“If It Ain’t Broke, Don’t Use It” …. Eileen Quinn

In the words of one of my favorite cruising artists, Eileen Quinn, …  “if it ain’t broke, don’t use it”!     Sometimes it seems like all we do is fix things

Before we left the US in 2004 to cruise the Western Caribbean for 6 years, our idea of fixing something was a call to the local expert.  Shelling out money to have something fixed while we still each owned a profitable company was a no brainer.

Times have changed.  First of all, for six years, while cruising the Western Caribbean, there was no one to call.  At first this put a major crimp in our style — cruising just wasn’t fun because stuff was always breaking.  But slowly we became more proficient in diagnosing and even fixing pretty much anything aboard.  And after the first year, we learned with repetition.  Now we know if the windlass doesn’t work, the connections need cleaned with a wire brush – corrosion is the cause of most stuff not working.  Where we used to go into a panic and let the problem ruin our day, now we just shrug and go get the wire brush.  Confidence learned.

San Blas Islands, the Beach Is Just a Quick Swim Away...

San Blas Islands, the Beach Is Just a Quick Swim Away...

I look back at the differences in us and I am amazed.  We turned decidedly a white collar advertising executive and a greenhouse/flower shop owner into cruisers!  We’ve sailed over 10,000 miles, and I’m sure fixed 10,000 things.  We’ve learned that most places don’t have the US disposable mentality – they know how to fix things, with or without the correct parts.

While out cruising away from the influence of civilization, the cruising community provides our support system – something not working?  No problem, often it turns into a social occasion with friends coming over, the problem diagnosed and solved and then a fun adventure exploring the beach, or the jungle or a tiny Kuna village or maybe spearfishing and snorkeling the afternoon away.

We like everything on the boat to work – and on a boat approaching 30 years old with over 10 year old electronics, this is often no small feat.  The boat comes first, it takes care of us and we take care of her.  It’s a relationship unexplainable to anyone that hasn’t experienced it.  We trust her, she trusts us.    If we happen to be in nasty conditions (such as my March 2012 Lats & Atts article, “Anchor’s Away”), we know the boat will deliver us safely.    Of course, at the time, I need to continually remind myself.

Pigeon Cayes, Bay Islands, Honduras

Pigeon Cayes, Bay Islands, Honduras

We’ve often said we bought a boat capable of going around the world … it’s just the CREW!  🙂  Actually if we decided to tackle an around the world cruise, I have confidence we have the right boat.   But we’ve learned we really enjoy being closer to civilization, although a several months long adventure is still on our horizons for the foreseeable future. Whatever your cruising style, enjoy & don’t sweat the small stuff!

That’s all.  Confidence.  Confidence in your boat and yourselves.  Harder than it seems sometimes.  But it’s all worth it.  If you want to try cruising, go for it.  Do it with your eyes open (David wishes he’d taken that diesel class at the local community college before we left, but it’s worked out fine anyway), relax and have FUN!

Whatever your cruising style, enjoy & don’t sweat the small stuff!  (but don’t ignore it either!)  So how was your first year of cruising?  Leave comments and share with other just beginning Commuter Cruisers!  THX!  Jan



  1. We started cruising with little experience.. in Belize with no charts and no working autopilot! Its been 10 years cruising and I still cannot fit the impeller on our diesel engine the right way the first time.. but we are slowly learning.. it helps to be lucky but taking it in small steps and getting the right books and asking for help when you can.. will take you a long way to being self sufficient.. we are about to complete our first circumnavigation.. dreaming of a couple years at rest in San Blas..love your tips! , great site..

    • Maria — WOW! Congratulations on the circumnavigation! We never dreamed of circumnavigating, but we did originally envision sailing the South Pacific, getting married in Fiji and ending up in New Zealand – leaving the boat there and commuter cruising for the winters here (summers there), but so far we haven’t gotten there. Maybe we need to re-evaluate! We could love spending some more time in the San Blas on the way! 🙂 THANKS for your comment, so so true! I hope lots of people read it! Cheers — Jan

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