When we sailed out of Conyer 15 months ago, we had no idea what the future would bring or how we’d get along with cruising full-time.
We had read heaps of blogs, magazine articles, and books, and watched a load of videos- Distant Shores was particularly inspiring on a cold winter’s night in London!- and had fallen in love with the idea of living on a boat full-time and sailing around the world. But what would the reality be like? Would we love it? Or would we hate it?
Bit of both as it turns out! We’ve definitely had ups and downs over the past 15 months since that bright, chilly day last year we sailed down Conyer Creek, wondering just what we’d gotten ourselves in to. There’s been a number of unexpected challenges we’ve had to deal with and the learning curve has been steep. But we’re feeling pretty confident that we’re going to have a fantastic sailing season next year, having learned some valuable lessons on how to best enjoy the magnificent cruising lifestyle!
Visitors on board
I could write an entire blog on this one subject- and I probably will at some point, so I’ll keep this brief. We absolutely LOVE having family and friends come to stay with us, and we’ve had great experiences so far. However, we’ve seen fellow cruisers experience difficulties with staying guests, and we’ve also learned from them what not to do! It’s easy to fall into the trap of wanting to bend over backwards to ensure your guests have a great holiday, but the truth is us liveaboard cruisers are slaves to the weather and our boat and the simplest itinerary can suddenly become mission impossible when faced with contrary winds or one of the many breakages or equipments failures that take place on boats all the time. Next year we’re going to keep our itinerary loose and flexible which will hopefully mean that if we’re lucky enough to have anyone come to stay, we can give them a great holiday without stressing about the weather or where we’re meant to be… which takes me to my next point.
Realistic sailing plans
Last Christmas, Nick and I had the following plan: we would sail south from St Lucia to Grenada in January, then head north towards the BVI’s, arriving in the Bahamas for around May. We would then continue north to the US for mid- to late-June in time to lay Ruby Rose up for a couple of months over the hurricane season while we visited family in the UK and Australia. Bear in mind please that we had just crossed the Atlantic Ocean after a season of leaving the UK, crossing Biscay, then sailing down the Atlantic Coast of Spain and Portugal, then Morocco and the Canaries. In short, we were pretty knackered already and in need of a bit of chill-time, but for some strange reason we had put ourselves under pressure to reach the US by June. From St Lucia thats another 2000 miles. I feel tired just thinking about it. Clearly this wasn’t realistic- for us, anyway.
This caused a lot of totally unnecessary stress, which meant that Nick and I were not, let us say, our best selves. Combine that with living in a small space and not having our usual ‘venting mechanisms’ in place (for me, a large rosé and my best friends to moan to)… you can imagine. So, here we were, in tropical paradise, and suddenly we were having discussions about forgetting about that whole Panama Canal thing and just shipping the boat back to Europe. However, after some down time in Antigua we rediscovered our love of the cruising lifestyle and felt totally rejuvenated. Next year? Things are slowing riiiiiiight down. Like, we’ll be lucky to make it north of the BVI’s. Just kidding. Maybe.
It’s okay to have wobbles!
Not quite sure what photo would be appropriate for this, so I’ll just leave it blank shall I?
Ohhhh, how I love a good wobble. Not when it’s on my thighs, obvs, but I’ve yet to meet a liveaboard couple who don’t have regular wobbles and the occasional full meltdown. It’s cool! It’s normal! It’s totally okay!
Our wobbles involved our sailing plans. Oh, and who was doing the dishes, but let’s not talk about that. We went through a stage where we just couldn’t agree on what they were exactly. I wanted to sail to Australia. Nick was considering taking the boat back to Europe. You don’t have to be a geographical genius to work out that these two parts of the world are in totally different directions. We had some major doubts over how long we’d be able to continue sailing because we were feeling so demoralised. This was a phase bought on by putting ourselves under unnecessary pressure as I’ve mentioned, and when we slowed down and allowed ourselves some space from sailing we recognised these doubts for what they were: a temporary wobble. It happens.
Just try and be a liiiiittle bit sociable
So, you know when you’re sitting in that anchorage and there’s a boat ‘next door’ with a couple who look kind of cool, and you wave and they wave and then you just sit there in your cockpit hoping they’ll come and say hello but they never do and so you’re not going to go because you don’t want to look like a desperate weirdo and they’re probably perfectly happy just chilling by themselves and really it’s best that you just pour yourself another beer and go back to your book? Yeah, me too. It’s all terribly awkward, the whole business of trying to make friends with other cruisers. That’s why we’re so grateful we did the ARC; we made some great friends who we continued cruising with and bumping in to for the whole season. But we didn’t make an effort to make friends outside of that group and I hope that we do try to next year. Hey, if anyone sees us- please come and say hello! We’re friendly, and not too weird! I promise!
Right, so let me get to the point. Friends are great. Friends make cruising more fun. Friends are someone to talk to other than your beloved significant other and let me tell you, that’s important. Those months in Antigua were by far our favourite because we suddenly had a social life! I didn’t realise how important that is to my sanity until this point. But it is crucial.
Not in a rude way. But if finances permit- and we’re making them permit, whether they want to or not- leaving the boat and going home to visit family is probably the most important point here. I love living on the boat, but I need time away from her as well. She’s needy. She’s annoying. She’s unpredictable. I can’t be dealing with that shit indefinitely without taking a step back every now and again. And guess what? Now I can’t wait to get back to her. I love her needy, annoying, unpredictable ways. She’s my home, and Nick and I are both so excited about seeing her again.
You know what else a break from the boat is good for? Going home to family. Yeah, okay, the long hot showers, massive flat screen tv’s and fast wifi are awesome, but the real reward is quality family time. I haven’t been back to Australia in two years and let me tell you, I am absolutely loving it. The only reason I’ll be glad to leave is to know that we’re heading back to the boat in order to continue our circumnavigation. Slowly and in our own good time.
Every cruiser is different, and perhaps some of the points I’ve outlined above are deemed totally unnecessary by some. But Nick and I have discovered the hard way how important all these factors are to a long and happy life on the water. If we can continue to apply the lessons we’ve learned moving forward, we’re hoping to have many, many years of cruising the world ahead of us!