Is Commuter Cruising Right for You?

So you can’t decide if commuter cruising or full time cruising is right for you?  Here are six steps we took while we were undergoing the same dilemma!

1.  Learn … I’m a big believer in education.  I’m also a big believer in the library.  Free books are a wonderful thing!  It’s amazing how many cruising books you can get from the library!  Don’t spend the money you could be investing in your boat kitty in the early stages of researching the lifestyle!  Ask your library if there’s a statewide network where you can order books from libraries around the state – it’s amazing how many titles even landlocked states like Indiana had available statewide!    Be sure to read anything by Larry & Lin Pardey, Beth Leonard and even Herb Payson.   We enjoyed Annie Hill’s “Voyaging on a Small Income” even if it wasn’t our idea of living.  Don’t limit your reading to the adventure circumnavigating cruises, be sure to read some of Nigel Calder or Don Casey’s books on maintaining a boat – cruising involves managing all aspects of your boat, not just sailing or lounging on the beach for sunsetters with other cruisers.

Read Read Read ...

Read Read Read .... We continue to read, but now it's either for enjoyment or to find our next adventure aboard!

2.  Online Education … type cruising sailboat in Google and see what pops up.   After you’ve perused those topics, type in cruising blog.  Pick a few and see what they’re like, some are chock full of information and some are highlights of what happened today – which is still valuable providing a glimpse of that cruiser’s lifestyle aboard.    I followed Bernadette Bernon’s website adventures as they cruised the Northwest Caribbean.   I was addicted, whatever the schedule was for the next post, I was online looking five minutes before to see if they’d posted anything early.     One of the reasons we started cruising in the Western Caribbean was Bernadette & Douglas’ blog.   See if you can find some online adventures to follow and glimpse what the cruising lifestyle involves.

3.  Join a couple online forums and read about what other cruisers and wannabees are discussing.  Cruising forums come and go, increase and decline in participation, but right now (2011) a couple active ones include Cruisers & Sailing Forums at and Liveaboard Forums at   The magazine Latitudes & Attitudes has a very active forum called “Greg’s Pub”.

4.  Boat Shows.  Reading and research is fine, but eventually you have to get out into the world and see what others are doing.  Living in the landlocked Midwest, boat shows provided the perfect opportunity for us.    Strictly Sail Chicago allowed our first glimpse of an array of cruising boats as well as all the amenities known to the cruising world in the vendor tents.   We wrangled Sunsail down into our price range and booked our first charter to the British Virgin Islands.

5.  Charter.   Our first charter was to the BVI with friends – we weren’t confident enough to handle the boat on our own yet despite David having been a Quartermaster in the US Coast Guard (QM’s are responsible for navigation — convenient for our planning!)   Sometimes beginning charterers take a captain along for the first few days, some take a “cruising” course designed to teach them enough to handle a bareboat charter.  Our 2nd charter was by ourselves in a 33′ boat on the SW Coast of Florida, then we went back to the BVI and finally just the two of us again in a charter in the Abacos (Northern Bahamas).  The charters, especially the Abacos where charterers are not the prevalent species and we actually got to interact with “real” cruisers, were eye opening and provided just enough exposure not to disappoint us, but definitely allowed a glimpse into a lifestyle without unlimited electricity and running water!

Cruising San Blas Islands

Cruising San Blas Islands

6.  OPB … otherwise known as “other people’s boat” — we were lucky enough to have a couple of other friends with cruising boats, two on Kentucky Lake.  Spending the weekend anchored out lazily swimming and enjoying the good life reinforced the thought that cruising would be lots of fun in our future!

By now we were fairly convinced that we’d like to go cruising … but … we didn’t want to give up our summers racing one design Y Flyers, family, season changes, life and slalom skiing on our mud puddle of a lake, friends, the list goes on.  So we compromised and decided to get a boat and go cruising for several months a year … in the winter when it’s cold in the Midwest — David decided once he retired he didn’t want to live anywhere he couldn’t wear his shorts all the time, that definitely did not include the Midwest in the winter!

If you have helpful ideas on how to decide if the commuter cruiser lifestyle is right, please leave a comment!   THANKS!  Jan




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