The things nobody tells you about the cruising lifestyle before you set out.
This is a little difficult to write. The last thing I wish to do is deter anyone from following a dream. But at the same time, I find very few people talk about what the cruising lifestyle is really like. Take this as you will. I’m sure some people will look at some of these points and completely dismiss them. That’s okay. Others may find this information helpful. It is intended to be helpful and I aim to simply better prepare a person who wants to know what it is like to live fulltime on a boat and travel. Warning: it isn’t all cocktails and sunsets.
If you ever dream of sailing off over the horizon forever and going cruising on the world’s oceans, no doubt you read a few blogs, hopefully ours, or perhaps follow a few vlogs. There are quite a few well-known sites and some sailors have learned how to make money utilizing their journalistic abilities. Some have exceptional talents and put out a nice top-notch product. Others just plain beg for donations via a Patreon account and their blogs are loaded with ads. There are a couple of things to keep in mind about these sites. They depend on advertising revenue or patrons to support them. Or, they might be selling a service. Ask yourself, are they going to publish content which may make you stop reading or following them? No. If you have a dream to roam about the world in a carefree lifestyle, they are going to show you the sunny side of this. It’s going to look awesome to you. They want the clicks, they want to sell you stuff and they want traffic for the ads. The revenue generated pays to keep their adventure going. It is not in their best interest to talk about the negative aspects (unless it can generate clicks and traffic). Please realize a product is being sold. Whether it is a service, positioning themselves as experts for sailing seminars or selling a sunny carefree lifestyle with advertising in the text, their published material is all very calculated to ensure the readership continues and revenue grows. There is nothing wrong with this. If it person enjoys and appreciates the end product then, this is all that matters. Their sites can be very informative but in my opinion, completely avoid telling wannabe cruisers the pitfalls of this lifestyle. So, what are the pitfalls?
Few postings on our blog are negative but there are some occasions in the mix of postings. This is because, for the most part, we enjoy what we are doing. However, this lifestyle isn’t for everyone. There are days when we wish we weren’t here. Luckily, for now, the bad days are few and far between but the downside of cruising does rear its ugly head every so often. A question often asked of us is about how long we plan to cruise. We both agreed at the onset, we’d cruise for a long as the good days outnumbered the bad ones. Yes, there are bad days, plenty of them. So long as we are both having fun, we’ll continue. Here is the stuff, in no particular order, nobody tells you before you set out on this lifestyle. Some of this we have learned the hard way, some we already knew when doing our research prior to setting sail.
Most cruisers, I would guess about 80%, quit somewhere around the two-year mark. Why, because it is not what they expected. I can’t begin to tell you how many new cruisers we have met who think they have a handle on the lifestyle because they’ve chartered a few boats or have followed a blog. Even with multiple charters under their belts, people moving into this lifestyle are usually ill-prepared for what lies ahead. The funny thing is when a seasoned cruiser tries to tell them they are disillusioned, they will argue. Here we go:
Cruising is like Camping
Medical and Healthcare
Love Bumps and Doctors
Sailing at Night
Noise While Underway
Cruising is like Camping
Cindy often refers to living on a boat as camping. We are not camping in a basic tent like some other boaters. Instead, we are camping in a nice (floating) RV with many of the comforts of home. Depending on your comfort level requirements, I’m sure you can find a level of yacht suiting your needs. The question is: Can you afford it? I hope you can but, the truth is the yacht you dream of owning is probably out of your price range. How many comforts are you willing to sacrifice for the lifestyle? Keep in mind: Camping in a park or on the beach is fun on weekends – living in a tent city full time is many people’s idea of hell. Living on a boat anchored full-time is the equivalent of living in a tent city.
You must really love to fix things. If you do not enjoy fixing things, you are going to hate cruising on a boat. Things break all the time, even on new boats. Things break at the worst times like when you are in the middle of nowhere, have no spare parts and can’t get any. Cindy and I both repair broken items on the boat. We don’t enjoy the repair task as much as the thrill of accomplishment of being successful. Actually, she does enjoy the task. I am the one who looks more at the end result. Don’t think you can just call a mechanic if the engine stops. If you cruise this way, your budget will evaporate rapidly. This is assuming you can find a mechanic. I have a good friend who loves to work on stuff. He loves it so much he’ll even work on other people’s boats when everything on his is in working order. Carry a lot of spare parts and be assured the stuff breaking will be the things for which you do not have the parts.
