Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Top 10 Tuesdays: Top Ten Myths About Cruising

If you are anything like I was before we left on this journey, you are almost to the end of the internet when it comes to research on everything 'cruising'.  I believe this is a fantastic way to prepare yourself for a life at sea because not only will you be getting a variety of perspectives (especially if you follow a myriad of sailing blogs) but you will also be getting a lot of great information!  We learned a lot about cruising before we ever left (albeit through the eyes of others) but have learned there are just as many myths circulating out there as there are boats.  This Tuesday we bring you our

Top 10 Myths About Cruising

  1. It's an endless vacation -  I have broached the subject before, but it's worth repeating.  This lifestyle is NOT easy.  It is NOT an 'endless vacation' (as so many landlubbers seem to see it) and it is not glamourous.  It's a lot of hard work and there are a lot of highs and lows associated with it.  To us, it's worth the rewards of living life on our own terms but you must know that it does not come without sacrifices.
  2. The more gadgets, the better -  I've heard the term "gadget-itis" before and a lot of people out here have it, us included probably.  We've got a lot of bells and whistles aboard Rasmus (AIS, autopilot, chart-plotter, SSB, EPIRB, Spot tracker...etc) but we also are competent in navigating without these things and tend not to rely solely on them lest we become dependent.  "Gadget-itis" refers to the belief that you need every little trinket from a foam mug holder (it holds four cups without spilling!) to a specialty sailing tool bag (made specifically for boats!) to outfit your boat properly.  You probably don't need these things.  Save some money for the cruising kitty up front by making sure what you want is also what you need, as there is often a big difference.  
  3. It's a dangerous, risky lifestyle - A lot of people on land ask what I think about the young teens these days - like Abby Sunderland  and Jessica Watson - who have attempted to break records by sailing around the world alone at seemingly ridiculous ages (one succeeded and one did not).  I always say that while I don't think I'd feel comfortable with my 16 year old out on the ocean alone, if these young people are truly the mariners they are said to be, they are probably much safer out there than on the streets of their home towns where the threat of drugs, drunk driving, online bullying, teenage pregnancy and things like that are a real threat every day.  The truth is, the sea is a very safe place if you are diligent.  Sure, there are storms, hurricanes and gear failure, but if you watch weather properly, maintain your boat well and sail conservatively you should be able to avoid the big, catastrophic stuff.
  4. To be a real cruiser, you have to be hardcore - there is sometimes this unspoken notion that to be a "real" cruiser you need to be "hardcore".  What does that mean?  I'm not entirely sure - but the other day we were told we looked "too put together and clean" to be real cruisers.  Kind of funny considering we'd sailed nearly twice the distance these cruisers had.  Cruising is cruising and is what you make it.  Whether you have a tricked out catamaran wired with satellite television or a basic boat with nothing more than a compass and a hand-held GPS - if you are out here, you are a cruiser.  Different experience? Sure.  But you don't have to forego shaving your legs, douse yourself in patchouli oil and live off ramen noodles to be part of the club.  
  5. We're all rich - this is the most annoying misconception of them all.  If I had a dime for every email I got that related to money, I would indeed be rich.  I am here to tell you - all cruisers are not independently wealthy, in fact, most are far from it.  We have made choices and sacrifices to live this life and most of us worked very hard to get here.  Because Scott and I are young, we get a lot of raised eyebrows but the truth is we both work (me remotely, he on a tall ship) and live on the cheap.  We get a lot of cool stuff donated to us because of this blog and get fantastic discounts on everything from boat gear to marina fees.  
  6. You need to have offshore experience - I think I mentioned this in an earlier post, but when we were getting ready to leave one guy who had sailed to the Bahamas and back asked us if we had any "ocean experience" and when we told him no, as a matter of fact, we didn't, he looked at us like we were crazy.  The truth is, we are of the opinion that if you know how to sail a boat on a large lake (like Lake Michigan, as we had), you can sail on the ocean.  Are they exactly the same?  No.  Swell is different, weather patterns are slightly different, and salt water is pretty much your nemesis - but we didn't get swallowed up by the sea like this guy implied, and if we can do it - you probably can too.
  7. You must stock up for months and months at a time - my friend Jaye answered my Facebook inquiry about this and she is completely right.  We fell into this trap before we left and I bought tons and tons and TONS of non-perishables for the boat.  We even got some freeze-dried meals which we have never touched.  Unless you are crossing an ocean, this crazy type of provisioning isn't really necessary in our opinion.  People have to eat to survive everywhere (including far-flung islands!) and while you might not be able to find your favorite brand of cereal in the local stores, you will find food staples and you will not starve.  
  8. The cruising community is one, big, happy family - in general, the cruising community is wonderful, helpful and friendly.  But this is no utopia.  Just like anywhere, there are cruisers that are rude, cruisers that are pompous, some that are bizarre and some that take themselves way too seriously.  A fair amount of drama has ensued during this hurricane season and although we weren't part of any of it, it was odd to see it from a distance.  Overall, the cruising community is a fantastic one - but don't be shocked if you meet a few cruisers that you just don't click with, and that is A-okay.
  9. Sharks are everywhere - we have seen sharks, mostly of the lemon and nurse variety (not exactly 'man eaters'), but I would not say they are a real danger to cruisers, at least not in the Caribbean.  When we saw one while snorkeling in the BVI's I was completely shocked at how calm and totally unfazed I was.  He swam right past me, totally uninterested and it seemed he was more eager to get away from me than I him.
  10. People with more experience know more than you - because we're young there are a lot of people who have been out here a lot longer than we have.  In the beginning we assumed they knew a lot more than we did, but we have learned over time that this is not necessarily true.  We've met cruisers who have been sailing down here for years and years and never lost sight of land or don't know how to tie a bowline.  Everyone has different experiences and different expertise and there is something to be learned from each and every person.  Always be open to the advice of others, but realize that just because they have more time on the water doesn't mean it's the best advice for you (including any advice I give on this blog!).  This is particularly true when talking about weather.  Always make your own decisions!
What myths have you found while cruising?  Was there anything you assumed or read about that you found not to be true?  Share your thoughts!

