Trying to figure out what “cruising” really means? Are you, or someone you love, talking about going cruising but you’re actually a little unclear on what that is?
I know that when Dave and I first started talking about getting a boat, we only had a very vague notion of what “cruising” would really look like for us. I mean, we knew that cruising was traveling by boat. But the specifics? To be honest, we’d hadn’t given a lot of thought to them. Luckily it turned out that we had similar ideas as we started muddling our way through.
There are as many definitions of cruising as there are cruisers. And that’s the great part of it. You can make cruising what you want it to be. What works for you. And it can change over time.
Eight major areas will determine what cruising means to you:
Travel. You can be a cruiser on a large lake where you explore different coves on different weekends, or you can be working your way around the world. Some cruisers love moving the boat from place to place; others hire professional crews to move the boat long distances and fly to meet the boat.
The point is, you don’t have to go hundreds or thousands of miles, although that might be your dream. Lots of cruisers head for the lush tropical islands, away from winter. But others prefer the adventure and stark beauty of the high latitudes. You can opt for inland cruising, such as America’s Great Loop or the canals of Europe. Or stay close to home on hundreds of larger lakes.
And you can still be a cruiser even if you’re not currently on the move. You might be stopped for a while as you work, deal with medical or family issues, or repairing/upgrading the boat. More and more cruisers find that they make periodic stops for various reasons, yet it’s part of the cruising experience.
The Boat. There is no one “cruising boat.” It might be powered by sail, or by motor. Monohull or catamaran. Be designed for bluewater or coastal cruising. A former raceboat. A production boat or one-off. You could even build it yourself. Read Thoughts on our Gemini Catamaran or listen to Catamaran or Monohull?
There have been very successful cruising couples on boats as small as 24 feet and I’ve known singlehanders on 60-footers. I tend to prefer smaller boats (35 to 40 feet for a couple) as being more manageable (and budget-friendly) but you may have a different vision and be willing to make the compromises to make it work for you.
Living on the Boat. Cruising does imply staying overnight on the boat at least occasionally, but nights can be spent at anchor, in a marina or on passage. But lots of cruisers have a land home as well as the boat, and either cruise on weekends, on vacations or even seasonally — many consider the boat their summer or winter home! Part-time cruising is still cruising!
Activities. For some, cruising is all about the sailing. For others, it’s exploring a new place once you get there. Some prefer remote locations and viewing wildlife and landscapes; others like visiting cities or historical sites. Land touring is the key attraction for some, while others love to fish, snorkel, paddleboard or just lounge on a beach. Still others love the social side of cruising with meeting cruisers or locals and arranging get-togethers for meals and sundowners. Some like the self-sufficiency of doing their own boat work; others look to hire out what they can. You may want to read What Do You Do All Day? or listen to What’s a Day Like?
Funding. Some cruisers worked for years and saved so they could cruise without interruption, either for a defined period or “forever.” Others work more or less continually while they cruise — often online or offering services to other cruisers, or by maintaining a “normal” job and cruising on weekends and vacations. Still others stop moving periodically and throw themselves into working as many hours as possible to refill their cruising kitty, then head out for a while and stop again when funds get low. Read Cruising Stories: The Financial Realities of Cruising
Budget. It’s possible to cruise on almost any budget you want to set for yourself, although your standard of living will reflect that budget. I know people who cruise on as little as $500 a month (this is extremely tight, even for one person) and those who spend nearly $10,000. Their experiences are totally different and while one is far more luxurious than the other, I wouldn’t say that it’s necessarily better. Having to figure things out on a really tight budget can result in some great experiences — spearfishing for dinner, working on your own boat, going for a (free) hike to a great overlook, exploring the (cheaper) local restaurants instead of the tourist ones. Read What Does Cruising Cost? and listen to Budgeting for Cruising.
Age. There’s no upper or lower age limit on cruising, as long as you are healthy and can make the budget work. You’ll meet people of all ages, singles, families, grandparents and even some great-grandparents. There will be boats with kids and others who waited until the kids were out of the house — or beyond — before they headed out. Read more about Cruising with Kids and Cruising at 75+.
Skills. Some cruisers have built their skills up over the years, learning as they went: sailing, navigation, weather, mechanical systems, electronics and so on. Others take extensive, intensive, formal classes such as those offered at Cruiser’s University. And everything in between. While it’s imperative that you get the necessary skills, there are many ways to get there and as with most things, there’s often a tradeoff between cost and time.
There is no single definition of cruising, you can make it whatever feels right to you. A little time spent envisioning it can make a lot of decisions down the road — boat, cruising grounds, timeline — easier as you have a better idea of what you want to do and your financial resources to do them. And then it’s much easier to make sure all the pieces fit together.
If you’re planning to cruise with someone else (family, friend, kids) a great way to make sure that everyone has the same idea of what cruising will be is to create a vision board or dream board. Have everyone choose pictures of how they envision cruising — hitting the eight topics I discussed above and any others important to them — and either print them and post them up or put them in electronic albums. You’ll quickly see if you are all on the same page or if some compromises need to be made so that everyone is happy with the plan. There is no one plan for everyone, but everyone on board needs to have the same plan!