The idea of waiting to go cruising until you retire rarely works well. Sailing offshore requires physical strength and/or long practice. Yes, we’ve met people in their 70s who annually cross the Atlantic, in fact, one of our mentors, Eric Hiscock, and his wife Susan, went around the world for the third time after he turned 72, and they crossed the boisterous Tasman Sea to celebrate his 78th birthday. But . . . they were drawing on 45 years of voyaging experience. For a person of any age, it can be exhausting and unnerving to get up at three AM and fight off a lee shore to a safer anchorage in 45 knots of wind. If you are 60 or 70, it’s that much harder. No matter how careful you are, there will be a few nights like that, as well as other nights spent tending warps or clearing fouled anchors. Cruising requires a certain amount of physical and mental fitness. Some people of 70 are more fit than people 30 years younger, but it’s rare to find a couple over 65 in perfect health.
If a couple decides to retire in good health and set off cruising on a pension, inflation can be a major factor. A person 45 or younger might think nothing of finding a job for two or three months of the year to augment cruising funds. But when you are 65, you don’t want to spend time that way; besides, jobs are then hard to come by. You might end up like some couples we’ve met who are limited to short cruises to inexpensive places. They always have to cut back because their pensions won’t cover anything more.
Think about it. Why not go now, while you’re young? You can always go back to work later. That’s why we decided to leave when we did—back in 1969 at the ages of 24 and 29. We’d almost finished building 24”4” Seraffyn and we had a successful little business. As we were building our dream ship, our boat-repair-yard/chandlery/accounting business developed rapidly. One day, after some lucrative contracts had come our way, we stopped to analyze our situation. We discovered that if we remained in business for four more years, we could use Seraffyn for local sailing and we’d have perhaps as much as $75,000 in the bank when we were ready to set off—enough in those days to ensure that we could cruise anywhere we wanted without having to work along the way. But then Larry asked, “Look, if we outfit Seraffyn and sell the business now, how much money will we have? I came up with a rough estimate of $5,000 (Probably equivalent to $25,000 today.) “Then let’s sell out and go cruising,” he announced. “If we leave half in the bank, we’ll still have enough for six or eight months of cruising. If we like it, we’ll find a way to earn more. If we want to stop, we can always come back and start another business.”
Eight months later, we set off, and even though we lost half of our original cruising kitty through unwise investments (believe it or not, a silver mine in Canada), we found it reasonably easy to earn enough to keep cruising for 11 years on Seraffyn, and we laid the groundwork for another 26 years of exploring on board the next boat we built,29’6” Taleisin. Almost every long-term cruising couple we’ve met has had a similar experience. Perhaps it’s because people who can cope with offshore cruising can also adapt to jobs that are available as they cruise. Or perhaps, just because they are cruising people, they are more interesting to potential employers. Whatever the case, once you decide to go, get your boat and a year’s funds and go! You’ll find it’s relatively simple to continue and not too hard to earn your way. If you decide to give up cruising, you may not be able to step right back into the same job situation, but, armed with new experiences and contacts, you might find one that’s even better.
You can read more on this topic by Lin Pardey! Earlier this week I posted Deciding to Cruise. Soon I’ll post Go Small Go Simple Go Now.
You can find more by Lin Pardey at her 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 others. We are also excited to meet with Lin and Larry to learn from their years of adventuring and discuss their involvement in One Simple Question.