Fast forward almost 3 years and, among the many changes, I am now a single parent with my youngest about to leave the nest in 12 months. We live in Southern California, which is incredibly expensive, and I personally am only here because my ex wife was from California, and after the accident I remained in the area for the kids school district, their friends, my job stability, etc. Now I'm facing all 3 kids attending college out of state and me staring at the walls asking, "What the heck do I do now?"

Regarding sailing, I have some sailing experience and I love it. Not off-shore cruising experience but a couple years worth of US Sailing lessons on day sailors mostly, and I took a basic cruising 101 course after completing all of the prerequisites as well. Like I said, not a lot of experience but I've been taught the basics.

I'm originally from New York and all of my family are back east. I lived in the south for 8 years when I was in the military, as well as Germany for 4 years, and have been in California since 2003 (NorCal for 7 yrs and SoCal for 9). At 47 I can honestly say I've been around... yet for some reason I'm at a loss on deciding what to do with the next phase of my life. I had a relationship end last year and have been reluctant to pursue a new one since I don't really know where I'm gonna wind up yet.

I could downsize here in SoCal, get a modest apartment and a slip in Long Beach or something, day sail around the marinas and go back and forth to Catalina... or relocate to the east coast and do the Florida thing, Chesapeake, ICW, etc. I'm also single handed so I have to keep that in consideration.

My career is stable, in an established industry, and I could relocate, but I couldn't work remotely from a boat. I also have ongoing financial responsibilities with the kids in college. But I don't have a mortgage or anything, we got out from under a depreciated housing situation in 2010, then with the divorce I've been renting ever since. I prefer the freedom to be honest. I have a small commuter car in SoCal with a low monthly payment, and no other debt, so... I'm in pretty good shape.

My family has gone through, and continues to go through, some pretty extensive grief recovery. But my kids are telling me I have to do for me now... And I'm like, "Ok, what is that?" Haha

Sorry for the long post everyone, if you've read this far thank you. I've been thinking about this a lot and welcome any insight you all may have. Anyone else been through a similar situation? Any emptinesters out there who manage to get away yet not be too far from grown kiddos, day jobs, etc? I assume there's quite a few and I'm always amazed by the creative ways people find to make their lives work.

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Old 30-05-2019, 04:13   #2
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Re: Soon to be empty nester, what should I do?!

Greetings and welcome aboard the CF, Jay.

Where are your 3 kids attending college out of state? You might want to relocate more nearby them (if practical).
If your career is stable, in an established industry, and you could relocate; are there (professionally) preferred locations?
Do you have any personal location preferences, practicality aside? You mentioned Florida.

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Old 30-05-2019, 06:01   #3
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Re: Soon to be empty nester, what should I do?!

Thanks for the reply Gord! Two of my kids go to school in Indiana and Arkansas, so I'm not sure about the sailing opportunities there. Michigan I suppose... Not sure where my youngest is going yet, but he likes the north east. I work in the defense industry and there are job opportunities throughout the country. Personally I prefer warm weather and have acclimated to it living in California so long, that's mostly why I say Florida. Plus its access to the ICW etc.
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Old 30-05-2019, 06:03   #4
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Re: Soon to be empty nester, what should I do?!

Welcome. I hope you find a home here.

You are asking very broad questions that involve your life choices for the foreseeable future. Only the broadest of "Think about this" can come back to you from this community. Even that is not boats and cruising, it's us responding to you as human beings. There are lots of outside factors (kids, industry, relationships) that could really change your choices.

I'll venture one suggestion. While "road tripping" to a new life has obvious appeal, making a commitment to a new life, as you learned in your last relationship, is difficult and chancy. Any new locale (Florida?, Cheasapeake?) will involve disruption, starting a new job (?), and forming new friendships. A move means isolation. I wonder whether you are ready for that much extra stress, or ready to make that decision. You might consider getting as happy as you can in your current location, with your current support structure, and then see if an alternative occurs to you.

