It is the stuff of dreams: cruising around the Caribbean on a sailboat, anchoring in pristine and secluded harbors, free-diving in clear, warm water, cuddling on deck under romantic sunsets and stars, and sharing the adventure with the most wonderful man in the world. Young and in love and floating around paradise … amazingly, this life is now a dream come true.
So many cruisers wait until they’ve retired and saved up a big nest egg to set sail, but there are young couples living the dream all over the world. The one thing we all have in common is that we keep it simple.
And while the dream becomes reality, it also frees us from the confines ashore. We are no longer bogged down financially with rent, car, insurance, phone, internet, utilities, and gym memberships. On our boat, these worries are a distant memory. For what we would have thrown away on a couple of years’ rent or mortgage, we have an old 36ft sailboat, which we live aboard comfortably and simply. We rarely tie up in marinas, preferring instead to chuck out our trusty CQR-style anchor and enjoy the serenity and cool breeze in the harbors. To wake up to a sunrise backlighting Ginger, Cooper, Salt, Peter, and Norman Islands across the Sir Francis Drake Channel and sip coffee together on deck … it’s a million-dollar view, and it’s free. When we get bored of that scene, we simply sail on to the next exotic location: swimming with the curious stingrays in Grand Cayman, or hiking through a rainforest with our surfboards to a reef break in Bocas del Toro … Curaçao, Bonaire, San Blas, Panama, Cuba, Dominican Republic or Puerto Rico. No need to pack; we take our home with us. We simply go where the wind blows.
Our outboard stopped working the first week we met, and I found it incredibly sweet that my handsome man rowed me to and from the boat. Many years later, we are still rowing. It’s great exercise, it’s free, and we never have to worry about filling up fuel cans or breaking down. People often ask us if we are on our honeymoon. It feels like it, every day.
We haven’t owned a car in four years and have not missed it. To get around ashore, we take local buses or walk. It can be a struggle, carrying bags of provisions, jerry cans full of water, and other supplies back to the dinghy, especially in the blazing Caribbean sun, but this too is good for us: having to carry everything we buy helps cut back on frivolous purchases, as does the limited space at home on the boat. This saves a lot of money, which extends our cruising kitty.
With all this walking and rowing and lugging of goods, I have got in the best shape of my life, and so has Handsome. No gym membership needed. And with my hair naturally highlighted in the sun and salt water, I’ve finally achieved that beachy look that I once searched for in expensive salons. We even cut each other’s hair.
People often ask us if we are on our honeymoon. It feels like it, every day.
Our old Four Winds wind generator and a pair of solar panels give us all the power we need. My sweetheart has become something of a MacGyver when it comes to engine work, electrical wiring, and maintenance. By keeping our systems basic, we can spend less time fixing the boat and more time enjoying it and each other.
Fewer living expenses also relieve pressure to be tied down in a nine-to-five job. We’ve been able to spend the majority of most years cruising, while living on the boat and working ashore in various islands for short term contracts as needed. Many countries, such as the Cayman Islands, have more accommodating work permit procedures and welcome ex-pats to apply for a wide variety of jobs. Everyone, from lawyers to accountants to divers and waitresses, may be considered for employment in some part of the Caribbean—it just takes some research, and usually a bit of paperwork, and patience.
We find ourselves completely engrossed in simply watching the beauty of the natural world around us. The way the pelicans dive-bomb shoals of fish in the mornings, glittering small fry hide in the shadow of our hull, dolphins glow like angels outlined in phosphorescence as they glide alongside in the dark—it’s better than anything on TV.
This simple way of living is not for everyone, but by removing the distractions of modern life, we have been able to focus on what really matters: each other – and this adventure that we share. Like all sailors, we’ve experienced some storms and rough weather. As the swell is kicking up hundreds of miles from land and I am gripping the helm on night watch, I often find myself repeating this mantra: “As long as the boat is afloat, and we are both in it, I have everything I need in the world.”
Holly Gauthier and her fiancé have spent the last four years cruising around the Caribbean on their Cabot 36.