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San Angelo Lifestyles

On Board for Adventure

Written by Sabrina Forse
Photos provided by the Elkins Family


Concho Valley family sells it all to sail

The Elkins family set sail living full time on a sailboat. @sailingbuyingtime

With a 360-degree view of blue water and dolphins for neighbors, the Elkins family is navigating a two-year adventure that most people only dream about. Until the fall of 2021, the family of five lived in a 2,300 square foot home on 31 acres near Christoval.  Justin, Carrie, and kids, 18-year-old Gage, 16-year-old Makya and 13-year-old Trigg are now cruising across the ocean, living inside a Leopard 44 Catamaran sailboat with about 240 square feet of indoor living space.

“When Justin initially introduced the idea about nine years ago, I thought he was crazy. The idea of living on a small boat with young kids who had a lot of energy sounded awful to me,” Carrie recalled. That changed in November 2020 when Justin got COVID, and the family had to quarantine. “We learned we were different,” Carrie said. “Other people were going stir crazy and had cabin fever. We were really content just being home together.” The family started binge watching Sailing Zatara on YouTube. It chronicles a Texas family who sold everything to buy a sailboat, without prior sailing experience. “It was very comforting to see them have amazing adventures, and be smart and safe while doing it,” Carrie said. 



Carrie and Justin began imagining what it would be like and how they could afford it. “The kids came home one day and said, ‘Let’s just sell everything and get a sailboat,” Justin said. “I loved the idea, but I told them I didn’t even want to hear it unless you’re all on board. Everyone would need to commit to at least two years. About four days later the kids said ‘Let’s sell it all and go.’ I looked at Carrie and she said ‘yeah, lets do it.” 

The Elkins sold their house, vehicles and donated several items to Goodwill. They left some belongings with family, but did pack a few movies, boardgames and personal items to take on the boat. Makya packed art supplies and a ukulele. Gage brought along notebooks and sketchpads, while Trigg brought Legos. Justin boarded the boat with a guitar and Carrie brought dumbbells. 

“It will be interesting to see if any of the things we chose to keep are still important to us when we get back,” Carrie said. “Living out here you start to realize you don’t need a lot of material possessions to be happy.”



The couple left Texas on October 1, 2021 and rented a condo while working to make their boat seaworthy. “It needed a lot more work than our survey indicated, and everything was much more expensive than we planned for. I would say we doubled our repair budget,” Carrie said. The family anchored in West Palm Beach, Florida and lived there for about six weeks while they took sailing lessons. They took several day trips and made their first long sail on Christmas Eve, traveling 14 hours from West Palm Beach to Key Biscayne. They then sailed 12 hours from Florida to Bimini, Bahamas on December 29. 

Since then, the family has been exploring the Bahamas and sharing their adventures on YouTube.  Via their channel, you can watch the family navigate life at sea from snorkeling, surfing and encountering marine life, to capturing rainwater for washing clothes. 
“It was really fun petting the stingrays and even the nurse shark. I thought the shark would be smooth like the stingrays, but it was really rough,” Trigg said. They’ve seen swimming pigs and dived the Thunderball Grotto in Staniel Cay. Makya has enjoyed seeing the dolphins ride the waves in front of the boat and being close to sea turtles. Gage’s highlight has been snorkeling a plane wreck and petting the stingrays while Carrie loved swimming with the Loggerhead turtle and getting to pet a Hawksbill turtle. 



It may seem like the ultimate two-year vacation but it’s not all smooth sailing. Gage and Trigg both battle sea sickness.  The boat needs constant maintenance and Justin does all the repairs himself. “You have to constantly pay attention to the weather, especially the wind to make sure you have good protection while at anchorage, Carrie said. “You also have to worry about the anchor setting properly and not dragging into other boats.” While in the Bahamas, the entire family was assigned look-out for coral heads that lie just feet under the boat in shallow water. “Everyone comments about how carefree and relaxing this life must be but truthfully this is much more stressful than life on land was. The pros outweigh the cons but it’s definitely not an easy lifestyle.”

The family had to purchase a dinghy boat to use for trips to land for supplies. “Grocery stores are few and far between. Groceries are three to seven times more expensive,” Carrie said. Fortunately, Justin loves spearfishing and often catches their dinner. 

The kids are still going to school. Gage and Makya took dual credit online courses at Howard College before leaving Florida, and now all three are home schooling. “They’re also learning about aquatic science, and we do a lot of field trips,” Carrie said. “I think their lives have been enriched in many ways that could not have been done inside a classroom.” The siblings were already close, but Carrie believes the trip is further cementing their bond.

 
Carrie, a licensed professional counselor and Justin, a homebuilder, left their jobs to sail. After beginning the journey Carrie started an online fitness and nutrition coaching business. “I am learning that I enjoy the nomadic lifestyle. I had previously put a very high value on having roots and a safe and comfortable routine but now I get bored with a new place very quickly. I don’t know if we’ll be able to return to a normal life. I can definitely see us traveling the country in an RV after this,” Carrie said.

The family will chart their journey to avoid hurricane season, but there are too many variables to plan too far into the future. “Our goal is to see as much as we can in the limited amount of time we have and on a very small budget,” Carrie explained. We don’t have any grand intentions of circumnavigating the globe.” 

They are funding their adventure with their savings. “Sure, the finances will run out but so will time with our kids,” Justin said. They are budgeting to return to Texas in November 2023. 
 “We’re hoping this experience changes us and opens our eyes to new possibilities. This experience has taught us that you never know what the future holds,” Carrie said. “Making decisions that are based on the need for safety, security and material things can really hold you back. We’ve already let go of those things to some degree which really frees us up to be able to make decisions based on what makes us happy.” †



Follow the Elkins Family on their journey @sailingbuyingtime on YouTube, Facebook or Instagram



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