|The lifestyle of
living on a boat.
This page updated: August 2013
Resources and Overview section
Random Notes section
"The cruising lifestyle is the chance to live as your grandparents did,
with the additional risk of being drowned."
Resources and Overview
Absolutely must-read book: "Modern Cruising Under Sail" by Don Dodds
(on Amazon - paid link).
It covers lifestyle, psychology, planning, money, etc.
A very good book: "Dragged Aboard" by Don Casey
(on Amazon - paid link):
First 3 chapters cover lifestyle, psychology, danger, etc.
Rest of it has lots of living-aboard tips.
It attempts to expose a bunch of myths
, which are that cruising is:
- An economical way to travel - really it is
not much cheaper than some alternatives,
and there are plenty of variables.
- Adventurous - really there is some hardship
and danger, and much discomfort and boredom.
- Peaceful - really there is much isolation,
which is okay in moderation but depends on
- Freedom - really you are restricted by the sea,
weather, legalities, equipment.
- Carefree life - really you have to do a lot of planning,
maintenance and provisioning, and there is danger.
- An uncomplicated lifestyle - really most modern
complications provide comfort, so uncomplicated
can mean uncomfortable.
- "The good life" - really the pleasures
are subtle, and fast-track or competitive personalities
A very good book: "The Cruising Woman's Advisor" by Diana Jessie
(on Amazon - paid link).
Very good book: "The Voyager's Handbook" by Beth Leonard
(on Amazon - paid link).
Another very good book: "All In The Same Boat" by Tom Neale
(on Amazon - paid link).
"Liveaboard cruising is not a cruising vacation.
You have taken your 'real world' with you,
and it is very different from what it used to be. Boating
is no longer a weekend party. You'll have fun and enjoy a better
way of living, but you'll also deal with basic, no-frill survival
issues every day. You'll work very hard at it."
Very good book: "The Cruising Life" by Jim Trefethen
(on Amazon - paid link).
"Modern cruising is a difficult way to live.
It requires hard work and sacrifices, but for many who crave personal freedom
and a simple life, it's worth it."
Dated (1983) but good book: "How To Live Aboard A Boat" by Janet Groene
(on Amazon - paid link).
"[Living aboard] is not a way to escape yourself, a bad marriage,
taxes, or responsibility. It is not an island idyll,
a free lunch, a free ride ..."
Dated (1975) but worth reading: "Boat Living" by Jack Wiley
(on Amazon - paid link):
Good survey of lifestyle, choosing and buying boat, logistics, living-aboard tips.
It outlines requirements for liveaboard success:
- Love for the water.
- Love of an active life.
- Ability to live happily with minimum of possessions.
- Desire to escape rat-race.
- Ability to live in confined space.
It also outlines reasons for failure:
- Little space.
- Restrictive existence.
- Lack of roots.
- Miss previous lifestyle.
- Unsuited for raising children.
- Job transfer.
- More costly than expected.
- Trouble with boat.
- Gradual dissatisfaction with water.
Join Seven Seas Cruising Association ($30/year); their
monthly bulletin contains terrific letters from cruisers all around the world
and gives you a good flavor of the world-cruising lifestyle.
But I dropped it after several years; got tired of articles
about small remote places I'll never go.
From "The Voyager's Handbook" by Beth Leonard
(on Amazon - paid link):
"even the most luxurious boat cannot offer the level of comfort
and convenience of a moderate-sized apartment."
Sometimes there just will be bad days:
"It's been a rough day. I got up this morning ... put a shirt on and a button
fell off. I picked up my briefcase, and the handle came off. I'm afraid to
go to the bathroom."
- Rodney Dangerfield
Douglas Bernon's "The Pleasures of Inconvenience"
SailNet - Randy Harman's "Calling it Quits"
Heartsong III's "Voyaging FAQs"
SailNet - Randy Harman's "Basic Considerations for Cruisers"
S.V. Date's "An Atlantic Odyssey"
SailNet - Mark Matthews' "Cruising Days at Anchor"
SailNet - Sue and Larry's "Living Aboard"
SailNet - Sue and Larry's "Making Friends While Cruising"
Interview With A Cruiser project
(and my interview with them)
Brittany Meyers' "Types of Cruisers"
Is living on-board full-time realistic ?
- It will be a shock at first.
(Worse if you're coming from a pampered lifestsyle.)
- There will be lots of compromises.
(Fewer on a bigger boat.)
- Having a support system on-shore can be a big help.
- Having extra money helps a lot, mostly as a mental comfort.
From Voyage of the S/V Paradox:
"cruising is the art of working on diesel engines in exotic locations"
"There are 3 kinds of wind: too much, not enough,
and perfect but from the wrong direction."
From "By Way Of The Wind" by Jim Moore
(on Amazon - paid link):
"Beginning cruiser's syndrome = a pervading sense that cruising
means moving, not sitting at the dock." (So beginners head out
into mediocre conditions instead of waiting a day or two, fail to explore
interesting towns, don't meet the locals, don't relax, etc.)
From "By Way Of The Wind" by Jim Moore
(on Amazon - paid link):
You will discover that cruising requires a lot more walking than you're
used to: when you get to port, you don't want to pay for taxis, you'll walk
everywhere. Smaller towns are a lot more walkable than cities.
Fairly good, especially for women:
"Changing Course" by Debra Cantrell
(on Amazon - paid link).
SailNet - Sue and Larry's "The Subculture Of Cruising Sailors"
SailNet - Tom Wood's "Nature's Cruising Schedule"
SailNet - Michelle Potter's "Cruising Advice"
SailNet - Sue and Larry's "The First Year Cruising – What to Expect"
SailNet - Kevin Jeffrey's "Making Your Boat a Home"
SailNet - John Rousmaniere's "The Water In Between"
SailNet - Tania Aebi's "Cruising Dreams and Boat Lists"
SailNet - Sue and Larry's "Women and Cruising"
My My Lifestyle and Experiences Living on a Boat page
From John Dunsmoor:
"S" was and is one of my best students, a personal friend and we
love him dearly. After three years of cruising he was ready to be rid of
Analysis: What did "S" bring to the table. He is smart, educated, was a
lawyer who went through a life change. He moved from Philadelphia to
Wyoming with two sons. Bought a piece of property and built a new life.
Eventually he gave up lawyering and made his living as a ski instructor,
white-water rafting guide, hunting guide and outdoorsmen. He also is an
artist, working in watercolors and oils and has sold a respectable amount of his
work. On the property that he purchased some twenty plus years ago he built
a home and is self-reliant as you would expect a Westerner to be.
"S" took two classes with us and I was his instructor both times. I found
him to be focused, enthusiastic and good company. He seemed to have all the
qualities one should have to be a successful cruiser. What are those
qualities? In no certain order of importance:
Self reliance: If you are the type of person whose first option is to hit
the phone when something needs to be taken care of then CRUISING is not
the right avenue. You will notice that I use the term cruising as opposed
to boating, sailing or some other terminology. Cruising is an avocation
unique, with its own goals and qualities.
Tinkering: You have to be a tinkerer at heart. The love of messing about on
boats. There are so many chores that are chores but there are ten times as
many little projects that give joy to the cruising life.
"Cruising and the Zen of sailboat maintenance"
Humor: You just have to be able to laugh at the absurdity of the human
condition. Sometimes things go so bad, not dangerous, just stupid.
If these "arrows" push you over the edge then you are done, over the edge
has no place in cruising.
Resilience: Cruising is rewarding in so many ways, but it is not easy, not
for the lazy or slovenly. Many times, it is downright difficult and
your ability to reach into a well of strength and pull up a handful of
reserve is all that keeps you from losing your boat or worse.
God: Not in the organized, Catholic sense, but respect for God is an
absolute necessity. "The sea is so large and my boat is so small." The sea
can, at any moment, crush you like a bug. It isn't that God, mother nature,
or whatever term you so desire, is out to get you. It is that you are so
insignificant, like an ant on the Interstate highway. You are but a small
collection of atoms, on a speck of a vessel, on a few thousand square miles
of water, on a dot of planet, in an unremarkable galaxy. You getting crushed,
while a personal tragedy, is not a notable event in God's grand scheme.
As a sailor, you try to do your best. With diligence, preparation and the
grace of God
you will survive and hopefully prosper. At the same time you will know the
wonder of the sea.
You will gain a respect and understanding for life, your fellow species and
the planet that is impossible to explain. With understanding comes a
serenity, a calmness.
S's failure, what a harsh way to put it. "S" had grand success and
an adventure of a lifetime, but the sailing life for him was not
sustainable. Part of
the problem is that the reality of cruising did not live up to the dream of
cruising. S's first spark came while doing a Sea Kayak trip in the
Bahamas. He saw a number of boats anchored and met some of the sailors and
thought, "What a great life!" Intellectually he knew there would be
hurdles and he thought he was ready.
Failures: The boat. He purchased a 40 foot Endeavor and I think the boat
was too complicated. Refrigeration, air conditioning, generator, on and on,
on top of this the boat was ten years old and had been sitting for five of
those ten without much use. For the entire three years of sailing the boat
was causing stress. Breakdowns and the necessary troubles of fixing things
in out of the way places took a lot of fun out of cruising.
"S" had this vision of sitting in a quiet anchorages, painting seascapes
and birds. The reality was that he was pressed with getting south for the
hurricane season and constant boat repairs and doing this all alone. In the
end he felt that this was all way too much effort. Or as one of my employers
used to say, "The juice is just not worth the squeeze." "S" used to
lament, "Can't anything be easy?"
Loneliness: "S" is a social animal, and working the boat by himself and
the stress of not having some social interaction i.e. a nice warm female
body to snuggle up to, was a hurdle that he never found an answer to.
Another problem "S" had is that he is not a tinkerer; little problems
resulted in more stress than they should have been. Instead of the boat
being a joy and a cozy home, "S" came to feel that the boat was this
haunting spirit ready to attack at any moment. He arrived back at home
base to sell the boat and refused to go even on a day-sail. He figured
that the very act of using the boat would only result in another expensive
item needing repair and who needs this.
"S" eventually sold the boat and was happy to be rid of it. He is living
back in Wyoming.
I tried counseling him to keep the boat, go back
to Wyoming for the summer and just take a break, before deciding whether or
not he wished to continue to sail. "S" felt that this was not an option;
financially and emotionally he needed closure. He is not bitter over the
experience, he had a grand adventure, met lots of folks and made good
friendships. He experienced places that he would have never seen otherwise
and he met a challenge and was inspired. "S"
loves to mountain climb, and I would think that this may be a good analogy
for him. A good hard, challenging climb requires resolute determination and
leaves one with a grand feeling of success. At the same time,
one is glad it is over and yet misses the task when it is over.
There seems to be some distinct types of cruisers:
One type is the hard-core
sailor, a person who uses a destination as an excuse for sailing. These
individuals are more at home in the deep ocean than anywhere else. They
long to be at sea again. Bernard Montesset, John Guzzwell, Sir Frances
Chichester and Joshua Slocum are
a few of the more well-known individuals of this type.
Another type is the sailor who loves the life-style of being at anchor
in some new area, the adventure, meeting new persons and seeing new vistas.
The passage is the dues they pay to be in a new place. Sailing is rewarding
but they would rather have easy sails and anchor in a quiet anchorage every
A third type is the cheapskate; they are living on board because they
perceive it to be the most economical residence they can come up with. We
have spent time hanging out with this type: dollar movies, free happy hour
food, an art of using facilities without paying for the privilege, sneaking
around in the dark with a bag of trash looking for a place to dump it. It
is some type of perverse game, addicting. These folks give all sailors a
less than glowing reputation. Being frugal is not only a necessity but a
way of life for a cruiser. There is nothing morally wrong with not being
part and parcel to our consumption-oriented society. At the same time any
activity taken to the extreme is a sin. Many of the worst of this type of
sailor can usually be found at the cheap dock or anchorage, their vessels
look like garbage scows with all manner of junk stored on deck and they rarely go
Trying to save a buck can be a trap with far greater costs than savings. You
have to be very careful, especially when you do not have the prerequisite base
of knowledge to make good decisions. Sometimes, it is more cost-effective
to spend the premium for the good equipment than mess around with
trying to save a buck.
I remember a friend who decided he could not live without refrigeration.
But being a cheapskate, the very thought of actually paying for a production
unit was appalling. So for the next three years I witnessed him installing
used automobile compressors, homemade holding plates, junk this and junk
that. I would estimated that out of three years he successfully had
refrigeration about two, and during that one third of the time he probably
spent in the order of 2000 man hours and three grand repairing parts of the
system and probably threw away another $1000 in food that spoiled.
I am an engineer at heart and maintenance is a religion to me on a boat. I
have been bitten so many times by some small item that I ignored that I have
learned, been taught, to tend to the details. Even on our diminutive yacht
we carried about two thousand pounds of spare parts and tools. There was no
item on it that I could not either fix or get around. We have lots
of good stories.
And more from John Dunsmoor:
There is an adage that in any project or endeavor one should focus every
effort on success, failure will come of its own accord and needs no help.
There is a group of elements that are necessary to be a successful long
term, bluewater cruiser. I am not sure if these key elements can be
completely described or understood. I, as you, think like an engineer. We
engage scientific problem solving, first step is to break a problem down to
manageable, core elements. As an engineer, solutions are more quickly found
once one can accurately describe a problem.
So in my early investigations I found a group of successful long distance
sailors and tried to evaluate some key common elements. I found a sense of
fatalism, "We do what we do because that is what our passion is, if God
decides to take us while we are at sea, so be it". I found this same
element with other defined "risk takers".
Why would anyone desire to jump off the side of a bridge with a parachute,
or risk hypothermia, hypoxia, frost bite and host of other possible bullets
to climb a mountain, when as soon as you make to the top your only goal is
to get down. Logic, reason, or the exception?
Sidebar: I went sailing a month or so ago, now normally I give great
consideration to comfort, but when I am on the boat, I would rather sleep
outside in the cockpit than in a cabin. I want to see the stars in alllllll
their glory, I want to see the moon rise and I revel in the sun's first
streaks across the sky. This evening it rained and there was a great amount
of lightning, instead of going below I donned my foul weather jacket and
took up a horizontal position in the cockpit and fell asleep watching God's
show. It was summer time and it wasn't that cold, as long as I could keep
the rain drops from going all the way to the bottom of my ear canal, life
How does this square with "reason"? Bill, I'm telling you, there is more to
it. There is a Zen, a feeling, a romanticism that is beyond reason.
From John Mason on the IRBS live-aboard mailing list:
I would like to point out there are several different "modes" of living
aboard, and which one you pick significantly affects the life-style, cost,
and what type of boat you want.
The most basic mode is just living aboard with no real plans for mobility.
There are a lot of people in Florida living on houseboats and old power
cruisers doing just that. The boats are more or less mobile (usually the
marinas require this) but movement isn't the objective. Some marinas are
very nice places to live (and some are horrible!) and people enjoy the life
style. If done right, this can be much cheaper than living ashore.
Houseboats can be very comfortable. By being in the marina, you meet a lot
of interesting people, see the aquatic wildlife up front, and can enjoy
watching whatever maritime activity is going on locally.
The second group (and most active) are people building up to extended
cruising. The boats (usually sailboats or trawler yachts) have been picked
for their seaworthiness, not comfort. These boats are more expensive, have
much less space, and a big part of the lifestyle is the perpetual
preparation. This lifestyle has all the advantage of the previous one except
space aboard. Clutter control is harder.
The smallest group are active cruisers. These people are moving, either from
marina to marina, or across seas and from anchorage to anchorage. The
lifestyle is less comfortable yet, with a lot of considerations (electrical
power management, freshwater management, waste management, weather, etc.)
which will keep the cruiser occupied. Clutter control is vital.
The point of this posting is you should decide just what you want to do
before deciding whether you want to do this or not.
We lived aboard and cruised both the West coast and the East coast and Bahamas
(two different boats, two different time periods) for several years, and
enjoyed it despite some very real stresses and inconveniences.
From Tom McConnell on the IRBS live-aboard mailing list:
My wife and I sold our boat last fall and moved back to land. It was both
one of the hardest decisions we've made and one of the easiest. I had
lived aboard for 5 years and after we married, Rachel and I lived aboard
for eight months. Last summer the marina changed owners and the slip fees
doubled - thus easing the decision to sell - although there were other
concerns like commuting, space on the boat with two of us, etc.
We are both in our early thirties and have to work. Therefore we fell
into the liveaboard at a slip category with no plans or ability for
If you don't fit that category, then don't take me too seriously as most
of my comments are based on our experiences and that reality.
That said, we loved it! The Springs, Falls, and Summers were outstanding
and since we were on the Chesapeake, with virtually unlimited cruising
grounds, we could go to new places all the time - whether it be a short
evening cruise for dinner or an extended summer vacation. I will never
forget many of the memories associated with the boat and sailing it with
Rachel. We also very much miss the rocking motion of the boat at night -
like being in a giant cradle.
That said, winters were a bit harder and as someone pointed out, you have
to determine your own limits. I personally don't mind walking through
snowdrifts to take a shower. It means that I don't have to spend time
making coffee, no need for caffeine. Rachel was less enthusiastic.
Showers, heads and laundry are all more difficult on a boat. You have to
worry about water (and how to get it in the winter when the pipes are shut
off), no-discharge rules and holding tanks and the very small size of
heads. There's no room for stuff. And laundry. I don't do laundry that
often, and as a result, this wasn't an issue for me. Some people like to
be able to do laundry on command (not my wife - other past experiences)
and boats are not for those people.
The financial issues are a big deal and have to be taken into
consideration. Yes, you will save money by not paying property taxes, but
you'll have slip fees. Maintenance is also a priority. Don't make the
mistake of putting off repairs as I've noticed that boats deteriorate
exponentially. Another concern for us was that of building equity. Boats
tend to depreciate, houses don't. Bottom line is exactly that. Add up
the expenses, as well as the personal pros and cons, and then decide.
You might want to consider chartering for a month and then decide how you
like it. You also mentioned that your husband wants a bigger boat - and
that means you already have one. If you can take that boat out for a few
weeks and live aboard, anything larger will just seem luxurious. But
beware of how much stuff you have. Before you move aboard you will either
sell or put in storage 85% of your belongings, and you will still need to
get rid of stuff! Clothes are not an issue for me and I can wear the same
t-shirt until it falls off. Actually, my wife kidnapped that shirt after I
wore it too much and it disappeared. I've lodged a formal protest - to
no avail. My style works great on a boat when you have very little space
for clothes and other stuff. For women, it's a bit more difficult,
especially if you are working and need to maintain a wardrobe of work
Last word - When I first moved aboard, I dove in head first without
checking the depth, but the water turned out to be great. We'd definitely
do it again, and we plan to at a later point in life, but I did notice
that the liveaboard life fit very few people well, thus the reason for
such a small community. However, you can always move back to land.
From McRory's Logbook:
The biggest thing that continually surprises me is the number of people who just
buy a boat and go, with very little or no experience. For the determined, this sometimes
works. People who abandon the sailing/cruising life early on usually have different
expectations about what it's like. They picture beautiful, calm tropical bays, and cocktails at
sunset. Aside from sailing skills, first-time distance cruisers are usually startled by the
amount of maintenance that has to be done and what you need to know about weather.
Some boaters go out and follow other boaters around.
Before setting sail, I think the most important thing is to
find out if you really like it. If you
have no or little experience, take a one-week ASA/CYA cruise-and-learn course. They are
available all over both coasts. There are also ASA/CYA navigation courses that should be
taken afterward as well. From there you will have all the basic skills to coastal cruise in a
25- to 35-foot boat.
From McRory's Logbook:
The biggest misperception many people have about cruising has to do with being master of
your own destiny -- sundown gin and tonics, setting sail at a moment's notice for secluded
spots. In reality, that's a good stretch from the truth. The weather owns the gearbox here.
We wait for the right buttons to be pushed so we can scurry from one place to the next.
Second in command -- with a gear box of their own -- are the equipment suppliers. ...
Orders that we placed when we arrived here in mid-December have still not
arrived [in February].
a bad day on the boat is still better than a good day in suburbia.
