Living the Dream in Retirement

October 31, 2010 in Blogs, Crusing

Mission to Seafarers, Toronto
Nov. 1, 2010

To:    Renaissance
From:         Aubrey Millard Retired teacher District 16

Below please find an article I have written regarding my (our) retired lifestyle fulfilling our dreams of cruising and travelling around the world. I offer it in the hopes of motivating retirees, or those anticipating retirement to go for their dreams. Also I have an article written comparing the cruising lifestyle with that of RV travel which I would be pleased to send if you think it would be of interest, as we have enjoyed both lifestyles. We have no house, as we sold it before leaving on our sailboat in 1998.I am sending out periodic logs of our travels which I am sending out to family and friends as well as a few sailing magazines, and I would be happy to add others to my mailing list. Interested retirees can E-mail me at, to be added to my mail list.

I am attaching a picture of our boat sailing up the Bosporus en route to the Black Sea, with the Rumeli Fortress in the background. This is the fortress the Ottomans built for their final assault on Constantinople, ending the Byzantine Empire and establishing five centuries of Ottoman dominance in eastern Europe and the mid east. I will send in separate E-mails a few other images you may wish to include should you wish to run this article. I will also include a brief description of what each image is.
If you wish to discuss this article, I can be reached at 647 992 2668 until Nov. 10, at which time we will set off in our trailer for points south and an Antarctic cruise over the winter. I monitor my E-mail at quite regularly.
We are enjoying our retirement and hope to encourage others to go for their dreams.

Aubrey Millard

Living the Dream in Retirement

When I retired from high school teaching (Guidance, History, English and Geography) in January 1998, I could not see myself as a house husband in downtown Toronto while my wife, Judy, continued working. She had mixed feelings about retiring early (for her) but was convinced when I suggested I would take off in our sailboat, Veleda IV, and single hand it down to the Caribbean and she could fly down a few weeks each year to join me. Then when I had single handed it over to the Mediterranean she similarly could join me for her holidays. She thought for a whole 30 seconds and happily said, “No, I’m coming too.”

We already had the boat, an Ontario 32 foot sloop, on which we could live and cruise the world, a dream we began to plan for a few years earlier. We also had considerable sailing experience in the Great Lakes, and have taken and taught sailing and navigation courses for the Canadian Power and Sail Squadrons. So our preparations accelerated for the next six months.  We sold our house. Judy retired June 30, we left for open ended world cruising from the Toronto Hydroplane and Sailing Club July 3, 1998; and Veleda did not return to Canada until Sept. 2010. We were following our dreams!

Planning and Preparations

We had our Veleda surveyed and followed many of the recommendations to outfit it for our planned voyaging and long term living aboard. We took an advance Canadian Power and Sail course in Ocean Cruising that spring. We changed our address to Judy’s parents’ place for mail, driver’s licenses, banking, pensions, taxation, etc. so all our documentation was at their address. They would hold or forward our mail as directed. We arranged for internet banking so we could access our accounts (into which my pensions are deposited), pay our bills, and get local currency for whatever country we were visiting via our laptop computer linked to WiFi where available.

We had medical and dental checkups and followed the advice of our doctors as to what medications and first aid equipment we should have on board. Fortunately we both are in good health, although I have flirted with the traditional aging problems of high cholesterol, high blood pressure, cancer and prostate symptoms, all under control with medications (I have not had a heart attack, but had an angioplasty in which a stent was inserted, a biopsy of my prostate which was clear, and several non -malignant growths removed from my skin). We get medical checkups annually or whenever we are back for varying periods of time.  Live aboard cruising is a very healthy lifestyle.

We considered where we wanted to go for the first year or so, and would set general destinations one year at a time. We bought an economical GPS system for navigation, and several pilot books for our initial plans of sailing down the Mississippi, to Florida, Cuba, the Bahamas, Bermuda, the Azores and England as our initial first year destinations. We got the charts for these areas of the world and would get more as we travelled. We initially planned a year or two in Europe and the Mediterranean but wound up spending almost six years over there (cruising plans are poured in Jello).

