The Little Things that Matter for Happiness While Cruising

Over the years we have met many unhappy cruisers. Singlehanders, who have not set out alone, couples that quarreled to the point where at least one of them wanted to leave, others who wanted to stay together, but were relieved to have the boat put up for sale. Talking to them revealed countless reasons, but in the end it seemed to us that not the big issues had ended their dream of a happy life under sails, but rather the little things (or the lack of them) that had almost unnoticed, but continuously sucked all joy out of their daily routine.

A library with real books (made of paper).
A library with real books (made of paper).

Many crews set out with inadequately equipped boats, but the camping-like lifestyle quickly grinds them down. You don’t need a luxorious mega-yacht to be a happy cruiser, but everybody craves a certain level of comfort—you just have to find out what that means for you (and your partner!). Sometimes it might be better to save for another year and buy a seaworthy vessel instead of ending up with a boat that’s just a tick too small for a big ocean, leaks into your cupboards whenever there’s rain or spray in the air or keeps you in port with one repair after the other while the elderly equipment quits. It certainly does not pay off in the long run to scrimp on essential equipment and safety. A trustworthy anchor keeps your home safe and gives you the peace of mind to sleep while other crews stay up on anchor watch and to enjoy land excursions while the boat remains unattended. A strong electric windlass isn’t just a relief for the back, but is also an important safety feature if you have to leave the anchorage in nasty weather with waves building up. A dodgy engine quitting while you’re navigating in tight quarters might end with the boat wrecked on a reef.

Improvised dinghy floorboards to keep feet and shopping dry.
Improvised dinghy floorboards to keep feet and shopping dry.

Other basic pieces of equipment are not essential for the seaworthiness of the boat, but the wellbeing of the crew. The lack of a (properly working) toilet can lead to a mutiny in the long run. Unless you are among the few people who actually enjoy drinking warm beer, a reliable fridge that won’t quit with a month’s supply of fresh food to be eaten within 2 days is a must. Enough energy (preferably from alternative sources) keeps the crew happy on gray and rainy days. An outboard engine that needs coaxing and special technical skills to get it running weighs heavily on relationships. She’s frustrated as she doesn’t dare to venture out alone, he accuses her of the wrong technique when pulling the starter cable and another day in paradise is ruined.

Ample storage space for provisioning and an array of tools and spare parts to repair crucial things in remote places.
Ample storage space for provisioning and an array of tools and spare parts to repair crucial things in remote places.

If you’re still a landlubber or a part-time cruiser, but consider choosing the cruiser’s lifestyle take a moment to think about your daily routines. What little amenities would you miss most? If there’s any way to make them fit, take them with you–even if they now seem trivial and you’re convinced that you can do without them, they might one day be the reason that you quit cruising… You enjoy live concerts? Just install that ridiculously expensive HiFi system. Think you’ll miss going to the movies? There’s a place somewhere in the saloon for a video wall. We have met boats that carried 6 different kites, a washer-dryer, a flight simulator, etc. etc.—what seems ridiculous to one person ensures the happiness of another (even a jewelry workshop might fit).

If you’re already living the dream, but don’t enjoy it like you thought you would, sit down and make a list of what gets on your nerves, or what you envy on other boats. Don’t suffer quietly, but get active and find a remedy for whatever ails you!

We have lived full-time on Pitufa now for 7 years and still enjoy our cruising life. Pitufa’s a rather elderly and not exactly luxorious boat, but she’s well maintained, keeps us safe and provides just the right amount of comfort to keep us happy. 

 

A herb garden that adds fresh ingredients to meals.
A herb garden that adds fresh ingredients to meals.

10 THINGS THAT MAKE PITUFA A COMFY HOME:

  1. A watermaker that makes us independent, prevents strained backs from lifting jerry cans back and fights about who gets to shower how often and for how long.
  2. A herb garden that adds fresh ingredients to meals.
  3. A high-quality mattress to ensure restful sleep.
  4. A shower on the aft-deck to rinse off the salt before it contaminates the rest of the boat.
  5. A sun-awning with side covers over the cockpit to enlarge the living space on hot, but also on rainy days.
  6. Improvised dinghy floorboards to keep feet and shopping dry.
  7. Ample storage space for provisioning and an array of tools and spare parts to repair crucial things in remote places.
  8. Home-brewing equipment.
  9. A library with real books (made of paper).
  10. Our cat.

For more info visit www.pitufa.at.

Birgit Hackl
Birgit Hackl, Christian Feldbauer and ship’s cat Leeloo have been exploring the world on their yacht Pitufa since 2011. Visit their blog: www.pitufa.at