1. Be flexible. If you are someone who likes things precisely your way, you are probably going to have a hard time on the water. “Island time” is a very real phenomenon out here and things just don’t happen like they do on land. If you have a fit when Starbucks runs out of your favorite breakfast sandwich or are thrown into a tizzy when the cashier at the grocery store needs to do a price check, you’re going to be given a real run for your money down here! Get ready to ‘go with the flow’ – I mean, you’re living on a boat, right?
2. Be open-minded. I’ll never forget the time I heard some jerk on the VHF yell “This is an English speaking country!” when two Spanish cruisers were talking back and forth in their native tongue over the radio in the Bahamas. It was appalling and rude and I’d venture to guess life is a little bit miserable on that fool’s boat. There is no room for close-mindedness out here – so if you are one of those people, do us all a favor and stay home. Just because you are from the USA (or Canada, or the UK, or Europe) doesn’t mean the rest of the world has to act like they are too.
3. Don’t try to adhere to strict schedules. If you like to make “plans” and have a well-detailed itinerary of your future cruising agenda complete with dates and ports of call, you are in for disappointment. On the water you must always be prepared to change tacks and you need to be okay with that. A loose itinerary is a good thing for guidance, but if you plan to rigidly stick to it, you’re going to be one frustrated cruiser. The beauty of this life is the uncertainty and spontaneity of it all, so embrace it! Along the same vein – never ever try to ‘beat’ weather. You (and perhaps your boat) will be the only things that get ‘beat’ if you play that game.
4. Be self sufficient. The most frustrated/unhappy cruisers we have met are those that aren’t able to maintain their boats and/or who’s boats are in poor cruising condition. When things break, they are at a loss. Nearly every time they make a passage, something fails – adding to the overwhelming list of things to fix. If you are not prepared to fix these things, be ready to deal with a local who will not only charge you an arm and a leg, but might not even be able to solve your problem (oh, and you won’t figure this out for two weeks). Not everything can be fixed by you and eventually you will need to employ the skill of an expert, but being able to fix the small stuff on your own will help you tremendously.
5. Enjoy moments of solitude. Can’t sit by yourself in peace and quite for an hour or two? Well start meditating or else you will probably not enjoy passage-making. Scott prefers to pass the time dreaming, sketching product ideas and tinkering with on-board projects and I am perfectly content to read or write for hours and hours on end. Even if you plan on “coastal cruising” you will have to spend many days alone at sea and if you plan on crossing an ocean, you’ll have to spend weeks upon weeks on your own. Best to try to wrap your head around that!
6. Find pleasure in sailing. I think it goes without saying that if you dislike sailing, you will most likely dislike cruising. Sailing requires work and patience – but it’s fun. Scott loves to tweak sails and adjust jib cars to shape the sails just right to squeeze another half knot out of them. Learning these skills can be a great way to pass the time as well.
7. Enjoy the locals. Scott and I aren’t usually drawn to the mass throngs of ‘cruiser’ activities that are often available in certain ports (but there are a TON available to you if you are! Beach parties, volleyball, group tours and excursions… etc). While we definitely enjoy some of the social interaction – we’d much prefer to explore by ourselves or with a couple friends and have found that you meet and interact with more locals that way. Some of our best memories are those random, authentic moments with locals, so we seek those out.
8. Be comfortable. Your boat is your home. Make it livable; make it cozy, pretty and comfortable. This is particularly important for the husband who’s wife is an unwilling/hesitant participant in their dream – if your boat isn’t comfortable for her – trust me, you will be miserable and your cruising plans will be cut short. That doesn’t mean you have to go out and buy a top of the line boat, but make sure the boat you chose is comfortable and nice. Similarly, if you buy a boat on Craigslist for $5,000 – you’d better be ready to fix things…a lot.
9. Be confident in your abilities and your boat. No, you don’t need to leave with all sorts of boating certifications and you don’t need to be a pro. But you should know enough to be dangerous. Understand the basics of sail trim, have a firm grasp on navigation and safety – but don’t fret if you’ve never sailed ‘offshore’ before. Everyone has to start somewhere! In addition – have confidence in your boat! After working on her for over a year, we knew our boat was a tried and tested blue water cruiser who could handle just about anything thrown her way. This, in turn, made us more confident as cruisers. You will learn a TON along the way – the learning curve is steep here and you will usually only make mistakes once!
10. Have realistic expectations. I think this is the most important of all. Ever go to an over-hyped movie expecting you were going to see the best film of the year, only to be sorely disappointed? Having inflated or unrealistic expectations is the quickest way to kill your cruising dream. Be ready for the highest highs…and the lowest lows. Be prepared for beautiful sunsets, raging storms and everything in between. If your picture of cruising was formed by listening to a Jimmy Buffett album, you’re in for a big surprise!
While we are not the experts – if you keep these 10 things in check we think you’ll have an easier time adjusting to a gypsy life at sea!
– Brittany & Scott @http://www.cruisingworld.com/