Interesting question … we said we’d go cruising for as long as it was fun. For us, after almost 15 years, we both love our boat. It’s interesting to watch circumstances change over time, even for the most intrepid of cruisers. Most cruising friends we knew cruising the Western Caribbean have long since moved on, sold their boats and are chasing different dreams. Others sold the boat, chased other dreams and then bought another boat!
“Where are you going?” “Why don’t you GO anywhere anymore?” … we get these questions alot. But I’m happy I’m still living afloat in paradise. In the past, we’ve spent 150+ nights in a row anchored out without ever spending a night plugged into a dock … we’ve cruised from Annapolis, MD down the Western Caribbean to Cartagena, Colombia and back to Southwest Florida.
Our boat is full of “boat dings” and I remember specifically when each happened … the wooden ulu full of mola makers in the far Eastern San Blas Islands, the ding on the transom from the cayuco that David helped tow in a fellow cruiser who lost an engine just before a norther, the scratches from laying against a piling while the eye of Cat 4 Hurricane Charley passed right over s/v Winterlude….
But those times are not now. While I don’t consider our current lifestyle to be “cruisers”, on the other hand, we live on a boat with the freedom to move at any time. I must confess, I fail to understand the lack of tolerance among ourselves. “If you’re not on the hook, you’re not a cruiser.” “If you spend time at a dock, you’re not a cruiser.” “If you live on a mooring ball in a ‘trailer park’, you’re not a cruiser.” Recently: “I’m not going to help with their autopilot problem, they live at a dock and they’re going to a dock when they get to the Bahamas.” Really? So what, who cares! Don’t we all have the same goals – enjoying life afloat?
Cruising grounds – and access to secure anchorages – often dictate the lifestyle. While we’d prefer to be swinging to our trusty Spade Anchor in gin clear water with a snorkeling reef close by, we’d also prefer to be anchored somewhere with protection from wind and waves. Even with clear sunny beautiful weather, it’s no fun for us these days to be rolling from rail to rail from left-over waves. With a 5 1/2 foot draft, finding protected anchorages in the Florida Keys is challenging. But we keep our 5 1/2 foot draft oceangoing sailboat for future possibilities.
On the other hand, it’s also no fun to be in a marina where most boats aren’t going anywhere. One of the things we really enjoy about Key West is our marina (I know … heresy, I can’t possibly enjoy a marina). It provides a convenient base with shelter from northers … and in bad weather, we can roam freely ashore without having to brave big waves and a rolling boat.
I can walk the entire marina barefoot, no need for shoes – even in the tiki bar & restaurant. Most of the boats here are cruisers taking a respite – almost everyone’s been somewhere and is getting ready to go somewhere else – in fact a couple of the boats we spent time with in the Western Caribbean are here doing a leisurely refit and working to restock the cruising kitty.
Dock gatherings are frequent, providing the opportunity to pick someone’s brain that just came from where you’re dreaming of going…. sometimes accompanied by music. Manatees swim by every morning, sea turtles and dolphins are not strangers, I can walk to the shower (complete with unlimited hot water and water pressure!) and see sergeant majors and other brightly colored reef fishes nibbling on the vegetation on the bottom of the floating docks. Almost every day we have Navy fighter jets streaking overhead, our own private airshow …
Plus it’s an easy base for anchoring out when winter weather permits … the Marquesas are a 20 mile day sail, the Dry Tortugas are an overnight, or a stop in the Marquesas and two easy daysails. The 10,000 Islands and the Everglades provide excellent all around protection if we want to sail north. The Bahamas are within easy reach … and then there’s that “other” larger island off limits for now… 🙂
For now, lazy is just fine. David can wear his shorts. We can dinghy out to Western Sambo to go snorkeling in calm weather and still enjoy the Christmas lighted boat parade in Key West … while it’s blowing 30 – and we don’t even have to get wet dinghying in to the dinghy dock. Oh yes, we may be guilty of “lazy” but life is good!
So, does cruising last forever? Our experience would say “no”. But your experiences may vary! Thoughts? Please leave a comment and share! Cheers! Jan