The Cruising Life

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We lived aboard for long enough for me to think I gained some idea of what the cruising life is all about. Before we cut the land cord, I'd read many books written by cruisers, and had an intellectual appreciation for how it might be. I'd also done some camping, and knew how that was. But... each cruiser's perspective is so dependent on personality and expectations that the subjective emotional encounter with a permanent cruising lifestyle has to come first hand. Descriptions are rarely found in ink. Here's how I found it--recognizing it was spread over only 4 years, 7,000 nautical miles, 18 countries, and nearly all in warm climates. In a nutshell, it was not easy, and in many ways much different than I imagined.



Table of Contents for this Article
1. Moving Aboard 2. Daily Routine 3. Emotions & Spirituality
4. Social Life 5. Relationships 6. Boat Work
7. Comfort 8. Leisure Time 9. Business Matters
10. Safety & Security 11. Swallowing the Hook  

1. Moving Aboard

          A description of how we made the transition from wannabe cruisers to liveaboards is written on this web site elsewhere, and I refer you to that essay. There you can find out where the cruising dream came from, how we chose Callipygia, and how we got ready for offshore cruising, and did our shakedown cruise.

          Once we made the decision to cut loose, initially it was very hard to think about getting rid of most of our belongings--of which we had a lot, a complete big houseful. At first, I wanted to put it all in storage so that we'd still to be able to go back and have our house exactly the way it had been. But, quickly, it was obvious that was going to be very expensive, and the chances were we wouldn't go back to the same house even if we rented it while we were gone. So I bit the bullet and we gave some paintings and our musical instruments to friends to "babysit", boxed up some books and kitchenware, gave what we could to friends and family, and put the rest in an estate sale. It turned out to be quite a relief to be stuff-free--except for what we needed for the boat. It was a bit like settling our estate, because as well as getting rid of our stuff, we had to put all our finances and papers in order, redo our wills, and make sure our kids had instructions of what to do if..... It was a lot of effort, but we had simplified our lives--and unburdened ourselves hugely in the process. The simplicity is a major part of the attraction of the cruising life for me.

          As the time approached to move aboard, and then leave the dock to sally forth into the wide blue yonder, there were lists of details to be taken care of, and goodbyes to be said. We held an "Open Boat" one Sunday afternoon, and invited friends to come see us "At Home" in our marina slip. We ate goodbye dinners, and hugged a lot. Since initially our plans were small, to go first to Florida, then the Bahamas, and fly back home after 6 months, we eased our way out without cutting all our roots. Since then, we went home for a few months during each hurricane season--I had no desire to cut all my ties. I did that once, 40 years ago when I emigrated from Scotland. Couldn't do it again.

 

2. Daily Routine

          We developed some routines, one for being at anchor (the majority of time), one for underway, and one for those rarer times in a marina or on the hard. I experienced the same difficulty I faced as a new parent here, because as soon as we got settled into a routine, then things changed and we moved on. So it was constant adjustment, within a general framework of a few routines. Our cruising statistics show how our time was divided between anchoring, passage-making, etc. And, please note that our experience was only in the US summer or the Caribbean–all warm weather climates.

