Vagabond lifestyle for retired Emmett couple

Gail and Barry Wester in front of “Amelia”

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On August 11, 2020, Barry and Gail Wester retired. Their pre-covid retirement plans included serving a two year mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints where they would be teaching school in Tonga. Fast forward to 2020 and those plans were put on hold due to travel restrictions related to Covid-19. So the Westers did what most only dream of doing . . . selling their belongings and heading for the open sea.

“We didn’t want to sit around and grow old early so we decided to keep the adventure alive in our life,” said Barry Wester.

The Westers sold their home, downsized all possessions to a 12x12 storage unit and bought Amelia. Amelia is a 1985 42 ft. Kady Krogen Trawler. Barry and Gail took possession of Amelia in San Diego in July 2020 and have been busy learning the ropes of living aboard a boat.

“It was more a search for the right boat than a search for a boat in the right place,” replied Barry when asked how they decided on San Diego. “After around three months of reading and studying about the pros and cons of different types of boats, we narrowed our wish list down to three boat models that would meet our requirements. It had to fit our budget, it had to be safe, fuel efficient, “blue water capable” (ocean capable), have a range of 2,000 miles, have a pilot house, and most of all it had to have space enough for Gail to bring along her sewing machine.”

The Westers’ only previous boating experience was on the Black Canyon Reservoir. “We used to drive my son’s ski boat on the lake and we’ve done a little white water rafting and kayaking.”

After buying Amelia the couple had to get training by a licensed Captain in order to be covered by insurance. “We could not take Amelia out without a Captain aboard until we completed a checklist of training skills,” said Barry.

These skills included: docking, leaving the dock, navigation during the day and night, learning the rules and right of ways on the water, radio operation, anchoring and mooring, basic engine maintenance, emergency procedures and boat systems operations (generator, electrical AC / DC, Chart plotters, etc). They trained with their Captain for around 35 hours over 1 1/2 months before completing their sign-off on Sept. 16th.

The Westers’ daily routine usually begins the night before with writing a list of things that they want to get done the next day. Barry says they don’t always complete the list due to learning curves and they’re often a little too optimistic on their time estimates.

“We have learned that boat projects are endless. There is always something to fix, something to clean, something to replace. It’s not a dry climate like Idaho, we are in a salty marine environment and everything needs constant attention. With that said, we are retired, I don’t have to go out and move the irrigation dams, I don’t have to mow the grass or feed the cows. In reality you just swap one list of farm and ranch things to do with a list of boat things to do,” he said.

The Westers want to reinforce that boat life isn’t laying in the sun, sipping pineapple juice, and listening to music all day. It’s work with the benefit of travel, beautiful blue waters, sunsets over the ocean and a back porch view that’s hard to beat.

“Emmett does have Roe Ann’s though,” they said jokingly.

One of the biggest realizations the couple has had, is that happiness doesn’t always mean extravagance and that life is seldom too short.

“If you have a bucket list of things you want to do someday, don’t wait around for the stars to align to do them — because that will never happen,” the couple said. “We had plenty of roadblocks to get over to make this happen. First we had to sell our home. Second we had to downsize our lifetime of possessions to a 12x12 storage unit. Third we had all the uncertainty and fear related to the COVID-19 virus. Fourth we had the question of ‘’can we afford to do this?”

There is a boat out there for any budget. Some may think of living aboard boats costing a million dollars or more, and some do. But you can find a nice comfortable live aboard boat within your budget. Your largest expenses will be marina fees, fuel and maintenance. Living a vagabond lifestyle is no different than living in Emmett. There you have a home mortgage or rent, fuel for your cars and trucks, RVs, four wheelers, dirt bikes, etc. Just remember that whatever your vision of a late life adventure is to be, that it’s not too late. Make sure it’s something that will strengthen your relationship with your better half, not strain it. Every morning we get up and say we can’t believe we are actually doing this. It may last one year, it may last 5 years. But in the end, we did it, and we did it together.”

The Westers will eventually return to Emmett when their wanderlust is done, but for now they wanted to proudly display their home town of Emmett, Idaho on the back of Amelia. Future plans include cruising down to Mexico and maybe the Sea of Cortez once things settle down. In the meantime they are living and loving the seclusion of a vagabond life aboard.

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