I have been living on boats in the Caribbean for the greater part of the past 23 years; thinking back, I recall that most of the other cruisers I have met enjoy this lifestyle. For, once adjusted to the differences from living on land and the changing of mental attitudes from “wants” (the consumer society) to “needs” (what is actually needed to live aboard,) living aboard seems a sensible way to reside—outside the limits, that is.
Most cruisers are skilled yachts-people who have spent years dabbling in life on the water and additional time contemplating how to actually accomplish and pay for a life outside of their country—without a normal job, where one lives basically in isolation without the support of family, friends, community or your educational, spiritual, and political backgrounds. Living aboard is like growing older—it is most definitely not for sissies. As well, living aboard is definitely not for those who cannot abide their partners 24/7—this immediately cuts down on the numbers.
One of the most difficult issues women cruisers face is that of leaving the comfortable and safe confines of urban society. I have met very few women farmers who enjoy boating so we could assume that most women who are cruising have left the delights of urban living—theatre, museums, community events, libraries, cultural centers, music and such—along with their families and jobs. They have chosen, as have male boaters, to live on the water, in almost constant movement, dealing with foreign counties that embrace varied cultures, lifestyles and economic backgrounds.
Cruising requires great self discipline. There are very few things to socially enjoy while yachting other than eating and drinking; we all have lists of boaters who did not adjust well to these preferences. Visit any beach bar in the Caribbean and take in the “rummies” as well as cruisers and charterers who think that drinking is just something one habitually does while on the water. We all know that few countries have actually passed laws concerning drunk driving while at the helm. MADD would have a field day with the fatal accidents that have occurred within the Caribbean caused by drinking skippers.
Another change in lifestyle is that boaters tend to be more politically liberal, although more fiscally and environmentally conservative, than mainlanders. A great many of them want to live “outside of the limits” that bind/blind our current world. They view what is happening politically within their countries and dislike what they see. Although most responsible boaters vote in absentia, there are many who don’t. If you are one of these please do not complain to me about the political situation in your country. By not voting you have denied your option to help change the world.
Cruisers are frequently retired from high risk jobs and pastimes. I know many cruisers who were pilots, motorcyclists, auto ralliers or racers, stockbrokers, firemen, etc. Many company executives just want to get away from the rat-race when they retire. They sell their homes, their cars, put their furniture and belongings in storage and run, not walk, to the nearest yacht brokerage to purchase their dream of the sea. Most of them have had enough of commercial life to totally enjoy life on a boat, spending their spare time in reading, working on projects, provisioning for the next passage and figuring out the cheapest place to purchase diesel/gas.
I totally enjoy living aboard and cannot imagine giving up this freedom to live on land. If we don’t like our neighbors or our surroundings, all we have to do is start the engine or raise a sail. Life on the water has far more adventures than normal living; but I will be the first to admit that this life is not for everyone. As cruisers we create our own limits – most of us totally live outside of the limits set for us by society. I guess cruising is one of the last great lifestyles where one can be called a nonconforming individual—and lets just hope that with all of the new laws and regulations we can keep it that way.
Nancy Terrell is a freelance writer who has lived in the Caribbean for 23 years. She holds a Master’s Degree in Literature and is currently cruising on her trawler, Swan Song, throughout the Caribbean.