          Typical Day At Anchor. Get up early (5am or earlier) and I check e-mail over the radio while Bill makes coffee–2 mugs, plus a thermos for refills. Then up into the cockpit with our coffee, to enjoy the dawn. Around 6:30am I log the weather conditions and begin a couple of hours of listening to/checking in on radio nets. While this is going on I may update the Ships Log for the web site, work on an essay, do some paperwork if the mail recently arrived, read some cruising guides/pilots for navigation advice related to passages we're planning. Bill is a breakfast person so he cooks breakfast–which I sometimes eat, or else I have something small like a banana or orange. Around 9:00am, I like to start working on some boat chores, and keep that up for a couple of hours. Sometimes, however, this doesn't happen and we do a lot of nothing–then I get really fed up because the boat starts to look tacky. I find I'm not willing to work on the boat by myself, and if Bill isn't in the mood for doing anything, then I lapse into doing nothing too–and that's when I get the most fed up with this lifestyle. At some point during the day we check the boat is OK (batteries, bilges, ground tackle), and get in the dinghy and go ashore--to explore, shower (where possible), provision, do errands, go on the Internet, maybe eat lunch out. Along the way we may stop by another boat or so, to say hello or just be sociable. The lovely drop-in habit that has mostly died ashore is alive and kicking among cruisers, which makes it easy to meet people. Back to the boat in the afternoon, to nap or read, or otherwise relax. At some point we run the engine for an hour to charge the batteries and refrigerator as needed. I'll swim (when possible), shower, or take a bucket bath–or just skip it. Sometimes entertain or visit with people from another boat for a light Happy Hour around 4pm. Sit in the cockpit again to watch the sunset. Play cribbage, read, play music, talk for a while, brush teeth, and I go to bed usually around 8pm. Bill usually stays up longer. Some days we work on boat issues for most of the day, and then take a day or two "off". Or we may play tourist by renting a car, bikes, or take the bus to get farther afield than we can walk. A few times I've found an opportunity to volunteer to help a local project or group--I'd like to do more of that. If we're at the same anchor spot for more than a couple of weeks, I begin to feel trapped–antsy to be able to walk when I feel like it, or move on. A boat version of cabin fever.

          Marinas. It's hard to do major boat projects at anchor, because for some you need a lot of fresh water, or power, and you can't remove or service the ground tackle, fold the sails, or do certain engine work. Sometimes it's quite rolly at anchor, and hard to work below. And, it's hard to get motivated when you can sit in the cockpit and admire the view, go for a swim, or otherwise laze around. So when the todo list gets long, or we know we have to wait around for some reason (visitors usually, occasionally weather) we go into a marina for a few weeks where it's easier to get serious about boat work. The daily rate often drops dramatically if you stay more than a week. Lately, we've gone into a marina like this once or twice a year. Marinas have showers, water and electricity are on the dock, and we can stretch our legs whenever we want. Marina life is a bit noisier, less private, and the ambience in the cockpit at dawn and dusk isn't nearly so appealing as at anchor. There's no swimming. It also costs money, and there are usually money-seeking traps (restaurants, stores, markets) nearby. But from time to time it's a nice break, and it's very nice to have showers at will, flush toilets, and get power without having to crank up the engine. It's also wonderful to be able to go for a walk when you feel like it, or do the morning exercises on a large stable surface. In a marina, I let go of the morning email and radio net routine, instead checking weather and email on the Internet every other day. If there's any possibility of adverse weather, however, I still listen to forecasts on the radio once or more each day. You can get seriously hammered in a marina by high winds--that happened to us in Marsh Harbour in the Bahamas. Mostly I keep my nose to the grindstone on boat projects while we're in a marina, unless we have guests. Usually I enjoy it, and get a lot of satisfaction from the work, especially when we conquer a thorny problem that's been hanging around for a while.

          Passages. Our many offshore passages each lasted not more than a couple of nights where you can't really get into much of a routine. Our one ocean passage lasted 9 days, but things didn't change much. Mostly passage-making means taking turns on watch, getting food ready, or napping/ resting, and that's about it. For our single overnights, we made sandwiches or other hand food ahead of time, filled thermoses with hot water, and stowed everything tight--on deck and below. We used a departure checklist to remind us of what we had to do. Underway, whoever's on watch fills out the log, and keeps a lookout--for traffic, fishpots, and other hazards. Obviously, we keep a close eye on where we are so we don't drift onto a reef. If we're offshore and doing an overnight, the off watch usually goes below and tries to sleep. If we're motor-sailing, we turn the radar on. If we're not, we turn it on if we need to for ship crossings, or squalls. When he's off watch, Bill does pretty well at falling asleep easily, but I mostly can't so usually the best I can do is rest and doze a bit. I'm constantly aware of the boat and on alert for changes in motion, wind, or engine noise.