From JMason on the IRBS live-aboard mailing list, in 1997:
We have just completed our first year of living aboard our Fast Passage 39
sailboat Wanderstar, and I thought an account of the experience might be of
We had been planning a multi-year cruise, possibly including a
circumnavigation, for several years. I had every intention of retiring at
the first possible moment (June 1995 when I turned 55) but ended up working
an extra year for my company's convenience. I retired and we moved aboard
(giving up our shore residence) on the same day, 30 June 1996.
Our background is we are reasonably experienced cruising sailors with a
little racing experience. We owned a 1969 Swan 36 for 14 years, which was
cruised through the Caribbean and the Panama Canal to Los Angeles, and
extensively in Southern California. Prior to that I owned a Columbia
Challenger (24') sloop which I cruised around Southern California for several
years. We moved the Swan to the Chesapeake by truck in 1985, and cruised
there for a while. We sold the Swan in 1988, and had not sailed until we
We purchased our boat in 1995 as a "turnkey" boat, ready to set sail for
bluewater ports immediately. A few practical factors intruded, causing us to
delay the bluewater part for a year. These factors were: one, adapting to
the liveaboard lifestyle took more time than expected; two, the boat was not
truly ready to go; and three, we had a lot of learning about our boat to do.
Adapting to the lifestyle:
Stepping aboard our relatively new (to us) boat and setting out did not
happen. Problems to be solved were far too many possessions still in hand
(aboard, in a storage shed, and in vehicles); the living processes to work
out (home address, taxes, mail, finances, "household living"), and learning
to operating this boat while living aboard.
A boat of any reasonable size for a two person crew is a very limited volume.
We all know this, but our abrupt transition from house to boat was not
smooth. We had already down scaled when we sold our house in Northern
Virginia and moved to a smaller, rented house in Stafford, VA. Prior to my
retirement I think we disposed of about 70% (by weight) of our possessions,
and put the bulk of the remaining treasures into commercial storage. We also
rented a small room in an outbuilding from my sister in Pensacola FL, which
we use for unwanted boat gear and items which did not make it into the
Before moving aboard we stashed stuff everywhere. The boat was chock full,
totally inoperable. We rented a storage shed in Deltaville VA where the boat
was berthed, and this was full to the roof. We still had two vehicles, one a
full size pickup truck, and these were full too. It took us two months to
solve this by trashing treasures, donating items to charity, and selling the
bigger items (we had four dinghies etc.). By the end of August we were able
to get rid of the storage shed and operate the boat. We later sold the
Home addresses: We established two home addresses: an official tax home
using my sister's address for IRS, ham license, driver's licenses, etc. and a
mail address using Voyager's Service in Islamorada (excellent service from
these people). We did not want to burden my sister with the mail and we find
Voyager's Services to be ideal for this. We became legal Florida residents
in Santa Rosa County and pay all applicable Florida Taxes including boat
registrations and intangibles tax, (but no income tax).
It takes a while to get used to living in the small space. Cooking,
sleeping, maintenance all take on a new (tight) dimension. Stowage is a big
problem; knowing where you stowed an item is another. Some facts of life:
There is never enough room on a boat for the things you want and need. Even
the smallest job will create a colossal mess. Anything you want is behind or
under three layers of other things, or you took it off to save space. The
"list" always grows - a very good day is when more comes off than goes on it.
You are never completely ready. Tasks, however small in appearance, grow to
vast proportions as you have to uncover things, find things, move things,
order things. Murphy is alive and well. We are still working on this, and
will be for years.
Everyone has their own approach and their own limitations. Like many
cruisers, we are living on investments. We do not plan to work. We have
several cash and credit cards intended to cover all situations. I track all
our expenditures very carefully with a series of spreadsheets, and project
our budget for three years ahead. So far so good.
Cost is a function of mode. I would characterize our mode so far as
relatively infrequent moves (every few months) between long stays in marinas.
We have worked our way down the coast from Virginia to Titusville Florida,
but did not get away to the Southern Caribbean as planned.
I tracked costs in 16 categories: personal costs, boat repairs and
maintenance, food, transportation, boat capital improvements, boat
accessories, taxes (non-boat), dockage, boat taxes and fees, boat insurance,
medical, communications, information, tools, fuel and oil, and propane.
Our largest cost category was the category I termed "personal" - costs
associated with ourselves including clothing, SCUBA gear, cameras, computers,
film, entertainment, motel fees, etc. (but not including food or medical).
Our second costliest item was boat repairs and maintenance, the third
largest was food, fourth was transportation (vehicle maintenance, insurance,
gasoline, air fares, taxi, car rentals etc.), fifth was boat capital
improvements (new attachments such as water maker, additional battery bank,
etc.), sixth was boat and cruise accessories (binoculars, handheld radios,
Boat costs are highly specific to the boat in question. We had a high
initial "pulse" of costs associated with capital improvements (things added
and attached to the boat such as water maker, new sails, sail cover etc.) and
accessories (things not attached such as hand held GPS, VHF, binoculars
etc.). Later we had a pulse of repair costs. See discussion below on the
boat. Diesel fuel and propane have been negligible costs so far.
I expect (and depend on) our costs to drop considerably when we finally
dispose of the remaining car and get away from the continental US.
Our biggest impediment to sailing the boat was (and is) the stowage problem.
Once this was somewhat under control, inertia got in the way. To leave a
comfortable slip requires yet more stowage, finding the sailing gear, and
unplugging water, power, phone, TV cable etc. In Deltaville we found the
tides another hindrance; the water was so shallow we only had narrow windows
for movement. You have to force yourself to get the boat moving, because you
must learn the boat and shake it down. This is a cruising issue, not a
Learning the Boat (Personal Readiness):
We purchased an unfamiliar boat, somewhat larger and more complex than boats
we had owned before, and were rusty with regard to our sailing skills. Those
of you who cruise a boat you have owned for years will not have this problem,
but a lot of people we have met along the way started as we did with an
Boat handling of our 28,000 lb. (as weighed; design displacement is 22000
lbs.) 39 footer is much different than was our 14000 lb. 36 foot Swan.
Switching from the tiller on the Swan to a wheel added another discomfort (I
still dislike wheel steering). The cutter rig added a new dimension (no more
fast tacking; the cutter stay interferes with the jib), as did the new to us
roller reefing and aft led halyards. The boat has a number of new to us
systems we had to learn (RADAR, depth sounder, wind instruments, GPS, Loran,
SSB, below decks autopilot, steering vane, manual alternator control). The
engine controls on the pedestal were unfamiliar, with throttle and shift
feeling and looking alike causing me some short term confusion as to which
was which. Even ordinary systems such as stove, lights and pumps had to be
checked out and learned before we could cruise in confidence. The engine had
to be operated for a while to learn what was a normal sound and what was not.
I had to get through periodic maintenance items such as filter changes and
fuel system bleeding. The bottom line is we had to sail, power, and
otherwise operate the boat and all its gear for quite a few hours before we
felt we could trust it and ourselves for the more ambitious passages. After
one year, many miles of waterway motoring, and one 300 mile offshore sailing
passage we are comfortable with the boat and ready for our next step.
This low profile operational phase was also necessary to flush out problems
with the boat.
We purchased our boat as a turnkey item. The boat had been lovingly
maintained by the previous owners and survey revealed no real flaws. A few
items slipped by (a failed pump for the diesel heater, a bad wire to a
spreader light, and a really out-of-bed pitch setting on the Max Prop) but on
the whole everything worked. This boat had been extensively cruised
throughout the Caribbean by the previous owners, but had been lightly used
for the last few years. When we moved aboard and began using everything
daily, we flushed out a lot of incipient failures (most aggravating were
leaks from the engine fuel injection pump and a leak in the exhaust system).
We also identified a number of changes and improvements we wanted (new
batteries, different battery charge setup, different bilge pump arrangement,
total redo of the waste system, etc.). The preceding is hardly a complete
list of the over 100 action items identified and worked, or of the 50 or so
left! Most were individually very small tasks (adding 5 Hella fans, adding
lights, rewiring systems) but in the aggregate were (and continue to be) a
lot of work. At the moment I judge the boat ready for limited cruising in
the Caribbean but not for a Panama to Marquesas passage. We continue to
One key question about this lifestyle is "do you like it?". My wife took 20
minutes to adapt and never looked back. I had a few more problems with it.
About 6 weeks into living aboard, after suffering through Bertha, living in
a non air conditioned boat in the hot and humid Chesapeake summer, and head
down in the stowage and maintenance problems, I would have done anything to
return to shore bound normalcy. We had not sailed even one day at this
point, and it was not fun.
But with time the expected benefits of the lifestyle appeared. Once we began
sailing the Chesapeake and moving down the ICW we could enjoy the boating,
and we began to meet the really great people of the water world. We have
found there is no better way to see the aquatic life (wild and otherwise)
than to live on a boat. By the time we reached Titusville the boat problems
were under control and I was really enjoying myself. We are both looking
forward to some bluewater cruising after the current hurricane season ends
and the SSCA has its annual party; in the meantime we will stay in Titusville
and just "live aboard".
From Latitude 38's "First Timer's Guide To Mexico":
Cruising rarely turns out to be how first-timers imagined it.
Not necessarily better or worse, just different. The
keys to enjoying cruising are realizing that it takes
time to adapt to an entirely new lifestyle and to sloooooow
down. This is particularly true for folks who've sold
everything to go off on a 10-year cruise, because they've
heaped a ton of pressure on themselves to like it.
Sometimes the best thing cruisers can do after a couple
of months is take a 'vacation' from cruising. Put the
boat in a marina and return home to see family and
friends - and to be reminded why it was they wanted to
leave in the first place. Being back in the States
for a week or two is usually enough to send once reluctant
cruisers scurrying back to their boats.
If you're a couple, be more forgiving of one another
than normal, for both of you have all kinds of new
responsibilities and anxieties. Sticking through the
tough times often makes couples closer. And if you're a
gung-ho male sailor with a novice girlfriend or wife,
the dumbest thing you could do is scare the hell out of her.
Give her time to ease into sailing - or let her take
a plane on the long passages.
Ultimately, the biggest killer of cruising dreams seems to be alcohol.
Booze is cheap in Mexico and the
climate is conducive to sipping all day and half the night.
The number of Americans - mariners and
non-mariners alike - who are living out their lives in an
alcoholic haze in Mexico is tragic. If you drink,
periodically stop to evaluate whether booze is controlling your life.
The good news is that there are AA
meetings and other support groups just about
everywhere Americans gather.
From Jack C on Cruising World message board:
I've been following a number of virtual voyages and the things that get the most words are:
Engines - how much they have to motor, how often they have to work on it,
all the problems they have with them;
Electrical systems - generator capacity, batteries,
getting power to appliances, amps, voltage, wiring;
Appliances - hot water, pressure, reefer, problems getting parts,
wind generators, solar panels (more wiring), corrosion, installing,
tearing the thing apart while underway/at anchor, more cursing, more delays, more dependency;
Other systems - holding tanks problems, odors, head cleaning/rebuild
(can't get the parts!), water tank leakages, piping/drainage/thru-hull blockages, zincs, corrosion.
My God! Do any of these people actually sail ?
Do any of them actually find time throughout any of the headaches to
actually have fun ? I'm sure they do, but it doesn't show up much in the reports.
It certainly doesn't endear me to cruising in a big boat.
From Don Boyd on Cruising World message board:
It's the dirty little secret that cruisers don't like to talk about.
Even after years of careful planning and endless dreams of cutting
loose to paradise; some people (a lot actually) find that cruising
is not their cup of tea. Many actually hate it.
Cruising is not for most people.
Even if you think you're the next Lyn or Larry Pardey, you'd better
approach the whole thing with an open mind and be prepared to admit
the truth about the lifestyle to yourselfas you progress.
The fact is cruising's hard work. (I am talking "cruising" - traveling
from gunkhole to gunkhole, country to country, as opposed to "living aboard",
parked at a particular spot for a longer period, often measured in years.)
The bottom line is that no matter what happens, the two hardest parts
of going cruising have nothing to do with sailing. The first is to
untie the lines to the dock and go. Actually getting to that day
is one of the most traumatic experiences 90% of cruisers must go through
before they leave. The next is how you deal with your inner self once you're
cruising. The experience doesn't change most people, it makes them
more of who they were to start with.
From Jon Eisberg on Cruising World message board
(explaining his harsh reaction to a newbie who wants to circumnavigate soon):
To a lot of folks on this board, many of my attitudes probably sound
like those of an - horror of horrors in our increasingly politically
correct atmosphere - elitist. But in my lifetime around boats and the water,
and in my almost quarter-century (wow, that's starting to sound scary) in
the yacht delivery business, I've seen a disturbing trend among the way
in which people are taking to the water. And I'll rail against it every
chance I get, and poor Peter just happened to be the latest victim ...
As I see it, the combination of two factors are changing forever
the way we are cruising, and it's definitely not for the better.
The economic boom times are making it possible for large numbers of
people to jump into big boats immediately ... And GPS is making it
possible for them to take these boats anywhere ... And all this can be
done - as long as one's luck holds out - without any basic sailing
or cruising skill whatsoever ... The proper notion of sailing as
an APPRENTICESHIP, where one starts out in small boats on protected
waters building basic skills, and then proceeds in incremental stages
on progressively larger boats on more venturesome voyages - well, that's
all rapidly going by the boards in our present world of conspicuous
consumption, instant gratification, and wanting and getting it all NOW ...
Of all the traits of a sailor, I think patience is the one that is
most necessary, and earns the greatest rewards. I think had Peter simply
stated he wanted to be doing some extended cruising within 5 years,
it would not have gotten my dander up at all. But his focus on a
circumnavigation just seemed to betray a fundamental lack of understanding
of the magnitude of such an endeavor, and an unwillingness to let it
happen all in due course ... I mean, a circumnavigation should be a
culmination, not the starting point - don't you think?
Many of us here on this board have been blessed with the incredibly
good fortune to have been sailing since childhood. I know that's
probably what makes me sound like an elitist to some. I think I can
understand how frustrating it must be for someone to get into sailing
later on in life, with an awareness that there is still so much to learn,
and with time running out ... Yet, so many people I see out there
cruising now remind me of some of the jaded youth of today - they've
seen and done it all at such a young age, and have largely been deprived
of that most marvelous aspect of childhood - that brief, fleeting age
of innocence that one can never return to ... Rather than working up
to making that first summer cruise to Maine using nothing more than
your own wits and a pair of parallel rules and dividers, people in
ever increasing numbers are obtaining brand new 40 footers as their
first boat, and going offshore immediately in the "safety in numbers"
that rallies like the Caribbean 1500 provide ... (oh, man,
don't let me get started on that one ...)
This "loss of innocence", for want of a better term, among many
contemporary cruisers, can manifest itself in many ways. Travelling
up and down the ICW, for example, I guarantee you will virtually NEVER see
a transient vessel anchored in a spot that is not mentioned in the Waterway
Guide - people have seemingly lost the ability to pick an anchorage on
their own by looking at a chart. But what I dislike most about the
way cruising has changed of late is the manner in which it forces one
into a never-ending defensive posture towards other cruisers every time
you're in close proximity in an anchorage or at a marina. It grows
old quickly, having to look at every new arrival askance, and wonder "does
this guy have a clue? Is he going to be the one who ruins my day by his incompetence? ..."
In the good old days, once you reached certain cruising grounds, you could
be pretty safe in the assumption that those around you knew what they
were doing, too. Maine used to be like that, and the Bahamas were perhaps
the best example. Even after the advent of affordable Loran units, because
of the limits of Loran-C coverage in the Bahamas, there was almost a
perceptible line of demarcation beyond which cruisers without confidence
in their navigational skills would not proceed. Twenty years ago, if you
were down in the Exumas, it was a pretty safe bet that everyone else down
there really knew their stuff. Only a fool would make that assumption today ...
Ultimately, however, we will all collectively pay the price for the
individual arrogance of the inexperienced going offshore. Our numbers
as cruisers are increasing rapidly, putting pressure on limited resources
and generating political and legal quandaries over anchoring rights and no
discharge zones ... Our increased visibility in bigger and fancier boats
coupled with the steady decline in navigational competence and seamanship
will come back to haunt us all. NBC Nightly News has already featured the
Coast Guard's rescue mission as yet another example of "The Fleecing of America".
Has anyone else been following the saga of that asshole skipper of
the JOLLY JOYCE? Another idiot with no business (for the PC egalitarians
out there, note that I said "no business", rather than "no right" ...) taking
his family offshore - he's been the subject of 2 high profile, very
expensive SAR missions in the last 9 months, and still doesn't have
a clue "what all the fuss is about ..." Or the skipper of the MORNING DEW, who in
testimony before a Congressional subcommittee a couple of months back
was considered to be an "experienced offshore sailor, with considerable
bluewater experience". Yeah, I suppose all that bluewater experience
explains why he missed a turn on the muddy waters of Winyah Bay, found
himself in the ocean 90 minutes later, and apparently didn't know the difference ...
Wow - I guess I've ranged pretty far afield here ... But, in case you
haven't noticed, this is a subject I have pretty strong feelings about,
and suppose Peter's post caused them to bubble over, once again ...
It will forever continue to amaze me that some folks assume that
our "mastery" of the sea is enhanced to any degree by our high-tech
applications of carbon fiber or satellites in space. Unfortunately,
the Big Blue will never modify her act by becoming less "judgmental", more
politically correct, or increasingly attuned to the delicate sensibilities
of some of the newbies that venture out forth on her waters. And if
this board really is to reflect the reality of it all, we should all
be offering up our individual opinions politely, but unsparingly, as well ...
A reaction to Jon Eisberg's message, from John Dunsmoor:
I would have to say I agree for the most part.
The other side is that every sailor, save the ones that were born to it,
starts out ignorant. I must get asked about once every two weeks the same
question. "I am fifty-three years old, just sold my business and want to
go sail, have always wanted to go sailing. How many classes will I have to
take before I can sail across the ocean?"
My thoughts run rampant, but not so much any more. Surprise once stared too
often, is no longer a surprise. So I say, "THREE". Not a lie, for I know
that within three courses they will probably take no more. The rest will be
practical, about three years worth of hard sailing. And without reaching a
certain plateau of knowledge the novice just will not make it.
In the old days my thoughts were more: "yea right" or "why would anyone want
to?". Ocean sailing for days on end is not for everyone. There is a certain
calm that some sailors get, a rhythm. It usually takes from one to two weeks
the first time if ever. Some people never get there. I would think it is much
like the endorphins that a runner experiences at a certain point, but not
stress induced. Or maybe it is. There is this fear when sailing alone, like
there is no one else and something bad is going to happen. A moment's
stupidity and it is over. Then for some reason, maybe overload, you just
resign yourself to fate, if I die, I die. So what, right now today, is the
best day ever and I am glad for it and if it is the last thank God for
giving me one last day, and such a day it is. Delirium, maybe.
The Exumas is too close. Guam, 1500 miles of ocean to the east and 8,000 of
ocean to the west. You do not get there without understanding.
So I understand of what he speaks, but the fact is, if he is on the computer
whining about some dink who knows nothing, he is either not sailing or has
lost touch with the TRUE meaning of sailing and it is not railing against boobs.
I remember years ago a bunch of cruisers got together over beer and
bar-b-que and were hot about some local ordinance that was being forced down
our throats. Sailing, especially cruisers take it on the chin all the time.
So we were waving our arms and voices. One fellow spoke up, "You know, I
took up cruising a long time ago, and one of the reasons was because I had no
stomach for this kind of activity. Don't forget who you are and what you
stand for. I will be on the first tide of the morning, gone from here, good night."
From Michael Homsany on Cruising World message board:
It's a long story why, but I've been based here in American Samoa
since '87 (been in and out and to here and there, but still based here).
Every year, 'THE FLEET' starts to show up in July, then tapers off
by the first of October. Conservatively speaking, in one way or another,
I've been exposed to something on the order of 4200 sailing yachts and crew.
And I'm not kidding when I say that I've seen 'em all!
Most have started with a grand scheme of circumnavigation.
By the time they get here, a good half hate the boat, hate their spouse,
hate water, hate getting sick, hate everything and anything.
My favorite quote is "sailing is the hell to be endured between two ports".
