| ABOUT CRUISING
some ideas on our cruising lifestyle.
LIVING ABOARD AS A LIFESTYLE
What does it take to spend your
life living aboard? What kind of people do it? What are the
implications - financial, health, family?
How much knowledge, ability or strength do you need? What are the rewards,
is it worth the effort? These are the questions we try to answer in the article
We hope this page will encourage
readers to differentiate between sailors who pound across
oceans in record time and those who make safe and often enjoyable
passages for the purpose of pursuing a life aboard ... abroad
in exciting new ports.
aboard - are you ready for
- do you have a retirement plan or still working?
Health - how much strength, endurance, is age a factor?
Family - how do you be a good parent/grandparent and go cruising too?
No matter how big the boat of your choice it will be small
and less comfortable compared to a house so why downsize permanently? The
answers have a lot to do with whether you see yourself in
the Springtime of life or the Autumn! It is a question of
commitment and this is so for all the factors above. It IS
possible to cruise on a tight budget, in poor health and despite
a nagging conscience over missed baby-sitting duties; so it's
really about your determination to be out there.
The comments we can offer come from us as a retired couple
in the process of realising a lifetime plan. We have been
either cruising or working to gather resources or building
illywhacker since 1975, so over that long period we have been
able to accumulate enough experience and capital to survive.
Our family is used to our lifestyle and we try to keep up
our obligations as parents and grandparents. Our health is
marginal so these 2 factors need to be managed for sustainable
cruising. So far so good!
On our circumnavigation in the early 80's with 4+ of us on
board we managed to live on AUD$12,000 each year. This income
was supplemented by a total of about 2 months work in Singapore,
most of which went on a radar and an Aries windvane for Dulcinea.
By today's standards this seems extraordinary but the ratio
of 1/3 for food, 1/3 for boat and 1/3 for doing things ashore,
still holds true for us with perhaps a bit more nowadays on
the "ashore" component.
We are "self-funded retirees" and since we injected
our house sale funds into the capital we manage to live well
enough. One of our major costs is the travel we do away from
the boat including an annual trip home. Nevertheless we spend
far too much time in Thrift shops and looking for bargains
for my liking so another few $$'s a week would always be handy!
As far as the amount of capital invested one needs to live
off is concerned, the Financial industry like to quote figures
of around 15-18 times the annual expenditure and that will keep you going forever. That ratio has
been working for us for 10 years but don't stop your plans
if it seems high. We have had many opportunities to pick up
extra funds through casual employment. If you have the skills
to run a cruising yacht there will be many jobs you can do.
We know of an 85 year-old single-hander and of 70 year-olds sailing non-stop around the world or just cruising and enjoying it immensely. Determination is the key and ability to manage whatever it is that slows you down. Lyndall and I contracted Lyme disease, a tick-bite infection that results in cyclic periods of severe lassitude, arthritis and deterioration in areas where the spirochaetes accumulate in the body. Lyndall has a metal knee and has had an eye rebuild attributed to Lyme and spends hours researching the various health management regimes. She is a very positive person in her outlook, loves our lifestyle and is certainly not ready to give it up just yet! Boy, am I lucky to have such a wife, co-captain and health administrator!
These days, medical tests have improved to the extent where the mere beginnings of an illness may be detected. Do you really want to know? Information suggesting even a marginal test result puts you in the position to declare it as a pre-existing condition on your medical/travel insurance and surely provides more stress that you don't need. Our practice was to have a checkup on each visit home. We're not so sure now! An update to this philosophy is evolving, click here
|| Toward the end of our circumnavigation in 1983 - we've never been healthier!
Lyndall and I have lived our lives acutely aware of the very
short time we have on this amazing planet, a mere blink of
an eye between 2 eternities. So restless were we that early
in our married life we seriously considered travelling from
Australia to London overland with our 4 young children. The
first editions of the "Lonely Planet" guides gave
us that inspiration. The pressures of a mortgage however and
resistance from our parents modified the plan to one of seeking
a job overseas where the children would be at less risk.
As new parents we tend to do what we think best at the time
but on reflection our approach to child rearing has been to
encourage individualism, to expose each one to opportunities
and to place a high value on understanding and appreciating
the environment. In effect, this meant "dragging them
along" with us, sharing our adventures with them and
exposing them to the good and bad experiences that foreign
travel can offer. Over the years we have found ourselves at
variance with those who prefer the constancy of a single home,
school etc. Taking our kids out of school for 3 years to see
the world was not universally applauded but it more than proved
to be the right thing and we are proud of our family who seem
to have inherited our love of travel and themselves dream
of new adventures.
