I'm planning to begin cruising full-time in three years. I will be sailing a 35-foot sloop single-handed, and so I want to be reasonably comfortable. I'm very fit and active and believe I'll be able to manage pretty well. Once I begin cruising, I will literally be selling everything from my life ashore, so returning to land sometime down the road might be a little difficult.
I'm sure many cruising people find themselves in this position. Once cruising, about what percentage stay cruising forever? For those that return to life ashore, is there difficulty in coping with the immense change?
Mark Matthews responds:
That old adage: "The hardest part is slipping the dock lines," holds true in many ways, although it's difficult to say how many cruisers keep cruising. Many take breaks here and there to buttress the cruising kitty, make upgrades, or enjoy life ashore. Some will move back ashore, some will continue a sailing lifestyle, some will try to do both.
Sailing off on an open-ended cruise brings with it a lot of good-byes as you open up possibilities for new people and experiences to enter your world. Id recommend spending as much time sailing your boat alone as possible between now and your departure date. Especially if you plan on single-handing, which is a lot more work than most people think. Id also refer you to an article by John Kretschmer Single-Handed Sailing for more thoughts on that subject.
If you havent already, you might as well move aboard your boat so that you can begin further refining your living space. Its easier to make any upgrades now than it will be along the way.
The notion that one has to be wealthy to sail off into the sunset I believe is a faulty one. While there are certainly mega-yachts and their accompanying bankrolls, will plays a much bigger role in the prospect for the average cruiser. Cruising vessels take a lot of tinkering, equipment, upgrades, time, and yes, money, to get going, but compared to life ashore, apartments, houses, and the normal day-to-day stuff that makes up life there, its more of an alternative lifestyle than something reserved solely for the wealthy. Most cruisers come from a can-do, spend-thrift lot, aiming to maximize the bang they can get for the buck. Depending on what kind of boat you have, sailing off into the sunset bound for distant locales presents an experience more akin to camping, than say one revolving around Grey-Poupon mentalities.
Cruising is a spectrum-expanding experience, on both the good and the bad, which I find is ultimately rewarding. It gets under your skin and it's hard to get used to not having large blocks of unstructured time. Coming back after several years of sailing around the earth with no particular aim except to get from point A to point B and enjoying yourself can leave one with a sense of career/societal vertigo that isnt easy to negotiate. Cruising brings a different mindset revolving around wind and weather patterns, as opposed to the commute and the self-perpetuating quest for the dollar. The best bet is to be flexible. Its a big change, for sure, either going cruising or getting back into the swing of things. A lot of how the transition goes will depend on the kind of skills you have, the people you know, and the type of work you do. At the very least, if cruising turns out to be the experience you hope it will, youll have a way out again. Good luck.