They're locked into these Jimmy bloody Cornell schedules, allocating 3 days
here, 2 days there, 1.5 days, etc.
My take on all this is 'Hey, isn't the rat race what you wanted
to leave? Why do you impose these silly goals and schedules on yourself?
Expect to get a Superbowl ring or something?' This is cool if you've
taken a sabbatical and need to get back, but otherwise???
Just go out, go sailing and have fun. If you go around the world, fine.
If you go down to the next marina, that's fine too.
Whatever you do and how you do it is none of mine or anyone else's concern.
The point (and my concerns because I hate seeing people hurt in any manner)
is to just have fun and come back to wherever whenever in one piece.
Ocean sailing is vastly over-rated compared to the intricacies of coastal hopping.
A good exercise in managerial and maintenance skills maybe,
but far fewer sailing skills are needed.
Sorry if this sounds harsh, but an ocean passage is nothing more
than a series of overnight sails, put end to end.
Start with one overnighter, next thing you know, around the world.
Start with a circumnav, end in failure (your results may differ,
I'm generalizing, and I know that there are many cases where I'm wrong).
Take the lead from 'Forrest Gump', run down to the end of the
driveway first. All the details will work themselves out
if you don't put a timeclock on yourself.
From Mark Fuccio:
Your web site spends a lot of time on the process and mechanics
of getting a boat, living on a boat, preparing to move, etc. It doesn't
talk much about what you are thinking your day to day life will be like
once you arrive. It seems you are doing a good job of planning a major
expedition, but then ... What? Contract work for hire over the
internet? Teach? Flip burgers? Become a recreational alcoholic or drug user?
They say that one reason men die after retiring is that they are shocked
and stressed by being in a completely different environment and having
nothing to accomplish. It seems you might need to do a little more in this area.
Good points. I think some of this is addressed under
the "Boredom and loneliness" item in the
Problems section of my Getting Started page
visitors, travel, learning (books, hobbies, languages, boat stuff,
nature, musical instrument), new sports. But it is a concern.
A couple of thoughts:
Ralph Warner's "What Will You Do When You Retire?"
- This will be my choice, not some company telling me
I have to retire. That makes a difference.
- I have to change my life; the status quo is not acceptable.
So I feel a "push" from behind
as well as a "pull" towards
- I think characterizing it as an "expedition" where I "arrive" is
wrong; it is a complete change of lifestyle. Thinking of
it that way should help me slow down.
- I can re-invent it as I go; if I decide to do some consulting
or teaching after a few years, that's okay.
- If it doesn't last forever, that's okay, too.
- I've been reading tons of books and messages from people
already doing what I'm heading for. So I think I'm
seeing a balanced view of the good and bad possibilities.
From Peter Hendrick, in 4/2000:
More from Peter Hendrick:
As a brief history, my wife and I started cruising in 1995 (ages
50 and 46) primarily in the Caribbean. The first year we sailed a Tayana
42. After one year we sold her and bought a bare 1986 Wauquiez Hood 38.
The reasons for the change might be of interest:
- higher performance: sailing is a lot more fun now esp in light
breezes i.e., 4-6 knots.
- shallow draft: centerboard/keel (4-6 vs 6-2); now we see a lot more
- smaller: everything is cheaper and easy to handle, but still
adequate, unfortunately less storage and tankage.
- quality: Wauquiez is much higher quality than Tayana; very strong
- outfitting: With one year experience under our belt, knew exactly
what we wanted and didn't want.
Since 1995 our cruising lifestyle has gone through some subtle and not so
- We now own a condo with dock in Florida to do annual refit and
give wife some roots (we typically spend 3 months per year in Florida).
- We mostly go to places we've enjoyed before so there's fewer new
- We stay a lot longer in each place (e.g., several weeks vs several
- We enjoy getting to know locals and other cruisers which does mean
spending more time in each port.
- We now have ham email aboard which keeps us in touch with friends,
family, and other similarly equipped cruisers.
We enjoy meeting (and observing) other cruisers we meet down
island. We find that it is interesting to see where they fit on the spectrum
between ultra simple (KISS principle) and totally comfortable (all the creature
comforts and toys). It's also interesting to see why they place themselves where
they do. The analogy in camping would be those using a tent and starting a fire
with two sticks vs those camping in a self-contained RV! Our goal is to keep
things as simple as possible while not punishing ourselves for the following
- We hate the maintenance that comes along with all the toys and creature
comforts. It spoils the part of cruising that we enjoy.
- We're cheap and have limited resources. A sometimes overlooked truism is:
'The fewer toys you have the fewer things there are to break'.
- And finally, if we want to be comfortable, we have a condo waiting for us
back in Florida.
Having said that, we have both an engine and a refrigerator (although we have
gone for periods of up to 6 months at a time without either in operation). As I
mentioned to you before, we cruised down island for a full year and then switched
boats. In hindsight, this worked out great because we were able to start with a
'clean slate' and equip the boat in a way that met our needs (as simple as
possible, but adequate for our needs). Doing without things for limited periods
is useful in the sense that you're able to better adjust the balance between
simple (maintenance free) and comfortable (maintenance intensive) to better suit
your needs and lifestyle. For example, we found that we are fully capable of
cruising without the engine or refrigerator, but we prefer to have them available
given a choice. Without having lost them, we could not make a valid decision! My
wife likes to say that she got one gray hair for every tack entering and leaving
harbors engine-less! One interesting thing is that it forces you to go through a
totally different mindset. You need to consider factors that are largely ignored
when the engine is just a 'turn of the key' away! This definitely makes you a
better (and safer) sailor.
Another interesting subject for us is the degree to which cruisers sail vs motor.
We tend to sail nearly 100% of the time and, until recently, have not understood
why some cruisers say that it's necessary to motor 80% of the time. I think we
finally figured out the answer. These cruisers tend to turn on the motor if their
speed drops below x (x probably varies from one cruiser to the next) and they
also tend to turn on their motor if the wind does not allow them to set a course
along their rhumb-line. They also tend to get very anxious about their ETA and
don't want anything to prevent them from reaching their destination on their
(previously calculated) ETA. I believe that half the fun of sailing is the
challenge of using the wind to get where you're going. We try to discipline
ourselves to this end. I fully admit that the ignition key is an ever-present
temptation (after all we grew up in the automobile culture)! There are always a
hundred excellent reasons why you must motor! Nevertheless, we have been highly
successful at resisting the temptation. After all, we are retired and no one is
counting on us to arrive at the next port at a certain time! It turns out that we
still derive a lot of satisfaction from making a passage under sail. One of my
favorite adages about cruising is that it's 'simple, but it ain't easy'.
From Stuart James (has been living on Liberty 28 cutter around
Florida for 22 years, did 13-month cruise to Grenada):
[Re: Do you ever get sick and tired of the boat and want to get away
from it for a month or so ? I worry about that happening
after a year or two.]
Get tired of the boat? Hah!! When I came back to the states in '97 I
put the boat in Titusville. Closest point to the family, but no work.
So, my other brother said for me to come stay with him in Orlando and
find work there. This I did. After about a year and a half I couldn't
stand it anymore. I got a job on the west coast, moved back aboard and
sailed the boat around to Sarasota. Since then, I've moved to Tampa Bay.
That's one of the nice things about living on a boat. Moving is a
breeze, figuratively and literally. Anyway, I very seriously doubt if I
will ever move off the boat again. You must know thyself very well to
live aboard a boat. You encounter enforced non-materialism, a fine
thing, I think. I makes you set priorities. It makes you a disciplined
individual in ways a house cannot. If you are cut out for living aboard,
there is nothing, absolutely nothing, remotely so satisfactory. If you
are not cut out to live aboard, no matter what you do, what you spend or
how long you try, you will eventually fail and revert to landlubberly
ways, with a new knowledge of yourself. Myself, when I get so old that I
can no longer sail, assuming I'll not have the good fortune to die at sea
while under sail, I fully expect to dig a hole, bury the old bird to the
waterline, and continue living aboard until I finally expire.
From Gary Elder:
> Why do you say that "most long term live aboards end up at a dock" ?
> Is living at anchor just too hard, or too isolated, or what ?
In many live aboard anchorages it is very easy to become somewhat
isolated. Just like in Sunnyvale everyone develops his own schedule, and in
some cases almost never sees his neighbors. The contrary view says that
anchor out neighbors develop a great camaraderie, looking out for their
neighbors boats and general welfare.
Living tied to a dock eliminates the need to manage battery bank condition,
potable water tank capacity, and overflowing waste holding tanks. The
concern about anchor drag goes away (long term anchoring is different than
anchoring for a few days), as does the need to have a dinghy in the water
virtually every day. The contrary view here says that dockside live aboards
seldom sail because they accumulate such an enormous amount of 'stuff' that
it takes too long to put it all away and is not worth the trouble, so they
just stay at the dock.
If I were doing it, I would be the anchor out type, not necessarily staying
in the usual live aboard anchorages. I tend to prefer the more isolated,
quiet anchorages, even though I like people. I would move
frequently (holding tanks can be dumped offshore), and visit a marina about
once a week or so. I would dinghy ashore for groceries, libraries, etc, and
take the sailboat in only when I needed fuel and water. Actually, this is
the way we do most of our coastal cruising.
From John Anderton:
> What were the biggest surprises in the whole process of moving aboard ?
Surprises when you move aboard is a tough question to answer as so much
depends on your individual journey through life to get there. Living on a
boat and still working in the SF Bay area requires a large readjustment. My
biggest surprise was how much 'stuff' I was willing to do without in order
to continue. Friends, hobbies, spare time, longer commutes, household items,
the way people judge you, all of these things will change.
From John Dunsmoor:
I would suggest finding a way to maintain a viable connection to the work
you are now doing, as a contract engineer or as a consultant. I didn't do
this and wish in many ways that I had. The marine industry is full of
persons who are willing to work for nearly nothing. In hindsight it might
have been nice to go off on contract once a year and generate enough revenue
to live for three years.
It also might have been nice to do something completely different once in a
while. When I left GTE I burned or attempted to burn every bridge I crossed.
I wanted to make it impossible to go back, stupid plan. It all worked out
anyway. And the truth is they were such whores that they wanted me back anyway.
From Gary Elder:
... everyone has a different style of doing things. Some cruisers
seem to have an umbilical cord attached to Sea Tow, and at the slightest
hint of a problem get towed in. Others delight in doing Major repairs while
underway. Some cruise from marina restaurant to marina restaurant, while
others don't leave the dock for anything less than a 3 day passage.
Everyone is different, none of them are wrong. ...
From Mike Hughes on CompuServe's Sailing Forum:
[Re: Living aboard (not necessarily cruising):]
The key fact is that it is a very inconvenient lifestyle,
and the smaller the boat, the less convenient it is.
It therefore depends on how much inconvenience you are
willing to put up with in return for the advantages,
which are essentially esthetic in nature.
Storage space is often the most important factor.
My 37' boat has two hanging lockers, each with about 12" of hanger space.
Two working people are going to keep a weeks worth of office wear here?
I know people who keep all of their good clothes in a rented storage
locker ashore and change clothes there on the way to work every morning.
There are ways to make it work, but this is what I mean by inconvenient.
I can throw out a few [advantages and disadvantages]:
1. Everything you bring aboard a boat will either rust or mildew. EVERYTHING!
2. All of the equipment aboard a boat is troublesome and requires
constant maintenance. You can minimize this by minimizing the mod-cons,
but this brings the inconvenience issue aboard again.
3. Bugs are a constant battle and the warmer the climate, the bigger the battle.
They love the moist environment and myriad hiding places built into a boat.
If you are really lucky, you may get to deal with a rat!
4. Getting on and off a boat many times a day gets quite old and it is dangerous.
Everyone goes swimming sooner or later and you could easily hit your head
and drown if no one else was watching, especially at night.
5. Lack of storage space is a terrible problem for almost everyone.
I don't think I have ever met any liveaboards who did not have storage
space rented ashore.
6. If you live in a hurricane/typhoon zone, you spend several months
of the year plotting storm tracks and sweating.
7. For reasons I don't understand, the liveaboard community has
a high rate of alcoholism. This can be a noisy problem in some marinas
and I have seen it lead to violence. Not a problem at anchor, of course!
8. Few boats are pleasant places in cold or wet weather.
9. I can't imagine living at anchor while trying to work a regular job
and I've never seen anyone stick with this for any length of time.
Going back forth by dinghy, day in and day out, rain or shine, gets truly dismal!
You also have the problem of rationing water and electricity all the time.
On a cruise, it is an adventure and you aren't in a hurry to go any
place if you don't feel like it today. When you have routine obligations,
things are different. Keeping your shore clothes in good order becomes
even more difficult. If you are retired, this might not be a problem.
10. Not all relationships can tolerate such close quarters.
I'm not trying to scare you off, but go into it with your eyes open.
It is a challenge, especially with a small sailboat, and it will
only work for you if you face it in that way. You have to see
it as an interesting puzzle to solve.
The main advantages are esthetic; you have to enjoy boats and
waterfronts and the sea. You live close to a lot of wildlife,
even in a marina. The sounds and motion of the sea are a constant
and interesting background.
Marinas with a liveaboard population are wonderful little
communities filled with strange and wonderful characters.
You do have to enjoy associating with strange and wonderful
characters, of course! Some of them can be difficult.
Everyone does look after one another to an extent you don't
often see in today's urban environment. A big anchorage can
have the same character but offers a lot more privacy and there
is less interaction because it is more difficult to move
between boats and public areas.
It can be an inexpensive way to live, especially if you want
waterfront property in a desirable area. That won't apply if
you keep your house, however. Boats are a very expensive hobby.
They are cheap houses in absolute terms, but not on a square-foot basis!
If you are only interested in living on a boat, you should get a houseboat.
Sailboats are all lousy houses. If you want a sailboat, you presumably want
to go sailing, so the choice of the boat will depend more on where and how you
want to sail. You need to consider your intentions for the boat in a broader
... Sailing, when it is good, is very, very good. But when it is bad it can be
really miserable. What happens to most people who just set out without much
preparation is that they hit a little bad weather, get seasick, uncomfortable
and scared, and that is the end of the dream. You have to work up to it to
have the gut-level conviction that the good outweighs the bad and this too
will pass. ...
From Vern Aguirre on CompuServe's Sailing Forum:
I have lived aboard both small (27 feet) and mid-sized (38-46 feet)
sailboats and I can tell you that size matters. It's not all that matters.
The lifestyle is different from the norm and a lot of what makes
it work is your personality, your spouses' personality, etc.
I have lived aboard both in my personal life and as a professional
for the last 14 years and intermittently all throughout my childhood.
Mike is very right about the challenges and knowing what you're in
for before you jump in. But, for all its problems and inconveniences
it still beats living ashore IMO. Everyone is different (and liveaboards
are really different) so your results may vary... I live aboard a 40 foot
sailboat with two teenagers, at a dock (most of the time) in South Florida.
I have rented storage and an amazing amount of stuff in two cars.
Clutter creeps up on you constantly but I still feel that I have enough room.
There is enough space for the things that matter for sailing and
for our comfort but some people would say that our
lifestyle is more like camping out. We use shore power for the
carry-on A/C units, the computer, phone, TV most of which we do
without (willingly) when at anchor. (The computer will run on 12 volt directly.)
We carry water in tanks and heat that water on the stove
or in the solar as required. Our lifestyle is simple our
lives sometime are not ;.) Convenience isn't that much of
an issue for us, I mean everyone runs down to the 7-11 once
in a while but I don't know anyone who does all their shopping
there, it just isn't the main issue.
From Lynn Maxey on CompuServe's Sailing Forum:
... living aboard is a lifestyle change not just moving into a floating house. Attitudes,
methods of dealing with everyday chores and just living are very, very
different. It's worthwhile and my wife and I would not change our lifestyle
for anything. ...
From John Dunsmoor:
> Do you know people who have gotten bored with cruising ?
> I suppose there's only so much snorkeling and sailing and
> sunset-watching you can do before it gets old.
> I suppose we can always sail somewhere else, take up hobbies,
> learn new things, do volunteering or something.
An apt question. Goes back to one of the messages I wrote
about types of cruisers.
One type is doing this as a large adventure.
Yes, adventures end.
Another type is here for a life style change, and this can change again.
But it seemed to me, and I did look hard at this question myself,
that the second type lives aboard a boat as a life style.
They love to sail; it's a hobby. They also love to walk,
collect shells, go to movies, read books, jog, ski, ride bikes,
volunteer at the local hospital, travel, etc.
The vessel is home, a unique kind of home, but still just a place to live.
Many persons of the first sub-group become part of the
second sub-group. Their range of interests expand.
I know of a couple that went cruising and then after
a couple of years felt like all they did was take care
of the boat, the boat, the boat and more the boat stuff.
They felt like the only way they could ever have any other
interests was to get rid of the boat and they did.
I think this is short-sighted, the boat is not the GOAL.
Or at least it should not be the goal.
The goal should be more philosophical.
I know of a dentist who built an office in his vessel
and then spent a decade doing dental work in the islands,
mostly for free or trade. The fact is that good dental hygiene
is a perk of the first world that is not enjoyed by the
other 4.5 billion persons sharing this planet.
Good deeds are worthwhile.
This is another reason to limit the amount of investment
in a vessel. Having the option to put the boat in storage
for months and go live in a small apartment in Paris or Bangkok
is nice, or even do some consulting work.
I am an advocate of variety. I believe that a life without
variety is not living, it is marking time.
Time is finite, don't waste a single precious second.
From letter from Brian and Joyce Cook (who just finished a
10-year circumnavigation) in 6/2000 issue of
Seven Seas Cruising Association bulletin:
... The thing that was fairly unexpected was the hard work
involved to keep the show on the road.
In common with most people who take up full-time cruising,
we thought before we started that we might have trouble
filling in the time, but that never was a problem.
There was always too little time to spare.
There were continually things to see and places to visit
that we did not have time for and had to leave until "next time".
Shopping for a few simple groceries can take all day when
you arrive at a new port and do not know your way around.
Boat maintenance and improvements is a great time consumer. ...
From "Susan, Jeff and Jamie" on the IRBS live-aboard mailing list:
When you first move aboard, you WILL experience surprises. Not pleasant ones
either. On my first live aboard adventure I discovered within 2 days that
the hatches were all equipped with screens but there were vents all over the
boat that had no screens under them. How did I discover that? Easy, 40
gazillion (or more) mosquitoes (and their entire families) invaded and
started to feast upon me as I crawled into bed.
I tried to stick it out, but they were everywhere. I ended up jumping into
the car (scratching all the way) and drove to a hotel for the night. I had
no other choice. Next day I took every screen apart and put screening behind
it. I still had an invasion that night, but not nearly as bad. My boat had a
heating system (Espar) and I took the ducts apart and screened them as well.
A week later the head popped a gasket and I had to hunker down and do some
very unpleasant repairs. It stunk and was a disgusting job. That very same
evening, some friends had invited me to a small dinner party and everyone
there reacted when they heard that I lived on a boat. They said things like
"how romantic" and "how adventurous"
and "we envy you having the courage to
enjoy the simple life". I just nodded and wondered what they would think if
they knew what it was really like. I would have gladly allowed any one of
them to "enjoy" the "romance" of the smelly head repair.
Hang in there ... a lot of us have been there too. It does get better. I
promise you it does. Eventually.
From Sue Dunsmoor (lived on a 27-foot boat in Florida for 8 years, crewed yachts for rich people; now lives ashore):
I want you to hear my side of the story, as I think it may help.
And remember, I have been around John for 18 years, so a certain
amount of cynicism has crept into my thought process,
but I'll give you the straight story as best I can.
First of all understand my position: I moved to Florida after
meeting John on Guam, and got married and moved onto a boat one year later.
Personally, I have always been up for something new and different, and at
the age of 25 my thought was "Why not?" to going sailing and cruising.
My art school was on hold, John had experience on the water, we had no
kids, etc. Also, remember the only sailing experience I had was with you
out on a Sunfish [actually, a Snark] on Barnegat Bay many moons ago. Ironic, huh? So I was
game to learn, not with a big passion for the open water, but more
for the places we would end up in.
It's not a life for everybody, that's for sure.
The input is tremendous, the rewards are worth it.