Don’t be fooled by the new boat warranty. It is not like a car. When a car breaks, you take it to the dealer and they fix it, regardless of what broke. On a boat, each component is warranted by the manufacturer. Meaning, if you purchase a Beneteau boat and it has a Yanmar engine, should the Yanmar break, it is up to you to contact Yanmar who will make arrangements for the repair. The boat manufacturer will give you the contact for Yanmar but that is about the extent of their support effort. A common practice is for the component manufacturer to point the finger at the boat manufacturer claiming improper installation resulting in each accusing the other as the responsible party, thus leaving the boat owner in the middle and extremely dissatisfied.
Most product warranties are useless. The manufacturer will tell you to send it back to them for a free repair or exchange. This is fine if you are still in the country where they are located. But if you have moved on, you will find the cost of international freight is often not worth sending items for a warranty repair. Most companies will not consider a product replacement without sending in the broken product first and they will not ship replacements to you internationally unless you pay the freight. There are exceptions, but few. Avoid this by trying to buy items from manufacturers who have footprints all over the globe. It may cost you more upfront but knowing you can get service in the next port of call is worth it. Don’t be cheap and do your homework. Learn to shop internationally.
Some sailors decide to go the complete opposite of the new boat. They purchase an old boat. Old boats are going to take more money and time to maintain. When something breaks the chances of getting the exact part needed for a plug-n-play fix are slim. This means the owner will be spending a good amount of time shopping for parts in places most tourists never see. Insurance is difficult to obtain. Why? Because the insurance company knows the older boat is more likely to result in a claim. Even if the sailor has the capability of doing the repairs themselves, who wishes to enter every port with a list of things to fix and not be able to enjoy the port of call?
Personally, I would never purchase a boat from a cruiser. A cruising boat is more likely to have quick patches made with non-original parts. When the actual part needed is not available, something is substituted. It is all about getting the boat to the next port. If the substituted part works, the cruiser will leave it alone. It often will not last as long as the correct replacement part. If you purchase a boat where original parts have been substituted due to lack of availability, you will find yourself replacing the same inferior part over and over never quite fixing the real or underlining problem. This was true on a previous boat we owned. For three years I struggled with the starter burning out the solenoid. I replaced it with the same brand and type each time thinking it was the correct part. Each time it failed again after a few months. When I finally got smart and removed the whole starter and took it to a specialist starter repair shop, the first thing the guy said, that’s not the correct solenoid for this starter. The used cruising boat might have all the gear you need but how much of it has been repaired and by who?
I would purchase a boat from someone who wanted to go cruising and never quite made it for one reason or another. I would also very seriously consider purchasing a boat from a reputable charter company. Some companies offer exceptional value for a new cruiser. On our current boat, we are the second owners. The previous owner made certain original parts were used in repairs. There was evidence of this when we inspected the boat at the time of purchase. We have continued this practice often at great expense having the correct part flown in or using a visiting friend to carry it to us. We made sure our budget allows for repairs to be done correctly, the first time.
Medical and Healthcare
Are you prepared to give up the convenience of your family doctor and dentist? Are you prepared to try to explain to a physician in a foreign language where it is you hurt? You are going to get sick. You are going to need a dentist. For the most part, we have found medical facilities outside of the USA to be as good and about 1/3 the price, or less. There are times however, if one of us had incurred a serious injury, we would no doubt have died due to the lack of local medical options. Is this something you can live with? Remote islands mean no doctors. There is no 911 (999) service in isolated parts of the world. Dr. Google is often our first choice of medical advice. We have a good book Where There Is No Doctor: A Village Health Care Handbook, and an extensive first aid kit. We carry antibiotics and some prescription drugs. In some countries outside of the USA, antibiotics can be purchased at a pharmacy without prescriptions. This is a good opportunity to refresh the first aid kit. If self-treatment or the lack of medical care availability is a concern it is probably best to avoid world cruising or cruising to isolated areas.
