Let’s take a quiet moment to reflect on our love of sailing, cruising, and our love of life. Sailing is supposed to be fun, not a hardship. It’s a sport that intimately connected with nature the wind, the ocean, the sun, the moon, and the stars above. Sailing is about losing track of time and finding yourself at the same time. If you really want to enjoy everything that sailing has to offer, you’re going to have to face some hard financial facts.
Understanding Costs The expense of the sport is almost always going to exceed what you expect it to. Do you remember the advice about packing for Europe? Take twice as much money and half as much stuff. The same wisdom goes for sailing. Forget about the air conditioner, the refrigerator, and the watermaker. Leave the tuxedo and the rare books at home. Sailing, in its essence, is a simple sport. Just leave room for a collection of seashells and cruisers’ cards. Don’t try to take everything with you.
Having offered all that about simplicity, sailing is still going to cost you more than you think it should. Why? Because those extra nights at the marina add up. Repairs take time and money. Services need to be paid to forward your mail. And, when you get to where always wanted to go, you’re going to want to celebrate with dinner at a restaurant or a night on the town.
So here's my advice: Plan a generous cruising budget. If you're on an extended cruise, it’s not easy to find work overseas. When you do find work, it will last a few days or weeks and it will be sporadic. Remember, the less complicated your boat is, the easier and cheaper it will be to make repairs in a foreign port.
Self Education If you’ve ever wanted a reason to attend sailing seminars, buy books about cruising, go to a boat show, or subscribe to sailing journals, you have my full recommendation to do so now. We spent months—wait, make that years—educating ourselves before we started cruising. Did it pay off for us? Absolutely.
From books, we learned about the necessity of boat insurance and overseas health insurance. From magazines, we learned about the dangers of taking unnecessary risks. At boat shows, we learned about hats and clothes that would protect us from the sun. In seminars, we learned about easy boat repairs and maintenance.
So did we wear our big floppy hats, sunglasses, and sunscreen? Absolutely. Have we used our towing insurance? Yes. We were towed out of a shipping lane when our engine died on a calm, flat morning. Have we used the flares, the EPIRB, the storm anchor, or our overseas health insurance? No. But thank goodness we have all of those on board if we need them. Peace of mind is priceless. Think about that when you buy equipment, anchors, clothing, or anything else. Whatever makes you sleep better at night is going to pay off in the long run.
Time on Your Side A lot sailing mistakes happen because sailors are in a hurry. We rush to leave the dock before sunset, we race to the anchorage, we slap the anchor into the mud, and then we run around the galley to fix dinner. In the morning, we pull the anchor and charge off to the next location before the coffee has finished brewing.
|"A lot sailing mistakes happen because sailors are in a hurry. We rush to leave the dock before sunset, we race to the anchorage, we slap the anchor into the mud, and then we run around the galley to fix dinner."|
My husband and I were planning on sailing around the world in three years until we asked ourselves this question. Then we slowed down. We stopped. After a lot of thinking, we decided we’d rather take a month off to sail every year for the rest of our lives than to squeeze all of our experiences into three years of constant cruising. This may not be the right answer for you, but just make sure that what you decide to do is done because you made a conscious choice to do that—not because it’s what everyone else is doing.
Sailing is a friendly sport. You don’t have to be extroverted or host society balls, but a little friendliness goes a long way out on the water. Reach out to meet the people docked next to you or anchored down the way. You never know when someone might stop by your boat with a fresh-caught fish (thanks, Tam), or when a helpful soul might pull your dinghy up above the rising tide for you (thanks, anonymous person), or when some friendly writers might give you a personal tour of their home port (thanks, Herb and Nancy Payson).
I’ve been a guest at other sailors’ homes and look forward to hosting people when my turn comes. Sailing makes for a great community, so don’t be afraid to reach out, shake someone’s hand, and ask for a little help if necessary.
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