I would not trade a minute (well, maybe one minute) of the time we
had on the water, cruising, running yachts, all that. But it's a way
of life that is constant. You are constantly doing things, no matter what.
At the dock, you are working on fixing the things that need it,
adding supplies, adjusting lines, watching the weather.
At sea, you are watching the weather and the skyline and the water
for obstacles and the charts, etc. My feeling is that you never really
get too long a period of sitting back and relaxing, doing nothing or
daydreaming. Sure, we sat in many anchorages where it was wonderfully quiet,
and we read and snorkeled. But we still had the boat needing us.
The boat and its surroundings are living, breathing things that require
constant attention, or you will have problems. For me personally,
I learned over time to make this constant attention a way of life.
At anchor, we could go to sleep, and if the wind shifted, we would
both wake up and look to see that we weren't dragging anchor.
I probably never slept the night through on the hook, but I did get
used to it. While sailing, my eyes were always searching for that
lone crab pot that was just waiting to snag our propellor.
(Note: when we go out any time now, all the old habits return,
and I do all the boat chores and keep the guests aboard happy,
while still looking at the sail trim, weather, water surface, buoys.
I can't help it, even if there are 5 other sailors aboard.)
For some people the love of the sea comes quite naturally.
John is one of those people. For some, the dream of sailing is a passion,
but it has to be worked at harder than others.
For me, I sort of fell into the life, adapted, enjoyed and moved on.
I will tell you my present day view of boats at the end, if I ever get there.
If you were to ask me right now what is the first thing I think of when
asked about cruising, I would say: It is a lot of hard work.
It is physically demanding, and can go from calm and secure to
frenzied and scary in a few minutes. However, over time, with practical
first hand experience, this is not a big deal, because you have confidence
in yourself and your boat and you know what to do. I think a lot of people
view cruising as beautiful sails on one tack, with the sun setting
and life being great. Yes, this is true. But it took a LOT of hard work
to get there, and the reality is that the sun is setting, so you better
know where you are going, and check the chart for the inlet, and hope
the wind holds up because the engine hasn't been running so well.
This is called reality.
I always use the comparison for people of boats versus houses.
If the washer breaks and leaks all over, you have to clean it up
and eventually fix it, but the house won't sink. If the power goes out,
the food may all go bad, but you could still go to bed and deal with
it in the morning. Not so on the living, breathing boat.
You find a leak under a bunk at eleven o'clock at night, and you'll
be up fixing it until it's done, or the consequences are bad.
That's the choice you make with live aboard boating,
to be constantly at one with the lifestyle: to mix the work
with the fun, the joy of sailing, the endless puttering on the boat,
the broken parts, big and small, the bad weather, meeting great people,
beautiful anchorages, being soggy and damp for days, getting seasick,
running aground, sharing a lobster with new friends, dragging anchor,
waiting out a tropical storm, ... you get my drift.
I think it all works out in the end. At least it seemed to.
Well, this is the end of part I. I hope it makes some sense.
I will write again ... Also, remember,
each experience is unique, considering the personalities, age,
place, future plan, and the boat. I can only tell you what I experienced,
hopefully with not too jaded an angle. I had zero frame of reference
when I went sailing, so ignorance was in fact bliss.
So Sue gave her insight. Got to read it, more fair than I would have thought.
I would say that at this moment in time she would rather go to the dentist
than go sailing. Sees it as low fun to work ratio. Too bad too,
she was good at it, great first mate material for a New Jersey girl.
More from Sue:
I think for myself, I was just ready to move on from the boating life after 8 or 9 years
of a LOT of exposure. We haven't really travelled all over the world by boat, like
some cruisers, but we have dabbled enough in our time between cruising and working
on boats to make the time add up.
More from Sue:
Right now I want to tell you my views on being together as a couple on a boat.
First of all, someone has to be the captain. I have good friends who are both
accomplished sailors, and they have lived aboard for over 20 years, mostly in
the Bahamas. When they do a passage, they take turns every day being the captain.
It works for them. For us, John had so much more experience and confidence, that
I had no problem being the first mate. It is my nature to be second in command (don't know
if that's good or bad) but after all those years, I am proud to say I made a pretty
good first mate, on our boat and on the yachts we ran.
Someone has to be in charge, be willing to command in times of crisis,
and the other person has to be able to do whatever is asked. It isn't easy on
either side. You will work together on a lot of things, and sharing the good
stuff is great. You both have to have confidence in the vessel and the equipment,
because not only will your decisions keep you alive, but knowing your boat will too.
I've seen lots of couples on boats, and it takes all kinds to get up and go.
It's a small space to share, lots of work as I've said before, and not always a
pleasant ride. But two people who work together well and accept the situation can
have a good time. I know of a boat that pulled up to the dock here in town (many
years ago) and before the lines were even tied, the wife/girlfriend jumped off
with her bag in hand, never looking back. She had had enough. On the other hand,
I know of a cruising couple that have lived and traveled aboard (around the
world almost 3 times) for over 25 years. They both want to be there.
> I'd like to hear from you about how a woman goes about making a
> boat into a "home" that she's happy with. I assume a lot of
> women get turned off quickly on their first few days on a (relatively)
> dark, damp, tiny boat with a primitive kitchen, an uncomfortable bed,
> etc, and just give up on the boat. True ? I'd like to "cure" as
> many of those things as I can before my girlfriend gets turned off
> about the boat. What were your first impressions
> of the boat you lived on, and how did you "fix" it ?
As for making your boat into a homey atmosphere, having a good bed is important,
as in decent mattress with a nice cover or quilt (that feels like home).
Lots of shelves for personal stuff, of course made so it all doesn't fly around.
Storage is good (I had to leave my art stuff behind because of space, and I missed it).
If she likes to garden, she can have plants on board, some people even grow tomatoes in
a bucket. Lots of times I saw potted plants tucked into shelves under portholes,
and that really made the boat look good.
If she likes to cook, a decent galley helps. Once again, good storage for food,
COUNTER SPACE - this is a tough one, but I found having a few feet of counter space,
without an opening ice box right in the middle, is essential. And a good stove - most
boats have decent gimballed stoves now. We had propane and loved it. I never used
the kerosene ones, looked like too much trouble to light.
What else ? A comfortable salon, made so company can sit below and not feel squashed.
Of course a lot of entertaining takes place in the cockpit, but sitting down below
on a damp night with friends can be great fun. I put up little bits of art around,
made my own curtains and cushions (or at least covered them). To be able to find
a place to sit (like a couch) and read or nap is a plus.
Of course I am describing a 50' boat or larger. Not really. I could go to a boat
show with you and pick out the one I could definitely live on that absolutely
would be 40 feet or less. Remember I am working from a 26 footer, so anything
larger is luxury to me.
Your girlfriend will have a lot to learn, but if you get the comfort thing out
of the way, it will all look good. Don't forget about a good bathroom/head.
She will have to learn to flush the cruising way, and maybe go in a bucket one day,
but at the start, if the boat has a nice head, with a sink and mirror, storage,
and maybe a shower seat (usually you take a shower right in the head, and having
a place to sit or put stuff helps). Although you may even find a separate shower,
I don't know.
Plan on really good foul weather gear. I always had good stuff and was glad I did.
I still have my high boots, and will never part with them. The jacket I had finally
fell apart after 15 years, as did the overalls. But I used them in cold and hot weather.
If she is dry, learning will go better.
And one of the most important things to me was that we had a nice looking boat.
Some boats are just plain ugly, overdone, or too much crap on them.
Ours has some age and a nice line to it. This may not mean as much to her now,
but after a few years I was happy to have our little boat.
From Jon Eisberg on Cruising World message board:
... I consider myself pretty intrepid when it comes to matters nautical.
I make part of my living, after all, as a delivery captain, and my cruising
fantasies revolve around places such as Cape Horn and South Georgia.
I may be kidding myself at this point, but I think I can realistically envision
singlehanding across the Atlantic, or sailing in the Southern Ocean ...
One thing I cannot EVER imagine, however, is selling my home as a means to finance the dream ...
It never ceases to amaze me how many folks out there summon up the nerve to do this.
Don't get me wrong, Ron - I have a lot of admiration for people who are willing to
make that "leap of faith". I just happen to LOVE the place where I live, and am all
too aware that if I were to sell my little cottage here on Barnegat Bay and "invest"
the proceeds to go cruising - well, I would NEVER be able to touch a waterfront
home again here in NJ for as long as I live ...
My views on this subject are probably antiquated, and my understanding of all
the savvy things one can do with their money these days is severely limited, I know.
My parents probably preached fiscal conservatism all too well, and phrases like
"a roof over my head" and "you shouldn't buy something until you can afford to
pay (cash) for it" continue to inform all the economic choices I make ...
I'm probably very much in the minority here, but I'm a big proponent of an extended
period of living well beneath your financial means as being possibly the best way to
prepare for extended cruising. And then, when you do go - go in whatever you can pay
cash for, and thus can afford to lose. (It is beyond me how anyone can really "relax"
sailing a substantial portion of one's net worth around the world.) If you think that
cruising around the Med (possibly the most expensive cruising ground in the world, by the way)
in an Oyster is the cat's pajamas, but that knocking around the Bahamas in a $30,000
"good old boat" holds little appeal - well, then I might politely suggest that long-term
cruising may not be the thing for you ...
To me, there is a highly ironic aspect to cruising as it is now being practiced by
many (yupsters, that is). Vast numbers of successful, dynamic people who have spent
the better part of their adult lives as victims of mass marketing and consumerism
have decided to make the romantic decision to trade it in for sailing off to paradise.
Success in their previous lives was often dependent on traits such as aggression and
acquisitiveness, whereas the rewards of cruising are more likely to come to those who
possess attributes such as patience, independence, and thrift ... And, frankly, a lot
of them that I'm seeing out there have not been very successful in making that transition.
They're unwilling to accept the drastic reduction of comfort implicit in ANY style
of cruising and living aboard a small boat, and will drive themselves, and those
around them, crazy in their neverending quest to keep the filets frozen and the beer
ice cold. Michael H said it best a long time ago: the cruising lifestyle, even aboard
a million dollar boat, is often one only slightly elevated above that of a bag lady ...
Now, Ron, I certainly don't intend to dissuade you from your dream - it is certainly
an admirable one, shared by most of us who hang around here. I suppose I'm just
trying to suggest that there might be an alternative to your plan of selling it all
and jumping in with both feet. You haven't revelaed much about your experience and such,
but perhaps you may want to consider the alternative of cruising a bit in a modest,
"interim" boat not requiring such a drastic change in your circumstances, until you're
confident that the cruising life is, indeed, for the two of you ...
From jafo / Navarchus (Morgan OI 51 in St. Petersburg, FL) on the Morgan mailing list:
I LOVE IT!!! I have been "camping" aboard for about a year when I was
refitting her ... she was gutted inside ... it was tough ... but have now been
"living" aboard for about 8 months now ... still doing projects, but not as
severe as before. It is soooo relaxing and peaceful ... especially on nice
nights (not the last 2 down here) when you can watch the sunset on deck,
sipping a few boat drinks and having your cats next to you. It doesn't get
any better than that!! As for the cons, for me it was tough getting rid of
everything I didn't need. I didn't want to have storage ... did for 2
years ... and decided that if I didn't use it ... I didn't need it ... went through
3 waves of getting rid of everything ... goodwill, friends, relatives,
etc ... I only have a few boxes left at a friends house ... Next, would be the
address thing ... unless you plan on staying there long-term, I don't, it is
weird having different address all the time. And not your own personal one
too. You can get a postal box, but UPS won't deliver. You could go with a
service, which I probably will, but that cost $$ ... adds up over a year. And
there are days like the one we are having now ... that SUCKS to be on the
water ... rough, cold, windy, and rainy ... BUT I wouldn't trade it back for
anything. There are far more better days than rainy ones ...
From JAX on Cruising World message board:
So, what is the "life expectancy" of a cruising dream once under way?
From Night Swimming on Cruising World message board:
To the people who have actually been out there, or are personally acquainted with
people who've been out there, how long does the average cruising boat owner stay
out there before calling it quits? What reason(s) do they give?
Are their reasons accurate, measured against reality?
Once upon a time, it seemed -- to me -- the most likely reason people cut the
cruising life short was having gone through a storm that scared them badly.
Of late, it seems much more likely a cruising dream is cut short (often by 1/2 to 3/4 or
more of plan) by running out of funds. (If this is true, I wonder whether people are blind
or just sub-consciously, but purposely, burn through the bucks.)
Nearly 30 years ago, Robert Persig wrote (from his personal observation) that
about 1/2 of Carribean sailboat cruisers quit in six months, mostly due to boredom.
What's the observation(s) today?
I really like living aboard and sailing up and down the coast.
But after a while I get antsy and feel like I'm wasting my life, and then I
return to work for a stretch. (Which I quickly grow to dislike.)
We leave again in the spring, but I'm thinking that we will probably stop
cruising in a year or two, and the main reason is that it's simply time
to do something else. Like live abroad, or have a job I really enjoy,
or rehab an old house. Who knows? Then I expect we will get the urge to do something else.
From Justin on Cruising World message board:
I've never met anyone who quit because of boredom. I have met people who quit
because of money, and one unfortunate soul who quit because the unstructured
life led to way too much drinking. (Sad, but at least he recognized the problem.)
I know some others who won't admit it, but I strongly suspect they stopped
because the boat just wasn't comfortable enough.
In summary, my hypothesis is that people who have cruised for longer than
one year choose to stop so they can try something else for a while.
And I predict that most of them return to cruising at a later date.
My wife and I have taken three longer trips of a month or more (that's not that long,
but that's the point I'm getting to). Each time when the cruise is over we're ready to stop.
Money is a bit of a factor (we can't stay out forever), but each time we did get bored at times.
The reason for me personally is that I went without a real purpose.
Seeing the sights, sailing, and meeting people wasn't enough for me.
I wasn't contributing anything, I certainly wasn't challenged,
I was just existing (albeit comfortably). That wasn't enough.
From Andrew Bebbington on Cruising World message board:
We resolved that before we go cruising again (and we hope to go for even
longer next time) we'll each have some greater purpose for being out there
than just not being at work. Chris has gone back to school to get a 2nd
degree in biology so that she can understand, observe, and perhaps help
the living creatures we find in all the wonderful places we visit.
Me? I'm still searching.
Tis a funny thing, this long term cruising. I still haven't figured it out.
I think I've wanted to do it for so long (10+ years) that I've forgotten
why I wanted it. Time for a little self-examination.
Probably a phase (I have lots of those!).
Seven year itch:
When we were long-term cruising I made a point of asking every cruising liveaboard
we met how long they had been out doing it. The MAXIMUM, over maybe 50 replies,
was 7 years. OK, I have heard of a number of longer cruises. And I'm not counting
periods spent as a fixed-base liveaboard. But it does seem to indicate that for most people,
a cruising life-style is not forever. Quite a few people seemed to be on-off cruisers, though.
From Don Boyd on Cruising World message board:
I always had a beginning middle and end to my trips, always dictated by funds.
(Try sailing away on a Shark at 23 years of age and see how long the money lasts.
The last time we went 17 months, not too bad.)
From Ken Schatz on Cruising World message board:
For Joni and I it's a matter of money. There are a lot of us poor cheap bastards.
Usually we're the young ones.
But I have said it before and I stand by it, the cruisers ugly secret:
Most people (I bet over 75%) find they don't like cruising.
Fear being the number one problem. Fear of danger, fear of a what to do next, spouse fears.
Boredom is also a regular problem. I know of several high stressed successful
types that retired only to be bored stupid on lovely boats with tons of money.
(Look no further than George Town for how some relieve the boredom by running
it just like a business.)
My experience matches yours, Don.
From JeanneP on Cruising World message board:
I must know a dozen sailors who really talked of the day they would take off.
It wasn't just talk, it was "the dream." All got the opportunity to go for at
least a month or more. All but one hated it. It was boring, it was scary,
it was uncomfortable, it was WAY too much spouse time, and so on.
The average person, the average sailor, is, well, average. That's not a bad thing.
It's a true thing. They are as likely to be happy cruising as they would be if
they suddenly became president (no jokes, I'm from Florida!) or a movie star or
Bill Gates or married to the person they've been dreaming about and then actually
had to LIVE with them.
Cruising is a weird life style. Sailing is a little weird, if you want to push it.
It's a little like riding horses after cars were invented. I know people still
ride horses, but not all day, every day. The average person rides horses now
and again for fun, and sails the same way.
I've stopped recommending cruising to folks. I think those who would really enjoy
it eventually figure it out and go. The rest can happily chase each other around
the buoys every week without me talking up a "dream" they would hate,
and encouraging them to waste perfectly good vacation time motoring desperately
out and back, scared, cold, and uncomfortable. Actually, if everybody tried to
live the dream, we'd have to stand in lines to anchor anywhere!
If the truth be told, most dreams die, sooner or later. Certainly most of mine have.
I took my shots, and usually it wasn't nearly as good as I thought it would be,
and a few times I wasn't as good as I thought I would be. Growing up and growing
old, I guess. If you can keep one or two dreams going in a lifetime,
good on you and don't sweat the rest. Especially if you are lucky enough to marry one.
As to cruising, your numbers are about right. One in four.
I think in general - more than 5 years or less than a year.
From Steve Honour on Cruising World message board:
15 years, 34 countries, one ocean and countless seas, and still counting for us.
Of our cruising friends, at least 20 that we know of have been out for a minimum
of five years. But all these people have crossed at least one ocean, not just cruised
around and around the same little pond (i.e., the Caribbean or the Med).
People often quit in the first year because they get scared by a biggie and felt
they were not capable of handling anything like that again. If they survive
and prevail over that biggie in the first year they just might go on forever
because they know that they can.
Illness cuts a bunch down. We've lost too many friends to this.
What keeps a cruiser going? In my opinion: First, love of sail.
Without that you can't overlook the discomforts and inconveniences.
Secondly, love of the new. New people, new cultures, new experiences.
Without that you will probably get bored. Finally (not the least, though),
love of your partner, without whom you wouldn't be making these passages and
with whom you are sharing an incredibly personal and enduring journey
through the world and through life.
As much as I want to go, I also want to come back.
I've taken off work for months, years at a time and gone on cruises of months.
Always had to come back for funds.
But I always enjoyed other parts of coming back:
Getting to interact with my great circle of friends. Parties. I love parties!
And working. I don't know what it is about work, but I get more out of it than money.
I get a sense of purpose, a feeling that I'm contributing to society, a sense of belonging.
I've never sailed to a foreign country so I certainly want to do that.
Will I get enough out of a wandering life without friends or purpose?
I don't know. For now I'm assuming that I will not.
I think I will like to "come home" to old friends and ways.
But I don't want to rule out that I might make enough new friends out there
and find a new sense of purpose that can replace what I have now and let
me feel fulfilled enough to go on.
At that point, it will likely be for money if I come back.
... living in a marina is less lonely than a house.
There is constantly someone walking around, and they like to talk because
unlike a house in a neighborhood, you share the same thing with them, boats. ...
From Grandma Rosalie on Yacht-L mailing list:
Subject: What I Learned the past 6 months
We left 1 November to live-aboard and cruise down the ICW. After over
2550 nm and 5+ months, this is what I have learned.
1) The only important news is the daily local weather report. Out of reach
of daily TV for the election returns - we didn't really care who had been
elected. It was like watching from Europe or somewhere.
Corollary 1 - Even though NOAA makes an attempt to do individual regions
of weather, it may not be particularly accurate for your little space, so
try to get the big picture and then apply it to your location yourself.
Corollary 2 - In order to get the big picture, one should get the
weather from as many sources as possible - including The Weather Channel
(if available), SSB, weatherfax radio and local TV.
Corollary 3 - In event all the forecasts are wrong, don't continue
stubbornly with your plan, but go to Plan B, or even turn back.
2) Anchoring is cheapest and quickest (both to stop and start), but after
several days, I'd like other people to talk to. Moorings are good, and
cheaper than marinas and probably more secure than anchoring. There are
some places that the holding is so poor that I wouldn't want to anchor.