Our Travels

We have had twelve years of exotic travel, living on our sailboat and periodically coming back to Canada by air to visit friends and family and to get medical checkups.
1998 – We left Toronto and went up the Welland Canal and on up to Manitoulin Island and the North Channel of Lake Huron. This is one of the most beautiful sailing areas of the world that we have visited. Another was the north shore of Lake Superior, which we cruised before heading down to Chicago and through the Chicago Shipping and Sanitary Canal into the Illinois and the Mississippi Rivers. Rather than stay on the Mississippi, we went up the Cumberland River into the Tennessee Tombigbee Waterway, a parallel system that is small boat friendly, to go down through the deep south and come out by way of the Alabama River in Mobile Bay. We visited Shiloh and other Civil War sites en route. Continuing along the Gulf Coast Intracoastal Waterway, we spent Christmas in the Florida Keys visiting with Judy’s parents who were down there on vacation.

1999 to 2000 – We went down to Key West, across to the Dry Tortugas and down to Havana, Cuba, before heading up to the Bahamas for a few months prior to crossing the Atlantic. That was an energetic crossing, as we had northerly winds all the way across. We stopped in Bermuda for a few weeks to tour the island and visit friends there before heading the 2200 miles over to the Azores for another month’s stay. On we then went to make our landing in Falmouth, England, to spend our first summer in England on the south coast, and the winter in Limehouse Basin in downtown London, a half mile below Tower Bridge on the Thames. We celebrated the Millennium in London, spending five glorious months there before shoving off for Vlissingen in Holland, and going through the Dutch canals up to Amsterdam. Out around the Friesian Islands, we went into the Baltic through the Kiel Canal and spent the spring and early summer in Denmark, Sweden and southern Norway before crossing the North Sea to Inverness in Scotland. We traversed the Caledonian Canal through Loch Ness and the Highlands to the Hebrides of Scotland before going down the Irish Sea to Belfast, over to the Isle of Man and Wales, and down to the Scillies and Channel Islands of England, then into the Seine River at Le Havre.

Our route took us up the Seine from Honfleur to Rouen, and on to Paris where we stayed at Marina Arsenault in central Paris at Place de Bastille for a few weeks. We spent three months in the rivers and canals of France, going down through famous wine country and such fabled cities as Lyon, Arles, and Avignon, to come out in the south of France at Sete on the Mediterranean Sea before heading over to Barcelona for the New Year of 2000/2001.

2001 to 2005 – We planned to spend only a year in the Med, and stayed for five. The history and culture of the places we visited were fantastic. In Tunisia we went to the ancient city of Carthage as well as Tunis and down to the Sahara Desert. We continued to Lampedusa, Malta, Sicily and up the Croatian coast to Trieste and over to Venice, down around the Greek Peloponnesus to Rhodes and over to Kemer, Turkey, our favourite location, where we spent three winters. One does not sail in the Med during the winter as it is too stormy. While in the eastern Med we visited many of the islands in the Greek Aegean, Cyprus, Lebanon, Syria, Israel, and Egypt.

We went up the Aegean into the Bosporus and Dardanelles, where we visited Troy and the WW I battlefields of Gallipoli, and to Istanbul before going into the Black Sea. There we went to Bulgaria, Romania, down 300 kilometres of the Danube, to Odessa in the Ukraine. In Crimea we visited Sevastopol, Balaclava, Yalta, and saw the battlefields of the Crimean War, including the Valley of Death of the Charge of the Light Brigade, the Russian Black Sea Fleet Review, a former secret Soviet submarine base (in Balaclava) and the Lavidia Palace in Yalta where the fate of the world in the aftermath of WW II was decided at the Yalta conference between Roosevelt, Stalin and Churchill.

Back down the Aegean to Crete we went, and over to Italy through the Straits of Messina, Capri, Naples and our final winter in the Med at Ostia the suburb port of Rome. Just for a hoot, I took our dinghy the 15 kilometres up the Tiber River into ancient Rome.

On our way out the Med we went to Elba, Corsica, Sardinia, Marseilles, Toulon, and into the Canal du Midi in the south of France, through Provence and up past Toulouse to Bordeaux. The Med was a fantastic historical and cultural experience.

