About Us

Matt & Jessica The Baths

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.

49 thoughts on “About Us

  1. are you the one selling the Maretron ssc200 rebranded Mercury with no NMEA2000?
    Is this still available?

    Thanks

  2. Hey Matt and Jessica! You don’t know me but I work with Jack and Crystal at the P.O. Jack is my partner at work. He has been talking about your adventures a lot. I came across a post on FB with a link to your web sight. I think it is awesome! I will be following your adventures as you post! Love the pics too! Good luck and enjoy life to its fullest!

  3. Hi Jess,

    I am sure you don’t remember me, but I grew up with your dad in Kentwood Michigan. My wife, Lori, and I live in Panama City, Panama, about 4 miles from the Miraflores Locks. Mike and Barb are planning to meet up with you two as you pass through the muddy ditch while visiting the “Land of Many Fish”. You are welcome to spend a few days at our house along with your ‘rents. Please contact us if there is anything we can do to help you along. I will check you page periodically to follow your progress.
    Vaya con Dios,

    Robb

  4. change “a few days” to “as long as you like”. and that goes for your little dog, too.

  5. I definitely remember you and all the gatherings where you’d get together with my parents. They have told us about how you’ve been living in Panama and were planning to stay with you when they visit. Since the timing of the canal can be tricky we don’t know if we’ll be able to go through with my parents (you can’t really choose your day when you’re a cruiser) but we were definitely planning on going to Panama City for a visit. Who knows, if we help another cruiser transit the canal and want to stay on the ‘good’ side for a day or two we might hit you up on that offer! :)

  6. It’s easy enough to get to the Atlantic side. All you really need is an hours notice, since they opened the new highway up to Colon. I am sure your parents would love making the transit with the both of you and the eight hours spent in the canal will give you all time to catch up. Once you get to the Pacific side, you can anchor out in Amador at the Balboa Yacht Club. Not sure if they have started charging or not, but there are other alternatives all very close to where we live.
    Sorry about the comment I made regarding your dog, I hadn’t read that he had passed. We lost our 12 year old Old English Sheepdog right around the same time you said goodbye to your greyhound. Since then, we have another OES and a crazy-ass yellow lab that keep us entertained.

    All for now, and always remember “SAFETY FIRST”,
    PanamaRobb

  7. Hey Matt, great trip, jealous.

    I noticed you weren’t using the french press much, I recently discovered the “clever dripper” and would like to send one to you so Jess can enjoy a good bean in the morning, please send me an address and I’ll drop one in the mail along with some beans, do you have a grinder on board?

    Hub

  8. I don’t think I’d turn down anything that would make having coffee each morning easier. :) I think we’ll be visiting DC where I have family and should have an address we can have you send it to. Thank you so much!!
    Jessica

  9. -I love keeping an eye on your adventure ! You guys are doing what we want to do when we retire. You are making so many great memories together! Keep the updates coming! Always praying for safe travels:)

    Becky(Mindy’s cousin)

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  11. Hi Matt and Jessica!
    My wife and I also own a 1989 Sabre 34 Targa (hull #369). Matt, We’ve emailed each other a few times via the Sabre group on yahoo. I hadn’t seen you on the forum for a while and after visiting your site I now know why! Your blog is very interesting, a great read and I’ll be checking in regularly! I’m also very interested in how the boat performs during your cruise and the equipment you’ll be using. My hat’s off to you both! I admire your courage and desire to experience the cruising life. God speed and have a wonderful journey!
    Dave B.
    S/V Magic
    S34T #369
    Salem,MA

  12. You’re right Dave, we have been very busy! Although, when Matt can find internet, he always goes right back to the forums. Thanks for following along, e-mail us if you have any questions on the boat or the equipment. :)

  13. Hi you 2,
    Nice to see a young couple following their dreams. Looked over your site and looks like you both were good and busy getting the boat ready which is pretty normal. I’d like to know how things are going in Cuba as we may pass that way ourselves next year. We are Canadian cruisers who are currently in Turkey and will be crossing the Atlantic next year. If you have good email access let us know as I have a few questions for you. Cheers, Robert and Carla S/V Moody Mistress in Kusadasi, Turkey

  14. Robert and Carla, Cuba was great, we really enjoyed our time there! Cienfuegos was a good harbor with a cheap marina, although we’re sad we never made it up to Havana. Feel free to email us with any questions you have at admin@mjsailing.com. We’ll be heading over to the Med in June, maybe we’ll cross paths!

