Welcome to Matt & Jessica Johnson’s sailing page. We are a couple of Michiganders (Grand Rapids) had grown up without ever setting foot aboard a sailboat, but decided to take it up as a hobby one summer in 2008 when we had nothing better to do. Although that’s putting it lightly for my husband Matt. For him, it’s an obsession.
How it all started
For the past 10 years that Matt and I have been together at this point, he’d go through phases of different hobbies/obssesions. Ranging from rally cars, watches, and real estate, sailing has become the latest and hopefully permanent one. It started in late summer of 2007 while on the shores of Lake Michigan. Matt would look at the sailboats on the water and comment on how he’d like to try that someday. I didn’t pay too much attention, because of course, there was another hobby at hand at the moment. Still, every time we were at the beach he’d gaze longingly at the boats dotting the horizon. Come winter though, there were no beaches, no boats, and the subject slowly died. We turned out interest to Matt’s newest engrossment, buying property in northern Michigan and building a small pod home or prefabricated cabin. The whole winter was spent searching for properties and cabin designs. We had even narrowed it down to a few designs and certain locations when out of nowhere Matt asked, “We can either get a piece of property or spend the money to get a sailboat, which do you think would be best?”. I hadn’t known the sailboat might even come back into the equation, so the question took me a little by surprise. And Matt was not going to let me off the hook with saying ‘I don’t know, whatever you want to do’, so we sat down to weigh the pros and cons of both. Eventually we decided that although the cabin would give us year-round access where we could only use the boat in the summer, that we would rather spend our summers on the water with constant activity and enjoyment than every other weekend in a 400 sq ft cabin on barren land.
Once the decision was made, Matt dove into his new obsession by scouring the internet for boats up for sale, and which ones would best fit our need. In the end though, we did what we had done with our house and most of our cars, which is to buy the first one we actually see in person. It was August 2008 and we had driven about 45 minutes south to Battle Creek to see a 1998 Hunter 240. It was in pretty good condition, was a great beginner boat, and the price was right. So after taking a sailing lesson the following day (different boat, different town) to make sure it was something we liked, we put an offer on the Hunter and it was accepted.
Within a week we had the boat up to Muskegon where we had purchased a mooring at Torresen Marine. With the exception of bumping into about 6 other boats on our first time out of the channel (we literally had to have a guy passing by jump in our boat to save us), we had a wonderful two and a half months (thank you Indian Summer) learning and loving the sport of sailing on Muskegon Lake and Lake Michigan. Scratch that, we also hit 4-5 boats in the channel again taking our boat out of the water for the year. We learned to put in and take out at a different location the following year.
So that is the story of how we came into sailing. Follow our adventures and mishaps as we purchased a new (to us) Sabre 34 Targa in January 2010 and prepped ourselves to go cruising.
From landlubbers to cruisers
Fast forward a few years and we are now new cruisers. Our Sabre has been outfitted and filled to the brim with things I’m sure both of us will realize pretty soon down the road that we do not need.
How did we get here? Lots of planning and hard work. We sold our house in June of 2011 and moved into Matt’s mom’s and stepdad’s house. Even though we had been scraping and saving for the past two years to save up and go cruising for 2-3 in the States and Bahamas the savings went into overdrive when we realized we wanted to be gone for longer, possibly 4-5 years and go much further. In July we both quit our jobs, sold our cars, and were ready to start the cruising life. Then on August 12 we were finally ready to depart Muskegon on the west coast of Lake Michigan and start our adventure. Over the past two years we’ve sailed down the east coast of the US, spent time in the Bahamas, Cuba, Central America, and crossed the Atlantic twice in 2014!
Our newest adventure is waiting for us in Indiantown, FL in the form of a 37 ft aluminum boat. We’ll spend the next however long gutting and rebuilding this new boat and getting her ready to cruise. One thing is for sure, we can never rely on plans and new adventures are always waiting around the corner for us.
Hey Matt and Jessica,
Love your blog. It’s funny – when we first started considering a lifestyle change, we were also considering a cabin or a a mini farm on a hill (but in Italy or Spain). Then, we settled on a sailboat instead! Ha! I guess it’s the same kind of lifestyle – self-sufficient, outdoorsy and sustainable, but with the advantage of being able to travel. Perfect choice 😉
Well done guys! We’ll keep following your adventures.
Elena and Ryan
what kind of jobs did you have early in life to support such a lifestyle now?
Carl, before we left Michigan to go cruising, Matt was the manager of a Toyota dealership, and I worked in billing for a auto/home insurance company.
Inspiring and amazing story! Thanks for sharing your story and experiences. I came across your content and it really is good!
Awesome guys! This is so cool.
Do you guys have bills? Or cellphone planes while sailing around? How do you guys continue posting stuff on the internet or affording to fix the boat and other things when you guys don’t work anymore and are on islands as well as sailing the sea?
Way to go! It’s a long road, but you’ll get there. Having a new boat to go sailing over the horizon with is a huge accomplishment and benefit when starting a big trip like that.
Do you mind me asking what age you guys are?
We were both born in 1982, so we turned 36 this year.
Why did you change sailboats, and why did you pick one with an aluminum hull?
Once you sell it all and hit the seas, what do you do for health insurance, medical care if/when necessarry?
Following your adventures on your youtube channel, as well as Josh Post and the Delos crew. Refreshing content as compared to the Drama filled TV now a days..
For the most part we never carried medical insurance, as once you get outside of the US it is pretty cheap to see a doctor out of pocket. Thanks for following along! Cheers. 🙂
We were looking for something just a little bit bigger, plus Matt wanted a pilot house so we could see see what was around us while we were sitting inside, instead of the cave like feeling you tend to get in a monohull. The aluminum is because we’ll be sailing high latitudes and it is a better option over fiberglass if we encounter ice.
Hi , just started to follow your adventure on youtube . I live in florida but from central NY area, lived near the Erie ( barge canal) and a 77 yr old former charter boat capt. on the finger lakes and Lake Ontario. I was wondering what you use to check your position when you navigate with in open blue water or do you rely solely on the GPS system?
Can you let me know what video you made of a crossing were you used as back ground Safe & Sound?
Hi Ernest, thank you so much for following along!! Sounds like you came from a great area up in NY. We took our last sailboat, Serendipity, from Lake Michigan out through the Erie Canal and there were so many beautiful sights. For checking our position we do only use GPS, but have about 4 systems that allow us to do so. That way in case numbers 1, 2, or even 3 go down, we’ll still know where we are.
Long story short. We live in GR, sail Lake Mi all summer, now on our Freeport 41. Out of Muskegon. I just bought a dinghy for our new boat from a guy who is a friend of your mom.
Iâ€™ve been cruising a 1965 Columbia 33 the last 10 years, now weâ€™ve jumped to a 1978 Freeport 41 to live aboard full time.
If youâ€™re here, maybe meet?
I am really enjoying your Norway adventure. What kind of boat is your 37-footer? It is REALLY roomy!
The design of our boat is called a Trisalu, it was built in Quebec. But it actually a one-off design, and we only have 6 sister ships out there. 🙂