Monday, April 23, 2012

Cruising for a living

When we first decided that living on a boat was a great idea, I had no idea about what the life would involve. I had no idea that the group of people across the world who live like this call themselves cruisers.
For me, the term cruisers brings to mind swingers or ‘key parties’ or progressive dinners – either way it sounds like a suburban sub culture of bored middle aged married couples looking for some excitement.
The other common association with this word is people who make a lifestyle out of week long stints on the Princess, Royal Caribbean or Disney Cruiseliners. There are ‘cruisers’ websites dedicated to these people, who couldn’t be further from the ‘other cruisers’. The ones we find ourselves amongst.
But can I stereotype a cruiser? There are full time live aboards, the half timers who head back to the safety of land for the hurricane season, there are the rich cruisers, but surprisingly the most common are those on a budget. People ‘cruise’ on 68ft game fishing power boats, and 26ft Island Packets, and everything in-between.

There are Americans, South Africans, Norwegians, Canadians, Spanish, French – the list goes on.
There are retirees and families with small children who homeschool aboard, and there are the glamourous young couples like Taru and Alex (whose great blog is here). To put it simply, there are many types of cruisers.

But what I have realised, is that though this group of people is diverse, there is something profound that links everyone. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but it is a love for life and adventure and the scary/exciting prospect of the unknown. There is an indescribably freedom in moving where the wind takes you and your small world comes with you. The sea is a dangerous, humbling beast and every seasoned cruiser knows that it is to be treated with respect and caution. Because the rewards of the journey are immense.
On the other hand there are the day to day life issues that cruisers face, that are bizarre and irrelevant to the land lubber.
At beach parties and in laundry queues at marinas, it’s always the same topics. Where can you buy duty free diesel, where can you get water/do you have a water maker/raincatcher? Dinghy motor problems, rust, wood rot and the issues with keeping teak and fiberglass in good condition. Bus trips into the markets for fruits and vegetables. Book trades. Gadget talk – radars, GPSs, autopilots, windlasses, anchors, wind reports, swell, new oil platforms to avoid.

It is a life that involves constant maintenance and then hours of waiting. Of nothing. Of reading or sewing or fixing. And then there are the hours of snorkeling and swimming and star gazing at night.
And in reigns me in, day by day, to it’s uniqueness and vastness. These days I’m proud to call myself a cruiser.


  1. Love reading your postings. I would assume that you guys are retired? How do you fund and budget such a lifestyle for years, where there's only savings depletion but no steady stream to replenish it. Just want more insight into survival as a cruiser. I'm also curious as you mentioned that the "sea is a dangerous beast" what's the worst or most frightening conditions that you guys have been in while sailing thus far. Have you come across a lot of solo sailors (cruisers)?

  2. It is all so fascinating, yet I find myself scared to even think about doing that. I must be limited or close minded, because when I read your posts I am amazed, in awe and dreaming ...

  3. Hi Garnet - we are sort of retired though I am only in my early 40's so I doubt we won't find something to do at some stage. What I an say is that we are done with the 9 to 5 jobs! You'd be shocked at what some people live on out here. We met a couple who have no savings, they bought their boat for about $50,000 and they live on a pension of $500 a month. Of course there are those that spend $3500 a month and flights home etc. add to that. In our case, we worked as expats for over 10 years in Ghana and made some money, invested it, and we can live off the monthly interest.

    There are quite a few solo sailors, but the most common is a couple. Are you thinking of cruising??

  4. Thanks Paola - what I am learning is that someone's exotic is someone else's normal :)