3) Even after knowing a guy for almost 50 years (we dated for 8 years off
and on and we will be married 42 years in June) there are still some
surprises. Never knew he wanted his bacon with all the life cooked out of
it - almost burnt. (He calls it crisp - I like mine chewier.)
4) The lessons one learns when sailing the Chesapeake can be applied to
many other inshore areas. Things like the way the wind is blocked by trees
or land are more or less the same everywhere. I don't think the effects of
the weather in ALbemarle Sound, for instance, are that different.
5) I have serious withdrawal pains if I cannot do e-mail every day or
several times a day. I also really like web access. Our biggest bills
(which I haven't dared add up) were for email and web access.
6)The water is too cold even in the Bahamas in the winter to do any
sustained swimming or diving without a wetsuit. I got a wetsuit for Xmas,
so next time, I'm going to insist on doing more than just the one dive I
did this winter.
7) Even if we screw up, the boat will be OK and will bring us through.
8) We can go offshore.
Corollary 1: We probably want to have a third person to help stand
watch on multiday passages.
9) I need to learn more about sailing the boat by myself. Bob can
singlehand and troubleshoot almost anything. I can't. I'm not real sure I
want to learn, but I think I should.
From SailNet - Mark Matthews' "Critters Aboard":
... sailing off into the sunset brings more work with it than most landlubber
romanticized versions. Owning a boat is, at the very least, a two-person project,
and it helps if those two people are half-crazed workaholics with a dash of
the immortal in them. ...
From Richard Morrison on The Live-Aboard List, 7/2001:
Re: So you want to live on a boat ...
I think the biggest issue to deal with is how well you will respond to a
restricted space with limited storage. For some people, this SOUNDS
wonderful, but you may find yourself more tied to belongings than you
think. In our case, we were living in a huge house with far too much stuff
(I mean, two golf bags for someone who never plays golf?) and we
voluntarily downsized and moved into a trailer in the woods for 4 years. So
now the boat seems opulent, but we're still struggling with "stuff". ...
With a job and a larger family such as yours, I would suggest that you
consider the issues/benefits of LIVING on a boat separately from the
weekend recreational pleasures of being on a boat. My guess is that if
you're living full-time on a boat you may cruise less than if you had a
smaller recreational boat. It sounds good in theory having the boat always
there, supposedly ready to go. But somehow the inertia of needing to stow
belongings for traveling, making sure the boat is mechanically ready,
weather conditions suitable, etc etc reduces the likelihood of just
"taking off". Trips need to be planned. We are thrilled to be living on the
water, and we also like having the opportunity to travel, but we are
traveling less than I'd expected, mostly because we currently still have a
very land-based life. Most of the liveaboards in our marina don't travel at
all. (Some do, of course, but it is a minuscule percentage of the ones that
could.) If you are absolutely certain you will be taking extended
cruises, that would change the equation. Guess what I'm saying here is that
maybe you should decide whether or not to live on a boat primarily because
you WANT TO LIVE ON A BOAT, and not because you want to travel, because the
vast majority of your time you probably won't be traveling. Don't know if
this makes any sense ... :-)
From Elizabeth on The Live-Aboard List:
Re: So you want to live on a boat ...
You can do a lot of research, and read til you're blue in the face, but
nothing gets you there faster than just doing it. Sure, some common sense is
required: boat surveys are crucial, for example. But it's like life in
general -- who's to say what's really going to happen tomorrow, and all the
best planning can be for naught, so I say while you're excited about this
idea, get out there and try it! If you hate it, sell the boat and move back
on land! It's not the end of the world.
I decided Thanksgiving Day 1999 that I was going to live on a boat. I had no
idea what kind -- I had some dinghy sailing in my younger days, and I lived
near the Chesapeake Bay, but that was it for background! I picked up a copy
of Boat Trader, started circling things in my price range, and spent the next
two months looking at boats.
My criteria was as follows: I wanted the smallest boat with the least stuff
to maintain but enough room to live aboard (so that I wouldn't be intimidated
when I wanted to take it out), I wanted to pay for it in full if possible,
and I wanted a boat that if I decided this wasn't for me, I could easily sell
it to some other dreamer.
I didn't know much about what to look for, but I'd owned a house and bought a
lot of antique furniture, so I was used to looking for value under the dirt
and wasn't afraid of a little fixing up. On the same note, I knew from
experience that things that seem like a great deal are often more work than
bargained for, so I was realistic with myself about how much time and
experience and money I had to fix things up -- like, very little!
I operated largely on gut instinct, bypassing a couple of newer boats that
seemed sterile, an old houseboat that was roomy but I knew wouldn't be going
anywhere, and ending up with a 1973 26' Grampian sailboat -- enough boat for
me to learn to sail on, no out-of-control features to break and maintain,
roomy inside for a boat its length, and a comfortable v-berth! And it was
obviously solid and stable -- a good starting point. Most magazines talked
about boats that were way beyond my scope at that time, and every person I
spoke to had a widely different viewpoint from the previous one, so I
listened to them all and then went and did what I wanted! I decided on a
sailboat personally as I have little engine experience, and I love the feel
of sailing, but that's a personal decision.
I had at the same time been shopping for marinas, so I moved aboard in the
spring, and made a vow to take the boat out every week sailing so that I
didn't end up with an apartment at the dock. Getting rid of the belongings
was hard - 3 yard sales, many items given to friends, and I still have a
corner of a friend's attic and my office for items I haven't figured out what
to do with yet! But you will be amazed to find out what you don't need, or
what you have enjoyed and would now like someone else to have the use of. It
gets to be addictive, giving things away, and not buying things that don't
directly pertain to your new life! And I didn't manage to sail every week --
real life intervened, but I also met other people who were boating and by the
end of the summer I had a little racing experience, had been out on a variety
of boats, and had taken my own boat sailing frequently.
Winter was tough -- it was cold, people do not want to visit you when the
rain blows horizontally and you live at the end of a floating dock, and I had
one oil radiator for warmth (my cat Sophie was also aboard, so I didn't want
to use anything that might prove a danger), and some of the storms were
frightening to the newby (you realize your house is floating, and you spend a
lot of time trying to make sure it stays that way!), but the spring finally
came and I realized I had made it through the first year!
I saw more sunsets and sunrises, experienced more of what was going on around
me, saw more birds, met more cool people, and felt more alive than I had in
years. I learnt to do minor fixes that gave me confidence, and I had chosen a
marina that allowed for easy access to sailing so that if I wanted to go out
for a day it was very simple.
And I kept my living arrangements simple - rather than trying to duplicate an
apartment on the water, I tried to think more like a camper, and moved items on
the boat one at a time. If there wasn't a place for it, or if it wasn't used
frequently, off it went. And I found it to be a lot of fun to try to keep my
boat ready to go in 15 minutes or less -- I decided against the TV, the
microwave, and some of the other heavy items that start to clutter up a boat.
By the end of my second summer I was ready to move up to a larger boat, and
over the past year had met the son of some liveaboard friends who was looking
to move out on his own. He wanted a boat he could sail immediately, live on
comfortably, and afford. Boy, did I have the boat for him! I bought a Bristol
33, and he has had more fun with that Grampian this last year than I don't
know what. It was easy to sell this boat, and that's an important feature
when you're first looking. There's little chance you'll know first time out
what all the features are you'll be interested in -- for me, I had to also
learn to look at boats, to appreciate their lines and function, before moving up.
Even on the larger boat I live lean, but not spartan - I have my sewing
machine, music, laptop computer, guitar, easel (not all out at once!) -- in
other words, I found in some cases new interests came along to replace ones I
had done on land, like working on boats, for example!
So I guess my message to you is that the dream is risky, there's hard work
and plenty of decision making, new ground to be uncertain of, and tons to
learn. You will make a whole bunch of mistakes, and you will fix them!
It's great fun, and it will probably change your life.
And this list is a great place to come to see that you aren't the only person
out there with questions, and with this same crazy dream.
From John Hunter:
[I complained about heat, humidity, and loneliness of living aboard far from my friends:]
I have spent 25 year in Florida and several more in the Tropics. I have
never learned to like it, but you do get accustomed to the heat and
humidity. Move slowly, wear loose fitting light colored cotton clothes,
drink lots of water, and avoid alcohol. Sun block, big hat and polarized
glasses help too.
Just before my mother died, she confided in me that her declining
health, etc were nothing in comparison to loneliness. She longed to have
someone around with whom she could just have a good "fuss."
From Susan Meckley on The Live-Aboard List:
Sorry folks ... I have made a monumental decision ... although I am
very, very active, and am told I look and act 49, I am 66, retired
I formally give up any and all plans to cruise or ever take this
_)(*)(^%^###$ boat out of its slip again ... I know how, I have the
knowledge, but just can not get myself up off the backside of my stomach
to install all the equipment I have been rat holing for the last 6
From now on, this is just a floating condo ... till it sinks ... if I am
so darned lonely sitting here in San Fran Bay, I think it would be
intolerable trying to cruise to places where I know absolutely no
one ... Someone, anyone, please slap me if I ever mention cruising
From David Marchand on The Live-Aboard List:
My wife Joan and I are in the process of returning to shore based life after
three months of cruising the east coast - Chesapeake to Massachusetts. We had
expected that this would last a few years, but it didn't. So, I thought I
would share our experiences so others could benefit.
From Joan on The Live-Aboard List:
We were cruising on a Saga 43, fitted out with all of the amenities
reasonably possible in a boat that size. We anchored out most of the time,
only going into marinas every other week for provisioning, laundry, etc. I
say this because we met other cruisers who spent most of their time at
marinas - that is a very different situation than ours and might resolve some
of the issues below - but that was not the cruising style we wanted.
The issues that caused us to quit and move back on shore were several:
Day to day boat life hassle - This was probably the least of the three issues
and turned out to be pretty much as expected, but still a factor. Some of
the detail issues - limited fresh water (we longed for a long hot shower or a
soaking bath), spending hours doing laundry, schlepping groceries for miles
to the boat, rainy days where everything turns damp, etc.
Limited social interaction - This turned out to be a surprising one. Remember
that we were cruising the east coast. I am sure that the islands would offer
much more social interaction among cruisers. If we anchored at isolated
creeks and coves, we would often be the only ones there. Even in LI sound,
when we anchored at coves and town harbors full of moorings, we would
usually be the only cruisers anchored out. We did meet other cruisers, but
many were guys single handing because their wife didn't like it (see below).
Surprisingly, there were very few couples on extended cruising like us. We
ended up focusing on anchorages near towns so we could go ashore and find
people. Here are some we particularly liked:
Chesapeake - Cambridge, Oxford, St Michaels (everyone's favorite - a very
cruiser friendly town), Annapolis, Solomons, Reedville.
LI Sound and East - Essex, Ct (a really cute town - stop at the Gris for
drinks and entertainment), Bristol, RI, Woods Hole, Edgartown on Martha's
Vinyard. In general LI Sound and points east were less cruiser friendly than
the Chesapeake - harbors full of moorings with no anchor room, no dinghy dock,
Fear of difficult sailing conditions - This too was a surprise. Joan is a
good sailor and we had made several overnight coastal passages before we
embarked on this saga. And our Saga 43 is almost twice as heavy as our
previous boat, so stability and seakindliness were much better than our
previous experience. But she said that weekend or weeklong cruises have a
definite end to them and are part of a nice vacation which offsets the
occaisional tough passage. But when cruising full-time there is no end in
sight. So as it turned out, Joan became less and less comfortable with
difficult conditions as time went on as opposed to more comfortable with it
due to experience as I would have expected. If there is any lesson that I
would like to impart to the list, this is it - Be very sure of your partner's
comfort with difficult sailing conditions before you set off on something
Hi. I'm Joan. Some had asked for the wife's perspective. Here goes:
When any of our shore-based friends asked what was wrong and why did I want
to stop I replied that I was miserable. And that's truly the way I felt.
There were a number of factors involved.
First, we had done off-shore, overnight sails in the past. I never liked
them. And as I look back on it instead of gaining confidence each time I
found myself more afraid than the last time. There's something about going
off-shore that frightens me. I know we have a superior boat and some of the
best technical equipment. I know it's not logical but I just can't seem to
get away from the fear. I find when we sail off-shore I feel very isolated
and alone. And I know that I would have to keep going off-shore to continue
cruising and every time I go I'm more terrifed.
Second, as David said I found it to be very lonely. I am an accountant and
am used to working in an office with constant day-to-day interactions with
others. Getting away on the boat after a long week at work is an absolute
joy. I love being in a pretty anchorage on a beautiful evening or sipping
coffee early in the morning reading a book. Doing this everyday I found to
be lonely and boring. I was actually worried that David would be bored
cruising and it turned out to be me who was the one who was bored.
Third, I felt completely dependent on David. I couldn't start the dinghy
motor (I'm not strong enough) so I had to rely on him to take me places.
I've always been a fairly independent person and this was somewhat
I guess overall I found that I much prefer the variety of living on shore
and having the boat to go to on the weekends. I miss working. I found
cruising to be much the same wherever we went. We were coming back from
Martha's Vineyard straight into 18-20 knots with the boat pounding into the
waves and I asked David what was the point. I would rather take the ferry to
the Vineyard and stay in a B and B. To me a nice sail is 10 - 15 kts and we
didn't see that a lot. We either had no wind or in my opinion too much.
Overall I prefer to sail in "protected" waters like the Chesapeake which I
have really enjoyed every time we have gone out. The cruising life-style is
just not for me.
From Roger Chin on The Live-Aboard List:
During our offshore trip, Eric and I placed more and more priority on
comfort and convenience. (We had been involved in racing before and
thought we could get away with some of the "frills".)
One big factor for me was my chronic seasickness. It's always there at a
low level despite medication. Studies have shown that Chinese people are
more predisposed to seasickness -- lucky me! As a result, minor things
become major inconveniences when one is slightly seasick.
I thought I would get used to it but instead it had a wearing effect. By
the time we were set to go across the Pacific Ocean from Mexico, there was
quite a lot of anxiety especially having stomach problems from the Mexican
food. I recall one boat had to return to Puerto Vallarta because the
husband never got over the seasickness and the wife couldn't carry the
workload by herself.
I still love the cruising lifestyle but next time we'll have a few more
- - roller furling, so we can let the off-watch crew rest or sleep.
- - more alternate energy sources (solar panels, wind generator, portable
genset) to reduce engine wear and wear on our ears.
- - feathering prop (J-Prop) to reduce drag and lessen time at sea.
- - not leave during a La Nina year (as the winds were a lot stronger in the
- - have all the little boat projects done so we can enjoy our trip.
- - enclosed aft cockpit if possible (difficult for us due to our mainsheet
and canoe stern).
I always emphasized to cruisers that radio nets (usually ham) are a great
social outlet especially for the wives and children. We had one woman who
really missed her grandchildren and HF radio communications would have
helped (either through phone patches or e-mail).
We too found that socializing occurred at the dock. We'd be anchored out
(to save money) and miss all the social activities. When we took three
days at the dock for boat projects, we were constantly distracted by
people. Fortunately, we did have a few buddy boats to share experiences with.
One of the things to consider is that cruising in the USA is different than
cruising in more remote places. There are more long-time cruisers and more
socializing on the water. And there aren't that many marinas.
We have a friend whose wife always flies to the next major
destination. It's expensive, though, especially her trip to the Marquesas.
I think the only way to really know if long term cruising is for you is to
just do it. For some friends, RV'ing was a better alternative.
From Mitch on The Live-Aboard List, 7/2001:
Of course everyone's mileage may vary, as the saying goes. Michelle and I
have lived aboard since 1994 and I couldn't get her to move to land if I
held her at gunpoint. We live and cruise on a 32 foot boat.
We found while cruising in the Bahamas that there could be, at times, almost
TOO much social interaction. Fortunately being at anchor literally means
that you are an island unto yourself and therefore are able to control the
level of social interaction.
Just so this doesn't start scaring away potential cruisers, we have enjoyed
our life aboard very much. Yes, we did have to repair things but that was
certainly not a constant in our life. Also, there's no shortage of opinion
and offers of assistance for those times when things do break.
It's sad to hear of someone's plans not working out - but it's great to know
that they are honest and open enough with themselves and each other to live
the way they want to - that's what it's all about. Not everyone wants to be
a liveaboard cruiser - at the same time, not everyone wants a land-based
life. The hardships - or lack thereof - are identical - just different!
From Bob and Vicki Schuerger on The Live-Aboard List:
We've been cruising (and living aboard) for 2 years, and so far, we're both
delighted. HOWEVER -- our definition of "cruising" emphatically does not
include "terror!" We are trawler people, and decided together at the outset
that we were going coastal cruising, and that's what we do. We spend summers
north (presently in Ottawa doing the Triangle Cruise) and winters south.
Our primary "highway" is the intracoastal waterway. Our outside runs are
only by choice, or New Jersey. :-)
We never cruise at night, leave early in the morning, and stop by 1 or 2 PM
at the latest. If the weather is at all questionable, we don't go. Our
mantra is "PLEASURE BOATING" -- if it's not a pleasure, we don't do it! We
have had some "adventures" where we were surprised by the weather, and found
that the old canard is true - the boat can take it better than we can, and
yada yada ... We try to avoid those situations like the plague! That's NOT
We anchor out only at especially pretty and well-protected anchorages, when
there is especially pretty weather. We take advantage of free walls whenever
possible, but spend most nights in a marina. This satisfies our need for
human contact (and boat talk with other boaters), and makes it more
convenient to walk the dog, and do other shore chores. My idea of fun is not
taking a hard-to-start dinghy to shore in the rain/wind to walk the dog, get
groceries or whatever.
We are willing to give up some creature comforts, but not even close to
most! It's the planning, navigating and cruising that we love. (We even like
the maintenance ... there's a "zen" to it.)
We see new places, return to favorite ones, and avoid fear! For us, a clear
definition of what "cruising" means is crucial.
From Diane Selkirk on The Live-Aboard List:
Evan and I met
when we were teenagers and both wanted to go cruising. We headed off in our
mid 20's and fell in love with the lifestyle. It definitely is not the
lifestyle for everyone but a lot of dreams would survive a bit better if
couples could understand what they were getting into.
This is a tough one though. Evan and I nearly went home after our first 4
months and the first year was definitely touch and go (a more lengthy
version of this part of our cruising life was a story in Cruising World Feb
2001). We were prepared for the fixing of boat parts, the challenges of
provisioning, and the struggles to meet people. But we did not know how to
go about easing each others fear, coping with a day to day life that we had
very little control over or being away from friends and family.
When I am afraid I need to tap into myself and work through it, Evan wants
to fix it by showing me how illogical it is. This doesn't work. When Evan
is afraid he feels like a failure and there is nothing I can do except, I
eventually realized, be much stronger than I might feel and take over the
boat. But that is just us.
During our first year out more than 50% of the couples we met revised down
or abandoned their cruising plans. The problems seemed to be variations on
the same theme. The men had worked hard to make their dream boats, the
women contributed nice fabrics for the settee and matched sheets and when
things strayed from a Jimmy Buffett song they didn't know how to communicate
I can not tell you how many women could not start the engines, lower the
dinghies, reach the furling gear, handle the anchors etc. Women who had
formally been capable, competent partners were reduced to being dependent
and doing what we jokingly refered to as the 'pink jobs'.
Once of the most stunning examples I saw of this was in a beautiful deserted
anchorage on the west coast of the Baja. We pulled in and anchored a polite
distance from the other boat. A woman came out on deck and began
frantically 'yoohooing' us. Her husband had gravely injured himself 2
weeks prior. She did not know how to call for help on the radio, bring up
the anchor, start the engine, lower the dinghy - nothing. She felt the trip
was his dream and simply being there had been her part. He recovered and
they went home by plane. I always wondered if that story would have been
different if somehow she could have learned to love sailing and been able to
cope before their situation became an emergency ...
If you want to cruise and want it to last, both partners need to want it and
feel confident in their skills. The boat needs to be set up so the smaller
partner can handle the gear independently and comfortably. And if it
doesn't seem to be working slow the trip down and give yourself time. It is
a huge lifestyle change and takes time to adapt.
BTW - we headed out 6 1/2 years ago and while we are currently dockside to
work and have a baby we will head back out.
Lifestyle of living aboard (not cruising):
From Bernie on Cruising World
If you're only going to live aboard to save money, forget it then.