          Home Visits. We were fortunate to be able to leave the boat for 2-3 months each year and make an annual Home Visit. It's a big job to get the boat ready to be left, and to settle in after our return. But it is wonderful to have serious quality time with our kids/grandkids, siblings, and dearest friends. Because we try to charge as much as possible on our credit cards, we've accumulated a fair number of airline miles–so we've been able to afford a lot of flying around. Our Home Visit helped us notice the contrasts with our cruising life, and reminded us of what it would be like if we decided to swallow the hook and move back ashore. On the Home Visit, I volunteered for a week or two at the place where I last worked (Covenant House). I wanted make a contribution as best I can to a worthy cause, to keep in touch, and be reminded what it's like to have a regular job and to commute. Other than that, so far my major Home Visit projects have been first to create, then upgrade, this website.

          It sounds like one grand vacation–and sometimes it felt like it. But mostly it was like a lot of hard work interspersed with being a tourist and/or being bored. But there were those wonderful times sitting in the cockpit, breezing along under full sail at 7 knots, or watching the dawn and dusk at anchor. Sometimes I got tired of the work, or being a tourist, and I never liked being bored. When I got in a slump (usually never for more than a day or maybe two), I asked myself why keep on doing it? A good question–but increasingly the answer was, because I can't think of any other way I'd rather live. So shut up, and quitcher bitchin Pat.

          What I most missed from my shore life were a few of the daily rituals (getting up early and doing laps in the pool or running, regular workouts and exercises, a yoga class, seeing and/or entertaining friends regularly, and talking on the phone to kids/grandkids). I missed being able to walk out the door at will. I missed the garden's dirt, and watching plants grow day by day. I didn't miss having a car, traffic, television, newspapers, telephones, house cleaning (not much different from boat cleaning), shopping, bulk mail, cutting grass, shoveling snow, or a "9-5" job. We are very lucky to have enough retirement income that we don't have to worry all the time about money. We are truly blessed to be able to live this way.

 

3. Emotions and Spirituality

          The emotional impact of a taking up a cruising lifestyle has been huge for me. This is one of my most major life adjustments–as big a change as getting married, emigrating, divorcing, or having kids. Naturally, my emotions reflect my personality. Probably the biggest difference in my emotional life is that I am much more confronted by--hence more aware of--my feelings than before I took up cruising. I notice and think about them--and now I do better at owning them rather than them owning me.

          In some ways, the cruising life was, for me, one big emotional movie–with highs and lows, and not much in betweens. (Or is that just life, dumdum?) I got great pleasure in living so closely in touch with nature. I had many fears and anxieties associated with being so much under control of nature's hand. I constantly struggled to figure out "Why am I doing this–in the grand scheme of things, what is my purpose?" It was a battle to keep motivated and maintain a healthy exercise, eating, and hygiene routine. Most of the time I had to be alert and pay attention to my intuition, and listen to the boat. And more than a few times, this saved us from serious trouble. I got anxious and tense before every passage, and worried about what might go wrong and whether we'd be able to cope with emergencies. My body was always poised to move into "fight or flight". I sometimes got frustrated because I couldn't do or have what I wanted--so I had to adjust my attitude, and let go. I got exhilarated when we're sailing along in a good breeze at a good speed, or dolphins came say hello, or a new kind of bird went by, or fish swam under us at anchor, or I could see a million stars at night because there were no shore lights. I got really bored when it was so hot I lost my motivation to do anything. I felt proud of my level of competence/knowledge regarding boat matters, and the skills I acquired since we moved aboard

          Moving around from place to place, and living essentially in the open, my awareness ripened to help me see what life is like for people in different cultures and who have access to a different set and level of resources. I found myself in places where people didn't understand what I said, and where I didn't know how to get from A to B. I knew what it felt like to be a foreigner, and saw what it's like to live in a third world, with little in the way of security or material possessions. I learned how few people have what I as a middle class American took for granted. I learned how myopic, short-sighted, and chauvinistic is the general viewpoint of world affairs from the US.

