We asked a number of full-time cruisers to take our survey and tell us why they cruise; their likes and dislikes, and the secrets of maintaining a healthy relationship on a small boat.
Barbara Hart and husband EW have lived aboard their 47ft Cheoy Lee Cutter La Luna since 2002. They cruised extensively in the Caribbean before sailing east to the Azores.
Barbara says she first agreed to cruise when she said “yes” to EW’s marriage proposal 30 years ago. She says the ability to laugh at yourself is important if an onboard relationship is to work, and that the best line to end an argument, is: “I wish you wouldn’t be so insistent when I know I’m right.” She adds, “It’s hard to sustain an argument when you are both laughing.”
Partners Helen Mussell and Stuart Proudfoot cruise on a Jeanneau Sun Magic 44. Stuart’s favorite cruising grounds are Chagos, Madagascar and Mozambique. For Helen, it’s the Tobago Cays and Anguilla’s Prickly Pear Cay.
“Making a relationship work on a boat means getting over an argument quickly and supporting one another when things don’t go to plan,” says Helen.
Liesbet Collaert and husband Mark bought their 35ft Fountaine Pajot Tobago catamaran Irie (ex Big Trouble) in 2007 and have cruised ever since. Having sailed the Caribbean, they are now in French Polynesia.
Liesbet says they love the cruising lifestyle and being one with nature. “It gives us a chance to see the world from a different perspective.” Their magical moments include “swimming with manta rays, sailing with dolphins, observing sea lions and other wildlife in the Galapagos, every beautiful sunset and starry night, and being alone in a sublime anchorage.”
What Liesbet doesn’t like about cruising is being dependent on the weather.
Rosie Burr and husband Sim Hogarth recently changed boats and now cruise aboard their 44ft steel ketch Wandering Star. Rosie agrees with Liesbet about the joys of living closer to nature. Cruising for ten years, Rosie says she values being with her husband all the time, meeting new people and exploring new places.
She lists the electric anchor windless as vital. “I was anchor wench for nine years with a manual windlass – I now have an electric one and there is no going back.”
Barbara Hart chose the autopilot as her essential piece of cruising equipment, while for Stuart Proudfoot and Helen Mussell it’s the water maker, wind generator and solar panels. “Deep freeze has changed our lives,” says Helen.
While I was researching this article, author, journalist and serial circumnavigator Cap’n Fatty Gooodlander sent me enough information to fill a book. Fatty credits his 52-years as a full-time cruiser to his strong relationship with wife Carolyn. “Always being there for each other is vital,” he said.
All our cruising couples said they share the decision making. Fatty says this is what works for him: “We yell at each other until one of us bursts into tears—and then hug our problems out. This is messy and stupid and disgustingly crude … but it’s how we do it. Besides Carolyn, Fatty lists his monitor wind vane, AIS and twin running poles as equipment he wouldn’t cruise without.
Devi and Hunter Sharp cruised for eight years before moving ashore. Like most women cruisers, Devi was practical when naming a vital piece of equipment. “A good anchor with 200 feet of chain rode and an additional 100 feet of rope rode.”
When asked to name their greatest fear, Devi was the only cruiser to mention pirates and the risk of being boarded by people “who value stuff more than a life.”
Barbara Hart said, “We don’t dwell on it, but both of us fear sinking at sea with no hope to save her,”
Fatty’s fear was “that I will hop overboard on a perfectly perfect day—because it is just that.”
Sim Hogarth fears going aloft, while Rosie fears “waking up tomorrow and it’s all over (and lightening storms).”
Chuck and Barbara Shipley are cruising on the only motor yacht in our survey; they have been wandering the Caribbean aboard Tusen Takk II, a 48ft Kadey-Krogen North Sea, since 2007, and have no plans to move ashore.
Chuck claims his biggest fear is that one day he’ll find himself confined to bed in an old folks’ home and be unable to get up and change the radio station which is playing RAP on Golden Oldies. Barbara’s fear is “that a health problem will require us to give up this life.”
Chuck delights in having stabilizers for long passages and radar for night passages.
Fuel is a factor on a motor yacht. “The price of fuel has increased a lot in the last nine years,” notes Barbara. “But since we have large tanks and only purchase fuel once or twice a year, we have been able to find economical fuel.”
Barbara’s favorite island is Grenada.
Cruising for only three years, Austrians Birgit Hackl and Christian Feldbauer of Pitufa, a Sparkman and Stephens 41, are the newbies in our survey. “So far,” says Birgit, “the cost of cruising is not prohibitive as long as we try to live economically.” She says boat maintenance and repairs put a hole in their budget and they try to do as much as possible themselves. She claims her biggest fear is being taken seriously ill or injured in a remote place.
Like other cruisers, Birgit values their water-maker because “it gives us the freedom to stay wherever we want for as long as we want without worrying about water.”
The downside, says Birgit, is dealing with stubborn bureaucrats and office workers who don’t understand that cruisers don’t have an address, phone number or constant access to internet.
All those in our survey named their boat as their only home.
“Absolutely. Always. Forever!” said Capt’n Fatty Goodlander.