Enjoy the Cruising Life

When it's time, cut the lines and go!

  It sounds easy, “we’ll leave when everything on the ‘to-do list’ is completed.” It sounds easy, yes, but it’s not. It’s hard, damn hard, because there is always something to be done on a boat. You no sooner whittle the to-do list down to a manageable list of actions and you find something else that needs to be done. I know people who work on their boat all the time and it never leaves the dock. My friend, Joe, had dreams of cruising the Inside Passage to Alaska, and for years he would spend every free moment on board working on his beloved boat trying to make it perfect, but he died before the list was completed.

Should completing the tasks on a list be your goal? Here are some practical tips to ease your way out of the marina and into the cruise of your dreams.

First, there’ll never be a time when all your boat jobs are done. If you wait that long, you’ll never go. Instead, you’ll have to qualify and quantify which of your tasks are must-do, want-to-do, and can-do-later jobs.

If this is your first major extended cruise, you’ll be under a lot of stress that’s both self-induced and related to your family. You’ll want the boat to be perfect, fully provisioned and stocked with all of the necessary spare parts. This is the easy part. But there’s an emotional component that might unexpectedly engulf you as well. You’re about to leave behind everything and everyone you cherish. This is a big step. This is no longer a theoretical equation. It’s reality. You’re finally making the break for your sea of dreams.

The truly unknown awaits, and the unknown can be emotional and a bit scary. Fear not. Others have been down this path and survived, and so will you. Extended cruising gets easier as you go along, or at least within the same area.

More than a dozen years ago, when retirement was still a few years away, we were already transitioning from dreaming of a cruising lifestyle to planning it. We wanted to try cruising for longer than a weekend cruise or even a week or two, to ensure the cruising lifestyle was for us. We reasoned that many experiences that are fine for a short cruise would pale in comparison as a full-time lifestyle. Why dream and plan for many years if it doesn’t suit you? Three or four weeks is about the minimum for a good test for the lifestyle. Even then, there is a huge difference between three weeks and three months.

The work and nerves got easier with time, we learned to slow down enjoy life, and we switched from a sightseeing mode to simply living aboard.

Many years ago, before our extended cruising, Arlene and I made all the classic mistakes. To avoid similar departure snafus, we have developed a process to ensure we cast off on schedule. Now, we set a date well in advance and then stick to it. We prioritize our to-do list so the truly important tasks are completed and the other stuff, which isn’t truly necessary, is correctly labeled as such. Tasks are divided up between us according to our crew roles, which is mostly into the pink and blue jobs. On the departure date, we toss the lines, power away and make the declaration that if we forgot anything we’ll do without.

We spend the first couple of days crossing the border, provisioning with items we could not bring across the border and catching our breath. It usually takes us four to seven days to get into what we call “cruise mode,” the day-to-day routine of cruising life.

We both, individually, attempt to realize that each of us is busy and a bit stressed. Thus, we make a special effort to be aware of each other’s emotional needs.

In many ways, the challenge of being a sea gypsy is unique. Normally, partners work together to accomplish an easily defined, clearly accomplishable goal, such as cruising to Alaska. This is all well and good. But the real goal of cruising is to relax, have fun and enjoy the trip. All of which has a different definition for everyone. I have fun fishing, hiking, exploring new anchorages and documenting our travel through photos. Arlene enjoys reading, catching crabs and prawns, and preparing special boat meals using what the sea provides.

Luckily, a boat can accommodate a wide variety of styles and desire. Want to be alone? A small vessel is a perfect choice for people who cherish their solitude. For those who want to socialize, there are plenty of marinas and small towns along the coast. But the trick is to allow each other the personal time, space, and emotional support so both get what they want. All this doesn’t happen naturally. You have to work at it, especially at first.

The key to casting off on an extended cruise is, like in life itself, to keep it fun. And we all know that fun is doubled when sharing it with someone you love.

Oh, and a healthy sense of humor helps, too.


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