          I had time to sit in the cockpit, and just be. I was in complete awe of the beauty and vastness of each day's dawn and dusk, the miracle of the sun's regularity. I noticed and had time to reflect on the simple state of being alive. I realized that what I take for granted is not my due but rather a fortunate happenstance of birth. The earth owes me nothing but the opportunity to live briefly off its bounty, and to pass my genes and my values on to another generation. I see how we humans invent our own reality, but that is all it is–an invention. We constantly seek meaning. We make it up for ourselves–and then fool ourselves into thinking what we've made up is real. We think we can control what happens to us–but the truth is, it is all a mirage. Not much is certain, or can be predicted. We are born, we live briefly, we procreate, and we die. We are no different from anything else. If we're lucky, we are comfortable for most of our brief lifetime. The thing we have most to to fear is human behavior–we kill, rob, and terrorize each other with frightening intensity. We ravage the environment, and are oblivious to the suffering of most of our species–and of other species. We ignore the lessons of history, and keep on making the same mistakes, over and over.

          Living on a sailboat, I was confronted immediately (or at least soon) with the consequences of my actions. If I didn't pay attention to maintenance, weather, navigation, etc., bad things could happen. I couldn't hide from all the garbage I produced–no one came to take it away. I had to find an appropriate place to dispose of it, or else it will sully the boat, the water, and the land we walk on. When I shit and pumped out the head, if I looked overboard I could see the detritis I produced minced up and floating on the water. No-one is hiding or treating it. There is a very limited supply of water and electricity, and we had to do something (with mostly a lot of effort) to produce the minimal supply that we had. Tomorrow shows up with incredible regularity. Except when docked in a marina, I had always to stay partly on alert. When I slept, I kept half an ear open. I had to notice what's happening with the weather, on the water, with the boat. If I didn't we might sink, drag anchor, be hit by another boat, or boarded by an impoverished and desparate local who saw us as incredibly wealthy. I noticed small noises, and changes in noise levels. If I woke at night, and something seems different–my sailor's intuition drove me out of bed to check–on the wind, the anchor, the bilges, the rigging, the dinghy, the distant beach music. Every noise and odor has a source, and an implication, it must be tracked down. This is how primitive man lived–somewhat. I am more in touch with my roots. I know that I will die, and I'm ready for when it happens. I want to be alert and notice it happening, but I don't want to suffer unduly. I'm aware of how much I love Bill, my kids, my grandkids, and my far-away brother. I feel a rush of affection and wonder every time I see a child.

          In my landlife, on the other hand, I ignored the obvious consequences of the way I lived, and blindly assumed they would be taken care of (by whom?)–to what I see now as our now obvious collective peril. Even so, sometimes I longed to be back home (wherever that may be) in my comfortable middle class life, and able to relax in my old life of privilege, oblivious to the fruits of my way of living.

 

4. Social Life

          Social life is much different than on shore. Living on land (even though I moved several times), working at a regular job, going to the same stores, doctors, service providers, I got to know some neighbors and colleagues, made friends--some close-- and was well acquainted with any number of people. My social interactions were plenty and frequent--according to the amount of effort I put into meeting my social needs. In the cruising lifestyle, however, the people around us were constantly changing. It's easy to meet people, cruisers are a friendly lot. On shore, too, most locals are welcoming. But since we rarely stayed in the same place more than a few weeks, and normally traveled on our own, we had a gazillion acquaintances and very few real friends. We found a very small handful of other boaters with whom we shared common interests and values, and consider friends. We saw them from time to time, if we both happened to be in the same place at the same time. But it's an itinerant lifestyle, and demands self-sufficiency. Some cruisers stay months in the same place, party together frequently, develop group routines (dominos, beach games). We were more introverted, and didn't do that. We did share an occasional afternoon Happy Hour with cruisers we met, and we made an effort to meet some new people at every stop. But that's about it.

