My Name is Sue from Moonbeam, How Do You Do
Eventually, you get to the point where you forget your last name and it does not matter because all cruisers want to know is your first name and the name of your vessel. Last names become a blur in the sunset. If available, your ham or SSB call sign will be also be useful. Write your last name down somewhere on a piece of paper and put in a safe place, since you will need it eventually when returning to land-based life.
Hi, What Do You Do for a Living?
You will soon learn that no one in the cruising community cares too much what you did in your pre-cruiser life. If you grew tired of being asked 1,000 times at cocktail parties, “what do you do?”, then the cruising life might be for you. The longer you are out there, the harder it will be to explain what you did back then. What counts now is whether you can fix a refrigeration system, a diesel engine, or a watermaker. If you can do all those and repair a sail, you will be a very well-known person in port.
The self-reliance sailors attain during their cruising days and the small energy footprint they leave on the planet can come in handy some day during other life journeys
Have No Plans and Stick to Them
What a change from the world whence you came – where it was drilled into your head that you had to have goals and plans. Somewhere along the way, cruising sailors eventually learn to go where the winds blow and where the weather allows wearing shorts.
The less crew you need to recruit to sail your ship, the more aptly you can apply this adage. Arriving and departing crew can wreak havoc with the “no plans” lifestyle as the skipper has to be at places and times to accommodate the crew flight schedules. Eventually, as your sailing skills increase and you settle in to the rhythm of the sea, the need for crew will be minimized.
Time will seem to slow down. The manana-mentality, siesta time, and cocktail hour take on new meaning. It will come to pass that you will only know the day of the week by asking fellow sailors that question on the VHF. Your life will be more guided by sunrises and sunsets, rather than clocks, except during navigation duties.
When you finally downshift and settle into the cruising lifestyle, you will only want to tack once a day…really.
You Are Not What You Wear
The high fashion statement for a cruiser is the quality of his foul weather gear…everything else is optional. Blondes have more fun, but naked sailors enjoy cruising more.
Telltale signs that you are a cruiser:
- shorts with battery acid holes
- grease spots on clothing
- mismatched patches
- unshaven vagabond look
- scruffy beard with raccoon eyes
The Cruiser’s Golden Rule Becomes Your Mantra
One should help other sailors as one would like other sailors help oneself. Having similarities to the biblical code, this rule has a long history among cruisers and is evident in every port and every emergency.
Almost always, someone in the fleet will always volunteer to help a fellow cruiser in dire straits and often without any compensation. The day will come when you will be the one needing assistance in some way. Follow the sailor’s Golden Rule.
Mr. Fixit Takes on a New Meaning
Eventually, you will have to learn to fix your boat “stuff” or you will not be happy cruising. The question is not whether the equipment will break, but when it will break! It is a given that the cruising life is filled with unforeseen challenges and coping with boat related items to fix and maintain.
It is OK to have a list of to-do items that keeps growing in length and to have temporary fixes in place that last over a year or two. Crossing items off the list will bring mental and physical rewards – therapy of sorts.
DIY knowledge and your tools will be key assets. You will stop believing in the phrase “worldwide warrantee” but every once in a while a vendor will back its products so perfectly and without question, even in remote places, that it will overwhelm your sensibilities – causing you to tell everyone in the cruising community your good experience with that vendor.
Being Green Is Not Just Political Correctness
First, you will learn water conservation and become the master of water management on the vessel. Day-to-day activities, such as, one-minute showers, foot pumps to get water from the faucet, re-using grey water from the sink, cooking spaghetti in sea water, sponge baths, and a myriad of other water rituals will become second nature … guest crew and visitors be warned. Some skippers have been known to make offenders walk the plank – or at least, they thought about it.
Next to water, conservation of energy becomes paramount, ie., diesel for engine use, gas for cooking, and batteries for running house electrics and navigation systems.
Harnessing energy from the sun via solar panels and from wind generators will most likely be part of the green plan on your vessel. By necessity and by choice, cruisers are likely the greenest people on planet earth creating very small carbon footprints – essentially cruisers are off the grid most of the time.
Finally, it makes sense to leave a clean wake wherever one sails, anchors or docks. It is a corollary to the Golden Rule. Leave no pollution, pollutants, or thrash behind so every new cruiser arriving after your departure will continue to be welcomed by the locals.
Beer is Your New Water
An ice cold beer or two in the tropics will go a long way in capping off a thirst. Not everyone is a beer drinker, but for those who are, there can never be too much beer on board and it can never be too cold. That alone is reason enough to have refrigeration on board.
In some tropical locales, drinking beer instead of water is a health mandate, as drinking the local water can be detrimental to one’s well being.
If sufficient electric capacity is available, watermakers come in handy but require steady maintenance and TLC to keep it tip-top working mode.
Relations with Your Insignificant Other (IO)
Most sailors are not extreme introverts or hermits. They will choose not to cruise alone and often will set sail with their spouse, lover, or friend. Thus, you and yours will be confined in a small space without good options for escape – often for lengthy periods of time. The experience will test your sanity, desire and love for your IO.
Why IO and not SO (significant other)? I have learned this: when you are out there, in the middle of ocean, with strong winds and high seas, in the middle of the night with no land or other vessels in sight, one truly feels insignificant in the big scheme of the cosmos. Therefore, it is my opinion that accepting the humbling “IO” label goes a long way to normalizing relations in the cruising life. At this basic karmic level, tolerance of intermittent periods without showers, sounds of bodily functions, and other potential romance-killing situations, will pass as just another aspect of the chosen cruising life.
What really matters first and foremost is the preservation of the vessel that is providing safe passage from one port to next. Mother nature tends to teach lessons to those humans with too much ego and hubris.
Local Thinking and Respect Go a Long Way
When in Mexico or other tropical cruising grounds, treating the locals respectfully and with patience will go a long way to establishing good relations. A “New York minute” attitude toward life is not going to work in manana-land. To survive and prosper, adopt a creative and adaptable mind-set. Go with flow, and take siesta while you wait.
The local residents of these tropical cruising grounds are friendly and resourceful people. Their local knowledge will come in handy and their friendly spirit will rub off on you. Since their lifestyle is more basic, they have to rely more on their own skills. It is not uncommon to have skilled tradesmen fix, rebuild or make a new part for a vessel with basic tools...at least to get you through until it can be replaced with the original equipment vendor’s product.
In the early days of aviation, Pan American Airlines and its crew were “accidental” ambassadors to every corner of the world. There are parallels between the airline crews and yachtsmen who cruise to foreign ports in the world. Skippers and their crew can leave the locals with a positive image of the cruising community.