Sooner or later, the cruising must come to an end for all of us. Some go "on the beach" willingly while others find it extremely difficult to accept that fate, and a few never quite get over it. Numerous signs will be apparent well before finding a shore base becomes necessary. However, navigating a course back to shore can be as traumatic as that time when you first decided to move aboard. The following "navigation aids" can help guide you safely through those final storms and shoals.
Health The major reason most couples elect to give up cruising is that their health prevents them from doing as they choose and going where they'd like to go. With some, it is an increased need for medical treatment. When a regimen of frequent treatments becomes a necessity, one can not get far from the medical specialists. After years of exposure to the sun, many visit their dermatologist every two to three months to have skin cancers removed. Others must have growths of pterygia removed from the surface of their eyes after long-term exposure to the solar flux and the drying effect of the wind. Most often senior cruisers simply find things that used to be fun have now become a chore through loss of strength, stamina, or agility. This change is usually gradual, but I know of one situation where the sailor's physical capabilities were suddenly and drastically reduced after an intensely painful rupture of a disc in his lower back.
Strongly motivated boaters have overcome physical adversities and continued sailing for many years. Legendary voyager Tristain Jones switched to a multihull for a more stable platform after loosing a leg. A paraplegic sailor from Australia finished a single-handed nonstop circumnavigation last year, and Susan and Eric Hiscock continued cruising aboard Wanderer long after Eric's vision had deteriorated. In Columbia, we became acquainted with a cruiser who had just one leg. He had two artificial legs. one to walk with and the other to wear while diving. He said the latter kept him "on an even keel" in the water. And he danced better with one leg than I can with two!
A regimen of good health practices will extend/enhance most cruisers' quality of life well beyond that of their shore-bound friends and colleagues. Only after experiencing this lifestyle for an extended time can one begin to realize the health benefits of living aboard full-time. Sleeping like a baby, breathing unpolluted air, enjoying a diet of vegetables and grains without excessive animal fats, reducing stress and controlling one's own destiny. all are extremely important to the cruisers' well being. With many, the good habits remain and they continue to reap the benefits after becoming landlubbers again.
Boredom Cruising experiences can be fantastic, but eventually the cruiser can become dispassionate. Even a steady diet of filet mignon or ice cream can become boring after a long time. Shortly before we started our full-time cruising, I queried a long-time friend who had just stopped after nearly a decade of sailing in the Pacific. He said: "When you've seen hundreds of sandy beaches and palm trees, it starts to get boring." He and his wife found that those beautiful atolls were beginning to look alike. Years later I knew what he meant after we had become saturated from visits to forts, volcanoes, and Mayan ruins. Boredom can serve as a clue that it may be time to consider another lifestyle.
|"If I ever get back to shore, I will never go out again!" |
All of us who have been cruising full time for a few years can recall situations when we wished we were back on dry land. There have been times when I told myself: "If I ever get back to shore, I will never go out again!" Offshore thunderstorms at night are no fun when your mast is the tallest thing around and there is no place to hide. Storms, gales, and hurricanes are awesome aboard a small boat. Some sailors can adapt to most bad weather but it usually does not get much easier with time or experience.
We knew a couple who successfully weathered a Category 1 hurricane while anchored at Isla San Andre¢s. The wife became traumatized by their situation. Her mate later confided privately that she would cower on the cabin sole whenever the wind exceeded 35 knots. They gave up cruising a few months after experiencing the hurricane as she tried unsuccessfully to cope with her fears. We stayed aboard Oui Si in a small marina south of Wilmington, NC, as hurricane Hugo came ashore. It was forecast to come ashore near Myrtle Beach, SC, but turned west to hit Charleston. We saw a storm tide of over six feet, steady winds of 50 knots with one peak gust of 80. Afterward, we vowed to seek shelter ashore if again placed in a similar situation.
When in southern California, I knew a sailor who lost his small boat to a set of rogue waves at the entrance to the harbor. he nearly lost his life and that of his two daughters. Both daughters never overcame the experience and retained a fear of the ocean. He and his wife later cruised full-time for many years, but he always felt uneasy at that harbor entrance. I have seen a boat blown to pieces from a propane explosion, two boats burned to the waterline and two more sink after being holed. To one who loves sailing, accidents like these are almost like witnessing the death of another living creature. I doubt that any boater ever gets totally over it and some choose to remain ashore after witnessing such a sight. A near miss with a freighter, going onto a reef, a fire aboard, or a major gear failure can be the final blow to the cruising lifestyle.
Generally changes come about in a more subtle and gradual fashion. When you stop looking forward to the next passage or landfall—when you feel dread or anxiety as the anchorage disappears—take note of these changes and discuss them with your significant other. With signs like this, it might be time to "swallow the anchor" and become a landlubber again.
Wanderlust Even though the decision is made to stop cruising full-time, many elect to continue part-time aboard their sailboat while others decide a trawler is the way to go. It can be emotionally traumatic to downsize to a smaller vessel. Herb and Nancy Payson are one of the few couples I can think of who successfully made that transition. The "itchy feet" syndrome can be so ingrained that some who give up boating will switch to full-time travel in an RV. After years of living aboard, the water's appeal causes many to find a home base where they are either on or near it since it can be hard to get all that salt water out of their system. A resident of a small development with a series of boat canals was complimented on how nice it must be to live in that community of boaters. She replied that it was becoming a graveyard of boats since many could not bring themselves to part with their vessels but yet could no longer enjoy or maintain them.
It is somewhat paradoxical that liveaboard boaters enjoy getting away from masses of people and yet the overwhelming majority are also extremely sociable. When selecting a home ashore, few choose to move into a senior-citizen community where social activities are carefully orchestrated by someone else. They want a place where all their cruising, and ex-cruising, friends can come and visit. They do not live in isolation, but prefer to enjoy time with those having similar experiences. They have a deep appreciation of nature; conservation is not just an idle word in their vocabulary. Thus they are troubled to see natural resources such as water or electricity being wasted. Old sea dogs keep a weather eye out although they are landlocked and they can not take just one glance when a boat goes by. They will remain a sailor until they are given the deep six as even in death, many choose to have their remains placed in a watery grave.