Saturday, April 30, 2016

For You?
By Michael

This guy is shown about actual size.
The girls and I went hiking into the
dense vegetation around our
anchorage and saw these guys
everywhere we looked, in webs
that spanned 8 feet in some
cases. I think they're just garden
spiders, but they're enormous.
For a while now I’ve been thinking about writing something in this space to inject a bit of perspective I feared was lacking. I post the prettiest pictures from our lives afloat and I really don’t have anything bad to say about how we’re living. The four of us enjoy ample time without distraction. We’re learning and discovering things together, a unique aspect of perpetual family travel. After nearly five years, there’s not much I would change.

The problem is that I’m a cheerleader for a way of life that I know is absolutely not for everyone.

We regularly get emails from excited, prospective cruisers and cruising families. On one hand, I’m excited for each of them. On the other hand, I can’t help but think at the same time of all the cruising couples and families we know or have heard about who have poured a fortune into a boat and radically changed their lives to take the plunge into the voyaging life, only to abandon their dream a short time later, for one reason or another.

Should I more loudly broadcast the challenges that impact all cruisers, impacting some to a degree that makes cruising untenable?

I can assure you that cruising is scary at times (and very scary, we nearly lost Del Viento one night, a couple years back). I am aware of cruisers who have been injured and some who have lost their lives. I can warn you that living in close quarters is more togetherness than some will want. I know of relationships, of marriages, that could not withstand the stresses of life aboard. I can promise you that cruising will not be like your last Caribbean charter, that you’ll work like a pioneer to meet basic needs. That getting the water, food, and fuel aboard might take days and there’s a good chance you will not enjoy the chore. That it’s you who will fix the stuff when it breaks. And even if you install all the bells and whistles on your boat, you won’t come close to replacing the land-based creature comforts and conveniences you’ve taken for granted all your life. One or more of your crew will likely and often get seasick. I can point to the inherent risks to crossing oceans and living away from immediate access to comprehensive medical care. Of the cost of living apart from extended family and close friends.

The reasons a voyaging life doesn’t work for many are varied and personal. In the end, there is no litmus test for determining what kind of experience anyone is going to have out here or how they’re going to respond to it. Even if I knew a person very well, I don’t think I could accurately appraise their suitability to living the way we do. I think I would be surprised by some I’d think were obvious land lubbers, and I think I would be equally surprised by some I’d be sure where better suited. I’ve just met too many different people out here, from all walks of life, all nationalities, all shapes and sizes, with no discernable common thread. I can’t articulate the reasons it works for us and others. Dumb luck plays a role.

I think the best anyone can do is to respond to their interests. If exploring this planet by boat appeals to you and your crew, if managing the risks and confronting the hardships seem more like a challenge than a bad idea, and if you’re physically and financially able to make this dream happen, go. Because the destinations are indeed pretty, the adventures are grand, and the gifts unexpected. Go because life is short. And pursuing your dreams, even at the risk of learning they weren’t your dreams, is the surest way to feel alive.

My 30th high school reunion is this year and I know that if I was somehow able to attend, and if everyone there was fit, attractive, and bought a new Porsche every year, I would still feel like the luckiest guy in the room. I took a risk to learn that.

This is where we landed, scrambling up this volcanic-rock shore
to get into what we learned was spider land. I wanted to get a
better view up above for some picture taking, but we could
not get a sightline out of the dense growth.

Del Viento in the afternoon sun of Port Mourelle.


  1. A perfect opening to an oft neglected topic! I agree that it's important to mention the drawbacks of cruising along with the joys, and I'm thankful that our mentors have done so. Not in a dark, doomsday voice, but just as a part of the picture.
    But of course only time will tell if we're actually cut out for the life. We're comfortable with the odds.

  2. I think a large part of the problem is the assumption in cruising circles of that you're either a cruiser or a dirtdweller. For some people (most I'd argue) 6 months or a year or two or three is enough. Why does it have to be lifelong or failure?

    1. Sara you articulated my thoughts without me even knowing they needed words.

      I think there's not nearly enough talk about "life after cruising" and what that looks like and how to make the most of it... instead it feels like you're pigeon-holed into "cruising", "saving to go cruising again", or "just generally sucking at life". Those are pretty harsh choices, especially for those of us that wander in and out of the categories rather fluidly ;)

      I also think it's a rare bird who can happily cruise super long-term (4+ years) without wanting a change. Even sunsets and palm trees get old after a while, but (speaking from personal experience now) there's nothing like a Maine winter to remind you to be grateful for ALL of life's experiences :)

      Maybe "life AFTER voyaging with kids" can be book #2 you guys?? :D


    2. We are on-again, off-again cruisers too. Keeps it fresh I think. In between, lots of opportunities for other adventures. :-) (Check out Ch 12 in the book...a mini how-to return to "regular life.") Cheers Leah! ~Sara

  3. That's a good point Sara. I wish I'd thought to include it. Gracias.

  4. Another one of your great, thought provoking posts Michael! Love the quote "Go because life is short. And pursuing your dreams, even at the risk of learning they weren’t your dreams, is the surest way to feel alive." Also enjoyed my second reading of how you almost lost Del Viento! Gripping read and much learned from it. Thank you!

  5. My 30th high school reunion is this year also. I'm going, because I anticipate it may be the last I can attend in a long time. We'll be leaving Seattle in early 2017 to start our travels. Heading north to Alaska first... You and your family have been an inspiration, and this blog a wonderful guide as we've prepared to go, while living aboard, for the last 5+ years.


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