Most full-time cruisers have a world-wide catastrophic healthcare policy. Some countries in the world will require you to have healthcare insurance prior to the issuance of a visa. Our policy covers us everywhere in the world except in the USA. Why not the USA? Because the cost there for medical treatment compared to the rest of the world is stupid expensive. Our policy without the USA is one-third the price of a policy including the USA. For office visits and basic care, we pay out of pocket. For this type of insurance, be prepared to shop worldwide. Countries with socialized medical care are used to providing policies for coverage outside of their own. There are very good Candian, British, Australian and New Zealand policies. The good ones are clearly written and easy to understand.
Love Bumps and Doctors
Many women are asked by their family physicians if they are in an abusive relationship. Living on a boat is going to cause you to have bruises all over your body. The boat is always moving and will toss you about bumping into corners, even when on the anchor. We refer to these as love bumps. Most bumps received in calm weather or anchorages are just annoying. In heavy seas, extreme care must be taken to not get hurt. The golden rule: one hand always holds onto the boat. Letting go can cause you to go flying and suffer serious injury. Remember, there is no 911 out here.
The heat will form rashes on parts of your body that never get dry. They itch. Need I say more?
Palm trees, reefs and islands with white sandy beaches are located in the tropics. Heat is an issue. I have often joked in the blog about it being hot. What I haven’t written about is sleeping at night with no air conditioning, sheets drenched with our own sweat and relentless biting mosquitoes. When the wind dies at night, it can make sleeping uncomfortable, to say the least. If the wind is blowing and a breeze blows through the inside of the boat, this can make the tropics tolerable. However, sleeping with the hatches open increases the chances of criminal intrusion and being eaten by bugs. It is a balancing act.
There are ways to escape some of the heat while at anchor. For instance, taking a late-night swim and a shower before bed seems to help. We will run our air conditioning in the evenings using our generator. This cools down the entire boat and we charge the batteries for the night, heat water, and do a load of laundry. We will keep hatches closed and trap the cool air inside. At some point in the early morning, we will open a couple of port-holes. Without air-conditioning, I’m not sure we’d still be out here.
Everything in your life will become covered with a thin layer of salt, everything! Any upholstery will never have that dry crisp feeling. Salt and damp is a part of the lifestyle. Nothing will ever feel clean because it isn’t. The humidity of living at sea-level is high and salty. No matter if you are the best house-keeper in the world, you can’t keep out the saltwater humidity. This is why you see the crews of the mega-yachts cleaning all day long. Nothing is immune to the damp and salt. You will long for a rainy day when the salt scum is washed away from the boat and for a short period after the rain, the air smells fresh.
Some cruisers do not have the luxury of a water-maker and ration the usage of freshwater to extend their time between water tank refills. This means saltwater bathing. I have never managed to feel clean when exiting the ocean and need to rinse off with fresh water. We are fortunate to have a water maker and do not worry about our freshwater usage. I feel sorry for people when I see them bathing on the back of the boat.
If you are fortunate enough to have a washer/dryer on your boat, awesome! If not, you will need to find somewhere to do your laundry. Most marinas offer a laundry. However, the machines rarely work and are expensive. Try to pick a machine where another cruiser hasn’t washed rags covered with diesel oil leaving your clothes smelling like a ship’s boiler room.
In the Bahamas, a friend spent the best part of the day doing about 3 weeks of laundry. It cost almost US$100. I thought it might be cheaper to buy a used washer/dryer, set it up on the dock and then just leave it behind. If you are on a minimal budget and opt not to stay in marinas, you will need to tote your clothes to shore in the dinghy. From the dinghy dock, you will lug them to the closest launderette where you will also find most of the machines do not work. The ones that do work will shrink your clothes. Think about how you are going to manage your laundry when living aboard. When you see naked sailors anchored on the boat next to you, please do not be alarmed. These are just people who have managed to solve the laundry dilemma.