  15. Hi there – I’ve been following your blog for a little while now and wanted to let you know that I’ve been really enjoying it. You’ve got a great sense of humour and really bring the places to which you’ve been life. Nice to see a young couple out there doing it now. Wish we had when we were younger! Cheers – Ellen

  16. We feel like we came so late to the party! It’s July 8,14 and half a year since the last post on here.

    Been reading your blog with hunger for more! We are on our 2nd boat amidst of season 2. It’s time for us to start eyeballing our next step which hopefully will be “the one” to take us out along your exodus route.

    Any thoughts on what would be your ideal vessel having been there/ done that?
    Look forward to reading more and more and more!

    Rodg and Jen
    Cleveland

  17. Rodg & Jen, thank you for following along, and good luck on your own upcoming big adventure. What would our ideal cruising vessel be? Hmmm, I’m very happy with Serendipity (Sabre 34 Targa), but Matt is the one that’s really into boats, so I’ll leave the question to him. He says he would love an aluminum boat with a pilot house. I don’t want to say any old one would do, but they’re usually good for re-configuring to make them how you’d like them, as long as the hull is structurally sound. If money wasn’t a question (and don’t we all wish we could win the lottery and buy our dream boat?) he would want to get Boreal 47. Or he’d go to the darkside and get Dashew’s FPB 64 ft power boat.

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  19. Hey guys! My wife and I have been checking out your page lately and enjoy the tales. I’ve had the Guatemala tag open in a tab for the last two days, reading each post as I find the time.

    We plan to head down to Guatemala in the spring. We’re currently with our boat, Edward Blair, in the Mayan Riviera, and he’s in need of a fresh bottom coat paint on the next haul out. After talking to some folks, we figured why not make the excuse to head through Belize and into Rio Dulce to get the job done.

    I’ll definitely be referencing some of the posts as we get closer to the date.

    Thanks!

  20. Mikee, you will love Guatemala, it is the most beautiful place ever and the locals are so incredibly friendly! I wish we could have explored the Belizian coast a little more, but I might just have to follow some of your posts on that. :)

  21. Hi Jessica,

    Came across your page a few days ago – you guys are incredibly brave! We’ve been dreaming to go on a world tour with my boyfriend and maybe spend a year or two covering the world map. Thoughts of a having a baby contradict a bit with this dream of ours, so we are still undecided… Anyways, cruising the world sounds absolutely amazing but scary at the same time. So yeah, I will be following and thanks for sharing!

    P.S. We are in Miami, FL, in case you set sails here and need a hand or something :-)

    Katya
    http://atstarfish.blogspot.com/

  22. Hi Katya!
    I hope that you do have the chance to travel a few years on a boat, it’s such an amazing lifestyle. I’m sure we’ll be headed to Miami a few times during our stay here, I’m sure we could work something out to meet up sometime! :)

  23. I am sitting in my office at 7:30 am in Texas and saw your article in the daily mail and almost started crying. What a great life you have chosen! What people never understand is just how beautiful and spectacular it is out there. It is beyond any description or story you could ever try to explain to someone. Live it all until you cant

    Vic

  24. Hi Jessica & Matt!

    Absolutely love your story and think its amazing what you have done. A friend and I decided to charter a sail boat in 2011 (having never sailed or really any boating before) and we sailed BVI with a couple friends for a week. It was the most incredible trip I had ever done and after that we decided we could never do the islands any other way again! So we started making it an annual event and every year we sail some islands somewhere. To date we’ve done BVI, Seychelles, Guadeloupe and Dominica. This year 6 of us are doing St. Maarten July 11-18.

    I was curious if you guys will be in the St Maaten area in July, or if you have any good tips for sailing there.

    I wish you the best of luck with everything!

    Jim

  25. Jim, We LOVED sailing the BVI’s and around Sint Maarten. Unfortunately we will not be there this July (next year, who knows?), but I can tell you that we liked the spot we were anchored in Simpson Bay on the Dutch side. I’m not sure if charters there are like in the BVI’s where you have to be in a marina or on a mooring, but we liked being just a little further out from everyone and also had fantastic views of the sunset every night. Also, if you like to do any bicycling, Island Water World will let you use theirs for free with a $50 deposit that you get back. It was a great way for us to get out to Maho Beach and do some exploring. Fair winds and I hope you enjoy your trip this year!

  26. Hi Jessica & Matt,
    I have to agree with Jim. I was also inspired by your story after reading it on MailOnline. Both of you are very brave. My question is what did you do in preparation to crossing the Atlantic? Or did you guys just rely on the previous 3 years of sailing experience? When I was reading how you guys were preparing to abandon ship in the squall, 1100 miles off coast, it was like watching the movie “The Perfect Storm.” Best Wishes.

  27. I loved reading about your adventures and hope that they take you to the Chesapeake Bay at some point. Be sure to let me know if you are near West River. We can always find you a slip….