          Sometimes it got lonely, just the two of us, and often we missed our friends and family. Email was a godsend, and our morning routine to collect email via the short-wave radio on rising set a tone for the day. If we had no messages, it was a bit of a downer. Two days in a row, and we were sure everyone had forgotten us. Or we were up because we had half a dozen, and felt good that we were being remembered. I created this web site so our friends and family would know how/where we were--but we had no equivalent vehicle to find out about them, other than the emails they sent. Occasionally we were somewhere that we could "phone home" from, but those chances were infrequent--and no-one could call us back, if we missed them.

          Occasionally we had friends or family visit us on board, which was a treat. Then there was real quality time together, and it's fun to watch them be intrigued with the boat and our lifestyle. Those times were pretty rare, but when they come they were rich and packed with connecting. We treasured them.

          Radio nets turned out to be an important social support. I'm glad I struggled to get my ham license, and became a dedicated listener and checker-in on some of the ham nets (some would say I was radioactive). Over time, I got warm fuzzies from knowing (by voice) the net control, and having my call sign bring forth recognition of my name. I loved it when I could talk on the radio to one of our faraway boatfriends. We listened to the news from all over the world, and in some measure kept up with what's happening--although often with a different spin than CNN gave. We spent more on our radio equipment than we budgeted, but it was worth every penny.

 

5. Relationship

          In a small space where two people are together 24/7, the relationship between them is crucial. The cruising life founders on the same things as land life: relationships and money. Here's how I see our interaction–Bill may see it differently, but he's read this and I gave him the opportunity to add/change what I've written, so I assume he concurs.

          We get along rather well, I think, only rarely getting into a real conflict. I tend to be proactive, initiating things, practicing "what if's", and focusing on prevention–I'm also pretty assertive. Bill tends to be more passive, and sometimes prefers to wait and see what happens. Bill does much better with open time than I do and doesn't get as bothered as me when the boat gets a bit messy or dirty. I get very bored and frustrated if I don't have a project to work on, or when the boat's a mess--whereas Bill has a healthy indifference to minor disorder and dirt, and seems to be OK relaxing by reading novels or playing solitaire.

          There seem to be two primary places where we get into trouble. One is over some boat issue where I give Bill direction or override his opinion and then he feels put down. The other is when I want to take a precaution that Bill feels is unnecessary. Because I'm the one with more sailing and boating expertise, I am the captain regarding boat matters. Bill is the captain when we step onto land and deal with port, customs, immigration, or marina officials. We work on our relationship, recognizing and appreciating each other's strengths, and recognizing the importance of having a designated captain when its needed. I work on being sensitive about how I step in and out of my boat captain role. We've improved our ability to be accepting of each others differences. We discuss these, often with humor, and help each other learn about ourselves with (mostly) sensitive feedback. We are interested in many of the same things, and share the same philosophy and values. We are very companionable in our philosophical discussions, joking about life, playing cribbage, sometimes making music, guitar and/or recorder, and we generally give each other good emotional support and learn a lot from each other. For the most part we're able to have the space we need and it is rare that one feels the need to get away from the other. Our relationship is based more on loving friendship than hormones, though it's nice when they erupt. We get upset with each other on occasion, but we're rarely at odds for more than a few moments.

          Life on a boat forces you to confront yourself and deal with yourself. There's no where else to go. You have the time to observe and reflect on your own behavior and feelings about life and from your relationship, and hopefully to learn from that reflection. In spite of preferring to be a "doer", I still have plenty of downtime (usually more than I want)–especially in the hot and humid climate we experienced. If something is bothering me, I've learned by now that it's my problem and I need to adjust my attitude and/or talk it through together.