This is perhaps the most common question we are asked about, are we afraid of pirates? The short answer is, no. Think of living in a city or town. You tend to avoid bad neighborhoods. The same is true on the ocean. We avoid bad neighborhoods or islands. But, what happens if you are in a strange town and don’t know the areas to avoid. This is true when we travel. We must research the areas. However, in your research, you will quickly find some of the resources aren’t entirely truthful. If you are reading a cruising guide containing advertising, are they going to tell readers to avoid certain locations if they have advertisers located there? Of course not. Also, be wary of other people telling you a location is perfectly safe. Just because other cruisers say a particular island is safe, doesn’t mean it will be the same for you. There are some resources such as CSSN and Noonsite who offer insight. We have found these particular sites helpful when forming our opinion as to whether a location is safe to visit. The key words here are; we form our own opinion. Do your homework and never assume a location is safe.
If you are a victim of a crime, there is a very good chance the local police will try to dissuade you from reporting it. They do not want crimes reported since it is bad for tourism. Also, you will not be around for a trial so if the defendant exercises their right to face the accuser, it is entirely possible charges will be dropped.
There are crimes committed against cruisers. Sometimes the crimes are violent. Some cruisers will argue it is safer than living in a big city or being killed in a car accident. I’m not sure if this is true, or not. Many blogs aimed at getting you hooked on cruising will downplay the crime. You definitely need to determine for yourself where your comfort level lies and have a plan about how to defend yourself should the need arise. I should also note here how carrying a firearm, defensive spray, or some other forms of protection may land you in jail. Just because a level of defense is acceptable in your home country doesn’t mean it is acceptable and legal everywhere in the world.
In addition to crimes committed by thugs, there are crimes committed by government officials. Many countries have a cash economy and the government does not accept credit cards. Customs and Immigration officials might demand a cash payment for which they are not willing to provide a receipt. Your choice is to pay the bogus fee or be turned away from the country or have your goods refused. It is not pleasant but this does happen.
For men, the issue of haircuts is somewhat mute. For many women, having a nice haircut and color is a big part of their persona. Letting go of the hairdresser and going to natural hair colors might be objectionable. Getting hair styled in foreign countries can be a challenge. Doing it in another language adds to the dilemma. For some people, this is a big deal.
Sports (or, lack thereof)
Some men are obsessed with sports. Once in the cruising groove, you will find it almost impossible to follow a sports team. The Internet is often expensive and not fast enough to stream an event, assuming you can get the internet. Nobody outside the USA cares about the big American sports or (American) football, baseball or basketball (including the World Series, Super Bowl and March Madness). If you venture into a sports bar, expect to watch cricket or football (soccer). The best you’ll probably get to satisfy your sports yearnings are Googling the scores or reading the highlights on ESPN webpage.
In addition to this, let’s assume you can get great internet. Let’s assume you can stream live in HD. If you are outside of the USA, you will find your access blocked to pages you could stream inside the USA. This is because oftentimes licensing agreements prevent sites such as ESPN from showing the content beyond the USA. You might be able to use a VPN but these can be unsafe for your computer and frequently don’t work as claimed. If you chose to use a VPN, be sure to use a reputable paid service. Do not use a free one you happened across on the web.
Sailing at Night
If you do not enjoy sailing at night it will be a challenge to make longer passages. Yes, it is possible to day-sail from the Bahamas pretty much all the way to Grenada. But anything beyond this is going to require overnight passages. In addition, day sailing will force the cruiser to stop at undesirable or higher crime islands. Many cruising couples try not to sail at night and subject themselves to a tedious routine of stopping and starting each day. When they eventually arrive they looked haggard. Learning a routine and being comfortable sailing overnight will lessen the angst. It will also make you a better sailor and open more locations as the nautical miles covered in one day are three times that of the day-sailors.
We find the first night out is the hardest on any long trip we take. We both have trouble getting a good amount of sleep and staying rested. The second night out is better. It doesn’t take long before a routine sets in and we can enjoy the long passage stay rested and well-fed. On longer passages, one of the following should be a focal point for you at all times: On a watch, sleeping/resting, eating, or bathing/potty. People often do not rest or sleep enough. A sleep-deprived sailor is not a good thing to have on a boat. Once in a routine, sailing at night can be very enjoyable.
Weather dictates a cruiser’s life. The best-laid plans can be made but the weather will always win. Having a schedule of any type including one to pick up friends or family on another island will sometimes force a cruiser to push the passage to the limit of their abilities. A schedule is the worst thing you can have on a boat.
