Another numbered list of nine is here, boys and girls. We get the question from time to time as to when we’ll stop this whole homeless boat-person thing and grow up (paraphrasing my step-grandmother…and yes, I have a convoluted family tree). From what I’ve seen, here are the usual culprits that send people back to the real world. Oh no!
1. Money. This is the obvious one. The cruising life has often been promoted as very inexpensive. And in a way, it is. I feel sure Bozo and I would be spending much more if we were back in our old life. I remember the Amex bills.
But there is an expectation among some that it will be nearly free—and that it’s not. At least if you're unwilling to be one of the people from well-off countries who mooch off people from less well-off countries. (Please, please be unwilling. We have reached our quota for first world skinflints.)
The fact is, you can definitely “go simple, go small, just go” but you can no longer get your bottom re-glassed in Trinidad for $5 or whatever you’ve heard. I’m not saying that everyone need spend as much as we do or that everywhere is as expensive as our chosen home-away-from, the Bahamas. But folks who set their spending expectations toooo low have to go home—or try to work abroad—pretty soon.
Similarly, investment troubles, not making as much as hoped by renting the old house, unrealistic expectations about income (I'll make all my money writing for sailing magazines despite having no writing experience! or Putting a “buy me a beer” button on my blog will rake in thousands!), etc., also send people packing.
2. Big Boat. Related to the money issue is the boat choice. I kind of understand the impulse to buy new, buy big, etc. You're leaving and often selling the house you've had for years and want something comparable in comfort. Or you think a big boat with backup everything is the only safe way to go. Or that a new boat won’t break (hahahaha!). Or whatever.
Bozo and I considered (briefly) working longer to afford a bigger, schmancier boat. I'm glad we didn’t. A boat mortgage is one thing you can't "cut back on” to stay out. The care and feeding (and insuring) of a big boat with lots of complex systems, same. If you overdo it on overhead, you’ll be headed back, at least to downsize—and few people seem able to do that.
3. Boredom. Strange but true, some people don’t enjoy their life of leisure in island paradise. There seems to be about a five-year period during which tourism by boat is fun for all. You see new places, meet new people, have adventures, yay! And then some folks get to the point that one more museum or strange food or goodbye is just not worth it.
With the exception of true salts whose passion really is the sailing—see Maiden Voyage (movie) for an example—most people need to find some other reason to get up in the morning, even if it’s just weaving baskets. We've had friends leave the life to get a garage to wrench on old cars, a bigger space in which to brew beer, and all kinds of other reasons. One guy hanging it up after six years said he had no idea what he was going to do, but he'd reached the limit of days for which rum-drinking was the only scheduled activity (quitter).
Fortunately, Bozo and I have learned to amuse ourselves just fine.
4. Cruising partner mismatch. As a cruiser, I am now uniquely aware of the extent to which many couples really, truly don't like each other—and somehow only realize this once they come out here.
Makes sense, I guess. For many people, what with working and running kids about and doing life stuff, cruising may be the first time in a decades-long marriage (or other committed relationship) when they've spent more than a two week vacation actually together. And now they can’t even escape to go golfing!
Cruising, by contrast, is togetherness writ large—nearly 24/7 floating around in a glorified Clorox bottle, very, very much together. Add in occasional moments of terror (Is that a waterspout? Eek!) and hardship (What do you mean “bucket and chuck it” is the only option until the head part comes in?) and divorce or dismemberment can start to look good.
5. No cruising partner. As for those without partners, some return to regular life to find one. There aren’t too many single women out here (although more every year), so you bachelors may get lonely. Girls, you’ve got your choice of single-handers, but some of them smell bad. It might be best to BYOSO (bring your own significant other).
6. Fear. There are people who come out and realize they are scared. For some, being out of sight of land is enough. For others, their first anchor dragging experience leaves them unable to sleep lest their home drift up on the rocks. If nothing else, sailing teaches you to revere the parking brake. And the Rocna.
It's not always beginners, either. A bad storm, a close call with a health issue, or other near catastrophe can leave anyone thinking life with a safety net is preferable. This isn't the Wild West, but it's closer to it than in places where Wal-Mart, not to mention the fire department, is less than 20 minutes away.
7. Kids and grandkids. We just said “no” to procreation, but for those with kids, sometimes the little tyrants’ demand for a high school prom or some-such puts the kibosh on cruising. Others find that homeschooling once the kids reach calculus (WTF is a Riemann sum?) is a literal headache best foisted off on “professionals.”
And then there are grandkids. These little rug-rats are apparently the siren call of home.
If you have ensured the continuation of your line, you may find that there is only a sliver of time between the kids’ graduation and the popping-out (that’s what happens, right?) of the next generation. Hurry up and get cruising!
8. Deprivation. I actually think this is one of the less frequent reasons—and no justification for overspending on boat or equipment. But some cruisers ultimately can’t take a life where hair dryers don’t make sense and manicures don’t last (or whatever the guy equivalent might be). More often than not, this situation arises when cruising was “bucket list #1” for one partner and “I’d rather die” for the other. Said other may finally demand a Jacuzzi tub.
9. Health. Many people don't hang it up until they can’t cruise anymore. Sometimes it’s an actual health problem requiring regular care, but given that this is a relatively active, healthy lifestyle, often not. At a certain age—for friends of ours entering their 80s, they think it may be soon—people simply wonder whether a little lapse of memory, that next small loss of strength, or other common effects of aging make it too dangerous to continue.
After 15 years aboard, Bozo and I are wondering if—and actually kind of hoping that—we will fall into this last category. Preferably not anytime soon, mind you. But still, unlike being the old guy in the club (you just look creepy), being the oldest couple still aboard looks like one of the best ways to rock on Medicare. And really, we’re all about being the blue-haired version of cool.
Or maybe we’ll hang it up next year so Thomas can have a big garage. That could happen, too. We never seem to know what we’re doing until about 15 minutes before it happens.
P.S. – Today’s picture is from last week’s Veggie day at the Exuma market. Yay Veggies!