If you're going to live aboard because you're in search of an alternative lifestyle,
and you want to be closer to nature, and you want to become more self-reliant,
then living aboard might just be for you.
From Tim L. on Cruising World
I did it for a few years. Upside: if you already have a boat, it's cheap;
you're often close to nature; you sail more; it's great for entertaining friends;
it's very simple compared to a house; you get to swagger around proclaiming
your saltiness and offering unsolicited nautical advice to those less involved
than you. Downside: it's cold; in the winter, water, sewer, morning showers,
washing clothes and storing warm clothing is a problem (in my Northern climate
on my little boat); it's often lonely; you have little in common with most
of the other users of the marina; you'll get little respect due to the live
aboard's reputation for cheapness, messiness and pollution.
It was a lot of fun when I was younger but now it makes little sense.
A lot of the simplicity came from trading 1500 square feet for 250 square
feet which could have been done by living in a trailer. I could see
doing it again, but summers only.
From Dave Gibson on Cruising World
... To me, the attraction of boating is cruising. Traveling to new places,
seeing new things, and meeting new people. The boat is incidental. Although
I love to sail, I could cruise happily in a powerboat, or maybe a motorhome,
or a motorcycle. The sailboat is only the means, not the end.
But living in a boat? Trading a 2000 square foot house for 300 square feet
of elbow room? Having to move three things to get at the one I want? Giving
up conveniences I take for granted, like a full size bathroom with a tub and shower,
a washer and dryer, an attic and a garage ... no, not for me. ...
From Janet on Cruising World
I have lived aboard for ten years now. There are times when I would live nowhere
else and times when I would live almost anywhere else.
You must have a realistic outlook when it comes to living aboard. It is not
all the romantic illusion that some people have of it. At the same time,
it is a wonderful way of life but not an easy way of life.
Tom and Nan MacNaughton's "Living Aboard"
Comments about MacNaughton's article, from Norm on The Live-Aboard List, 7/2001:
... Although much of what
he says is true about living in the sea, much is from the viewpoint of a
minimalist sailor of several decades ago. He likes small boats, say 18 to 25
feet, with no shower or pressure water (claims all water must be fetched
aboard), basically primitive living (back-to-nature style), while going on
and on about the drawbacks of a larger boat with such complex, troublesome,
expensive systems such as a hot shower, indoor plumbing, electric lights,
I do know a person who lives on a 20 foot boat, with no electrical system,
no engine, no shower, no reefer, etc. and who is a master sailor, but in my
experience he is one of a kind.
The vast majority of live aboard cruisers have boats between 30 and 45 feet,
most of which are equipped with a diesel engine, hot shower, mechanical
refrigeration, a TV, boom box, numerous lights and fans, a well-equipped
galley, comfortable double berth, a full suite of electronics including
ship-to-shore radio, radar, and autopilot. In short, all the size and
equipment to make living aboard and cruising comfortable, safe, and a great
pleasure. In short, just the sort of vessel the author of the piece in
question holds in disdain.
Some larger boats are even more self-contained. Aboard my boat I make my own
water, do my own laundry and carry all the tools needed to build the vessel
itself. The only time we go to a dock is to take on fuel.
"Get up every morning with nothing to do, and
on a good day get almost half of it done."
-- Gail on "Maritime Express"
From John Dunsmoor:
[I remarked that, when I took my family and relatives for
little motor-cruises up and down the Delaware river, I thought
it would be boring to them, but they were absolutely thrilled.]
To them it is a "Yacht"; to you it is a home, part of the time
and a vicious money-grubbing whore, part of the time and even
FUN part of the time. You in many ways are living the
dream of many, most of whom have no clue, just like you
once had no clue. It is so much more work than anyone
who has not sailed can possibly understand. They just see
the picture of the quiet anchorage, sunset and the silhouette
of the vessel, crew with drink in hand. They don't see bilges,
money, engines, oil, filth, money, laws, regulation, money,
heat, bugs, bag of garbage you're not sure what to do with,
water, fuel, money, that clicking sound every time the AC
goes on that you can not figure out why this new sound
is happening, anchors that don't hold and are way too heavy,
why does the aft head work like a charm and the forward one not,
and stinks when they are basically both the same ... I am ranting again.
From Ron of Seattle on Cruising World
I have often wondered why some cruisers seemingly suddenly just
give up and go home. They start with plans of an extended trip
to see the world. They often have an inspirational level of
enthusiasm and then just stop. I know that It could be a
spouse that does not enjoy the dream. Taking that into account,
they were on board at one point but something happened or perhaps
did not happen. So many online ships logs just stop without much
explanation at some place in the south pacific or so.
Is it the solitude or the lack of other people or friends?
I can imagine that the lifestyle change could be very difficult for some.
Do they underestimate the costs and run out of money?
Do they get scared in a storm?
From JR on Cruising World
IMHO there is a considerable difference between the one or two week
cruise (which often builds confidence and desire for longer ventures)
and the "dream." The one common thread among those I've talked with
who have folded has been insecurity in its various forms.
But, at least they tried and that's the important part.
From Elaine on Cruising World
I can imagine a few reasons ...
24/7 in VERY close quarters, add a dash of sea sickness,
or fatigue from long watches ... tempers flare, and there
is no 'escape' from the person you are furious with.
How many relationships are REALLY that stable?
Lack of money could also be a reason, homesickness for
family or friends. The 'dream' isn't a 'dream' but WORK!!
and not nearly as 'fun' as the 'dream' was. Starting with
unrealistic expectations of tropical bliss, and finding out
that instead of sunny weather all the time ... there are storms,
and groundings, and NO way to get away from the weather or
the person who is now driving you crazy. I've never talked to
anyone who quit, but I can imagine the reasons without too
From Night Swimming on Cruising World
I guess I count as a quitter. We cruised for four years, with 2 breaks
to work (once for 5 months, once for a year). Moved off the boat
in June and now live in DC. Reasons: I was getting a bit tired of
doing the East Coast/Bahamas thing and didn't feel capable of
crossing an ocean. Also, outfitting the boat to do so would have
been very expensive. A little bit weary of living in cramped
quarters. Started to feel a bit like a bum for not working (I blame
my parents and their puritan work ethic for this). Oddly enough,
I also began to crave a more routine and predictable lifestyle.
Wanted to put more money in the bank. Wanted to reconnect with our
landlubber friends. Wanted to expand our circle of
friends (cruisers are great people, and we made a lot of terrific friends,
but after a while I really missed being among my own kind [gay]).
Wanted to reduce my intake of liquor! I think some people discover
that cruising isn't all they dreamed it would be. I think many
others quit for the same reason they began: they discover (again)
that it's time for a change.
From Larry on Cruising World
Cruising is not always a permanent way of life. In fact, some
would say it is not a life sentence. And ending a cruise
is not quitting and an ex-cruiser is not a quitter.
We did 3 years out of five in Mexico. We felt it was a great
experience and at the end we thought it was an accomplishment
to be proud of. A guy who had never been couldn't understand
why we stopped, but then again he had never been. Leaving the
From Lauraine on Cruising World
We live on one of the Great Lakes. We had the dream.
We bought a boat. We spent the better part of three years
restoring and sailing the boat in our lake while refining
the dream into reality for us. The more we restored and the
more we sailed, the dream kept redefining itself for us.
We love our boat, the water and sailing. But the reality
for us is we're comfortable on our lake. We'll do the
Caribbean thing at some point but on a charter boat.
We learned we do not want to give up our creature comforts
to cruise full-time. Two weeks is about all we can take of
living in close quarters before we want to be home in our own bed.
We'll keep our boat and sail all the ports in our Great Lake
and maybe venture out into the other Great Lakes but for now,
untying the docklines and taking off for parts unknown is
not our dream anymore.
From Jim King on Cruising World
I never had a "dream" to go cruising, it was something I always
had wanted to do, but not a dream. I did go for 3 years and it
was a pleasant experience that I'm glad I tried. Sold my house,
cars and stuff and bought a 42' Tartan in Seattle and proceeded
to sail as far as Manzanillo, Mexico. Did a total of about 6,000
miles in those 3 years. Also did a couple of long deliveries and
I captain a charter boat for some people in the Virgin Islands
every year. But sailing isn't the only thing I want to do with
my short life, so I sold the boat and bought another house.
Now I can get busy with building another race car, remodeling
a house, getting my pilots ticket and a host of other dumb things
I've always wanted to do. I met a lot of people sailing who
I can still go sail with so I haven't completely given up sailing.
I also have a "dream" cruiser for a brother so I can go visit
him where ever he might be in the world. There are lots of pursuits
in life that I will try to accomplish before the time comes that I can't.
From Mike McN on Cruising World
On this day last year we crossed over to the Bahamas from Lake Worth.
What a great crossing it was!! We have been full-time liveaboards for
three years, cruisers for two. We spent 3 years rebuilding an old boat
and made it into a great cruising home. We came home this April because
we had a grandchild and could help our kids. My wife became a full-time
granny-nanny. I went back to my old company and gave them an 18-month
notice that we were leaving again in 2004. We had no house so moved
in with the kids and borrowed the car I gave them.
Since being home
our thought process has changed. Our original plan was to be
out 5 years. We have now modified our plan. We just bought an
old farmhouse 5 hours away in the mountains and are fixing it up.
We will cruise 5 months in the winter (leave the boat in FL)
and spend the other 7 months on the farm. My wife loves to garden.
I will find an old sports car to rebuild (something British or
Italian to remind me of boat maintenance).
This way we have the best of all worlds. We have our dreams
and live them well. But we also planned well. In our two years out
we met lots of cruisers, some who made it and many who didn't.
It's tough living in such small quarters. My wife complains of
having no privacy (even on the computer email). Being the captain,
constantly watching the weather for wind shifts and fronts,
dragging boats, etc sucks. Some cruisers think it's an endless
party while others get tired of the work. Cruising is WORK.
I don't think the DREAMERS realize how much. Finding supplies
can be a challenge, spare parts impossible. Being a pack animal
is not fun. Sometimes it can be downright scary. But the
swimming is great (except Maine and Canada), the sunsets
spectacular and the people awesome. We miss it very much
and can't wait until 2004. But until then, we enjoy our kids
and grandson and connecting with land friends and family.
We dream and plan and live the dream.
From "The Log Of Passe Partout":
[I think they went Cape Cod to Bermuda to Antigua.]
The ocean is big and from what we saw, there's not much life in it;
just lots and lots of waves. And salt, of course. I never read on the
way down and thus must have watched more than 500 miles of ocean pass us.
Kind of like Kansas but salty.
From Mike H on CompuServe's Sailing Forum:
The biggest disadvantage of living aboard is that it
is inconvenient in many small ways and you can't
really learn about this until you try it. Just
getting on and off a boat dozens of times a day
gets to be a pain and everyone goes swimming
eventually. It is easy to hurt yourself on a boat
if you get too casual about it. Everything you
put on a boat eventually rusts, rots or mildews.
Most "mod-cons" are not suitable for use on a
boat and the equipment which does work tends to
be complicated and in need of constant maintenance.
Most people today take indoor plumbing for granted
but if you live aboard, it may be a long walk up
the dock. Using the on-board head in a marina is
usually not practical unless the marina has
on-the-dock pumpout facilities (becoming more
common). You NEVER let a guest use the head
without a long lecture! On-board showers are
inconvenient on most boats under 40' and
non-existent on most under 30'.
When you live on your boat, you find that it takes
a lot of work to stow her for sailing. Most people
find that they do not go out as often as they did
before they moved aboard. It is just too much hassle.
Marinas with lots of live-aboards are often communities
of a sort you rarely find anywhere else. Everyone
knows everyone else and they look out after one another.
People who live on their boats are never dull and many
are real characters. The parties are frequent and fun.
It does tend to be a hard-drinking crowd and if the
marina management does not exercise some constraint,
you can have problems with noisy drunks. The "culture"
varies a lot. No two marinas are quite the same.
If you don't care for the group where you are,
you can always cast off the lines.
The atmosphere is the big positive, of course.
If you really love boats, being around them all
the time is wonderful. The wildlife is fun to
watch at many marinas. The fact that a boat is
never completely still is something I enjoy
although I don't know that everyone would.
And you always know that you can take off any
time you want to even if you don't do it all that often!
From Jeff Smith on The Live-Aboard List:
Having just cut the ties to land life and moved aboard recently, I find
myself loving it, but wondering why? And why does everyone else seem to?
Inconveniences abound, such as:
Having to find room for clothes and stuff. And having to move six items to
reach the one I want today.
Having to turn sideways to pass each other on the way to the galley or head.
Giving up so many luxuries for the "simple" life aboard.
Dealing with marina gossip or "dock talk".
Giving up the washer and dryer and lugging clothes to the marina laundry
Dealing with weather instead of just shutting the front door, sitting in
front of the fireplace and bitching about it.
Mildew on everything that doesn't move and a few things that do!
Listening to friends and family sympathize or tell us we're nuts for giving
it all up.
Not being able to achieve instant gratification by buying "stuff", coz
there's no where to put it if you do.
In a broad sense, living aboard requires us to sacrifice creature comforts
in some way shape or form ... even on a big trawler with all the conveniences.
So what drives us to defy convention and live in a tiny space floating in
water? Since I am posing the question, it only seems fair that I take a stab
at answering it too.
I have always been independent of spirit, believing that only I know what is
best for me, and further believing that I can live with my mistakes much
better that I can live with the mistakes I make when forced to act by
someone else's rules. I don't like being told what to do, or how to think. I
sense that most live-aboards are similar in nature.
It seems to me that living aboard offers more freedom to be who you want to
be. If you want a power boat, sail boat, mono or multi it's your choice, and
generally no one is going to knock you for the choice you make. In fact, I
have found the opposite to be true. In most cases boaters tend to be
supportive of their differences. Aside from the gentle teasing that we both
enjoy, I've never encountered any real sail vs. power animosity.
And another thing, if you don't like where you are, the rules there, the
government, your neighbor's dog, or your neighbor for that matter, you can up
and move. Try that with a house. That's also freedom.
To me, the whole live-aboard attitude isn't really about living on a boat,
it's about community. It's not about where you live, or what you live in, or
what you live on. Power, sail, trawler, multi, mono, whatever, you are still
a part of your community, doin' it your own unique way. That's the freedom I
crave and another one of the reasons that I moved aboard.
Ever notice that strangers say hi when walking down the dock, even in a big
city marina? Yet three blocks away on the city street, they avert their eyes
when passing strangers. Wonder what makes marina life different? It's being
a part of a community.
My decision to live aboard is driven by the community I am in and feel a
part of. I have never felt so welcome as the day I arrived at my home
marina. Strangers (now friends) came to say hi. Yet I barely knew my house
That community exists when underway, dockside at home, or in a strange and
distant port. The boat is just the common bond. The community is truly as
global as you want it to be.
You know, I used to hate doing laundry at the house. Pure drudgery. And even
at the marina I find it to be a pain in the butt. On the other hand,
every time I stop in with a load to wash at the marina laundry, I meet up
with a neighbor or strangers and chat for a bit. I won't go as far as to say
that doing laundry is fun now, but I don't hate it like I did at the house.
From Ralph Ahseln on Yacht-L mailing list:
The fantasy of the tropical island and the native girls.
Hot, High Humidity, Bugs, Bad sanitation, Monsoons, High prices for the
necessities of life, Government Officials with reams of forms to fill ... and
empty hands outstretched, did I mention ... Bugs, ... And so on and so
And the native girls ?
Bring lots of Penicillin ...
From Bryan Genez on Yacht-L mailing list:
I'd just retired from the USCG, and was planning my departure. I expected
to be gone in about six months. A retired CG friend had been in the
Caribbean for about six years, running captained charters on his boat. He
always bragged of his lovely female crewmember of the moment (he'd had
several through the years). I wrote (pre-email times) and let him know I
was coming, and BTW "where can I get lovely crew like yours?" He replied at
once: "DON'T COME HERE LOOKING FOR WOMEN ... THERE ARE NO WOMEN HERE!" Seems
like every third cruiser among the thousands was an old fart with a
fantasy ... and the local women were completely fed up with them. My friend
explained that his lovely crew were paid college coeds who he found through
advertising in college papers. They'd come down for a few weeks or a little
longer, then be gone.
Anyway, I took his advice and stayed. Now I have my perfect wife ... and she
has a couple of years before retirement. Good things are worth waiting for.
From Jeffrey Jordan:
Enjoyed your web site and the comments! Especially the sections covering your first encounters
with the boat-buying process and moving aboard. Made me laugh because I did/felt the same thing. It's
funny, everyone I have met that has the pleasure and pain of sailboat ownership and the
cruising/liveaboard lifestyle goes through the same "cycle".
Me? Yep I did "it". ... I sailed the FL and the islands for a few
years until I missed working and the little things like a change in seasons, unlimted hot water,
bathtubs, wearing really clean clothes and not thinking, talking or working on broken boats
I do have good memories, and I learned everything the "hard way", and as I have had time to
reflect, I must admit, I am sort of sad and miss the cruising lifestyle and that salt-covered, money pit
of a boat I owned.
Maybe "someday" will come again ...
From Xavier and Dizzy / "manage a trois":
4 months later and not sailing yet but loving it ...
So far it's been an incredible experience for us ... our boat has become more of a project boat than
we expected. We hauled it out and found close to 1000 blisters on it ... (you don't spend $300
surveying a 30' boat was my thinking). Well, after spending my 2 weeks of vacation under the
boat (grinding, filling, barrier coating and replacing thru-hulls and sea cocks, bottom paint, and an Awlgrip
job on her sides), she went back in the water and I'm proud to say she is floating high and dry and
looking pretty ... her best characteristic.
The diesel was filled with saltwater. So out it went and we are now saving our pennies to put a
little 10 HP 4-stroke on her new outboard bracket. (We can get away with it, I think.)
To my surprise, my girlfriend is in love with our new lifestyle and her main complaint is the
heat, but for $15 in some PVC and a tarp our boat has become a freezer: the little AC can finally keep
up with the Miami heat.
To my amazement, my girlfriend also loves going aloft and we have replaced most of the stays, but
need to bring down the mast to do some wiring in the short future ...
All in all, we have not moved from the marina where we bought the boat. But already we have had so
many lovely nights, just talking after working hard all day, that the boat has actually in my
opinion made us grow closer together. We have set ourselves a 1 year deadline to get her in sailing
order, which is no easy task with our budget ... we eat sleep work and the rest is for the boat.
Did I mention making friends ...
the marina that we are at (really a boatyard) has some old Cuban fishermen, and being that we both
are Hispanic and young (24 and 30), they have given us hours of conversations and sea stories and
basically taken us under their wing. I think they just like watching her take deck showers in her
bikini, but that's a different story.
Paraphrased from excerpt from Trish Lambert's 'Beware the "Cruising Cult"':
Cruisers have lots of strong opinions. But sometimes
the "lifestyle" opinions verge on arrogance or evangelism,
insisting that everyone can and should live this way.
For example, many people say "go now!", meaning "take a risk,
don't let little obstacles stop you, don't get to the end of your
life with an unfulfilled dream",
but sounding like "just do it, without thinking, don't worry about anything".
In fact, you should think things through carefully, and you might regret
some things you lose by cruising (business opportunities, contact with friends
and family, etc). And going too early or with too much boat might mean having a boat loan, and
worrying about payments while you're cruising.
Many cruising women may paint a nice picture of the lifestyle to other women,
even putting some peer pressure on them.
But some cruising women are very unhappy. They miss family, friends, house,
garden, safety, comfort. It may be possible to make adjustments (more flights
home, more marina time, different cruising style, etc) to help with this.
But it's not all wonderful, and it's not for everyone.
Some male authors are overly authoritative, even pompous and dictatorial.
Despite the impression they give, there is no one "right" way to cruise,
no one "right" boat, etc. Sift through all the information and make
your own judgements.
From Captain Morgan on Latitudes and Attitudes Cruisers Forum:
From IMASAILOR on Latitudes and Attitudes Cruisers Forum:
Found this old article:
Cruising Blues and Their Cure
By Robert Pirsig, Esquire, May 1977
This copy obtained by Anthony McWatt and previously published on the MoQ site
Their case was typical. After four years of hard labor their ocean-size trimaran was launched in
Minneapolis at the head of Mississippi navigation. Six and one half months later they had brought
it down the river and across the gulf to Florida to finish up final details. Then at last they
were off to sail the Bahamas, the Lesser Antilles and South America.