Bad weather is going to happen. The forecast is a guideline and can often be wrong. For example, a few years ago in the Bahamas, the forecast called for a front to arrive in the late afternoon at about 4 pm. Many inexperienced cruisers went to shore with the mindset they needed to be back by 3:30 pm for the bad weather. The front intensified and arrived about 2 pm causing havoc for the unprepared sailors in the anchorage. Those ashore had extreme conditions for a return dinghy ride. To think the weather follows a schedule is a big mistake.
In addition to bad weather in an anchorage, a day will come when a vessel is facing adverse conditions offshore due to a poor forecast or bad judgment call. Never underestimate the power of the wind and waves. Panic and fear will only add to the anguish. Knowing the vessel’s limitations and calmly implementing a logical storm plan is the key to survival. Be prepared, it is just a matter of time. Know your vessel. Learn to work all equipment such as radar and radios. Reefing the sails early is not the indication of being a wimp. It is the gold standard of any good sailor. For sailing couples, both of you should know every system and piece of equipment on the boat.
I often wonder how much money a person needs to spend on a boat before the manufacturer includes a decent comfortable mattress. Take a look at the fifty footers at a boat show and ask the salesperson why they think a person in the market for this boat would be happy sleeping on a 2″ foam pad. Sleeping on a hard surface is the pits. One of the first things we did when we purchased our boat was to upgrade the mattress. We did this even for the boats we owned before cruising. A good nights sleep is priceless.
Saying goodbye to friends or family is hard. It is perhaps the hardest part of casting off the dock lines for the last time and setting sail over the horizon knowing you are not returning for a considerable amount of time. Keep in mind if the people you leave behind are still working they are stuck in the rut of 2 weeks vacation a year and it is difficult for them to take time off (unless they are European). Your friends will say they’ll visit you, but after everyone has visited once the interest will drop off. And, the further you get away from your home country the more expensive it is for them to catch up to you.
The top reason we hear people say they are quitting cruising is because they miss their grandchildren. I personally think it is more likely they quit for all the other reasons I am writing about here but saying they miss the grandkids evokes empathy and understanding from other cruisers.
Making new friends in the cruising world isn’t easy. Yes, I know all the blogs show us sipping cocktails and partying on the beach. The truth is the cruising world is very cliquish. The cliques are hard to break into and since you spend so little time in one location people will not take the time to get to know you. If you do happen to return to the same location year after year you might have a chance. The moment you sail in a different direction from your group, you lose all your friends. Cruisers will stay in contact via social media but this is no substitute for real friendship.
Here’s an example of how hard it is: We met another cruiser on the dock in our marina where we were located at the time and we started a conversation. He introduced his wife. All went well and we hit it off. A couple of days later, we were in the marina restaurant for dinner and we see this other couple we met previously. He walks past our table of two and joins some other friends. Not a big deal. Then, he made a point to come over to us and said, I’d love for you to join us but I like to keep the group at my table limited to six, perhaps next week if our other friends can’t make it you can join us. Both of our jaws dropped.
I once had a lady un-invite me from picking up trash on the beach. She invited me because she noticed our OCC flag and she was part of a rally group passing through the marina who were also members of the OCC. We chatted and she told me others in their group were planning a trip to the beach to pick up plastic. As we continued the conversation, she slowly realized we were not a part of their rally (a sect of the OCC). She basically uninvited me from joining her to pick up trash. Believe it or not, I’m actually okay with this. I have very thick skin and my attitude was it was her loss, not mine. I tend to find a lot of people living on boats are challenged in social areas.
The most difficult part of this lifestyle for us is we constantly have to make an effort to make new friends. If we stop at an anchorage we make a point of going about in the dinghy and saying hello to other boaters in the area. This has resulted in some wonderful long-lasting relationships. Only on rare occasions has someone done the same and stopped by our boat just to say hello. This doesn’t sway us from continuing to do it. I am just saying it would be nice if more people made an effort at anchorages. Saying goodbye is difficult and it is my opinion why cruisers don’t bother to make an effort to expand their existing cliques.
