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brett-arends's-roi:-‘it-was-like-something-out-of-gilligan’s-island!’-the-fire-crowd-who-spent-the-lockdown-partying-in-the-bahamas
brett-arends's-roi:-‘it-was-like-something-out-of-gilligan’s-island!’-the-fire-crowd-who-spent-the-lockdown-partying-in-the-bahamas

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Brett Arends's ROI: ‘It was like something out of Gilligan’s Island!’ The FIRE crowd who spent the lockdown partying in the Bahamas

Brett Arends’s ROI

This couple gives you another reason to quit your miserable job

Lockdown, FIRE style


Bill & Grace Heaton/ Calico Skies Sailing

I don’t mean to depress anyone, but while you’ve spent the lockdown under virtual house arrest, and trying to have “Zoom” drinks parties, a bunch of “Financial Independence, Retire Early” types were spending it in a bit more style.

Read: Forget retirement — focus on financial independence

On yachts. In the Bahamas. In a deserted cove.

“It was like something out of ‘Gilligan’s Island’,” says Bill Heaton, 37. “We had our own little society down there. We spent all day moonshining (i.e. making moonshine), spearfishing, and hanging out at the ‘yacht’ club. We even had a wedding.”

Divorce inspired this woman to learn about money and she retired early

They started catching fish and lobster after their fresh food supplies ran out. “We feel we were really lucky during COVID. We were so safe.”

He and wife Grace, 38, were sailing in the islands when the crisis first blew up in early March. “We [were] sailing to an isolated place in the Bahamas called the Ragged Isles. It’s about 60 miles from Cuba. We were supposed to go for a week, but then COVID happened. We anchored the boat up and just lived there for three months.”

In total about two dozen other sailboat enthusiasts joined them there. The average age was in their 30s, Bill says. They built their own community. They even improvised a “yacht club” on the beach, using fallen bamboo trees and a tarpaulin and a string of lights. They dug a fire pit for the nightly cookout of whatever they’d caught that day.

And because it was an isolated community, they didn’t have to practice social distancing. No masks. No 6 feet distancing. None of that. Why would they? (New arrivals were required to self-quarantine first for 14 days, Heaton adds.)

When the government of the Bahamas banned alcohol sales, they started making their own moonshine. Several of the boats had their own stills.

He adds: “Who would have thought the sailboat was the ultimate bugout vehicle? I never thought of it from a prepper’s point of view.”

Who indeed?

I interviewed Bill and his wife Grace, 38, last fall. They’re classic examples of the “Financial Independence, Retire Early,” or FIRE, movement. They used to work at hedge funds on Wall Street, but busted out a few years ago to live on their 36-foot sailboat.

They now have their own YouTube channel—what else?—called Calico Skies Sailing, all about their new life.

Thanks to the crisis and the lockdowns, “busting out” must seem even more appealing to many people than it did a few years ago. There are early signs that some have reacted to the COVID crisis by quitting the city for the suburbs or even farther afield. But whether they’re quitting the rat race is another matter. There is, of course, always the question of money.

If you love yachting, it’s a slam dunk. The Heatons say they spend about $1,500 a month in living expenses. But it’s (usually) hard work. Unless you really love it, you probably wouldn’t want to spend the rest of your life living on a boat, hauling sails up and down, and fixing things.

If you don’t love yachting, there are other cheap bust-out options, from the tiny home to the cabin in the mountains. But some of them don’t have quite the same panache. A van is no yacht.

“There’s something really stale about living in an apartment, especially right now,” says Bill. The couple recently spent a month on shore and could hardly wait to get back on the water. “We had a real urge to get back on the boat. I like the freedom of movement.”

Could they do it for the rest of their lives? Heaton thinks so. He and Grace joined a club for ocean-sailing enthusiasts. “The majority of members are in their 70s,” but still sailing the seas, he says. “We find it hugely inspirational.”

He adds that if they get to the point where they couldn’t handle a sailboat anymore, he thinks they’d retire to a trawler or motorized boat.

Spending the COVID-19 crisis on a yacht in the Bahamas had its down side, of course. “I got pretty sick of fish and lobster, to be honest,” he says.

How was your lockdown?

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