Have you ever wanted to quit your job, sell your house, purchase a boat and sail around the world? Sure, us too! Which is why we were thrilled at the opportunity to chat with Greg and Mel Burnett. They are the proud owners of “The Amazing Marvin” a fully equipped Leopard 48. Catching up with this family we learned the easy aspects, and the not so easy aspects, of life at sea. We delight in the simplistic approach that Mel Burnett provides on forfeiting a “normal” day to day life to pursue a life of liberation and freedom.
Mel begins, “We got into sailing because Greg is a pilot. We would fly to the Bahamas and over to the Exumas. We met sailors and people who lived on their boats. We thought maybe someday we would do something like that. We eventually signed up for a Cruising World subscription and began e-mailing sailors that we met.” In the Burnett’s blog, titled “Burnetts Ahoy!”, Mel reveals that it was the long hours and a demanding job that brought her and Greg to the conclusion that there wouldn’t be a better time to go sailing. In early 2014 the decision to go sailing was made. Mel explained that the Leopard 48 was purchased in March of 2014, and while their yacht was in production Greg and Mel put in months of preparations and professional training to safely prepare for the journey ahead. While Greg had experience sailing in his youth, Mel was new to the scene, but turned out to be a natural. “I was surprised at how easy it was for me to learn how to run the boat. Motoring with the engines, or raising and lowering the sails, it all takes less strength than I thought it would. And I discovered that it was really not hard to maneuver the boat with the engines,” Mel confirmed. They finally took possession of the yacht in the spring of 2015, and sailed south to the Caribbean.
Life on land vs. life at sea
The Burnetts have been at sea for over a year now. In comparing life on a Leopard to life on land, one of the biggest differences is time. Mel explains, “The biggest lifestyle change is scheduling. As a doctor every ½ hour of your day is planned and it is out of your control. Like many jobs, it is a lot of pressure. Now every day is totally up in the air as to what we want to do. It is a great freedom in terms of time.” Mel explains that this is a great opportunity to refresh her focus. In addition to that, her family has had the opportunity to grow closer and discover what is most important in life. There was also the freedom of exponentially minimizing their possessions to what can fit on a 48 foot catamaran. “We have some momentous things in storage, but you have a whole lifetime of things that you have to sort through and decide what to keep. It was a good lesson on how valuable things are,” Mel reveals.
While everything about taking a leap of faith can be liberating, it doesn’t come without its trials. Greg and Mel have two children and they explain that homeschooling and entertainment can be a challenge, “They had to get used to the lifestyle. When you are an adult, you have been on land forever, but kids are young and just starting to have fun with their friends. Being on a boat takes them from their everyday social circles.” However, the experience that Greg and Mel’s children are receiving is invaluable. Mel continues, “They are having a good time and learning so much. Even though they do not get to play with the same friends for months and months, they are meeting new kids. They have gained social skills that not all children have the opportunity to learn.” In addition to homeschooling on board the boat, every island that the Burnetts visit (and they have visited a lot) is a new learning experience. The Burnett children keep in touch with their friends back home in Minnesota through Skype, e-mail and weekly phone calls.
The best advices that Greg and Mel can offer to families who want to follow in their footsteps is to incorporate the opportunities and the cultural experiences into the homeschooling, and get a boat like their Leopard 48. Mel explains, “The yacht is big enough where everyone has their own space. The kids have their room and we have ours. And preparing ahead of time was good, but you realize that the best advice that you can get is from meeting people. That is where you find out who is the best at rigging in that area, or where you should go to have the best experience. Don’t worry too much about research, because the best information is local knowledge. You cannot prepare for everything ahead of time. There will be surprises and you can learn to handle them as they come.”
For the Burnetts, they rank their overall satisfaction with their Leopard 48 very high. “We have loved owning our boat. On the outside it is a cool, sporty cat with a fast motor, but on the inside it is our home. It has been the perfect fit. It looks good, and it is obviously a well-made boat. We have been impressed with how structurally sturdy our boat is. It is overall very trustworthy, and that has been nice,” Mel explained.
At the time of our conversation the Burnett’s were enjoying their time in Portugal. From there they plan to go east, down the coast of Spain through the Strait of Gibraltar, then around the Mediterranean.