Finally, are you depressed? You sound like you might be, and if so, that needs immediate attention at at least the primary care physcian level.
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Old 30-05-2019, 06:46   #5
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Re: Soon to be empty nester, what should I do?!

I've enjoyed Florida based sailing for many years and the best choices here would be those that allow quick access to casual day sailing as well as a reliable ocean inlet. Those that I find best would be Fernandina, Jacksonville, Indian River, Biscayne Bay, Ft. Myers Beach, Port Charlotte, Tampa Bay, Carrabelle, and Pensacola Bay. Factors when comparing these are tropical storm protection, expense, dockage availability, tidal currents, and more. By "more" I mean culture, environment, ecology, natural beauty, development, ....'many personal choices. I selected the Jacksonville- St. Johns River area, but like you, this was area of my wife's family. Carrabelle is likely the least expensive; Jacksonville is likely the best hurricane protected; Biscayne Bay is the most densely developed. 'many other good choices that simply lack the inshore casual sailing.
Take care and joy, Aythya crew
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Old 30-05-2019, 07:25   #6
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Soon to be empty nester, what should I do?!

I agree with everything Hudson said but will add that Carrabelle used to be a sleepy Southern fishing town, now more vacation houses for people from Tallahassee, but it’s by no means any kind of cultural center, or night life.
For many years if you acted up, they would lock you up in a public phone booth as that was the Police station / jail.

Go to South Fl on the east and you’ll find especially in the Winter months that it’s a suburb of New Jersey or New York.
West side is people from up North from what they call the Midwest.

Panhandle of Fl is still largely Floridians, especially if you get more than 100 yards off of the Ocean.

People from up north call it Flori-duh as it is laid back, largely slow moving country people.

However the prices of everything will absolutely shock you, you won’t believe how inexpensive living is.

We kept boats in Carrabelle for years, mostly long ago.

That area is known for likely some of the best seafood in the world, really.
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Old 30-05-2019, 08:31   #7
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Re: Soon to be empty nester, what should I do?!

I would think good job availabilitty would an important priority. Certainly the defence industry is big around DC and the Norfolk area. Lots of choices to locate close to work and good sailing. You know the east, so also know the warmer weather in the southeast is nothing like southern Cal. Actually downsizing your rental and staying where you are makes a lot of sense, especially since you don't seem to be driven to any particular alternative.
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Old 30-05-2019, 08:39   #8
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Re: Soon to be empty nester, what should I do?!

Originally Posted by tkeithlu View Post
Finally, are you depressed?

Great feedback, really appreciate it. Regarding depression, I'd say it's more anxiety. Yes, sadness over the loss of my ex and now kids leaving on top of it, etc. I'm generally a planner and pretty well organized, so the change has been stressful. To your point future change will be stressful as well, so yeah, it's a bit of a struggle.
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Old 30-05-2019, 08:45   #9
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Re: Soon to be empty nester, what should I do?!

Great feedback everyone, thank you!
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Old 30-05-2019, 08:54   #10
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Re: Soon to be empty nester, what should I do?!

Please look at my home town of Anacortes, WA. Or areas between here and Seattle for more work opportunities?
We enjoy a robust recreational marine environment here on the Salish Sea (Puget Sound) with 180 Islands comprising the United States San Juan Islands, and about 220 which make up the Canadian Gulf Islands. Protected Inland Waters, you may also travel North along the British Columbia Sunshine Coast to Desolation sound and a myriad number of groups of islands all the way up to Southeast Alaska. Fantastic place to cut your teeth on Blue Water cruising while still having amenities nearby.
I happen to teach sailing full-time, year-round with approximately 150 days on the water each year between Puget Sound and all over the Caribbean. I would be happy to dialogue with you about learning to sail, whether you enlist my aid or not.

Cheers, mark
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Old 30-05-2019, 09:52   #11
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Re: Soon to be empty nester, what should I do?!

Great info Mark, thank you, I will definitely look into that. I've visited the area before with work but I'm not very familiar with the area. I'm always open to learning about sailing opportunities, courses, crew info, etc., so yeah, any info you can share would be great. Thanks! One of the great things about this next phase for me is that I'm not limited at all, I can pretty much go anywhere.
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Old 30-05-2019, 10:02   #12
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Re: Soon to be empty nester, what should I do?!

