“How long are you on vacation for?” The woman at the bus stop in Ft Meyers beach, 12 days post untying our lines, asked us at our shared bus stop. “Well we aren’t on vacation … we live on a boat” is all we could muster in response.
After stumbling upon the 2013 world premiere of “Maiden trip” at our local Austin SxSW film festival and falling in love with the notion of traveling the world via boat, Erin and I began preparing for life as a cruiser. Part of our prep was minor things like learning to sail and buying a first, then the second sailboat and refitting, but the other part was learning what it means to cruise. We would read every piece of cruising and sailing material we could get our hands on, diving into blogs and listening to podcasts on every commute. However, similar to landing your first job out of college, it doesn’t matter how many classes or aced tests one has on a subject, some things can only be learned through experience. Finding out that we love cruising, even though it is not a constant vacation, is one of these.
Our sailing prior to cruising was either point to point or in a protected bay. The sheer amount of logistics when cruising is overwhelming at first. Not only did we need to figure out what the weather was doing to see if we could travel, but also what destinations we wanted to go, which route: ICW or outside hop, how will the weather effect either route and how much time either route would take so we could leave at the correct time to have daylight when getting in or anchoring. Where to anchor, how deep the water really is (charts are often wrong) and at what tide level, how will the current verses wind affect our anchoring, will Florida laws actually allow anchoring in this area or do we need to grab a mooring ball? How does the process work for mooring or calling bridges for openings or docking at a random fuel dock? The logistics were intimidating to say the least and I felt the nerd inside of me daydreaming about creating a “Google Maps” type app that would just figure out all of these variables and calculations for you.
Cruising boats are physical and hard work. However common sense this might be, it wasn’t until we were cruising did I accurately understand the concept. Mind you, prior to cruising, we did some pretty intense work on the boat redoing many of the systems, so we were all too familiar with “boat yoga” and associated boat bites. Before we untied our marine lines, we had cars – our flip flops were several years old before the soles were worn unlike the month of walking it takes us to wear down flops now. With cars, you don’t travel daily in the dingy, hauling it and the motor up every night. We had water right on our dock so hauling Jerry cans full of water, gas and diesel was never really a thought. When it rained, we slept soundly in our air conditioning not waking up with water splashing in from open hatches scrambling up to in a dream state to check on the anchor in high winds.
With the added inconveniences and less creature comforts comes a more rewarding existence, one that is more in tune with nature. Dolphins would feed at every anchorage we had on the west coast of Florida, day or night. They would play in our bow wave and catch a ride down the ICW in our stern wave. Watching Baby Osprey, Pink Ibis, 7 foot wing span Frigates, acrobatic pelicans, and a slew of other avian animals I cannot name became one of our favorite pass times. Lastly, I can’t forget the manatee we hung out with at Cabbage key and the two we saw quickly in Key West. Gentle and sadly beat up, but beautiful creatures, such a pleasure to see.
There is something special about stars away from land and under full sail. A cool summer night with a gentle breeze propelling your house to its next destination, stars crowding the clear night sky so that you can’t distinguish even the most familiar constellation. Luminescent waves lighting up the stern of the boat and traveling off into the distance. In the morning a fiery sun would paint the sky’s clouds purple, orange and red.
Coming from the western muddy waters of the Gulf of Mexico, any color water besides brown would have us thrilled, but I didn’t realize how many different hues of blue and green the water could be. More colors than in a giant box of Crayola crayons; we needed to make up names for the different colors because there really seemed to be something missing in-between midnight blue and Navy and dark blue just wasn’t descriptive enough.
Cruising is not all about beaches and umbrella drinks, but in my month long experienced opinion it’s not exclusively boat work in exotic places either. There is a healthy amount of work and even stress, but we have finally found the correct amount of work life balance to lead a fulfilling life.