As our grandchildren appear we're contented to be seen just
as we are, secretly hoping that as they get older, sailing
with Grandma and Grandpa will be a high priority dream for
Top of Page
Here is an article written with new cruisers in mind
The first passage away from the Home
Country needs special preparation.
Australia and New Zealand are blessed with a long and varied
coastline with many beautiful anchorages, so why consider
leaving for somewhere maybe not as attractive? The majority
of sailors have no doubt that we who coastal cruise under
the Southern Cross have the best of it and harbour no desire
to head offshore and risk unthinkable disasters. After many
thousands of ocean miles and many different landfalls Lyndall
and I thoroughly agree, we do hail from the greatest country
in the world, without a doubt. So why is it that Illywhacker
is reluctant to come home, forever turning her bow towards
strange ports, her sails filling to unknown winds and the
hull revelling to the currents of new oceans?
There is a reason, one that has little to do with logic,
a human affliction that is commonly found in the offshore
cruising community. Its hard to explain and its
irrational, a burning desire to see new places, to meet new
people with different cultures, to live with them and to know
them and to constantly reinforce our belief in the kindness
and generosity of people the world over. It is a fact that
arriving in a new country by yacht allows us to get straight
into the business of daily living and by mixing with the real
people working the port or meeting those just gazing wistfully
over the water we find our lifestyle awakens a sense of adventure
in them all. Without knowing why, perhaps we are living a
life fundamental to the human spirit. Would you like to join
us and become one of these
Join us in the cockpit and well take a look at some
of the issues weve come up against.
You will see that we are seriously hooked. For us this is
a full-time occupation, Illywhacker is our only home and is
the result of many years dreaming and planning. Our first
ocean crossing was squeezed into a few months off work but
it was a taste of what was possible and soon lead to 3 years
of cruising which formed the foundation of our plan
a new boat and a new lifestyle. So from our experience we
can be reasonably sure that there are many sailors who are
looking to taking a first passage offshore to "test the
waters" as we did in 1977. But first, how far do you
want to take this? Lets start at far distant shores.
Taking the decision to cruise overseas long distance is a
serious step. It usually takes all your time and money for
instance and involves major personal decisions affecting your
job and family. It represents a commitment to the cruising
lifestyle living aboard for an extended period without
any soft options to stop if the going gets tough. Sure, sailing
across the Tasman is a great way to explore new cruising grounds
and it can be a tough passage but it is hardly going foreign
in the sense of experiencing a different culture, eating new
foods, making yourself understood in a new language and being
far away from home. This is what we like about cruising overseas,
it should be a challenge and a learning experience. Head north
from Australia and New Zealand and you will soon experience
some distinctly different cultural communities. The island
countries of the Pacific with Melanesian, Micronesian and
Polynesian peoples are our neighbours who happily live in
superb cruising grounds. To the northwest, Indonesia heralds
the start of Asia, offering unique cruising grounds and an
environment very different from Pacific cultures. In the most
part these countries are safe for cruisers to visit but all
require thorough planning, research and risk assessment before
you enter any foreign port. Essentially though, they offer
cruising potential that is truly foreign for us "down
under" and fall within the scope of 3 to 12 months journey
of discovery away from home. These are the places you should
try first. We believe that from Australias east coast,
there is no better place for a first cruise than the Louisiades
in PNG and the Solomon Islands.
Cruising another country can be a challenge of independence,
of subsisting on your own resources and facing greater levels
of difficulty when things break or help is needed. For instance,
if you are alone and cannot speak the language it takes time,
money and wide-ranging skills to carry out repairs when parts
must be ordered from home. You can never have enough experience
to guarantee a safe offshore cruise but if you dont
possess any at all yet DO have a strong desire to take the
plunge then there are ways to begin.
The first is to develop confidence in your own boat and abilities
in home waters and to learn from the experiences of cruisers
who have gone that way before by reading and asking questions.
You can minimise the risk of turning your dream of a lifetime
into passage to hell with some careful preparation. The best
way to make that important first landfall is to make the first
country you choose to visit one that is nearby and to sail
with others more experienced. Treat the first passage overseas
as a learning experience that allows an assessment of your
own capabilities to manage the unexpected (ie monitor your
anxiety level) and weigh this against the enjoyment gained
from the cruise.
So you will need some time, some money, a certain amount
of confidence in your own boat and abilities and a lot of
research and planning to ensure a successful cruise overseas.
Once you make the jump, we believe the rewards will have you "hooked". BUT we do know people who arrived back
from the first passage, sold the boat and bought a cottage
in the country.