 

6. Boat Work

          Learning all one needs to know to cruise successfully requires full time study and application. It's like being in graduate school. While living aboard I was a serious student of weather, navigation, radio, radar, web site development--and Spanish--not to mention seamanship, sailing theory, engines, electrical matters, fibreglass care and construction, rigging, knots and splicing, plumbing, ground tackle, astronomy, history, birds, and and philosophy. I read and re-read textbooks on these matters. I wrote about what I learned. I had fun applying my knowledge on the boat and on our passages. I learned to snorkel, and took an introductory scuba diving course. There's no end to what I could learn--good thing, because that's my primary hobby--learning new stuff.

          Care of the boat (Bill calls it the tyranny of maintenance) dominated our lives. I'm cautious by nature, and focus on preventive maintenance--I dread emergencies (although practicing--at least mentally--what to do if.....) I keep on top of the maintenance schedule, and badger Bill if he gets behind. The engine and plumbing need regular (usually inconvenient) attention. Keeping the boat clean and bright takes a lot of work. Constant attention to rust spots on the deck metal, and touching up the deck woodwork. Scrubbing the deck. Scrubbing the cockpit. Daily checks of the rigging, the ground tackle. Polishing my observation skills so as to notice something that needs attention before it becomes a problem. Below, its a battle between order and chaos. Such a small space, only a few things out of their stowage space, and the place gets overwhelmed. Working on projects means tearing everything up below for a while, then putting it back in order. Stowage is a big deal. Sweet Callipygia had terrific stowage space--which we filled. Maintaining the inventory of what's stowed where is work, but essential. Even after 4 years, I can remember a lot of what was where, but other things--rarely used--I turned to the list. Pulling something out means unpacking a locker, lifting up the bed or seat cushions, crawling into the engine room, and moving everything out that's in front of the item I want. Then putting it all back together--and updating the inventory if I moved stuff around. Takes 30 minutes to get the tools to do a 5-minute job sometimes. Then another 30 minutes to put it away. Seems like.

          We made a reasonable division of labor as follows. We take days about being responsible for meals, and whoever cooks also cleans up. That means we each get alternate days off--this is really important to me. On many boats, the female is a galley slave. Bill takes the lead in care of the engine, electrical stuff, the dinghy and outboard, and the plumbing. He goes up the mast. On those matters I help and consult as needed. We share the work of caring for the sails, rigging, and bottom. We both do passage planning and navigation. I have the lead for deck metal/teak care, cleaning cockpit, deck, topsides, and housework below, including laundry. I take the lead for the weather and radio stuff, safety equipment, health matters, and maintain the lists, order the charts, cruising guides, boat supplies, etc. that we're going to need, and organize the provisioning. I keep on top of the stowage, deal with paperwork and taxes, and make sure the bills are paid. For all of these I get help and advice from Bill as needed. We consult about what we're doing all the time--how can you not in such a small space? Mostly it works out just fine. It's a full time job some of the time--so much for this permanent vacation stuff!

 

7. Comfort

          Before we went cruising I took bodily comfort for granted–and never even noticed that I was doing so. Cool sheets stayed tight on the mattress. I could shower whenever I wanted, or use the toilet at will–always with an ample supply of soft toilet paper. I had a climate-controlled house, workspace, and car to keep me comfortable regardless of the outside temperature. I turned knobs, switches, and other gadgets to produce whatever cooking conveniences, laundering or other comforts I desired. I could take an endless hot shower if I felt like it--or even a hot bath. I stored an abundance of food and drink in a large refrigerator. A flush toilet was near wherever I went. Shops abounded with all the foodstuffs, clothing, hardware, and footware I needed or wanted, and my wallet provided the wherewithall to buy them. When I felt sick, I could buy whatever medications I thought I needed–or go to whichever doctor I wanted. My insurance took care of it all.

