Monday, April 29, 2013

Types of Cruisers: The Stereotypes

It's a common misconception that cruisers are all similar and members of one big, happy family.  We're all living on boats, sharing similar dreams and experiences, so we must be alike right?  Wrong.  While we are often lumped together under the umbrella title of "cruiser", we are also vastly different.  Below are some very broad descriptions of "types" of cruisers we have come across during our travels, and a few of the differences between them.  I'm sure I missed a bunch, but these are the ones that came off the top of my head.

Before someone lashes out at me for this, please remember these are generalizations (yes, stereotypes) and this is all in good fun.  Just. For. Fun.  Laugh with me, will you?

With no further ado, I bring you: TYPES OF CRUISERS 

The Dial-a-Cruiser:  This is the most common type of cruiser we've seen in our travels.  They are usually of retirement age and have a pretty well appointed vessel in the 40-44 foot range.  Some sold all their land-based assets to live aboard indefinitely but most have some sort of home ashore.  Their uniform is decidedly "boaty".  They wear Teva sandals, Columbia SPF fishing shirts, big brimmed North Face sun hats, dry-fit khaki shorts and every now and then you will see a line of zinc over their noses.  They like to travel with the herd and are generally a fun loving and happy bunch.  They love pot lucks, their boat dogs and jam sessions on the beach.

The Salty Sea Dog:  This is usually the old man in the anchorage who has sailed thousands and thousands of miles, usually alone.  He is incredibly wise, perhaps a tiny-bit sketchy and has captivating stories from all over the world. His skin is perma-tanned and leathery and he typically has a beard.  His boat might not look pretty, but is rugged and tough.  A respectable dinner for this fellow is a cold can of beans washed down with a warm beer.  He can fix anything, knows boats like the back of his hand and has not looked in a mirror since 1982.  He has lived through at least one hurricane.

The Minimalist:  These cruisers scoff at anything and everything that will make their lives more comfortable at sea (more to fix, right?).  A windlass?  Psh.  We've got muscle power!! A watermaker?  Ugh. We wash and clean in the ocean!  They absolutely do NOT have refrigeration and rarely, if ever, turn on their engines.  Their boats are spartan and strong.  They could care less about things like interior cushions or making their boats pretty. They probably know celestial navigation and have never seen a chart-plotter.  They are on very tight budgets, somehow manage to live off a few quarts of fresh water a day and are typically very good at eating from the sea.  We all wish we could be a little more like them, but then we remember how much work that would take.

The Sailing Athlete:  This cruiser can be spotted a mile away by all the gear they have aboard.  Kayaks, SUPs, and surfboards take up every space on deck.  They are fit, tan and love to be on and in the water.  Sailing, for them, is merely a means to get to the next surf/kite board/windsurf spot and checking weather is more about finding primo conditions for their activity than passage making.  Don't be fooled though!! They are often excellent sailors and will absolutely sail around the world in search of the 'ultimate wave'.

The By-the-Book Cruiser:  This cruiser is new to cruising and has read every single book, blog, and article on the subject.  They will quote Nigel Calder, the Pardey's, Beth Leonard and every other "big dog" frequently. They will spout out theoretical information at an alarming rate and act like they know everything despite having sailed very little (we've all gotta start somewhere, right?).  They love sailboat shows, are members of all the sailing associations and own every sailing gimmick and gadget there is. These cruisers are typically sailing production boats.

The Hardcore Cruiser:  These cruisers are HARD CORE.  They're similar to the minimalist but have more expertise.  One or both usually carry a captain's license and they've traveled many miles at sea.  They know things like celestial navigation, navigate with a hand bearing compass, and sail in extreme latitudes in extreme conditions.  They not only know every storm tactic in the book but have put them to the test.  They are very skilled sailors, incredibly knowledgeable, and are often very "green".  They go to the bathroom in buckets, don't need running water and despise plastic.  Their boats are always "blue water" cruisers (usually classic looking) and, for some reason, they are usually vegan.

The Awkward Single-hander:  These guys (because - sorry ladies - they are usually men) have a story, but you don't really know it.  They tend to keep to themselves and, if they don't, conversation can be a little awkward since they are so used to being on their own.  They have very small, spartan boats and can almost always be found tinkering with them.  They are one with the sea and you might catch them doing tai-chi on the bow at dawn.  Their clothes are sun-bleached and tattered and they usually have a rowing dinghy.  When you meet them "drug runner" might cross your mind.  They're probably not, but you never know.

The Jack-of-all-Trades:  This is the helpful cruiser in the anchorage who can do it all.  Sail repair?  Check!  Swap out zincs? You got it!  Re-charge a refrigerator?  Sure thing!  Fix an outboard motor?  No problemo!  They can do it all.  They are super handy, thrifty, very smart and teeter on the edge of "hoarder" because they keep so many spares "just in case".  These folks are usually some of the most popular in the anchorage and are usually of the "learn by doing" variety.  They often find the best, cheapest alternatives to the "expensive" marine brand things and, if you pick their brains, usually have all sorts of neat tips and tricks.

