Thinking back a few decades to Seattle, where I learned many of life's lessons, I was introduced to a theme that has stayed with me all these years. And it came in a song, at a summer festival in Seattle in the 1970s, sung by a couple who embodied the laid back style of that era: Reilly & Maloney.
Everything we do requires balance, however delicate. Even cruising...or perhaps, especially cruising.
The most successful cruisers I've known all share this understanding of balance. World cruisers and full-time liveboards get off the boat and change things up a bit, pursue other things. They strike a balance between moving from one harbor to the next, constantly on the move or on the hook, with other life activities that take them off the water and into the world. Out of the pilothouse and onto the ski slopes, or Europe, or the Grand Tetons, or New Jersey. And many who head south every winter look forward to getting involved with local community projects.
All too often, people have this dream of spending their later years enjoying the cruising lifestyle, and they save and plan and come to boat shows and Trawler Fests and attend seminars to learn all they can. The plan usually involves shedding some (or all) of their connection to the land, the cars, the house, the stuff. They get their perfect boat and cast off the lines. Away from the dock at last, the dream awaits.
They have a marvelous time for the next year or two, make many new friends, but at some point they eventually burn out if that is the only thing they do. Just boat, boat, boat. They have not kept up with their golf or tennis, no more hiking or antique shopping, or tinkering with clocks or cars, or any of the other interests they gave up.
I remember one couple who cruised extensively on their Krogen 48 Whaleback. West Coast, East Coast, down island to the Caribbean, they did exactly what so many dream of. But every so often they would park the boat in a marina, perhaps even haul it, then ride around North America by motorcycle. Then skiing and visiting family and friends, and enjoying life on land. They lived life to the fullest, as they found a balance with on/off activities that rounded out their boating experience, which kept it fresh, interesting, and enjoyable. After exploring the Sedona countryside, or getting to know a new grandbaby, they would return refreshed and anxious to go snorkeling again.
One fellow got his wife to go cruising, on the condition that she could play the piano several times a week. Visit any inhabited island anywhere, and you will likely find a church with a piano or organ. It worked. Others mix it up with their sports interests, mindfully creating a routine to get off the boat regularly. Keeps it real and fun. There's even a guy doing the Loop on a really small boat, but he plays pickleball wherever he stops. He arranges it ahead of time, belonging to a pickleball association to make the arrangements.
I know a lovely and tremendously capable couple from California who built a boat and cruised along the East Coast before heading across the Pacific. As much as they love the fishing, snorkeling, and adventure of cruising remote islands, both take time off for weeks at a time. Perhaps she flies home for a family fix, while he stays on the boat and does maintenance projects. After many weeks with family, they always return to their boat with a fresh attitude. And so they have kept their dream alive, year after year, active people engaged in life.
Keeping a land presence can make it easier for some, even if it is a lock-and-leave condo or townhouse. It's a place to go back to from time to time, see one's doctors and family, catch up with friends, and continue a new life that includes disappearing on the boat.
I loved every moment at PassageMaker, but it was time for a break, time to walk in the grass. So many wonderful destinations are unreachable by boat. We finally stayed on Mackinaw Island and had breakfast at the Grand Hotel. Had we been on the Loop, it would have been too far off the dotted line, but that is another pet peeve for another day.
We published an article in our very first issue, written by our then-neighbors. Die hard sailors, they went to the Bahamas every year for over a decade. Stan and Phyllis saw so many couples go cruising for the first time, and fall into the habits of how they previously boated on weekends. Every night, it seemed, was Saturday night, over and over, and the subsequent dock and beach gatherings totally disrupted normal life. It wasn't real, and if these boaters didn't get into a better program, it would not go well.
So don't fall into the trap of living the dream (aka boat, boat, boat) to the exclusion of the rest of your life. In the end, you won't feel nearly as satisfied as had you paced yourself and relaxed into a calming, long-term cruising experience that could last the rest of your life.
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