Only it didn't work out that way. Within six weeks they were through. The boat was back in Florida
up for sale.
"Our feelings were mixed," they wrote their hometown paper. "Each of us had a favorite dream
unfulfilled, a place he or she wanted to visit, a thing to do. And most of us felt sheepish that
our 'year's escape' shrunk to eight months. Stated that way, it doesn't sound as if we got our
money's worth for our four years' labor."
"But most of us had had just about all the escape we could stand; we're overdosed on vacation.
Maybe we aren't quite as free spirits as we believed; each new island to visit had just a bit less
than its predecessor."
"And thoughts were turning to home."
Change the point of origin to Sacramento or Cincinnati or any of thousands of places where the
hope of sailing the world fills landlocked, job-locked dreamers; add thousands of couples who have
saved for years to extend their weekends on the water to a retirement at sea, then sell their
boats after six months; change the style and size of the boat, or the ages and backgrounds of the
participants, and you have a story that is heard over and over again in cruising areas - romantic
dreams of a lifetime destroyed by a psychological affliction that has probably ended the careers
of more cruising sailors than all other causes together: cruising depression.
"I don't know what it was we thought we were looking for," one wife said in a St. Thomas, Virgin
Islands, harbor after she and her husband had decided to put their boat up for sale and go home.
"But whatever it was, we certainly haven't discovered it in sailing. It seemed that it was going
to be such a dream life, but now, looking back on it, it just seems . . . oh, there have been
beautiful times, of course, but mostly it's just been hard work and misery. More than we would
have had if we had stayed home."
A husband said, "We find ourselves getting on each other's nerves, being cooped up like this with
each other day after day. We never realized that in order to enjoy being with someone you have to
have periods of separation from that person too. We sailed on weekends and short vacations for
years. But living aboard isn't the same."
Statements symptomatic of cruising depression vary from person to person, but common to most are
long periods of silence in a person who is normally talkative, followed by a feeling of
overwhelming sadness that at first seems to have no specific cause, then, on reflection, seems to
have many causes, such as:
Everything is breaking down on this boat. Everything is going to hell. Considering the number of
things that could break down, the attrition is actually quite normal, but now there isn't the time
or tools to make major repairs, and the costs of boatyard labor and overhead are out of sight. So
now every part failure - a pump that won't work, a loose propeller shaft, a windlass that sticks -
looms up as a catastrophe, and during the long hours at the helm while the problem remains
unfixed, it grows larger and larger in the mind.
Money is running short. Most of the big supermarkets are too far from the boat to walk to. Marine
stores seem to overcharge on everything. Money is always running short, but now that fact, which
was once a challenge, is a source of despair. A serious cruising person always seems to find the
money one way or another, usually by taking short-term waterfront jobs, and taking them without
much resentment. His boat gives him something to work for. But now the boat itself is resented and
there is nothing to work for.
The people are unfriendlier here than back home. Back home people seemed friendlier, but now
cruising depression has put a scowl and a worried look on the sailor's face that makes people keep
All this is just running away from reality. You never realize how good that friendly old
nine-to-five office job can be. Just little things - like everyone saying hello each morning or
the supervisor stopping by to get your opinion because he really needs it. And seeing old friends
and familiar neighbors and streets you've lived near all your life. Who wants to escape all that?
Perhaps what cruising teaches more than anything else is an appreciation of the real world you
might otherwise think of as oppressive.
This last symptom - the desire to "get back to reality" - is one I've found in almost every case
of cruising depression and may be the key to the whole affliction. If one bears down on this point
a little it begins to open up and reveal deeper sources of trouble.
One first has to ask where those who are depressed got the idea that cruise sailing was an escape
from reality. Who ever taught them that? What exactly do they mean? Scientists and philosophers
spend their entire working lives puzzling over the nature of reality, but now the depressed ones
use the term freely, as though everyone should know and agree with what they mean by it.
As best I can make out, reality for them is the mode of daily living they followed before taking
to the water; unlike cruise sailing, it is the one shared by the majority of the members of our
culture. It usually means gainful employment in a stable economic network of some sort without too
much variance from what are considered the norms and mores of society. In other words, back to the
The illogic is not hard to find. The house-car-job complex with its nine-to-five office routine is
common only to a very small percentage of the earth's population and has only been common to this
percentage for the last hundred years or so. If this is reality, have the millions of years that
preceded our current century all been unreal?
An alternative - and better - definition of reality can be found by naming some of its components
... air ... sunlight ... wind ... water ... the motion of waves ... the patterns of clouds before a coming
storm. These elements, unlike twentieth-century office routines, have been here since before life
appeared on this planet and they will continue long after office routines are gone. They are
understood by everyone, not just a small segment of a highly advanced society. When considered on
purely logical grounds, they are more real than the extremely transitory life-styles of the modern
civilization the depressed ones want to return to.
If this is so, then it follows that those who see sailing as an escape from reality have got their
understanding of both sailing and reality completely backwards. Sailing is not an escape but a
return to and a confrontation of a reality from which modern civilization is itself an escape. For
centuries, man suffered from the reality of an earth that was too dark or too hot or too cold for
his comfort, and to escape this he invented complex systems of lighting, heating and air
conditioning. Sailing rejects these and returns to the old realities of dark and heat and cold.
Modern civilization has found radio, TV, movies, nightclubs and a huge variety of mechanized
entertainment to titillate our senses and help us escape from the apparent boredom of the earth
and the sun and wind and stars. Sailing returns to these ancient realities.
For many of the depressed ones, the real underlying source of cruising depression is that they
have thought of sailing as one more civilized form of stimulation, just like movies or spectator
sports, and somehow felt their boat had an obligation to keep them thrilled and entertained. But
no boat can be an endless source of entertainment and should not be expected to be one.
A lot of their expectation may have come from weekend sailing, whose pleasures differ greatly from
live-aboard cruising. In weekend sailing, depression seldom shows up, because the sailing is
usually a relief from a monotonous workweek. The weekender gets just as depressed as the
live-aboard cruiser, but he does it at home or on the job and thinks of these as the cause of the
depression. When he retires to the life of cruising, he continues the mistake by thinking, Now
life will be just like all those summer weekends strung end to end. And of course he is wrong.
There is no way to escape the mechanism of depression. It results from lack of a pleasant stimulus
and is inevitable because the more pleasant stimuli you receive the less effective they become.
If, for example, you receive an unexpected gift of money on Monday, you are elated. If the same
gift is repeated on Tuesday, you are elated again but a little less so because it is a repetition
of Monday's experience. On Wednesday he elation drops a little lower and on Thursday and Friday a
little lower still. By Saturday you are rather accustomed to the daily gift and take it for
granted. Sunday, if there is no gift, you are suddenly depressed. Your level of expectation has
adjusted upward during the week and now must adjust downward.
The same is true of cruising. You can see just so any beautiful sunsets strung end on end, just so
any coconut palms waving in the ocean breeze, just so many exotic moonlit tropical nights scented
with oleander and frangipani, and you become adjusted. They no longer elate. The pleasant external
stimulus has worn out its response and cruising depression takes over. This is the point at which
boats get sold and cruising dreams are shattered forever. One can extend the high for a while by
searching for new and more exciting pursuits, but sooner or later the depression mechanism must
catch up with you and the longer it has been evaded the harder it hits.
It follows that the best way to defeat cruising depression is never to run from it. You must face
into it, enter it when it comes, just be gloomy and enjoy the gloominess while it lasts. You can
be sure that the same mechanism that makes depression unavoidable also makes future elation
unavoidable. Each hour or day you remain depressed you become more and more adjusted to it until
in time there is no possible way to avoid an upturn in feelings. The days you put in depressed are
like money in the bank. They make the elated days possible by their contrast. You cannot have
mountains without valleys and you cannot have elation without depression. Without their combined
upswings and downswings, existence would be just one long tedious plateau.
When depression is seen as an unavoidable part of one's life, it becomes possible to study it with
less aversion and discover that within it are all sorts of overlooked possibilities.
To begin with, depression makes you far more aware of subtleties of your surroundings. Out on a
remote anchorage, the call of a wild duck during an elated period is just the call of a wild duck.
But if you are depressed and your mind is empty from the down-scaling of depression, then that
strange lonely sound can suddenly bring down a whole wave of awareness of empty spaces and water
and sky. It sounds strange, but some of my happiest memories are of days when I was very
depressed. Slow monotonous grey days at the helm, beating into a wet freezing wind. Or a three-day
dead calm that left me in agonies of heat and boredom and frustration. Days when nothing seemed to
go right. Nights when impending disaster was all I could think of. I think of those as "virtuous
days," a strange term for them that has a meaning all its own.
Virtue here comes from childhood reading about the old days of sailing ships when young men were
sent to sea to learn manliness and virtue. I remember being skeptical about this. "How could a
monotonous passage across a pile of water produce virtue?" I wondered. I figured that maybe a few
bad storms would scare hell out of the young men and this would make them humble and manly and
virtuous and appreciative of life ever afterward, but it seemed like a dubious curriculum. There
were cheaper and quicker ways to scare people than that.
Now, however, with a boat of my own and some time at sea, I begin to see the learning of virtue
another way. It has something to do with the way the sea and sun and wind and sky go on and on day
after day, week after week, and the boat and you have to go on with it. You must take the helm and
change the sails and take sights of the stars and work out their reductions and sleep and cook and
eat and repair things as they break and do most of these things in stormy weather as well as fair,
depressed as well as elated, because there's no choice. You get used to it; it becomes
habit-forming and produces a certain change in values. Old gear that has been through a storm or
two without failure becomes more precious than it was when you bought it because you know you can
trust it. The same becomes true of fellow crewmen and ultimately becomes true of things about
yourself. Good first appearances count for less than they ever did, and real virtue - which comes
from an ability to separate what merely looks good from what lasts and the acquisition of those
characteristics in one's self - is strengthened.
But beyond this there seems to be an even deeper teaching of virtue that rises out of a slow
process of self-discovery after one has gone through a number of waves of danger and depression
and is no longer overwhelmingly concerned about them.
Self-discovery is as much a philosopher's imponderable as reality, but when one takes away the
external stimuli of civilization during long ocean hours at the helm far from any land, and
particularly on overcast nights, every cruising sailor knows that what occurs is not an evening of
complete blankness. Instead comes a flow of thought drawn forth by the emptiness of the night.
Occurrences of the previous day, meager as they may have been, rise and are thought about for a
while, and then die away to return again later, a little less compelling, and perhaps another time
even weaker, until they die away completely and are not thought of again. Then older memories
appear, of a week past, a month past, of years past, and these are thought about and sometimes
interrelated with new insights. A problem that has been baffling in the past is now understood
quickly. New ideas for things seem to pop up from nowhere because the rigid patterns of thought
that inhibited them are now weakened by emptiness and depression. Then in time these new thoughts
wear town too, and the empty night dredges deeper into the subconscious to tug at, loosen and
dislodge old forgotten thoughts that were repressed years ago. Old injustices that one has had to
absorb, old faces now gone, ancient feelings of personal doubt, remorse, hatred and fear, are
suddenly loose and at you. You must face them again and again until they die away like the
thoughts preceding them. This self that one discovers is in many ways a person one would not like
one's friends to know about; a person one may have been avoiding for years, full of vanity,
cowardice, boredom, self-pity, laziness, blamingness, weak when he should be strong, aggressive
when he should be gentle, a person who will do anything not to know these things about himself -
the very same fellow who has been having problems with cruising depression all this time. I think
it's in the day-after-day, week-after-week confrontation of this person that the most valuable
learning of virtue takes place.
But if one will allow it time enough, the ocean itself can be one's greatest ally in dealing with
this person. As one lives on the surface of the empty ocean day after day after day after day and
sees it sometimes huge and dangerous, sometimes relaxed and dull, but always, in each day and
week, endless in every direction, a certain understanding of one's self begins slowly to break
through, reflected from the sea, or perhaps derived from it.
This is the understanding that whether you are bored or excited, depressed or elated, successful
or unsuccessful, even whether you are alive or dead, all this is of absolutely no consequence
whatsoever. The sea keeps telling you this with every sweep of every wave. And when you accept
this understanding of yourself and agree with it and continue on anyway, then a real fullness of
virtue and self-understanding arrives. And sometimes the moment of arrival is accompanied by
hilarious laughter. The old reality of the sea has put cruising depression in its proper
perspective at last.
I've seen the same thing happen to weekend sailors, maybe not to the same degree but with similar
results. (Sheesh if I was one of those people he's talking about I think I'd find the heaviest
thing on board, tie it to me and jump in!)
They read some magazines, buy a boat, thinking it can't be that hard to do and how much fun it
will be and go sailing.
First couple of months, it's great. Then it gets to be too much trouble to rig up the boat to sail,
so they don't sail every time they go to the boat. Then they quit sailing altogether and sit at the
marina, maybe working on their boats, talking to the other people, who also think it's too much
work to actually get out and sail, about the finer points of sailing. Then they quit going to the
boat altogether, even though their boats are in top-notch shape, from all the work they've done to
them sitting around the marina talking to the other non-sailing sailors.
Then a year or two later you can walk the marina and see what were once beautiful vibrant
sailboats, rusting and rotting away, taking up valuable slip space waiting for the next
unsuspecting "sailor" to come along and repeat the process all over again.
I doubt the people who go through this process get as depressed as those mentioned above but the end
result is the same.
They are out of sailing for good.
The benefit for those of us who will always try to be sailing one way or another is we get to pick
up boats for a fraction of their original cost because, sad to say, of someone's shattered dreams.
From mico verde on Latitudes and Attitudes Cruisers Forum:
From the POV of someone who's just ducked back into "the world" for six months to top up the kitty,
I can tell you that when you're in the groove of cruising, heading back is extremely hard.
We've seen quite a few families head back after finding out the dream wasn't their reality. In
most cases it was due to the additional work involved in home schooling or bratty teenagers
(mostly Americans; NZ or Aussie kids usually never want to leave).
One thing for certain is that foot for foot you won't be any "happier" on a 53-footer than a 32-footer.
Even down-island a good rule of thumb is "if you didn't bring it with you it probably ain't here."
Cruising is not an easy life but it most certainly a good life.
Why don't you live aboard ?
From kd3pc on SailNet forums
We found that most move back ashore due to "un-realistic" expectations.
When you expect warm, sunny days - it still rains
Many people can not handle sitting, reading, learning, watching as an activity
When you expect the marina to put down ice-melt, or change light bulbs - and doesn't
You don't realize that the "motion and noise" of the boat NEVER stops
Cramped space or uncomfortable spaces are unforgiving and don't get better.
Life still goes on, and the boat can be an asset or a liability, all depends on your point of view.
However, we love the motion. We are fixing the heating systems, water systems, and have 4 hatches
to seal this spring. The view is awesome. We really like each other but still respect the need for
privacy or alone time. All the rest is just - life!
Expectations - plain and simple. That being said, there is nothing more miserable than not
enjoying your life, ashore or aboard ... so make the change!
From MikeinLA on SailNet forums
I lived aboard for a few years 20 years ago and absolutely LOVED it. My Catalina 36 was a palace for one and not bad when my future ex-wife and dog came aboard. We moved off and started a family on land. It just seemed easier since we were marina bound, not cruising. Twenty years go by, my son's off at college, ex-wife is long gone and I sit here sometimes wondering if I really need all this cr@p I seem to have collected. For me, it comes down to things like where would I put my 2 cars & 2 motorcycles, how much I'd miss my workshop, where would I put my 6 guitars (moisture is bad for them), my guns, my books, my kid's room when he graces me with a visit, and on & on. Fact is, I'm just used to comfort now. I'm 58, not 35 and comfort is a good thing. I like my 70" TV and my big comfy bed. Fortunately, I don't have financial issues as my house and boat are paid for. So, I keep the house and visit the boat several times a week. I never had the dream of sailing away, there are too many other things that I enjoy doing. So, although I do think about it from time to time, I imagine I'll end up keeping both.
From Minnewaska on SailNet forums
If you are going to live on your boat, the rest of your life needs to take place near water.
(ie, job, kids, grandkids, lifelong friends, community activity, other hobbies, etc.)
While sailing may be ones most important personal activity, it is rarely the only important thing in their life.
The others may be way inland.
These are among the reasons we don't live aboard now and only expect to do so for approx six months out of each year in the future.
From Marc / crazyfish on SailNet forums
I have lived on Crazy Fish for many years off/on and currently off.
A few benefits of being off the boat.
Garage - Work Area
Storage for my collection of scuba equipment
Workplace/storage of tools.
Place to varnish pieces off the boat.
Multiple computer screens, high speed internet connection make working
from home feasible.
Although I live in San Diego and the boat currently is here, planning
on moving the boat up to Long Beach or Ventura/Oxnard this summer
and spending long weekends at Catalina or Channel Islands.
Easier to do interior boat projects when not living on the boat.
I recently replaced the head and all sanitation hoses which took a
few days and it was nice just to close up the boat and head home at
the end of the day. Have some interior varnishing projects currently
and may replace the cabin sole in the near future.
Grow Up To Be A Sailor
My response to someone:
- Sub-cultures in boating (besides the major "power-boaters vs. sailors" split):
- Racers. A different brand of sailing (especially big-sailboat racing:
planing hulls, way oversized sail plans, weight-shifting is critical, etc).
- Liveaboarders (live on a boat full-time, berthed in a slip
in somewhere like LA harbor).
- "Stuck" liveaboarders (cruised to some foreign harbor and then the boat broke down
and they don't have enough money to fix it).
- Partiers ? (boat never moves, just have weekend parties on-board).
- Day sailers (live on shore, use boat on weekend).
- Vacation/periodic cruisers (cruise for N months,
then back to work, or temporary job to get money to cruise again).
- Full-time cruisers (cruise on boat for rest of life).
Two kinds of longer-trip cruisers:
- Pull into a marina every night, head for restaurant,
party all night in a bar.
- Anchor out most nights; just pull into marina when need
services or want to explore town or shore.
Two kinds of cruising:
- Coastal: Staying near shore. Maybe some overnight sailing.
- Passagemaking / voyaging / bluewater / offshore:
Sailing where it takes more than a day or so to get to land.
- Attitudes toward maintenance and repair:
- Throw money at any problem (take boat to repair shop).
- Do easy maintenance and repairs yourself; pay for tough jobs.
- Do everything yourself.
- Issues that cause heated debate:
- Power versus sail.
- Diesel versus gasoline.
- Monohull versus multi-hull.
- Having a gun on board.
- The government (being boarded by the US Coast Guard, avoiding taxes).
- Propane stove versus alcohol/CNG/etc.
- Whether certain boats (especially Hunters) are "good" or "bad".
After two years of cruising the USA, Florida
and Bahamas, it occurs to me that every cruiser I've
met has been white; I've never met a black or Hispanic or Asian cruiser. I'm sure
they must exist. [After 9+ years, I've seen a couple of Asians and one Puerto Rican; still no blacks.]
How "green" is cruising ?
After 4.5 years of cruising, I'm ambivalent about
how "environmentally friendly" this lifestyle is.
Because I've done several long trips, with lots of
motoring at about 4 MPG, I've consumed a lot of fuel
(when I stay put, solar power satisfies most of my power needs).
I pump my sewage into the water (holding tanks aren't
practical), but then again cities often do the same
with millions of gallons at a time, agricultural and yard runoff is huge, and most of
the Caribbean islands have no sewage-treatment plants at all.
I do have fewer possessions than land-based people, and generate less garbage.
At the 9+ year mark, I'm able to sail more, and I now have a wind-generator as well
as solar panels, so my fuel use is way down. Still pumping sewage into the water.
At the 10-year mark or so, I have reached a nice place (Grenada) and stopped moving around
much. So my fuel consumption is way down, and I live mostly on solar power.
But it occurs to me that I fly back to USA twice a year from Grenada, which is
a big impact in terms of fossil fuel consumption and CO2 output and other effects on the environment.