The Young and the Restless:  Often the smallest in the anchorage, these cruisers quit their summer jobs slinging burgers, bought a boat from Craigslist for super cheap, convinced a friend or two to hop on board and set out to sea.  They hardly check weather, rely on other cruisers for information and live off very little money.  Their boats are not well equipped but they don't really care, because they're having the time of their lives.  No matter what, there is always plenty of rum aboard.  They get in with the local populous by frequenting their bars, smoking their pot and - in general - having a total blast.  They aren't in it for the long haul, but they're out for a short time and a heck of an adventure.

The Dreamer Gone Awry:  These are the cruisers who had the dream, made it happen, and then discovered they actually don't really like living on a boat or cruising at all.  If they are a couple, they are often at each others' throats and they usually look and sound a little forlorn.  They complain a lot about local food, local people and "island time".  They are usually not handy and are always trying (unsuccessfully) to fix something that is broken which further adds to their discontent.  They don't sail much, if at all, and they usually hunker down somewhere while their boat grows roots before they finally decide to throw in the towel and head back to land.

The Wealthy Yachtsman:  Yes, they do exist - but they are few and far between in the cruising community.  These folks usually come from a powerful background (doctor, lawyer  CEO, entrepreneur) and have impeccable boats with all the bells and whistles, usually in the 45-50 foot range.  Some are retired but most still have a business or endeavor that they still keep tabs on thanks to the internet.  Despite what many people might think, these folks are super generous, very humble and usually pretty happy to be here.  They also usually have a LOT of very good alcohol on board. (It should be noted that this type is different from the mega-yacht set).

The Naked European:  The name says it all.  They are usually French and have crossed at least one ocean.  These folks are usually very good sailors, and - because they have been at it so long (and are European) - they have shed all inhibition and have no problem showering completely naked off the back of their boat in plain view.  The really hard core will also poop off the back of their boat in a crowded anchorage (true story) after their morning coffee.  Their boats are almost always aluminum or steel and when they are not naked, they are wearing a speedo and smoking a cigarette.

The Family Afloat:  These folks are very easy to spot and more common than you think.  Their two or three tow-headed kids are perfectly tan and can be heard screeching and playing on the boat all day long.  They swing from the halyards, jump off the boom, and sail their little dinghies around the anchorage like pros.  They have no fear and an innate sense of adventure. The children are well spoken, imaginative and free (thanks to homeschooling) and the parents are young-at-heart, fit and intelligent.  You will look at them and wonder how they do it, but they are happy and making it work.  The families are super tight and work like a well oiled machine.  These cruisers make parenting look effortless and, well, these families are the ones that inspired us!

The Loner Cruiser:  These cruisers want to be on their own.  They prefer secluded anchorages, turn their noses up at things like "buddy boating" (herd mentality=bad decisions) and abhor pot-lucks and any other type of cruiser-y gathering.  They intentionally avoid crowded harbors, hardly ever stay at marinas and avoid like the plague any place that might be deemed "touristy".  They can sometimes be perceived as cruising snobs because they keep to themselves but the real story is that they are just not into group gatherings.  They are in this for the adventure, not the party. Culture and nature are biggies with these guys.

The Working Cruiser:  This cruiser is working as they go.  They might be a shipwright, a delivery captain, run an internet business, or charter - whatever it is, they are making money.  They usually have decent, well equipped boats (because they can afford them), and will indulge in meals ashore and happy hours more than the others because they actually have a reliable income, unlike most others who are living off of savings.  The down side for these cruisers is that they actually have responsibilities that pull them away from their own cruising agendas from time to time and, as such, they take weekly or monthly breaks from cruising in order to refill the kitty.

The Happy to Be Here Cruiser:  These are the ones that most of us can identify with.  These folks are just so stinking happy to live this life.  Every place has something to offer, there is always something new to be learned and every day brings a new adventure.  The sights and sounds take their breath away and they revel in the simple delights of a life at sea.   Even when things aren't going their way, these cruisers understand that a bad day on the water sure beats sitting in traffic. This cruiser doesn't know how long they'll be at it but, doggone it, they are enjoying every step of the way!

Where do you fit in?  Any types that I missed?


Tom~Tom said...

Nice! There are at least 6 of those descriptions that I aspire to. I guess I'd better get out there and try them out, eh?

Unknown said...

Okay so I'd venture to say that we are, in this order:
1 - Working Cruisers
2 - Family Afloat
3 - A Splash of Hard Core
4 - Jack of All (Have you met Gordon?)
5 - A Pinch of Young & Restless
6 - Occasionally, Loners

Funny Bunny! xoxo

Carolyn Shearlock - The Boat Galley said...

