We are Steve and Kathy Hollenberg from Goshen, Indiana, cruising with Oliver, our 12-year-old Miniature Schnauzer. Conventional wisdom says to give oneself a year after retirement before making any drastic life changes, but we apparently are deficient in the the wisdom department. Our life since we retired has been nothing but chaotic.
We put the home that we built 22 years ago on the market in December of 2017, knowing that ours was a unique property, a large custom ranch on 12 acres at the edge of a woods in an average school system and only recently, thanks to the infinite wisdom of our county commissioners, next door to a factory. We loved our home, but we had grown uncomfortable with the creep of industry and felt that it was time to sell it while the RV industry was riding the wave in Elkhart County. We figured it would take at least a year to find a buyer.
We celebrated what we now know was our last Christmas in our beloved home and welcomed our daughter-in-law-to-be’s family in the celebration. On December 26, our son Scott and his partner Holly were married in an intimate wedding of immediate family, including their five 90-year-old grandparents. The following day, as we sought some much-needed equilibrium following the wonderful celebrations, our younger daughter and her partner bounded in from a snowy walk in the woods, announcing their engagement and joyously upending any hope for sought equilibrium.
And so in January 2018 we retired, Steve from 34 years as a physician and I from my small violin-teaching studio. It was an emotional month.
We bought a boat. We have been sailors for decades and chartered a lot through the years, but Steve has always dreamed of owning a boat. We had talked about cruising the American Great Loop but had dismissed it, first, because we didn’t want to do it in a sailboat and, second, because we didn’t see how we could hire anyone to adequately maintain our large property and a house with three sump pumps that occasionally require a lot of tending. Once we began to get our heads around downsizing to a maintenance-free condo and buying a power boat to loop, we began to get excited. On January 30 we bought Red Pearl, a 2005 Mainship 400 whose home was Bradenton, Florida and began getting acquainted in February (see our first post on Feb.15).
During those first three weeks on Red Pearl, we got an offer on the house, my mother’s health took a turn for the worse, and my dad struggled with the reality of her decline. We went home to complete legal work that the buyers of the house were demanding as contingent for the sale and to spend some much needed time with family. We ducked down to Florida as we had time through the spring, and in March we attended a course on boat systems given by Captain Chris Caldwell, and we trained on Red Pearl with him a few weeks later.
Around this time, we learned that long-time friends were selling their condo in the complex that we had determined to be ideal. The timing was perfect.
May was an intense month. Packers finished boxing up what we were unable to pack ourselves the day that Scott and Holly arrived from Maryland for their wedding celebration with friends and extended family. Despite the inner and outer disarray Steve and I were experiencing, the celebration was a relaxed come-and-go 3-day event during which they hosted 100 guests at a lovely church camp nearby. Even before Scott and Holly had left to return home on Monday morning, the movers had loaded our possessions in their vans and were on the road. Three days later, we left to sail in St. Martin for a week, a trip that had been planned for nearly a year with dear sailing friends. While we were away, all of the things that did not fit into our condo or had not been pushed onto our kids were sorted and sold in an estate sale, and we returned on the last day of the sale to a truly empty house. We closed on both our house and our condo two days later, having been residing at the condo already for 3 weeks.
Our intense month climaxed with the death of my mother. Although we had been watching her decline for a year, we did not anticipate this timing. So instead of driving to Florida in the rental car we had just picked up, we rushed to be with Mom and Dad in this life’s-end journey. During the next few days, I made memorial arrangements with Dad while Steve worked on an extension with our boat insurance for getting Red Pearl out of the hurricane belt, rescheduled with the captain who we had secured to help us move her north, and continued unpacking boxes at the condo. Two weeks later, with the celebration of Mom’s life behind us, we returned to Red Pearl and met Captain Pat Davis, who would help us move her north from St. Petersburg to Demopolis, AL.
At Mom’s memorial service, and as we drove down to St. Petersburg, Steve developed mouth sores. He has a tendency for the common canker sore and avoids several foods which are reliable causes. But this was different—and severe! With terrible and increasing pain as we readied to take Red Pearl north, Steve finally decided that he needed to see an ENT before heading out across the gulf. He located Dr. Morrow on YELP! and the doctor’s scheduling staff asked if he could be there in 30 minutes. “Jesus!” Dr. Morrow exclaimed. His first impression was lip cancer, but as he looked further into Steve’s mouth he commented that this was the worst non-cancerous condition he had ever seen. Big thanks to him for treating Steve with a “shotgun” approach, with anti-virals, antibiotics, and his Magic Mouth Swish, the latter of which absolutely saved Steve’s sanity, offering temporary relief from the pain. Even so, Steve had difficulty swallowing and resorted to a liquid diet of Ensure, and mealtime became a spectator event, as Capt. Pat and I enjoyed delicious seafood dinners. We arrived in Demopolis with Steve in a weakened state of health, having lost almost 20 pounds. Finally as we drove home, he began to be able to eat a bit and still smiles at the memory of how good the chicken and dumplings at Cracker Barrel tasted—a novelty, as Cracker Barrel is not a normal choice for us, given options.
At home once again, we were shopping at the mall when Steve experienced another health event that derailed our plans for returning to Red Pearl; and a two-week visit home became a summer-long hiatus while he recovered. In the spirit of making lemonade from lemons, we set to work making the condo home and embarked on some of the renovations that we had planned for later. This, too, was completely stress-free. 😉
Come August, Steve, having worked hard at regaining the lost weight (and I, at not gaining it with him) and being released by his physician, was ready to cruise again. The rest is in our blog. We are new to motor cruising, boat ownership, *cleaning isinglass*, cruising with an old dog, and blogging. Undoubtedly, we’ll discover a whole bunch of other stuff we don’t know, and we will enjoy the journey—most days. We hope you enjoy it vicariously, too. Thanks for joining us!