    Richard
    S/V Raven
    Cal 33

  28. Hello Matt & Jessica,

    Like most people, I discovered your journey on Facebook and was not only intrigued, but very happy to see you two living your life “now”, because tomorrow is not promised. That being said, my questions are more directed to lifestyle than boating questions. For example, when you were on water for lengths at a time, did you get any motion sickness? What did a typical day look like for both of you? Lots of reading? Playing cards? Conversing? Also, what about things like getting your hair cut or needing a manicure or pedicure? I realize there are so many things that we truly don’t need and considered luxuries, so how did you make the transition to do more with less? I’m 49 and contemplating something very similar and I’m inspired by your story. Thanks for sharing.

    Gracefully,

    Frederick

  29. Matt & Jessica, wonderful blog and great help to us on the budget issue, My wife (Clara) and I are thinking to do something very similar to what you are doing in the Caribbean, it may be on a catamaran (more “stable” for her) but have no idea with the cost of everything or anything, so with your information we can make a better decisions on our trip. We don’t have the boat yet but started with sailing classes a few months ago, that’s a “START” right, I do have a few or better yet a LOTs more questions on the living aboard subject. so will definitely keep in touch and follow you in your adventure. We live in San Diego, CA.
    Best Wishes.

  30. вы очень крутые! я в восторге! соорри, ничего не понимаю по английски! мечта очень многих пар вами осуществилась!

  31. Congrats on all this!! This is fantastic. I am just curious to ask what your plans are for the “after”, once you want to set your feet on the ground again. Thanks and congrats again.

  32. …well, I’ve just red your story on one of the two main Italian newspapers.. you both are definitely my new idols! ..”anything that gets your blood racing is probably worth doing”
    Good Luck!

  33. Not generally, but there are ways in which you can such as getting sponsored by someone traveling with you who is not from the US.

  34. Благодарю вас так много , я так счастлив, что вы читаете наши приключения

  35. Wade. In preparing for our Atlantic crossing we did use a lot of experience we had gained from sailing the Caribbean Sea and also did a lot of research on top of that from others who had made the same passage, the best time of year to do so, and the weather that was usually encountered for those people. Although that storm 1,100 miles offshore was scary, we weren’t ‘ready’ to abandon ship, we were simply prepared in case it came down to that. We both know that you never leave a floating vessel. :)

  36. Hi, Jessica,
    How do I access your previous blogs,going back to the beginning of when you and Matt started cruising!
    Ruth
    Columbia, MO

  37. Hi Ruth! You can get to all of our previous blog posts by expanding the archives on our sidebar. Although we logged our time getting Serendipity ready to cruise, we left for our trip on August 12, 2012.

  38. Hi Jessica and Matt,

    My fiancée and I have been so inspired by your story. We are about to get married, buy a house and possibly have children. But we have this strong this underlying urge to break free from these “steps of life” while we still can…And take a chance and live and travel now. I am 33 and my guy is 31… My fear is that if we decide we want to have kids this does not fit into to this plan very well….. Do you have any advice for couples like us who feel like they need to choose between having kids and traveling the world… Who feel like they have to choose one or the other??

    PS. I hope you are both having an amazing day and thank you for sharing your story with the world.

  39. Michelle, I’m so glad that we could inspire you and possibly help give you a push to lead a life less ordinary. You should without a doubt get out and travel now while you are young and able. As far as having children..depending on your mode or location of travel, you can do both!! I am friends with some amazing women who have had more than one child while living the same lifestyle as me (check out http://www.wintraveler.net and http://www.itsanecessity.net) and there is a different couple I followed their blog that had their kids in Mexico very cheaply, and now their family travels the world in a VW camper (www.bumfuzzle.com).
    We are having a SPECTACULAR day, we’re on top of the world right now. :)

  40. Hi Jessica,

    Not even kidding when I say that you guys’ story has woken a sleeping giant for me and my boyfriend. Both in our 30′s, we are completely enamored with the idea of getting out of the rat race and onto the sea. It’s both terrifying and thrilling. Neither of us have sailed on our own before, so we’re going to have to take sailing lessons, and we’ve started looking at boats. What would you say is the smallest sized boat is that we should be looking at if we want to cruise down around the Caribbean? Thanks and keep on inspiring!!

  41. Hi Cabot! I’m so happy to hear that our story has recruited more young cruisers out to the water soon! It’s a great lifestyle and I’m sure you two will really enjoy it. It’s hard to say what the smallest size boat you’d be comfortable on since everyone is different, but for me personally I think 32 is the smallest I could live on and be happy. Who knows though, there’s people doing it on 26 ft boats that are perfectly happy!

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