We cruised across the Bay of Biscay, over to the north coast of Spain, and around to the Atlantic coast, sailing into the rias of Spain, to Portugal where we visited Oporto and Lisbon, then headed out into the Atlantic to Madeira (for a month), to the Canaries (for another month) and down to the Cape Verdes for a few weeks before heading the 2100 miles across to Antigua.

2006 to 2009 – We spent four years in the Eastern Caribbean visiting most of the Greater and Lesser Antilles including Cuba, Hispaniola (the Dominican Republic) the Turks and Caicos, Jamaica, St. Martins, St. Barts, St. Kitts, the BVI’s, the USVI’s, Martinique, St. Vincent, Guadeloupe, Montserrat, St. Lucia, Bequia, the Grenadines, the Tobago Cays, and Grenada where we spent three summers during hurricane season, anchored behind idyllic Hog Island on the south coast. We also got down to Trinidad, Venezuela and Columbia before coming north to Jamaica, Cuba and the Bahamas, over to Florida and up the ICW to New York City where we took the Hudson River into the Erie Barge Canal back to Lake Ontario and Toronto in Sept. of 2009.

Current Plans and Activities
We left Veleda at our home club of the Toronto Hydroplane and Sailing Club for the winter of 2009/2010, and did a major overhaul of the boat. We returned Veleda to Canada, as we had several important anniversaries, my 50th year from graduation at McMaster University, Judy’s 40th from Branksome Hall, and the several activities of the Canadian Navy for its 100th anniversary celebrations throughout the year. We left mid July this year (2010), out the St. Lawrence this time, to the fjords of the south coast of Newfoundland before going over to St. Pierre and then to Cape Breton Island, where we have left Veleda in Baddeck for the winter for some repairs and a paint job.

As Judy’s parents have passed away over the past few years, and the family home has been sold, we relocated our mailing address to a cousin’s in the west end of Toronto, and purchased a 26 foot trailer and a GMC Yukon as a base when we are back in Toronto and to travel down south during the winters. Last winter we went to Georgia, Florida, Louisiana, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, California, Nevada, Utah, Colorado and back across the States to Toronto. We may make a similar trip this year, but staying in a few places for longer. We have arranged a flight from Orlando to take a cruise from Santiago, Chile to Cape Horn and the Antarctic peninsula, the Falklands, Montevideo in Uruguay, and landing in Buenos Aires in Argentina. After spending the rest of the winter in the southern and south western states we will return to Toronto in the spring, get our medical checkups, then fly out to get Veleda and continue our sailing around the Maritimes, down the eastern seaboard, around Florida, and over to Cuba, Mexico, Belize and down to Guatemala for the winter of 2011/2012. After that, who knows?

I am over 72 years old and am looking forward to at least another decade of travelling. I would encourage retirees, or those approaching retirement, to go for your dreams (after all, we are not getting any younger). It may involve preparations a few years in advance, but such gives a positive aspect to looking forward to and planning for retirement. You can make a hobby, a pursuit, or an interest into a retirement dream, and retirement allows you to make your dream come true.

You may have to loosen temporarily what I call the “Golden Chains” to family, grandchildren, friends and community, but such can be enjoyably  renewed with periodic visits home. There is a genuine sailing fraternity of like minded people out there who are very supportive that you will meet en route. We have friends we have met sailing and subsequently visited all over the States and Canada as well as in England, Germany, Italy, Slovenia, Austria, Jamaica, Cuba, Grenada, and Turkey, many known for ten years or more. When meeting up with such friends we have an intense bond of shared experiences. Likewise, renewing family ties and friendships when returning home can be a warm sharing experience

If embarking on a new activity such as sailing the world (or just the Caribbean), it can be done with a few years planning (as can many other retirement plans). In addition, it is cheaper to live on a sailboat than to live in a house or apartment. Take some sailing courses, and read some books. Charter a skippered boat in the Caribbean to learn more skills and to see what kind of boat would suit you. Join a sailing club as a crew member. As I reflect on our good fortune to be able to do what we have, I am convinced the enjoyment is in the journey, not just the destination. Preparing for sailing (or retirement) and visiting places are enjoyable but they just get you ready for the next destination, and the next and the next…  Follow your dreams!