We’ve been stuck fortunate to have been living aboard in St. Augustine for nearly two years. And we still have about five months to go. I will tell you that there have been days when I’ve despaired of ever getting back out to the cruising life and I greatly miss it. We are in limbo, neither having moved ashore nor able to set sail and go where the wind takes us.
We are merely liveaboards just as we were in Maine for eight years. But now, we are liveaboards who have cruised and even if we currently don’t feel the deep peace and satisfaction we get when living the full cruising life—we still feel like cruisers from the tops of our heads to the tips of our toes. Accordingly, while we may act like dirt dwellers in polite company, we have the hearts, souls, and minds of cruisers.
So for you newbies and plan-to-bes, here are a few examples of how to think like a cruiser.
Think Like A Cruiser: Know the Difference Between a Vacation and an Adventure
va·ca·tion noun 1. an extended period of recreation, especially one spent away from home or in traveling.
ad·ven·ture noun 1. an unusual and exciting, typically hazardous, experience or activity.
When you’re on a one- or two-week camping vacation and it rains for three days straight, and you’re cold and wet and are not having any fun, it’s perfectly normal and healthy and possible for you to pack it up and head to a motel or home. You are also allowed to complain to friends and family about how miserable you were.
When you have embarked on a months- or years-long cruise on your sailboat and encounter a storm with 30-knot gusts, 10-foot seas, rain, and the threat of waterspouts—causing you to sail for over 24 hours in the slightly wrong direction to avoid shoals or crossing the Gulf Stream—you cannot quit or complain. You must maintain your watch schedule and you must present a positive attitude (feeling some fear is OK—that means you’re paying attention). You are on an adventure. Any adventure of long duration or in a difficult location will include rough weather, broken down parts, and boring dead calms. Adventure Happens. Get over it. Afterward, you are allowed to complain to fellow cruisers about how miserable you were as long as you also relate one funny story. (The Dinghy at Cape Fear in 2010.)
Think Like a Cruiser: Simplify and Be Proud
Back home, I enjoyed decorating for the holidays, hosting parties, and “doing it up right”. As cruisers, my (never magazine worthy) standards are considerably lower. This year, EW’s birthday “card” was made from two napkins and a Guadeloupe dish towel knotted together to form a banner with “Happy”, “Birthday”, and “Stew” taped to the three triangles.
While cruising, our holiday celebrations have ranged from a high of the sunrise Christmas carols and tomfoolery in Emancipation Park in St. Thomas to the low of a sad little Christmas feast of packaged Stolen and a small shot of Schnapps on our “Endurance Crossing” in 2014. We do have one plastic shoe box of Christmas ornaments on board, but no decorations for any other holiday. And while we recognize that some cruisers do carry more crafts or special decorations on board, I’ve never been made to feel inadequate for not doing so.
One of my friends has, though. One year she attended one of the well-known cruisers’ Thanksgiving celebrations along the U.S. Southern Coast and learned that they were expected to “decorate” their white-paper-covered table. Being more like me than a sailing Martha Stewart, her party took magic markers and traced their hands to create large-size kindergarten turkeys and colored them. “Awesome!” I thought as she related the story. Until she said that one cruiser took one look at their table and called it “Tacky”.
That my friend was judged is not acceptable. We have simplified our life and cruised off into the sunset or sunrise to a place where we don’t have to comply with keeping up with the Joneses anchored next to us. Do not judge us as we will not judge you for filling your boat with Halloween Costumes, plastic eggs, and accordion tissue turkeys. (Well, maybe we will a little but we won’t do so in public.)
Think Like a Cruiser: Walk it Off
EW and I have chosen not to purchase a car while we are here in St. Augustine—both a financial decision and a philosophical one. Since 2010 we have lived a life that didn’t require the use of a full-time vehicle (or often any vehicle) and didn't drive at all for two years while in the Caribbean. We walk, we ride two third-hand bikes, or we take the bus; every so often we rent a car and a bit more frequently we have relied on the kindness of dirt-dwelling friends for the occasional ride. The point is, that our default is to walk or take the bike. I’m on the edge of the planning committee for the St. Augustine Cruisers’ Thanksgiving, which needs to be held 3/4 of a mile from the Municipal Marina this year. There was a discussion about “transportation” and how many people the three or four car owners can take to and from.
“Um…Ninety percent of us walk farther than that to go have a beer every dang week!” “Of course!” “The only difference is that we’ll need to carry a bunch of stuff – drinks, our own plates and service, and a hot or cold dish. We need one or two cars to take the two to six folks with mobility issues and all the stuff. One trip and we’re done.”
We are cruisers. We walk, we take our dinghies, we help each other. Sometimes we are tacky and it’s not always fun but all of it—every single good and bad thing about this lifestyle—is all part of the adventure.
And that boys and girls, is why we cruise.