Jay -

Wow, life threw you some major challenges. I'd say think about where you have relationships because it's tougher to grow close ones as we age. You've been in SoCal long enough that the area's probably gotten to be at least comfortable and hopefully you have at least one or two friends there. And you mention family in the North East. Where ever you stay, get out of the house daily and join some groups. Have you checked out

I would NOT recommend going where the kids are at this point. A) They need to have their own lives, and B) They'll probably move at least once after college, leaving you feeling stranded again in yet another new place.

Finally, your confusion (different than depression) shows through to no surprise. You're trying to sort out a LOT of different issues at the same time. This is exactly the kind of thing why company employee assistance plans can connect you with a counselor. You sound pretty self-aware and not like you need a therapist. You sound like you could use some hours with a counselor who can simply listen and then be a sounding board.

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Old 30-05-2019, 10:17   #13
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Re: Soon to be empty nester, what should I do?!

Great points Bob, thank you! Yes, I'm resisting the urge to follow the kids around. I should add too that 2 of my kids were also in the car during the accident and had minor injuries, broken legs etc., and I had to play home nurse for about 6 months as well. They're both fully recovered now but yeah, very hard to let them go. My sister is in the field of behavior therapy and she's my sounding board for a lot of this stuff. But yeah, our lives changed in a single phone call and I definitely have a little PTSD from it so... I think that's why I may obsess a little about finding a sure thing with this next move/change, which I know doesn't exist, but I've been putting out fires and shoring things up for a few years now so now that things are up in the air again it's a little unsettling. But exciting too though so I try to focus on that and just avoid making any major mistakes that I can't easily correct. Like sailing! Haha
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Old 30-05-2019, 10:34   #14
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Re: Soon to be empty nester, what should I do?!


There are a couple of things i'm picking up....

my feeling is that the tragedy and its aftermath has defined your existence, your self-identity for a good, long while. because you took over being the number one for your kids, it has determined your life in all kinds of ways.

as painful as tragedies are, the zone they create around a person is a bit like a comfort zone in that they are very, very difficult to leave. and this is because leaving this zone involves stepping out from who you have been and tackling the task of defining yourself differently, anew. (oh dear)

in my opinion, you are aware of this and know that, even though it is frightening, your future is now yours to determine, and your self-identity is now yours to define.

another thing i'm picking up: you mention places you could go to... without much pull. my guess is that you haven't community really anywhere. this, for me, is quite normal, given your circumstances.

building community is not easy if you've been out of practice, if you've become isolated. but it is essential to this next chapter of your life. as one friend puts it, at 50 (and you have a head start at 47), you are at the beginning of the second half of your adult life. and it is, you are at the beginning now. given that you will be shortly experiencing an amazing amount of freedom, there are big choices to be made on your horizon. this is a great thing (as scary as it can be!)

ok, so sailing. yes, definitely! enjoying sailing and boats and people who share in the same (nutty) passion, all these things merge, converge, or whatever and just fill the soul with such a great feeling (especially if you have a bit of anxiety and/or depression). sailing is extremely therapeutic, obliges you to stay in the now, obliges you to think ahead, to be ready, to be thoughtful, to make the right decisions. sailing is more than great!

so yes, do find a way to get involved with people and boats as you can, and do not wait. do it this year, before your son goes off to college. southern california, from what i've heard, is a great place for sailing. there is surely a club in the area.

this would not mean that you stay there after this year: it would mean that you've made steps to learn more and to meet people (often people from all over and/or in transit) and to see if you get completely addicted or not.

there are, after all, lots of definitions of sailing: you could become a race addict; you could become a cockpit-social-butterfly; you could do coastlines, or rivers, or long passages, or circumnavigations. the world of sailing is huge, and there is a lot to choose from.

the identity you sculpt for yourself will be determined by your preferences as well as the decisions you make.

Welcome to the second half of your adult life!