If you are fortunate enough to have a budget where you can stay in a marina occasionally, the cruisers on the hook will think you are somehow different from them. I swear I am not making this next part up. I read on a blog post where a couple posted they preferred not to hang with “marina people” because they thought marina people were snobbish. Again, their loss, not mine.
Big differences exist between having a boat in a marina using it on weekends and being in anchorages fulltime. In a marina, people will say hello to you as you pass on the dock or wave as they walk by your boat. It is easy to strike up a quick conversation and friends are easily made. This is not true for an anchorage. People will pass by on their dinghy. They might wave but will rarely stop to introduce themselves (unless they need something from you).
Noise While Underway
Sailing is noisy, very noisy. Between the wind howling through the rigging and the ocean waves beating against the hull of the vessel, it is enough to make a person’s ears ring. If the sails are not trimmed correctly they will flap. Halyards bang against things. The ropes creak as does the boat. God forbid you should need to run the engine. The whole boat vibrates with engine noise while you breathe diesel fumes and smell oil. On most boats, the engine is inside the vessel where you eat and sleep. This is why whenever you see video footage of a vessel sailing, there is music in the background. Look and any manufacturer’s promotional video or sailing blog and it shows the vessel gliding across the glassy ocean to the sound of peaceful calming music, usually soft jazz. This couldn’t be further from the truth if they tried. It’s bumpy and noisy!
If you suffer from seasickness, the ocean can be a miserable place. Often on passages, the waves and the swells are not aligned and this causes a washing machine effect or churning. This is the worst and it can happen even in relatively calm seas when the wind and waves appose. People react differently to seasickness. Some can just look at the horizon and feel better while others are completely incapacitated. Oh, just take a pill or put on a patch, you say. Read the label and you will find the medications for seasickness are all trying to prevent the onset. Once you have it, it is darn hard to get rid of. Most cruisers have a method that works well for them which they have perfected through trial and error. Be aware most seasickness medications cause drowsiness. Not having your wits about you in rough weather is a really bad thing. If your plan for seasickness is to take medication, try it out before going sailing for any adverse side-effects. As an FYI – the better seasick medications are sold outside of the USA where they are not governed by the FDA. Most are available without a visit to the doctor. Popular with cruisers is the use of Stugeron pills. They are readily available outside the USA and have very few side-effects.
Mold is everywhere. Damp warm dark places on a boat are plentiful. Mold will make your boat stink. No more needs to be said on this.
You must really learn to live together. You are not going to be more than 15′ apart when living together on a boat. For some, this is a real challenge. If you are used to your own space then perhaps living on a boat is not for you. It is a shame how many people we see having full out shouting matches in an anchorage. Living so close together for some couples is a big adjustment. Your dinner conversations will no longer begin with, “How was your day?” You already know the answer because you were there.
Are you willing to buy a whole chicken with the head still attached? Most cruisers start out being very spoiled in their homeport. They have ample options to buy plenty of food including fresh vegetables and meats. As they progress to other parts of the world, they find out very quickly this is not the norm everywhere. While the basics are often available such as chicken, potatoes, cabbage, and carrots other items can become difficult to obtain. If you have dietary requirements you will most likely have to adjust personal eating habits and adapt to local products. Often, we have had difficulty obtaining things like lettuce and tomatoes. This is because the shelf-life of these products is short and keeping them fresh is difficult. Local fruits such as mangos, pineapples, and papayas are usually plentiful.
Many cruisers do not budget or they underestimate the money needed for fun. They search the internet for the cost of cruising and then most newbies make a big mistake. They think they can do it for less. If you think you might be content sweltering in the hot sun on the anchored boat and never really exploring the location where the boat is located, you can skip this part. Otherwise, you need to include exploration as a part of your budget. Even on a small island, a tour can cost from $50-$200 per person. Most islands have a bus system providing access to towns on the main roads. However, to get off the beaten path, a car rental is often required. A car also helps to provision the boat with trips to the larger stores. I would suggest a line item on the budget to ensure you can comfortably travel within the country being visited.