Brittany & Scott


Linda & Chris said...

Brittany, another awesome post. I agree with everthying in your top ten. The most often asked question we got before we took off three years ago was, "Aren't you worried about Pirates?" We said, yes, but we weren't planning to travel in known pirate trafic areas. Dinghy theft was a big concern, because we heard it was rampant in the Bahamas, but we lock our dinghy and lock our boat when we aren't
"home". We take the same security measures at sea, that we would take on land. And although we aren't immune to these real dangers, we do the best we can to protect ourselves and our boat.
Keep up the great posts!

Mid-Life Cruising! said...

Great post! It's good to know we don't have to stock up on a bunch of food, since we won't have a lot of storage space to begin with. We're not hard core, not rich, won't have lots of gadgets (but some), and definitely don't have offshore experience ... always glad to read assuring posts that we can do it!

Darwin Grenwich said...

Great post Brittany. The misconceptions that we're all rich and cruising is an endless beach vacation, extremely dangerous with pirates lurking around every corner, were always a frustration when talking with people about my particular trip. It made me ponder what the general population considers safe and what they are too afraid to try. Commuting to work at 70mph on a freeway seems incredibly dangerous to me now. I get a rush moving at just 7 knots.

Jessica said...

Not that it applies to me (but it will to you soon!!) is that you can't cruise with children. My husband and I are planning to hold off until after our trip to have children, but when I told my family that another cruising couple my age just got pregnant and they're going to continue the trip with the baby I got looks of horror and replies of "They're going to do what??!!". Children are a adaptable and I don't think a lot of land based people (especially in the States) realize that. I think they would have had a heart attack if they saw the infants cruising around on motor bikes in Vietnam that I did a few years ago.

Anonymous said...

Good post. All true. Ask yourself if you like to work and learn with your hands. You can do well on a boat.

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