          Bodily comfort on a boat is a different matter. Often I was hot and sweaty (we spent most of our time in the tropics) and I had to either take a water-conscious shower on deck (after a swim if I'm lucky) or a bucket bath to keep clean. I sweated in bed at night. On passage or in a rolly anchorage there's so much boat motion, I often couldn't sleep. Sometimes there was annoying shore noise--loud beach music until dawn. I sweated during the day, and somedays, it was so hot everything took effort. I worried about where I'm going to get the laundry done–and dried. I watched for signs of mould on the ceiling liner. I wiped mildew off our books. On land, I carried toilet paper to use in paperless public or marina toilets. I couldn't go for a walk whenever I feel like it, so I got stiff. Our small refrigerator maintained (mostly) a temperature of 50 degrees C, and ice cream was a distant memory. If I wasn't careful, our dry food got infested with weevils, or worse, cockroaches. If I forgot to take meclizine hydrocholoride before a passage, sometimes I got seasick. If I was ill, I had to self treat and/or self medicate. Underway or at anchor, I had to be alert, available, and rational, and able to respond to a boat emergency regardless of how bad I felt. Everything took three times longer to do than I think it should have. Everything I was looking for was stored behind 6 other things, in a locker under the mattress, or some other hard-to-get-at place. It would be easy to slide into escape from boredom and discomfort with booze, which beckons many a cruiser.

          On the other hand, all I wore was comfortable shorts and a shirt, and I went barefoot much of the time. I didn't need a bra. Our homey cabin and cockpit were as comfortable and snug as we could make them, and our cozy V-berth--though a bit narrow--was the firmest and at the same time softest bed I'd ever slept on. We invested in custom-fitted sheets, and bought comfy seats for the cockpit. In many an anchorage, I could climb down the swim ladder and do laps round the boat in the cool sea water. Sometimes I could see fish below me. Often, sweet wavelets lapped against the hull by my ear in bed, or I could hear the crackling nibble noises of krill munching on hull growth. I wakened to the crawking of the green heron. The gentle hum of wind in the rigging or the tree frogs lulled me to sleep. The groaning of the snubber line wakened me when the wind got up. The views that passed by my eyes were marvellous. I laughed a lot, as we rejoiced in the ridiculous and ludicrous things we do and see. I didn't have to do anything--right now--except respond to the needs of our beautiful boat. So my spiritual comfort is great. I was one with the great unknown, with every man/woman/child, mammal, bird, fish, reptile, plant, wave, rock, star – but most of all with Bill and sweet Callipygia. We three together, we were a team, floating up and down in our corner of this awesome universe.

 

8. Leisure Time

          In spite of cruising around, and doing boat chores, we still had a lot of leisure time. More than on land, because we're not on a schedule. There were no more Monday mornings, or thank God it's Fridays, or hump days (Wednesdays). I spent my leisure time writing, reading, sightseeing/playing tourist, playing cribbage with Bill, tootling on the recorder, snorkeling/swimming. Or learning Spanish, or just sitting, listening to and looking at this wonderful natural environment. Or napping. Or doing research on a topic of interest. It was hard to beat (except for those times when I was really hot and bored).

 

9. Business Matters

          Business activities were fairly minimal. We had a mailing agent in Florida, where all our mail went. They weeded out the bulk mail and held it for us until we told them where to send it. Usually to a visitor coming from the US to stay on the boat, occasionally to a marina--though that got expensive. We did much of our boatwork ourselves, and got better and more efficient at it. Nonetheless, we were fortunate to be able to pump some of our income into various local economies--getting work done that we didn't know how, didn't have the time, or plain didn't want to do. We patronized local businesses, especially in poorer countries. We often ate lunch out, preferring local food. We almost never ate dinner out, or went to the more expensive tourist restaurants. We didn't frequent local bars to socialize or buy expensive drinks. We shopped local markets for inexpensive produce, groceries, or wine. We took buses to get around or walk, only rarely renting a car. We tried to spread out major boat expenses, preferring repair to replacement, though we didn't scrimp on safety equipment.