> I wondered if one tends to meet nice people while
> cruising? or, if there are 'groups' who tend to
> organize and cruise together?
Yes, you can meet all kinds of people while
cruising. Anywhere you go in Florida or the
Bahamas, there are plenty of cruisers there
more or less permanently, and plenty passing through.
You can choose what kind of people you want to hang around
with; there are couples, singles, families, powerboaters,
sailboaters, anchor-people and marina-people,
ex-professionals, ex-military, new sailors, old salts, etc.
Some bums and thieves and head-cases, as there are anywhere.
Very few single women.
Some people do organize into tight groups and cruise together,
but I think they fall into a couple of categories:
- people on a short, focused cruise (e.g. 2 months in Bahamas).
- families with kids (so wonderful for kids to play with other
kids, that the boats will change plans to stay together).
There are plenty of retirees who follow the same schedule (winter
in the Bahamas, then summer in Chesapeake or off the boat), so they
see each other every year and socialize a lot.
In general, the "everyone here is a boater" flavor
tends to make for more comraderie and friendliness
than you'd find in "normal" life. And in foreign countries,
the "we're both foreigners here" factor makes it easier to
connect with other cruisers.
From "Flying Pig" on Liveaboard list 5/2011:
FAQ for potential Flying Pig Visitors
How is life aboard Flying Pig different from my life ashore?
1: Flying Pig is a boat. Aside from times in the boatyard, where it's up on stilts on shore,
it's in constant motion. This takes some getting used to, but most accommodate it very well.
2: "Local" transportation is by dinghy, a small inflatable boat. Depending on weather conditions,
sometimes we get wet going from the boat to any other location. It's also nowhere near as fast as
your car, so it takes longer. Despite its small size and related small motor, the mileage on the dinghy
is far worse than the worst clunker you'll have ever driven, so frequent fillups of the 6-gallon
tank are needed during high activity periods. And, lest you be worried, we've frequently carried 5 or six
adults aboard the dinghy, so it's not THAT small!
3: Electricity and water are not delivered through a pipe and wire, in as much volume as you care to pay for;
we have to make our own electricity, and carry our water. In many locations, water is either unavailable,
or we have to carry it in via jugs, and, while in some areas it's free, most of the time we have to pay for it.
Electricity is stored in massive batteries, and has to be generated to replace what's used. Accordingly,
in both cases, we're extremely conservative in what we use. See "What Might I Not Like About Life Aboard Flying Pig?" below.
4: Accomodations, for a boat, are generous, but very small by home standards. The best place on the boat
for sleeping in "normal" (not rough seas) weather is in what's called the VEE berth, so called because of its shape.
It's a 7-foot equilateral triangle, and accomodates most "normal" sized couples handily, though, of necessity,
the feet tend to be touching sometimes. Ventilation up front, being faced into the wind most of the time at anchor,
is the best in that cabin. Better yet, it's got an 8" Tempur-Pedic mattress, described by many of our guests as the
best sleeping they've ever encountered, including having back pain disappear. Secondary accommodations, for times
when it might be too rough for comfort (the front of the boat moves the most, in all motion-sensitive conditions)
are in the saloon, what boat people call their family room/dining room/living room, in a pull-out double (48"x79"
and tapering to less at the foot). This is the best place for sleeping in rough conditions, as it's nearly in the
center of the boat, and has the least motion of any space aboard.
5: Bathroom and shower space is combined. Nearly everything on a boat which is expected to get water in it is waterproof,
so the marine toilet and sink occupy the shower space as well. As it's "imported"/stored water, see #3 above for reference,
fresh water showers are rare, so getting the "rest" of the space wet usually isn't of any issue, and when it IS used for
showering, a squeegie and washcloth make all dry again. Being a marine head, it's got a smaller than household seat,
and there are some issues about its use which are different from at home, which will be discussed in
"What Might I Not Like About Life Aboard Flying Pig?" below.
6: Refrigerator and freezer space is limited, and uses the power we so jealously conserve. Accordingly, the amount of
food which can be stored is less than at home. Likewise, as it's not a household refrigerator/freezer, with its unlimited
power supply and auto-defrost mechanisms, openings are limited to as few as possible. That said, cold stuff stays very cold,
and frozen stuff stays hard frozen.
7: "Closet" space is a misnomer. Every boat has challenges with storage, of every sort, and, aside from the VEE, every
otherwise-hanging space has been converted into shelves-type storage aboard. While there IS a closet in the VEE, storing
typical checked hard luggage is nearly impossible, unless you want to sleep with it. So, soft luggage which can be rolled,
stuffed, compressed, or otherwise compacted into flexible spaces is the order of the day.
8: For many reasons, we don't have a washer and dryer aboard, though some do. Therefore, you can't just dump in a load and retrieve
your clean laundry in a while. Pretty much, what you bring goes back dirty with you.
9: Space aboard, while generous for most sailboats, is very much less than landside living spaces. "Excuse me" because
you need to get by someone while going from "here" to "there" aboard is common. Nevertheless, our home was designed originally
as a charter boat, and in its original configuration, could manage 11 people for sleeping (5 of those spaces have been
converted to other uses, now) and meals. Still, spaces are sometimes close for those accustomed to multi-digit feet
distances between them and other objects or people.
10: Because of #s 1, 4 and 9, not only will it make your life easier, but, under way, safer, if everything not in active
use is stored and secured. If you trip over it, or, worse, it flies off where ever it was put and hits you, it's a safety
hazard to have stuff lying out in the open. That means we'll be "neat nazis" about stuff left out when it's not being used.
11: We have neither TV nor broadband internet connectivity aboard, though we frequently will have an excellent connection
to the internet. Therefore, there's none of the shoreside mind-numbers available.
So, that's about it for the major differences from shore to our home.
What Might I Not Like About Life Aboard Flying Pig?
1: Everything's more expensive than it is at home. That's because everything must be flown in, boated in, or hand-carried,
many times all three, to get it from - for example, the US or Europe or elsewhere - source to destination. In addition,
most countries have no tax on purchases of any sort, so duties are added to everything which comes in. That makes it
difficult - usually impossible - for merchants of all descriptions to provide the variety, freshness, and affordability
that most Americans take for granted. Generally speaking, you can expect, WHEN IT'S AVAILABLE, that food, gasoline,
clothing, marine supplies, repair parts, souvenirs, yada, yada, will cost a minimum of half again to as much as triple
what you'd find stateside.
2: Food, in general: Because of #1, as much as possible, we bring what we can. As we don't expect to be in the US again
with our home (though we may visit from time to time via air transport, provisioning by carrying-back stuff is either
impractical or impossible), eventually even what we have brought will be used up. However, things that do well with
long-term storage and take up a minimum of space are basic staples to life aboard. Thus, fresh vegetables (see above
about availability and cost), most meats (ditto), and some other foodstuffs taken for granted at home are many times
unavailable, frequently unstorable, and, always, much more expensive. So, we do lots of pasta, legumes, rice and the like,
along with PBJs. In the proper conditions (cooler weather, calm seas), we bake fresh bread. Milk is made from freeze-dried;
we enjoy it, but you may not. Soft drinks, OJ, beer and other commercial beverages, when available, are cold, but we can't
carry very much stock; we drink mostly water or lemonade/Gatorade made from lemon juice/Gatorade powder and water.
When we succeed at it (not nearly as often as we'd like) we very much enjoy fresh (like, swimming an hour ago) fish, conch
or other shellfish when we can find it, and the Caribbean equivalent of lobster (no claws). In any event, likely our diet
will not be what you're accustomed to at home. While we don't ask our guests to contribute to our costs of having them here,
we also don't change our lifestyles to accommodate their preferences. Some of our guests prefer to provision (stock up on food
for the voyage) to their taste on arrival, and we'll then eat what it is they've provided, or to take us out to meals ashore,
but it's not required other than to suit your preferences. We can eat what we normally do, or you can change that to suit your
preferences. See #1 for impact :)
3: Because fresh water is at such a premium both in amount we can carry, availability/difficulty of transport and/or cost,
we normally bathe in the sea. We have salt-water friendly soap which lathers and rinses well in salt water, and we've found
that if you dry immediately after getting out from your rinse, you don't get the salt stickies/residue from the salt water.
We reserve those towels for salt water use.
4: Similarly, we wash and rinse our dishes/cooking utensils in salt water (we have a salt water tap in the kitchen sink),
then rinse with fresh. They get clean, and are rinsed, but it takes an additional step. Ditto for handwashing (cleaning your
hands, that is!). In addition, generally speaking, if there's not something under the water stream being either filled or
rinsed, we'll want you to close the faucet. However, re: #s 3 and 4, we do carry a substantial amount of fresh water,
and in areas where there is a ready and easy (at a cost, usually) supply, where, when we run out (it always does, eventually)
it can be simply refilled, if our guests want to provide it, we alter our salt-water bathing/fresh-water use to as-you-like.
5: Electricity has to be made, and the storage (huge battery bank) we have available, while ample under careful management,
is finite. If the sun's not brilliant (we have solar panels) and the wind piping (wind generator), we sometimes have to run a
small portable generator to replenish our electricity. In addition to the cost and noise of that generation, if the batteries
run down too much before recharging, they're damaged. To limit the amount of electricity needed, nearly all the lighting aboard
is either high-efficiency fluorescent or LED spot-lighting. You may not enjoy those lighting levels. In addition, we limit
electricity use to only as-needed. If you're not sitting under it, we'll want you to turn off the light, for example. Sort
of like your parents' "Turn the light off when you leave the room" on steroids.
6: Limited space makes for strange bedfellows, so to speak. In addtion, the foregoing may be a bit like camping for some
folks - similar, perhaps to RV'ing, other than the limitation that you can't just walk out the door and go someplace
else - and if you're not accustomed to it, it can be challenging. Physical, mental and noise space is limited. You may
find that uncomfortable. That said, you have your own cabin, and, in settled weather, lots of space on deck or on the
platform at the stern of the boat, so you CAN "get away" from others.
7: While there's not the always-on TV noise and distractions of the typical shore life home, there are other noises present
aboard. While we do what we can to minimize it, "halyard slap" (a line hitting the mast, making a noise), wind, sometimes,
the aforementioned generator and other boat-related and unfamiliar noises are pretty much a fact of life. None of these,
other than to active cruisers, are likely to be something you're accustomed to.
8: Most of the time, whether you have and bring a cell phone, you'll not be able to pick up the phone and call someone at
your whim (or get the calls you're accustomed to receiving, of course). That's because of international differences and the
fact that we may be (usually) nowhere near a cell connection point. We have a state-of-the-art Wi-Fi system aboard Flying Pig
and are not usually without internet connectivity, even, many times, while we're under way. However, sometimes the quality,
consistency and continuity (always there) is of the third world, which is basically where we are when we're cruising. When
we have an excellent internet connection AND there aren't a pile of people already using it AND that connection has a good
supply of bandwidth, our Vonage internet telephone service does allow calling anywhere in the US, Canada, UK and 4 other
European countries (and anywhere to call us) at no additional charge to our basic service. However, the foregoing conditions make
it such that those opportunities are limited. If you're accustomed to being constantly connected via voice, you'll find that
a distinct limitation.
9: We have a very small hand washer, capable of several T-shirts, to give you an idea of size, but, at that, rarely use it
due to water storage and availability considerations. Because laundry isn't available on board, and, when available (only
sometimes!) ashore, is not only inconvenient but expensive, we ask our guests to bring their own linens - sheets, towels,
pillowcases and, sometimes, their own pillows, in addition to their own clothing, of course. That allows us not to have to
find a way to clean them when they leave. However, see # 3 above; eventually, bedding will have some salt residue accumulation,
sometimes just from the salt air, let alone your own bodies, and therefore it won't be the same as freshly laundered.
If that's a problem for you, you'll have to bring a change of linens to meet your comfort standards, most likely.
10: Related to #9, and just generally, as it's our preference, as we're predominantly in very warm (not uncomfortably so)
climates, we tend to wear very little clothing, not only for comfort but for laundry considerations. Worse, Skip's and Lydia's
preferred bathing suits are bikini-style. Skip's gotten a new wardrobe of less-revealing bikinis, but, they're still
bikinis - just as you'll find the dominant swimwear for men in European countries (you could google Euro beach sites for
reference, if you're not familiar with the type). Lydia's aren't thong/string style, either, but they are bikini bottoms
and tops. If you're uncomfortable with exposed skin, and/or form-fitting swimwear for either or both of us, you're likely to
be uncomfortable aboard.
11: Being a boat, motion is a fact of life. Sometimes that motion can be uncomfortable if you're not accustomed to it.
Seasickness, in its severe forms, is a condition in which most folks first are afraid they might die, and then afraid
they might NOT die :) We have very effective seasickness prevention medication aboard, and taken early, usually mitigates
any effects. However, in REALLY severe weather, even the most seasoned sailors sometimes suffer the mal-de-mer. It will pass.
However, if you're prone to seasickness, you may find life aboard uncomfortable at times.
12: If you're not an active cruiser, marine toilets ("heads") can be both a mystery and a nuisance. Not only is the seat
smaller (altogether round, too), unlike at home, where you just push the lever, it goes away, and the municipal
supply refills it, here, you have to work at sanitation. Sea water has to be pumped into the bowl which was previously
pumped dry (see below), using a lever. Anything in the toilet is moved out via the same pump. However, unlike ashore,
it's not only a measly 1.5" instead of 4" like home sanitation , it has to go through some interesting bends and devices
designed to keep the waste from returning to the toilet. More pumping :) and whatever it was which goes down there has to
come from something you ate and toilet paper. Anything else won't fit and will jam up the works - and if it was you who
jammed it up, we'll show you how to rebuild the toilet (take the pump mechanism apart to free whatever is caught - with it
and any other substances unavoidably coming out into the shower/toilet area - you probably get the picture on why
you'll want to avoid that!) so it will work again. Worse, because an innate feature of combined salt water and urine
is to create scale if it sits anywhere for any length of time, a major rinse is done to keep the pipes from scale accumulation,
reducing the likelihood of diminishing from their already-small size (more pumping). And, finally, to empty the pipe of
all that rinse water, where it goes above the waterline (the rest goes down from there, but you wouldn't want the sea to
make back pressure on the line), more pumps of just air (not letting back in the seawater which does the flushing).
You'll develop muscles you didn't know you had in this process (it's not difficult, but very repetitive).
13: Our time ashore is nearly all afoot and looky-loo. That is, we don't do tours, rent cars, pay for museums, and the like.
There's lots to see and do without cash expenditures, so we don't, in light of our budget. If your idea of cruising is marinas,
tours, maybe hotels, dinners out/pub-bar entertainment and the like, we're happy to join you as your guests :) - but we don't need it.
If all that doesn't put you off, I'm sure you'll enjoy your time with us.
What will I do aboard?
Life aboard Flying Pig is greatly determined by the weather, so:
1: Weather permitting and location-appropriate, we love to dive/snorkel and, where available, forage underwater
for food (gather shellfish/spear fish/lobster). Bring your flippers and mask/snorkel if that appeals to you also.
You might also like having an underwater camera, if you have one; we do, and will share, if you don't. Many places
have stunning photo-ops. Swimming, usually in gin-clear water, too, if that's your thing.
2: Getting from one place to another is usually by sailing (we are, after all, a SAILboat). However, sometimes,
we'll either motorsail, or just motor our way from one point to the next. We much prefer not to have our propulsion
motor going, not only for the noise, but for the cost, and, mostly, because sailing's a lot more fun. If you like,
you'll help with all that's associated with that, or you can just watch. If you want, we'll teach you about the
many different "ropes" (all named something else aboard) and what they do - along with how they control stuff, and
how to recognize when things are set correctly or for best performance, navigation, anchoring, reading the water,
weather, the various instruments aboard, radio communications and the like. Generally speaking, we won't be
under way if conditions are "difficult" to your comfort level, unless you've joined us specifically for a passage,
in which case, we take what's delivered; unavoidably that sometimes includes nasty weather or water or both.
3: Once "there" we usually like to explore ashore. Whether that's just beachcombing, sightseeing (local attractions - artists,
sculptors, lighthouses, wildlife), walking (beaches, wilderness, little towns along the way, and their architecture and shops),
or anything else unusual.
4: Read. Bring paperback books. There's lots of down time, particularly if you're not interested in helping or learning
about the transit-related stuff. If the weather stinks, we're largely cooped up aboard. If it's just blowing like stink,
as they say on the water, if the dinghy ride isn't too daunting (distance, water conditions), we can go ashore, but
otherwise, we can read in such conditions. You may want to bring something waterproof, like a windbreaker, for wet
transits or times when we might be in rain conditions.
5: Cook, if you like. We have a propane grill, propane stove and oven, all of which are reasonably close in behavior
to those ashore. We also have a reasonable assortment of the usual hardware associated with those activities.
If you like to cook or bake, we're happy to have you do so. If not, we're happy, of course, to do that. However,
sharing in the cleanup chores is appreciated (see above about seawater washing/rinsing, and modifications to
that plan based on water realities).
6: Go rowing, if you like. We have a PortaBote, in addition to our inflatable, which has dinghy oars as well
as actual sculling sweeps (10' oars I used to use in my rowing shell on Lake Lanier) which go in the modification I did to that boat.
7: Go exploring on your own. Same PortaBote, we have a second outboard engine suited to that dinghy, and it
will readily plane 2 for quick transit.
Back to weather considerations, we usually recommend more than a week with us, as you could be totally shut
out of recreational (other than, perhaps, sailing) activties if the weather was wrong. We've learned that 10-12 days is ideal,
and best if done when we're already somewhere that we have scouted for the best "entertainment" activities, so that
time doesn't interfere with your enjoyment.
What should I bring?
1: As above, linens. We suggest about three changes of clothing (unless you want to be bathing-suited most
of the time, as we are) plus, perhaps, extra underwear, and at least two bathing suits (one on the line, drying,
the other to wear). Something to keep you dry if things get messy weatherwise, as in #2 in "What will I do aboard?".
Mostly, other than coming from a very cold climate, and you need something for your return, you won't need much
in the way of "warm" clothing, because we're mostly in warm areas. Sometimes it might get to 50 degrees F, but that's rare.
Life aboard isn't very different from camping in regard to clothing, otherwise.
2: Snorkeling gear to suit, if you want to do that. We have several spare pairs of flippers and a few masks and
snorkels available aboard, but can't guarantee that they'd fit you. If you're experienced, already, likely you have
something you'd prefer, in any event. Those items will generally live in the dinghy until you leave, so it's not a
space issue once you're aboard.
3: Books to suit you. We have a fairly extensive library aboard, but it may not all appeal to you. Our books
are mystery, marine (about boating) and classical ("great literature") in nature. For both this and #1, we have
bins to store stuff, as well as the closet, in your cabin. However, you should bring any "stuff" in soft luggage
which can be compressed or otherwise made to fit in unusually shaped space so as to reserve as much as possible
for your stuff you want out of the soft luggage. Generally speaking, something which would travel as carry-on
luggage on the airline, for each of you, will easily fit in the space you have available to you. And, just to
relieve your mind somewhat, while duffels are certainly the preference, the closet is substantial and will
easily handle a wheeled pull-behind.
4: Money to suit your lifestyle as relates to stuff to buy, of any sort. Your time aboard is "on us" as above,
but you may wish to buy stuff to take home, do any ashore-adventure stuff other than our walkabouts mentioned, and the like.
5: Camera(s) - surface and underwater, if you have them. We can download any digital images you have for backup, if you like.
6: Laptop(s) if you simply can't be without them. When we have internet connectivity, we have a router aboard
which will give you access. We turn off the AC power (like at-home plugs - we're not ENTIRELY backwoods) when we
aren't using the computers, but you can keep your batteries up. Likewise, if you use rechargeable batteries in
your phone/camera/whatever, we have the power available when we're running the computer, as Skip's screen requires AC.
7: Various items we might have to ask you to buy for us, which we'll of course pay you for, because they're either
not available where we are, or exhorbitantly costly, or are emergency parts.
That's about it. If you're still motivated, we look forward to having you aboard!
I'd love to see a whale from my boat: image
"A perpetual holiday is a good working definition of Hell"
-- George Bernard Shaw
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