It surprises me how many cruisers we meet who never venture far from the anchorage. They limit themselves to how far they can walk or the local bus. Renting a car, traveling away from the port/anchorage and spending the occasional night in a B&B or inexpensive hotel has provided us with tons of memories we will fondly cherish forever. This part of our budget did not initially exist. Now, it is an essential part of the budget. Why would you be content sailing thousands of miles to a destination and never exploring it once you arrive?
As for the cost of cruising itself, it varies greatly. Some claim to be able to cruise for $25,000 per year. Others, like us, spend much more. Find a cruising couple who you think you could live like or be happy matching their particular style of cruising. Write them a nice note and ask them roughly how much they spend. Most people are willing to share this information. And, trust me, they know exactly how much they are spending. Some have gone as far as tracking every penny they spent while doing a ten-year circumnavigation and are kind enough to publish the info: Bebe’s budget.
Boat insurance is often a hostile topic among cruisers. Some minimalist sailors do not have insurance. If they drag in an anchorage and hit you, they cannot or will not pay for the damage. Be aware in open anchorages that some boats will not have insurance. You can usually tell who they are.
Without insurance, many marinas or boatyards will not let you enter. At the minimum, they require some level of liability insurance. If you plan to sail without insurance, be aware of this.
If you have an older vessel, maintaining a policy on it can prove challenging. I am not saying it is impossible. You should also know, if you repair items yourself for cost-saving, this can violate your policy. For instance, if you replace your standing rigging (which is required every 10 years by some insurers) it is best to have a company inspect and approve your work afterward. If you are de-masted within the next few years, you will need to prove to the insurance company where you obtained your qualifications for rigging work. See how this works?
If you decide to sail with insurance, READ IT. After big hurricanes damaged hundreds of boats, many sailors found out the hard way they had violated some part of their policy and were not paid. One such instance was because an owner left a BBQ grill attached to the railing of his vessel, he voided his policy. Get a policy written in plain English. Do not shop for price. Shop for quality. You will probably need to change insurance companies as you continue to sail further around the globe. While a company might be suitable in one geography, they may lack benefits in other geographies.
Take your time! This was the best advice given to us prior to setting out. Many new sailors seem to be in a hurry to get to the next island, the next beach or the next bar. It often reminds me of the big city lane-weavers in heavy traffic who need to go a little faster than everyone else only to be stopped one car ahead at the next traffic light. Our motto: if we like a place, we’re going to park for a while. If you have a boat allowing for extended periods of self-sufficiency, take the time to enjoy where you are. More often than not, the next stop will not be as good as the current location. Nothing is more relaxing than knowing you don’t have to do anything unless you want to.
If slowing down means you might not get as far as you would like during your allotted time and money constraints, ask yourself if it really matters. Both of us agree we prefer to enjoy where we are and if we don’t get to see the entire planet, we’re good with that. Skipping an island, or two, is okay. Convince yourself of this.
Don’t have a schedule. As previously stated, a schedule is the most dangerous thing to have on a boat. It forces decisions normally not made. Such as departing in impending weather. If you need to pick up friends at an airport on another island or country, arrive a couple of weeks ahead of time. And, make sure your friends have a plan just in case you don’t arrive on time. Don’t be pressured into pushing your limits or the limits of your vessel.
In summary, a good day in this lifestyle can and probably will be one of the most exceptional days of an entire lifetime. A bad day on a boat can make you wonder if you are going to live through it to tell the tail. As every cruiser’s favorite movie Captain Ron so correctly stated, “If it’s going to happen, it’s going to happen out there” pointing to the ocean. I can’t think of too many chosen lifestyles where people deliberately dance on the edge of fate. Yes, we have all sorts of safety devices designed to save us when something goes awry but the thought of dying does enter my mind every so often. We do what we can to stay safe. I hope it is enough. We will stay out here for as long as the good days continue. Making it past the 2-year mark is a big accomplishment in this lifestyle. We have just reached 5 (as I write this). We will continue to put up with all the bad things I have just written about because the good things still outweigh them. But, there is no doubt in my mind, the longing for comforts sacrificed will eventfully become so great we will cave to the pressure and sell our boat. This is true for 99% of sailors. It is just a matter of time. Will we ever regret taking on this wacky lifestyle? Never!