Living Aboard A Sailboat-Interview With Travel Author & Writer Janet Groene

by : Norm Goldman

Today Norm Goldman, Editor of is excited to have as our guest, travel writer and author Janet Groene.

Janet and her husband Gordon have authored several books including:
Living Aboard and
Creating Comfort Afloat.

Good day Janet and thanks for agreeing to participate in our interview.

Could you tell our readers something about yourself, the books you have authored and what motivates you to write travel books?

Since I was very young, words just bubbled out of me and begged to be written down. When I discovered that these words can be turned into money, I was hooked. For the first 10 years of our marriage, my husband flew airplanes for a living and his hours were different every week.

I loved writing ad copy for a department store and later worked for a newspaper, but I turned to freelancing as a way of being home when he was. "Try it as a business for six months," Gordon suggested, and I did. It was galling at first to get so many rejections. As a salaried writer, I sent my work to the composing room and soon it was in print. Now I was sending out loads of manuscripts and seeing them bounce back within a month or two. I stuck to it as a business, however, and just before the six months were up I sold a poem for $15 followed by a short article for $250. Things became easier after that. In time I realized how much I had learned by subnmitting and being rejected. No writing course can teach what one learns by being in the marketplace.


I understand that you and your husband lived on board a 30-foot sailboat for 10, happily homeless years. Please tell our readers why you embarked on such a venture and did you ever tire of living on the boat:


On a business trip to the Bahamas we discovered a wrecked sailboat washed up on a lonely beach, and we began to dream the impossible dream. If we went to sea we could be together all day, every day, and, with all our belongings on board a sailboat, we could travel and still be at "home".

It took almost two years to make the transition out of what we call "real life" into a new life at sea. We sold our house, furniture and cars and Gordon gave six months notice at work. Every step was taken very thoughtfully and amicably. After all, we thought we'd have to rely on Gordon's fine record as an Airline Transported Rated pilot after our savings were gone. The goal was to gather memories that nobody could take away from us, no matter what happened in the future.

Within a few years we began to make more than we were spending. Slowly we realized that freelance writing could support us indefinitely. We didn't tire of living on the boat but after 10 years we were just ready for the next phase, which was to build a home base in Florida. We do, however, still have the RV.


If you were to choose 8 of the most romantic venues you and your husband visited while living on the sailboat, which ones would they be and why?

We loved the uninhabited islands of the Bahamas. Just ourselves in a deserted anchorage, surrounded by waters so clear we could see coral gardens many fathoms below. Romantic spots for sailors include:

Graycliff, Nassau, a 400-year-old restaurant

Useppa Island in Pine Island Sound, off Fort Myers, Florida

Tortola in the British Virgin Islands

St. Lucia, anchored off the Pitons

Snorkeling the Great Barrier Reef off Australia

Biscayne Bay, Miami, in a silent anchorage surrounded by the twinkling lights of the city

Antigua with its exciting maritime history. It was Horatio Nelson's base.

Waking up on cold mornings in Alaska in a wonderland of wildlife

The Grenadines in the Caribbean for a variety of exotic islands

The Bahamas because so many islands are uninhabited, waters are crystal clear and one can always find a deserted beach


How do couples find out about the most interesting and romantic places to sail to?

A boat, especially a sailboat, is a demanding mistress and her needs must come first. Life afloat is ruled by seasons, tides, fronts, charts, reefs, lighthouses. Maintaining a boat is a never-ending task. Travel by sailboat is further governed by laws, with endless hassle and expense for customs and immigration formalities every time one moves from one nation to another.

That said, every couple has to follow their own dream, which could be anything from trying every brand of rum in the Caribbean to painting wildflowers, bird watching, shell collecting, learning to speak Creole, or seeing the green flash. Our idea of a romantic evening is to talk a deserted beach to others, a romantic evening means a lobster barbecue followed by a rowdy limbo contest.


Were there any unusual challenges or experiences you faced while living on the sailboat?

There is an old saying, "Until she leaves the dock, a boat is nothing more than substandard housing." We were underway often, never staying in one place more than a week or two. Life afloat is reduced to such basics as getting mail, finding provisions, making a living, preparing meals, laundry, bathing, keeping a watch on the weather and literally staying afloat.


I also understand you lived in an RV during the time of the year you were not on the sailboat. Where did you travel with your RV and could you tell our readers what challenges or obstacles did you encounter while living in the RV? How did you overcome these challenges?

RV life is easier than sailing because you can always pull over and stop when you get tired. In boating, you can't stop until you reach safe harbour. In RVing, of course, you must stay on roads and that means one can't find the complete solitude one can find on a boat. Even in places where it's permitted to "boondock" (park and sleep along the roadside) one must be concerned about safety.


Do you recommend other travel writers find a niche or specialty? What have been the rewards for you?

It's essential that travel writers develop a specialty or two. There are artistic rewards as one develops as a writer and financial rewards when editors began to realize you're the go-to gal for articles on New Zealand wines or kayaking or Miami Beach nightlife or whatever.


How have you used the Internet to boost your writing career?

The Internet has been essential in my writing and now it's accessible from anywhere one drops anchor. For us it's a communications and research tool. We don't self-publish, sell our own books or maintain a website for which we sell advertising. Writing is what I love and what I do.


What does travel mean to you?

My parents were great travelers, always taking my brother and me to places where we could learn something about history or culture. To me, travel means a constant flow of new horizons, new insights, new understanding about the world and its people.


What is the biggest reward of life as a travel writer?

It's rewarding when I can bring the essence of travel to those who can get there only through my words and to those who go to a place because I made it sound so enticing. The biggest reward in freelance travelwriting is to be one's own boss, with the ability to make a living anywhere.


Is there anything else you wish to add that we have not covered?

Thanks to e-mail and cell phones it is not much more difficult to earn a living on the go than it is to be a freelance writer working out of a house. However, many people think that travel will turn them into brilliant writers. If you're already a successful freelance writer, travel can easily become part of that success. At home or away, however, one must learn the craft of writing and, more importantArticle Search, the skill of marketing oneself.

Thanks once again and good luck with all of your future endeavors.