How about us CLODs "Cruisers Living On Dirt"?

Those who cruised for at least a few years but, for one reason or another (but not because they didn't like it -- usually $$ or health) are now back on land. Well, physically. But mentally, still out there.

Still conserve water and power, well, just because. Still fix their own stuff. Still hate wearing shoes. And they (well, we) jump at any chance to get back out there.

We're not "former cruisers" -- we're CLODS!

Ken said...

I have to agree with Carolyn on the CLOD's....we're here but have been there and we're going back!

Sure, it's tough for you to see us from your boat, but there are many of us and we're still cruising!

Tillerman said...

LOL. I think this is your best post EVER.

PS. I haven't looked in a mirror since 1973.

the Liveaboard Wife said...

I think we're working cruisers, but we don't cruise....yet. We have professional jobs, 40+ hours a week, and feel blessed to come home each night to our boat. We talk of cruising, of having kids aboard, just as soon as the debts are paid. We are the ones who have people swing by on a spring Friday or Saturday night so we always have rum and coke on hand. We become very popular and have the "coolest" life - when the weather's nice!

Thanks : )

Anonymous said...

A great and entertaining post, a real snapshot of a typical Island anchorage. Take away the sailing aspect and it could be about our neighborhoods couldn't it.

Deb said...

Since we haven't left yet I can only guess where we'll fit in, but living part time on the boat so far I think we fit into a half dozen of these. I believe CLOD might also cover those that haven't left yet?

S/V Kintala

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Although I drift away from stereotyping, this article was cool:) As a "will be" (instead of wannabe) circumnavigator, I can see myself between the "by the books" and "hardcore"

Only if lotto would hit us soon enough :-)

Thanks for the article:)

JP said...

Great post!

Not sure where high latitude single handers fit in - maybe they'd be their own category? I'm thinking of the likes of Roger Taylor on Mingming and Matt Rutherford

Verrence said...

Love this post so much, I was born in small island (Pulau Labuan, Malaysia). My dad is a fisherman and still lives there, we didn't travel around the world but i love going around the tiny islands surrounding our home in my dad tiny boat, it was best time of my life, we see a lot of local sailors and chat with them when we break at the islands. This is when they also trade.
Now I'm stuck in rainy miserable England, at least I live near the sea (Southport), not much compare to my home but I can smell the salty air and pretend I'm home.

Jessica said...

Great post. I think I'm the general 'Happy to be here Cruiser', while Matt is the 'Jack of all Trades'. Can you believe he tells me he'd still rather be at work? That was in the Bahamas though, I think these mountains in Jamaica are really captivating him. Love 'The Minimalist', I think you're pretty familiar with our buddy boat that fits into that category. ;)

Ron mayo said...

As always - a wonderfully entertaining would be mighty cool if you could add your own personal guess at what it costs for each group based upon what you hear and see??? Enjoy your time out on the water! We're about 5 years behind you two so reading this type of stuff is endlessly helpful.

Ron & Kathy

S/V Mrs. Chippy said...

This was a funny and fantastic post. Brava!

ourjourneytothesea said...

I think when we finally do it we will be the sailing athlete, combined with something similar to "gap year" cruiser - those who have full time jobs, leave to go cruising but not forever, with (hopefully) a job to come home to (and be depressed about not being a forever cruiser).

Unknown said...

Love it! Excellent description of minimalist...we're working our way to hard core :)

Anonymous said...

Hi there, love your blog. I have only just found it. Looking for ways to cruise through others experiences. We are CLODs definitely, although we are a combination of a couple ofcategofies whdn we are on the boat. We are on land for a couple of years while ouf boat waigs for us thousands of miles away.

Unknown said...

Great post. I just found your blog through a link from zero to cruising. I'm still land locked with the house, job, etc but am working towards the cruiser life. I aspire to be an awkward single handler.

Unknown said...

Oh, this is good and brings back SO many memories of my youth! I guess as a kid we would be in the category of Minimalist (Mom, can we PLEASE turn on the engine? Ugh, what I would have done to take a shower! We didn't even have one on our boat. ) We had a dash of a Family Afloat (I was the only kid) and a sprinkle of Hard Core (my mom did have her captain's license and they didn't even know what a Garmin was!). We were almost always friends with the Salty Sea Dog and hosted a very frequent happy hour aboard. We just had one name for the Naked European and it was "French" (talk about stereotypes! ). Their boats were almost always ugly with clothes hanging from their lifelines even when sailing into the anchorage. We always wondered when those clothes ever got the use that required them to be washed and hanging up. I am now a "Boat Kid Gone to the Mountains" but will return to my roots someday probably as a Happy to be Here Cruiser!

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