Good luck Jay2far!

“Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us, or we find it not.” Ralph Waldo Emerson
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Old 30-05-2019, 11:34   #15
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Re: Soon to be empty nester, what should I do?!

Congratulations on your honesty and sharing and caring.
From a purely sailing POV: do you want to sail 365 or part time? Serious question.
I lived in NYC growing up and knew about seasons. I went to summer camp and learned to sail and loved all kinds of boating.
After I graduated college I worked in NYC and moved to Iran in 75-78. I returned to the USA and relocated to San Francisco.
We bought our first boat in 1983, a 1981 Catalina 22. We sailed it on The Bay during the winters off its trailer and brought it to Clear Lake each summer and left it in the water there.
In 1987 we upsized to a Catalina 25 which we owned for 13 years before buying this boat in 98. We sailed both in The Bay, The Delta and the ocean from Monterey up to Drakes Bay and as far out as The Farallones.

I enjoyed being able to sail all year round.

In July 2016 we moved to BC to support my then 95 year old f-i-l, and in Aug/Sept that year returned to SF and sailed our boat up the coast to Vancouver Island. Trip of a lifetime, all motoring. My f-i-l is 98 and still goin'.

I then became "reacquainted" with seasons (!!!) and our boat saw its very first snowfall on my birthday in December 2016. She was NOT amused. One of my birthday gifts was an electric heater for the boat. Unfortunately, I only got the gift ON my birthday, so when I went to the boat the next day it was raining inside! The water was 47F, the snow on deck (25 cm deep) was 32F. Like condensation on your gin & tonic glass on your deck during the summer, only reversed.

My boat was wonderfully equipped for SF Bay and its tributaries, but has no diesel heat or windlass. Worked fine for the 18 years I sailed there, anchoring out very, very often, because the water was only 15-20 feet deep and I could hand haul with a lighter anchor than most folks use on a boat this size because the system is designed for 42 knots and I wasn't going to be exposed to unknown high winds in The Bay Area.

That's simply not true here because fronts, while forecast, can come in anytime, unlike the very predictable weather in Northern California. Plus the water is waaay deeper in most anchorages.

And heat, even in shoulder seasons here, is ALMOST ESSENTIAL for enjoyment and comfort.

Point of all this? I've shared my experiences about sailing, and since this is a sailing forum, I encourage you to carefully examine what YOU want to do with YOUR life vis-a-vis sailing and sailing ONLY if that's why you asked. Let's forget family and jobs for the moment, completely.

I enjoy sailing here (starting my third season) because it is drop dead gorgeous. Because of our boat's limitations (i.e., heat & windlass) I have limited my travels to the southern Gulf Islands and the San Juans. I have made new friends and seen new things.

But I actually sailed in San Francisco, while here I joke about being "a trawler with a stick!" I have a traditional main with Harken BattCars but find the limitations on sailable winds to preclude even bothering with the main most of the time. Distances are HUGE here, so I figured out that must be the reason why the daylight hours are so looong here: get started before dawn, hope for some wind, and get in by dusk and you have the typical 15 hours of sunlight used up! Dependence on a truly functioning engine is essential.

And then I can only sail less than half the year here compared to SF.

Those are my experiences. Your sailing choices should take into account whether you want to boat or to sail and how much of the year you want to, and what gear you'll not only want to, but NEED to have on whatever boat you buy. I could get by with a catalytic heater and a trawler lamp in SF, not so much here. May to October is pretty much all you get without diesel heat. And even when the days get hot here, the mornings are cool and the water is "only" 47F compared to 57 in SF.

Since you're already in California, you might want to consider Northern California from ONLY a sailing POV. In Florida, with all its charms (I spent lots of time in the Miami area when my aunt & uncle were still alive), you also end up with those pesky seasons, although you do have the Bahamas right next door.

Good luck in whatever choices you do make.

Stu Jackson
Catalina 34 #224 (1986) C34IA Secretary
Cowichan Bay, BC, (Maple Bay Marina) SR/FK, M25, Rocna 10 (22#) (NZ model)
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