The cruising life is an odd mix of planning and staying flexible.
You have to plan ahead – things like destinations, legalities, spares, maintenance, and provisioning, to name but a few.
And then, as you start to put the plan into action, things start changing. Weather. A bridge that doesn’t open on schedule. Adverse current. A broken bolt. A fuel dock that’s closed. You have to change the plans on the fly, often with imperfect information.
You can argue that most of life involves a certain amount of planning and preparation and then adapting to actual conditions. And yet, for most of us, cruising takes a blend of planning and adaptability that we didn’t have to have when living on land.
Planners, ashore, could make their plans and then go full-tilt at them, simply plowing through any obstacles that arise. And the non-planners could simply take things as they come, reacting as needed. You can always run to the store or go to the next gas station.
It doesn’t work that way cruising. And it’s a big source of stress for many new cruisers. In fact, it’s a new skill set for most of us to be able to plan in detail, think through the contingencies, and then change those plans seemingly hour by hour.
I think this is one of the biggest reasons people feel overwhelmed in their first year of cruising. Few of us are naturally adept at both halves of the equation: planning and remaining flexible. It took a lot of planning and dogged determination to get to the point of casting off the dock lines, and now nothing is going according to plan. It’s mentally exhausting to balance planning and adapting.
With time, it does get easier. In the meantime, I counsel new cruisers to slow things down whenever they are feeling stressed and frustrated. Not feeling time pressure really helps to make the transition.
“We make plans so we have something to change.”
It sounds so simple, but really it’s a skill. Here’s to developing new skills!
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