Planning the First Cruise Overseas
OK so youve arranged time off work, now lets
fit the cruise around that right? Wrong! There will be other
factors outside of your control which may determine the route
plan and timing. . The weather is an obvious limitation. Being
out of the cyclone belt or the hottest countries in summer
is always a good idea, the first time at least. There are
also the restrictions imposed by a countrys Customs,
Immigration and Quarantine laws which limit the time you,
your boat or your pet if you have one aboard, may stay. Timing
will be a combination of all these factors. One aspect of
cruise planning that is often underestimated is the amount
of time allocated to waiting for weather or for just enjoying
a nice anchorage. At least 2 days in port for every 1 at sea
is our minimum, plan for more if you can. Also, dont
expect to be sailing at top speed either. We find ourselves
motoring frequently and sailing defensively to avoid breakage
when were a long way from home. We plan on a 5 knot
daily average and are often pleased when we achieve something
Are you and your boat ready?
Next lets take a look at your situation, are you ready
to go? One of the prime causes of a "cottage in the country"
syndrome is our ability to cope with accumulating perceived
"breakdowns" be they equipment or personal. Given
that our senses may not be operating at 100% under lumpy sea
conditions, the number of these we can cope with will be less
at sea. We believe older cruisers will agree in the importance
of maintaining a degree of comfort that allows reasoned decision-making
in dealing with breakdowns as they occur. This all leads to
our assertion that the boat must be dry below with warm bunks
and good meals. On top of this, do all preparatory work possible
before departure, both on deck and below. On deck for instance,
run all the lines you may need, double check rigging and prevent
loss of halyards, free shackles, seal hatches and portholes,
tie down the anchor and plug the chain hawse for starters.
Below, it is a good idea to sequence the charts, enter your
waypoints, set up the logbook and prepare pre-cooked food
for the first day or 2 and easy packs for later meals, nibblies
for night watches etc.
Your boat should meet reasonable safety standards too and
carry an EPIRB, liferaft and MOB equipment as well as VHFand
HF radios. Here in Alaska the Coast Guard require all crewmembers
to wear an immersion suit since time overboard otherwise is
measured in minutes - so it is reasonable to expect some countries
to impose special requirements in the safety equipment area.
Remember to carry courtesy flags for each country you expect
to visit and learn how to fly them.
Another comfort factor, both in the tropics and in extreme
cold climates is cockpit shelter from the elements. A dodger
is the absolute minimum but a cruising sun awning will definitely
make your tropical cruise more enjoyable. In colder climates
all-round protection is essential if you wish to live aboard
and cope permanently. Cruising Ireland one year we noticed
most of the local boats had a hard doghouse supplemented with
zip-around clears. We installed this arrangement on Illywhacker
and wouldnt be without it here in Alaska. One can argue
it may not look so slick but comfort takes precedence nowadays!
The equipment list can be endless of course and trying to
keep up with advances in marine gadgets can be expensive and
not altogether necessary for the first voyage. If you can
sail safely, navigate, communicate and receive weather information
you will be well on the way.
Before you depart home shores, your boat must be registered
as proof of ownership and nationality. This requires a builders
certificate, a unique name and some expense. If you choose
to cruise a number of countries, it wont be long before
you accumulate quite a bit of paperwork and some means of
keeping this together is a good idea. Some of the odd papers
we have in our "ships business" file are;
· Applications for cruising permits before you leave
· Crew lists in triplicate for arrival and departure
· A "to whom it may concern" note to the
airline explaining why your crew is carrying a one-way ticket
· Notes to Immigration explaining why we need an extension
· Various Customs documents gathered when duty-free
purchases were worthwhile
Cruising in company
For your first cruise overseas we would recommend travelling
in loose company with others who have been there before. Cruising
is a lot about sharing your experiences with others and enjoying
a quiet anchorage with friends can be a rewarding part of
it. At an overseas destination other more experienced yachts
can be a wonderful source of assistance in terms of clearing
in, getting about and finding essential supplies and in helping
with repairs. In turn you will find satisfaction in gladly
providing help when needed, knowing that one day it will be
you who needs the favour. This is one of the most gratifying
traits of the cruising community but should not prevent you
from assuming full independence, particularly at sea. Cruising
with other yachts in sight at sea can be fun but in reality,
there may be little one can do for a friend in rough conditions.
Taken to extremes, you might wish to join a cruising "rally"
but we believe this works against your ability to get to the
heart of a new destination if surrounded by your own countryfolk.
During a passage keep in touch by radio with boats around
you, you can have fun together misinterpreting the weather
for instance! We enjoy our radio scheds both on SSB and on
our Ham nets as it allows us to stay in contact with friends
the world over.
Not all cruisers will agree with our techniques, in fact
probably none will. But thats the joy of being independent
and able to develop ones own hopefully sustainable lifestyle.
Our ideas have certainly changed over the years and the pace
of our cruising has slowed down but our love of living on
the water has not. Make that first passage an easy one, plan
it well and it will be a dream cruise.