“You’re so lucky. Do you think I could get off cruising like you did?” I’m sure Teresa is asked this question. After more than four decades of voyaging then writing several books about our experiences I know it’s been put to us literally thousands of times. So as a guest blogger on this site, I decided to write out the answer we give to potential voyagers.
Our experience has shown us that almost anyone can go cruising—that is, anyone who really wants to do it and does four things:
1. Decide that you are going, that nothing will stop you, and that, from this moment on, all your time and effort will be directed toward your goal.
2. Accept the fact that it may take four or five—even 10—years of preparation before you finally cast off your mooring lines and set sail.
3. Be prepared to evaluate realistically what size boat you need and what gear is essential. You need to include the necessities and exclude maintenance-prone luxuries that only absorb cruising time and money.
4. Realize that no one really wants you to go cruising!
The decision to go is the hardest part of the whole project. There always seem to be so many reasons not to go: children, aging parents, a business or job you’ve worked hard to develop, physical handicaps. But if you are determined to go, you’ll analyze each of these factors and probably discover that each problem can be solved. If not, it may just be an excuse to hide your fear of heading into the unstructured existence that a cruising life seems to represent.
Once you’ve made a firm decision, peer and family pressures could be the biggest deterrent to realizing the “Grand Adventure.” In fact, you will find that almost no one will encourage you to go off cruising. Your employer doesn’t want you to leave. Your parents don’t want to worry about your being “out there.” The local boatyard owner, boat-builder, and chandlery owners don’t want to lose a customer. Your children and grown friends are worried they’ll miss you, or maybe they’ll resent hearing about how much fun you are having in Mexico while they grind through yet another blizzard-swept day. Other voyagers may be concerned that you will dilute their sense of accomplishment or add to the crowd in their favorite anchorages. All of these people will create doubts by asking, “Are you an escapist? What about your future? What about the children?”
In fact, we think children are the best reason to go cruising. Over the years, we have met dozens of families who cruised with their children for six months, a year, or sometimes more. The majority of parents agreed that the children thrived on the life and the parents and children became a closer family unit. The children developed a fine sense of responsibility, the capacity to entertain themselves, and a shipboard education, supplemented by correspondence courses that often put them at the top of their classes when they returned to regular schools. We’ve remained in touch with several of these families and have come to know their children as adults. Most recall their cruising time as “the greatest time we ever had as a family.” As a whole, ex–cruising kids seem to be exceptionally successful as adults, and many look forward to sharing some time on board a cruising boat with their own children.
It definitely is not as simple to go cruising with children if they are above the toddler age; that could necessitate a boat closer to 35 feet than one under 30. On the other hand, we have met several families who cruised for six months to two-years on boats as small as 28 feet.
If you wait too long to go cruising—until the children leave home, until the mortgage is paid off, until the next promotion comes along—family obligations will only increase. Parents are less likely to need your assistance when they are 50 to 60 than when they are older. The lure of being there when the grandchildren arrive could stymie your cruising plans if you don’t go right away. (See “The Game Plan” in The Cost-Conscious Cruiser.)
More on this topic by Lin Pardey is coming soon! Later this week I’ll post Don’t Wait to Cruise and then Go Small Go Simple Go Now.
You can find more by Lin Pardey at their blog and website. Lin and Larry Pardey have published many books over the years that have inspired Ben and I to set sail. I just cracked the spine on her latest book, Bull Canyon, which I expect will be wonderful like the others. I’m also excited to meet with Lin and Larry to learn from their years of adventuring and to discuss their involvement in One Simple Question.