We started commuter cruising back in 2004 when we left Florida to sail to Isla Mujeres, Mexico and ultimately down the Western Caribbean (Belize, Guatemala, Bay Islands, Providencia/San Andres, Panama) all the way to Cartagena, Colombia. After spending six years cruising the Northwest and Southwest Caribbean we made life-long friendships with several boats.
Now, 10 years later, a friend recently told us “you need to get s/v Winterlude back to Bocas Del Toro (Panama) because none of the boats we started cruising with are still cruising”.
We’re not talking about boats that started cruising and got discouraged after a year or so. We’re talking about “old-timers” – the boats that were the mainstays of the SSB cruising nets, the cruisers that knew everything and everyone. Full-time liveaboards as well as us “commuter” types. So what happened? Why did all these experienced full-time cruisers sell their boats?
The reasons are varied, but overall they tend to fall into a few categories, by far and away, the largest percentage chose another adventure...
1. Cruisers usually want to experience all life has to offer – and sailing off into the sunset was a way to maximize their adventures. But after six or seven years living aboard, if they choose not to go through the canal and venture further abroad, many decide that the world offers other adventures they might be missing. As a result, many of our original cruising friends have sold their boats and made the world their cruising ground. Some are trekking in Nepal – stopping along the way to engineer and install a water cachement system for a remote mountain village. Some are literally riding their bikes (as in bicycles) across Thailand. Some are volunteering for orphanages in remote parts of the world. Some are living aboard canal boats cruising the European waterways.
2. Health issues. Easily the second reason people abandon the lifestyle is health. Unfortunately we’ve personally known several cruisers who passed away while they were still cruising – cancer, heart attacks and strokes are the most frequent culprits. (NOTE: they were not on the boat at the time, although one did have a heart attack and was high speed ferry’d to the mainland when we were in the Bay Islands – he was fine after rehab.) We’ve also known cruisers who have to quit because of other significant health issues – most frequent is the distance from reliable healthcare… reliable healthcare can be found in every country we’ve cruised so far … but cruising locales are generally several hours and a difficult bus ride to good healthcare – not good if you need it quickly.
3. Family issues. Many cruisers put their boats in marinas and return to care for elderly parents. Not just a few decide to put their boats up for sale and change their lifestyles. At least so far, we’re not aware of any who bought another boat and returned to the lifestyle.
4. Change. Some just are ready for a change. Maybe they want to spend more time close to new grandchildren, maybe they want a garden, things that are difficult sometimes on a full-time cruising boat. Maybe they want to slalom ski every day during a short summer … yet another plug for our chosen “commuter cruiser” lifestyle!
5. It gets hard. Life aboard a small boat is not physically easy. Contorting into small spaces to fix the next thing needing fixed, climbing to the top of the mast, fixing things underway, the list goes on. The lifestyle is satisfying and there are many experiences making it over the top worthwhile, but it’s not easy. After several years, some cruisers are ready to go back to living in the 2000’s rather than the 1950’s.
Commuting can get more difficult as well. We’ve known several commuters – not just boaters – who decide that opening and closing up a house every few months and putting a boat together and securing it for hurricane season every year is a PITA. Because we choose to secure the boat for hurricane season each year, sails & canvas off, the diesel fresh water flushed etc… we have a solid week’s worth of work each time we leave or return. But for us, it’s still SO worth it!
6. Risk. As I get older, I definitely am getting more risk adverse and I’m not alone. The weather never quite does what the forecasters say and Mother Ocean demands the utmost respect – both factors that make sleep elusive some nights.
7. Stuck in the Muck … On the other side of the coin, we know several cruisers who have stopped cruising because they found the ideal utopia. They live in paradise – on the Rio Dulce, Guatemala, in Bocas Del Toro, Panama or other locales. Some build or buy a spot along the waterfront with a dock and move their boat to the dock, affording themselves the luxury of a land base – still able to leave the dock anytime they get an itch to go spearfishing or diving or surfing.
Just because you choose to sail off into the sunset, doesn’t mean it will be forever. But one of the best things about life is our ability to choose to change – to move on to yet another adventure. And that is the biggest reason cruisers choose to sell their boats. Not because they hate it, but because they’re ready for another adventure.
As for us, we’re not quite done cruising yet … we haven’t experienced any of the Eastern Caribbean, so hope we see you out there! Cheers! Jan