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010 freedom sailing

Above is the only photo we have of Freedom sailing in the Carribean. It is from THIS site.  Click the photo to make it larger.

I belong to a closed Facebook group composed of women sailors. I am continually impressed by the breadth of experience many of the over 4,600 or so members have. However, predictably, as knowledgeable as many of the members are, there are just as many who are just starting out.

It’s totally anecdotally derived, but it appears that there are a couple of different camps in the sailboat cruising world. One fairly obvious group is the one that my husband and I belong to. We are the older crowd, say 50-55 and up. Most of us seem to have a solid water background and have been sailing for many years in one way or the other. Most have owned several sailboats…each one perhaps a bit larger than the previous. While sailing, we’ve all had the absolute living shit scared out of us – on more than one occasion – yet continue to enjoy sailing immensely.

There’s the group that are seafaring warriors. They have no fear. This group has tens and hundreds of thousands of miles of sea travel under their keels…often on surprisingly small boats. Many moved aboard in their 20s or 30s and forty years later are still living on their yacht while sailing around the world.

Another group, generally younger, may have many, many, many years of day or bay sailing experience and just want to take things to a new level. They buy a boat, and go do their thing.

But, the group that fascinates me are those couples with little or no experience on the water at all, much less sailing yachts, who sell virtually everything they have, buy a boat, and sail off into the sunset…literally. I’m always reminded of the old adage “ignorance is bliss.” I admire these folks immensely, even if I never will personally share their tack. Anyone who knows me even a little bit will readily tell you that by any standards I like adventure. But, maybe because I grew up on a large lake, and then moved to the coast of Louisiana and the Gulf of Mexico, I have a way healthy respect for water…and I’m anything but an adrenaline junkie when it comes to being on it.

It really should not come as any surprise that many who think they want to be cruisers wake up one day and say “This is not for me.” That may even be how it turns out for us. We are often asked how long we intend to cruise? And, even more often asked where we are going? In both cases, we tell whoever asks that we don’t know. And, we don’t. We may cruise for a couple of months and decide what we are doing is not what we want to do…or we may circumnavigate.

But, there are some things we do know. We know we have both been sailing off and on since our 20s…that’s about 40 years of off and on experience. Together and combined we’ve owned seven or eight different sailboats. We sailed extensively together on our own yachts for over five years. We’ve done a blue water passage or two, coastal cruising, and overnight passages, etc. But, the one thing we’ve known all along is that, in our case at least, the success of our retirement cruising will largely depend upon the yacht we’ve chosen to spend it on.

It probably shouldn’t surprise anyone, yachti or not, that the most important thing about cruising is the actual yacht one is going to do the cruising on. Yet, many seem to ignore this simple concept. Now, I’m fully aware that few cruisers have unlimited wealth. But, it appears to some that simply getting a boat – any boat – making it seaworthy ASAP before slipping the lines and heading out is the plan. I very much get that. But, then, reality sets in. Enjoying a tasty crushed-ice Pina Colata at sunset in the cockpit gazing at a quaint Caribbean village while anchored in crystal clear water somehow morphs into a lukewarm beer in a precious corner of bimini shade or wishing the rain would stop and the whole damn place was a lot more like the full color brochure you thought you read. It’s at that point cruising becomes camping.

Personally, I like camping. But, I have no desire to “camp” full time on a boat for several years. None. Cruise for years on a yacht that affords the comfort of home…YEP, count me in. Camping for more than a day or so…not interested.

Still, to many, it’s all about being out there…now…at any cost…in almost any vessel.

It’s kind of like RVing. I’ve seen quite a bit of the US in my travels, though not half as much as I’d eventually like to. But, I have no desire to travel America in a worn out van, plywood walls, no stove, no air conditioning…worried about when the dilapidated POS was going to catch on fire…or the brakes go out…having to add a can of oil every few hours…breakdown a constant probability. Where’s the fun in that?

And, the same goes for cruising.

We’re certainly not experts but we very much look forward to cruising full time. The excitement of knowing we have a yacht that can take us anywhere on planet Earth we decide we want to go – literally – is incredibly exciting and just down right liberating. But, neither one of us is interested in routinely schlepping jerry cans of water back and forth to our boat because we have no water maker…or doing the same with diesel fuel because our tank capacity is only a few tens of gallons. We want to be able to reach into the freezer and have access to ice, frozen goods, ice cream, whatever…and a refrigerator full of what fills up refrigerators. We know how small a sailboat can get…we wanted a boat that would allow us space to get away. A full galley…refrigerator/freezer…air conditioning if we want…hot showers for our guests and us anytime we choose. And, most of all, we wanted a blue water capable boat from the get go, not one we had to do a complete “refit” on. We didn’t want a “project” boat. In the end, we got what we wanted.

It’s amazing the folks who, with so very little boating experience, spend years and years fixing their boat up, all the while doing little or no actual sailing. Many of these people have very young children. Some even leave their children with others and go off sailing anyhow. I just can’t imagine spending years fixing up a boat and not having any sailing experience with one’s mate in between…and then setting off to go cruising. Not knowing how my mate is going to react in difficult circumstances would be terrifying to me. Not knowing if my husband is prone to seasickness or panic would drive me crazy. Tripping over my guy all day long on a small boat would get old quickly. No shower, the same. Having to sleep in a crowded quarter berth on a piece of foam for years on end is just not appealing to us. That’s too much like camping. We don’t want to live off of canned foods, macaroni and cheese, and hotdogs when we cruise. We want home cooked meals, made on a real stove and in a real oven.

Most admittedly, we are fortunate, many aren’t.

Nonetheless, in one way, it’s sort of sad to read about those who’ve decided that cruising is not for them. When I read these stories it’s almost as if those writing them are embarrassed to admit they just don’t like yachting. It’s sort of like they feel bad because in their minds they have “let down” their so-called community and are not cut out for the mysterious “cruising lifestyle.” But, face it cruising is not for everyone.

Take my family, for example.

From the onset, let me say that there is not one single person in my family, immediate, or simply related…brother or cousin…niece or nephew …whatever …who is not so very much welcome on our yacht…all they have to do is call and it will be arranged. However, with the exception of a first cousin who posts photos of catamarans surrounded by Caribbean islands (and even so, I’m not so sure there is a desire to cruise any more than simply to vacation) and my gorgeous stepdaughter (who grew up sailing with her dad, my husband) I have a hard time seeing any of the rest of my family ever enjoying any time on any sailboat, much less and specifically ours. I have a lot of envy when I read a blog in which family members fly to some destination to meet up with their family member’s yacht and then spend a week or month or even more cruising and vacationing together. That would be just so totally awesome but won’t happen with my family…they’ve drawn way, way too many lines in the sand for that to ever happen. Not my choice, it’s theirs.

No, cruising isn’t for everyone. Some spend a lot of money to quickly find that out. For many it appears to come down to their choice of yacht and that quickly comes down to how much money you have to spend on one.


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