High school sweethearts Jennifer Johnson and Elliot Schoenfeld managed busy careers in architecture and city planning (Johnson) and corporate software consulting (Schoenfeld) before booking a one-way trip to South America for a year on the road. In early 2020, the couple began a five-month lockdown in India during the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic, which changed how they traveled forever. Upon their return to the United States, they bought a boat and began an adventure on America’s Great Loop.
Names: Elliot Schoenfeld and Jennifer Johnson
Current Boat: 1989 Marine Trader 34 Double Cabin Pivot
Home Port: Atlanta, GA
Years owned: 1.5
Our boating history was scarce when we bought our boat, as Elliot could count on one hand how many times he had been on a boat, and I grew up with minimal boat knowledge on my stepdad’s sailboat.
While we were traveling abroad in Melbourne, Australia, we took sailing lessons, which were our first foray into formal boat knowledge. Our approach has been to jump in and learn as we go. It’s not always smooth sailing, and we make a lot of mistakes, but we also learn from our mistakes and keep going. It’s always humbling to look back at how much we’ve learned as boaters with zero experience to now being boaters who are comfortable in a variety of situations and have traveled almost 5,000 miles.
Our only criteria were: Can it do the Loop (height and draft), is it safe, and is it reliable? Pivot qualifies, and, better yet, she was owned and maintained by an ex-U.S. Coast Guard officer and marine mechanic. Now that we have learned quite a bit more, there are things we love, things we had to change and things that would be deal-breakers in a new boat.
We love the visibility at our flybridge, the security of having a protected propeller, and the reliability of the Lehman. We changed our anchor, bought a new dinghy motor, and completely replaced our leaky decks, among a myriad of smaller issues. She is absolutely perfect for our digital-nomad life. With 600 amp hours of lithium batteries, 700 watts of solar and 140 gallons of water, we can stay on the hook and crank out some work—which we do more than we would like to admit.
Most of our upkeep is specifically for our engine, named Linda. She is a Lehman Super 135, a marinized tractor engine, and we spend a lot of time giving her what she needs. That means daily checks, regular oil changes and fuel filter changes, along with fresh zincs.
Elliot would love to upgrade our electronics, including AIS and radar. It’d be super helpful for Lake Michigan and the inland rivers when navigating barges. We’d also love an oven in our galley. We currently have a convection microwave oven, and it’s just not the same.
Living aboard Pivot has been a real treat—to embrace life on “trawler speed,” as we like to call it. We take in the sunrises and sunsets, birds chirping, dolphins swimming with our boat, and so many other things that help us to slow down and enjoy the little things in life. It’s a real treat to see life from a new perspective. It doesn’t go without its challenges, though, from walking miles to get groceries, waiting out thunderstorms and having mechanical issues mid-cruise. Boating is a journey with highs and lows, making us appreciate the highs even more.
As we are currently about a third of the way through America’s Great Loop, our bucket-list adventure is to cross our wake in Key West, Florida, at the end of the year. To follow our adventures, find us at schoandjo.com and on YouTube at @schoandjo
We’ve been eyeing the 26 C-Dory Venture or a Ranger Tugs R-31 for
motorboats, however, we see a bluewater sailboat as our next floating
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This article was originally published in the October 2022 issue.