          We got our mail about every 6 weeks on average. Opening it and going through it was an event, and sometimes there's something that needed follow up--which could be hugely frustrating with interminable and expensive attempts to make telephone connections through the maze of some customer service system. Our retirement income is adequate for our needs, and is direct deposited. We managed our finances via the Internet--checking and paying credit cards, paying other bills, doing tax returns, and tracking retirement fund and bank balances. There were ATMs that spit out local currency almost everywhere we went. Internet cafes were commonplace. How different it must have been a decade ago--because of these technological developments, we didn't have to burden our kids with doing our business stuff for us.

          People ask, how much does it cost to do liveaboard cruising? The answer is: everything you've got. We have younger friends who got by on much less than us--they had no retirement income, only whatever they've been able to save. They do all their own boat work, take occasional jobs to prime their kitty, eat out infrequently, and shop carefully for best buys. We have met others, on bigger boats, with more expensive equipment, who eat out all the time, rent cars, and who are wealthy compared to us. While we didn't feel at all flush, we knew that we too were wealthy compared to many. We are very fortunate not to have to worry about money too much.

 

10. Safety and Security

          Safety on the boat is the primary concern--if something goes wrong, it could be life-threatening. So we dealt with that by equipping the boat with recommended safety equipment, and learning and exercising seamanship skills. We exercised the normal cautions given to tourists travelling in foreign countries, or as we would in urban areas in the US. On the boat, we were probably a lot safer than crossing a city street, driving on a congested highway, or flying on a plane.

          We listened, regularly, to the Caribbean Safety and Security Net (8104 USB at 0815 hours) during which security incidents were reported. The Net has a website where it collects and reports incidents by country. Incidents typically had to do with outboard motor theft, but there were the occasional boardings/break ins. We exercised recommended cautions when in high risk anchorages, and regardless of where we were, always locked up the boat when we went ashore--which we seldom did after dark. We always showed an anchor light at night. We had no more safety or security concerns than we did when we lived in a house.

 

11. Swallowing the Hook

          Our decision to do this came on us quickly and unexpectedly, but as the days wore on it became more and more clearly the best thing to do. We should have realized before we headed for Bermuda in May, 2004, that we were not ready for an Atlantic crossing--but the idea and excitement of it had taken over. We loved the planning and anticipation. But during the first leg of the Atlantic Crossing (see Ship's Log) Pat split her head open and thereafter was nauseous most of the way (?concussion) and she never did get her sea legs. When this happened, we realized that without the other, neither of us would be able to carry on safely by him/herself. Pat had the knowledge but not the physical strength to deal with problems, Bill had the strength but not the know-how. Thus, it didn't make sense to continue the crossing as planned because (a) we would clearly be in difficulty if serious heavy weather showed up or we had major equipment failure, and (b) neither of us enjoyed the slogging ocean passage to Bermuda that much and we lost our desire to repeat it. Those fair winds and following seas seemed like a snare and a delusion! As we neared the end of that passage, and once arrived in Bermuda, we thought about what we enjoyed and disliked about the cruising lifestyle. We realized that, at our age and with our experience, the benefits were beginning to be outweighed by the drawbacks. We had accomplished a lot in the nearly 4 years we owned Callipygia--7,500 miles and 18 countries, including coastal, offshore, and ocean sailing. But the price in inconvenience, effort, discomfort, distance from our dear ones, and lack of exercise, had become greater than the many pleasures we realized from cruising. We wished we had been able to get going when we were younger.

          We thought that we could continue finding most of the pleasures, with fewer miseries, by land cruising. We love hiking and canoing, seeing and being in the outdoors, visiting new places and meeting new people. We like living in something small, compact, and fairly modest. And so, we decided that time had come to "swallow the hook" and that we would instead move into an RV. But there still are times when I miss sweet Callipygia dreadfully and seriously wish we were back cruising. I don't think Bill shares my feelings; since he is my numero uno, I just have to enjoy my cruising memories, swallow my nostalgia, and notice the ease of living on Clemmie.

 

 

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Bill Dillon (KG4QFM)
and
Pat Watt (KG4QFQ)
This page was last modified on August 9, 2009

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January 17, 2004, amended September 6, 2004
by Pat Watt