Extended Cruisers… that’s what we tell people now when they ask us where we live. We get questions on where our house is (the boat). Where do we live? How do you cook? Where do you go to the bathroom? Where do you shower? What do you do when you get tired of being on the boat? One person asked us “Do you use sleeping bags every night?” Another asked us about doing laundry. Everyone asks “Where are you going?” Even other cruisers ask that question, including me. We’re all curious about how everyone else deals with life I suppose.
I think all of us in the cruising world have these questions asked at one time or another and very likely as we were entering into the world of cruising, we all might have asked the same questions of others, or of ourselves. At first, it’s fun explaining it all to people. Eventually though, it can be tiring. Not in a bad way, but in a way that shows you’ve answered the question a thousand times and you get the point you try to reword it more efficiently, using less words, or just simply shrugging your shoulders when you haven’t the energy to respond again.
It isn’t that the questions are stupid, inane or silly. They want to know, and you have to tell them. So you do.
One day perhaps, I’ll write a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) for Cruisers to pass out to anyone asking them questions. Or maybe not. Because everyone is different.
Speaking of “different”. JoAnne and I started this “journey” almost 10 years ago – actually, I don’t remember the exact date or year any more. A lot of water has gone under the keel since we started. For the past two years we’ve cruised “Differently” than others.
Most people pick a destination and go. They get there as fast as possible, barring difficulties, and they stay long enough to enjoy the scenery, a pub, a beach bar, a beach, fishing, or simply meeting new people.
For two years we’ve “cruised” down the coast, running into trouble – we might call it “Adventure” but most call it trouble.
From broken engine parts, to broken engine, broken halyards, dead and dying batteries, leaks, busted hoses, pipes and lines, getting hit more than once by other boats (one time being rigging and bow being severely damaged), to getting beat by the Chesapeake Bay and Cape Fear River Inlet we’ve persevered. We’ve gotten up each time and kept going, albeit, slowly.
Plodding along at a snails pace from New York to Norfolk, Norfolk back to the Potomac River and then Potomac River as far as North Carolina.
We’ve been here in Southport for about eight weeks now. On 6 February 2017, it will be just over eight weeks. Throughout the time on the boat, we’ve also been off the boat traveling around the country. We’ve made trips (several) back to Colorado. We traveled from Colorado to Missouri, Tennessee, Florida down one coast and back up the other. We’ve traveled around the DC area, throughout Virginia, back and forth and up and down. I am guessing because I haven’t figured out the distances yet, but, we’ve put on 25,000-30,000 statute miles traveling by car and boat so far.
We loved the Northern Neck of Virginia – but it was remote. We made good friends there.
Southport has been different though. Not just the people. Not just the place. A combination of everything.
We have fallen in love with the place. That doesn’t mean we want to live her forever. But in the two months we’ve been here, we’ve made a lot of friends, met a lot of cruisers passing through, including some friends we’ve met elsewhere.
For the past few days we’ve been debating moving on. We are here late enough in the season that if we depart now, we can still get to the Bahamas for the Spring. Do we stay or do we go?
Yesterday, I went through Active Captain, sent emails, made phone calls and wrote up a budget based on our cruising kitty’s contents.
We can move on and still have enough money, assuming nothing goes wrong from now until we locate a place to go. But every marina we contacted gave us “No room at the inn” or were willing to ask us for more than normal to hold a slip for us to use. One of my fall back plans was mooring balls. I found some, very inexpensive places. No living aboard allowed though.
The cost of staying at a slip here versus Florida is a shock. Double in almost all cases. Except certain places on the West Coast of Florida. But, there are a lot of places we won’t “fit”. Can’t get in. Canals too shallow, fixed docks to climb out of the boat at low tide (JoAnne simply can’t do that now).
Last night we talked about staying for awhile, enjoying Southport, and perhaps even working a bit to regain some missing cash from the Kitty.
I had three job offers yesterday in the space of an hour, without even asking.
Yesterday afternoon, the dock master told me he “found me a slip if I wanted it”, and told me if I was interested, he was looking for another dock hand.
This morning we made the decision.
We are going to hang out here a while longer. Enjoy the beer over at Check Six Brewing Company, our friend’s company and probably try to throw a few bucks back into the bank. The health insurance is (pardon the pun) bleeding us dry at this point and working to offset it even a little will keep us floating (another pun?) for awhile.
This is not truly what I wanted to do, but it seems to make sense.
For everyone wondering about it… no we’re not staying forever. I told the Dock Master that October we would leave, or November. But we might come BACK as well the following season. He thought that was a good plan.
So, not technically “swallowing the hook” yet. Just going to test the air and see how it smells for awhile.
Anyway, my son, Nick reminded me this morning – Life is not a destination, it’s a journey. He’s right.
We’re Free People. We do not have anyone to tell us what to do, when to do it, where to go, or how to accomplish what we do. We CAN come and go as we please, when we please and where we want. Complications are something that life throws at you constantly (case in point, running north to get my car from Virginia, going all the way to Detroit to see my brother in the hospital, even if he couldn’t see me). That along with our own personal medical histories, we have to be sure we’ve got insurance for a bit longer. Boat and car insurance. Money to eat…. yeah, life’s complications.
To all our followers (I think there are three of you now) no worries. I’ll still write here, I’ll still keep you all up to date. And let me say something about why I actually do this blog. Please follow along a few more minutes.
Why do I write this blog?
For all the years prior to actually doing this I read everyone’s blog. I sat sometimes awaiting a new entry on a few of them. I read EVERY book I could get my hands on, either buying, borrowing or shopping them online on Kindle. I read grand tales of Blue Waters, great fishing stories, scary weather stories, and I read every thing in Cruisers Forums, Sail net (I helped start Sailnet, did you all know that? Then got kicked off of it because some people didn’t like my political views, haha).
Through out it all, I found very, very few stories of what REALLY happens to people or the gory details of daily life on a boat, hanging upside down in the bilge with a finger blocking a hole while trying to reach back up to get a mallet to pound in a wooden plug.
What I DID encounter on the forums was a smattering of good, quality information interspersed inside of a lot of hollow knowitallness from many armchair sailors. Oh, I am sure they weren’t all arm chairing it. Many did live on boats in marinas and I found most RARELY ventured from the docks. They polished their boats daily, cleaned the stainless steel, painted the bilges, and plumed the depths of their Sundowners in the evenings.
I look around at my ship – and ship she is, big, beautiful and ungainly in a marina, but wonderfully agile and quick upon the sea under sail – and look at the dents, dings, weird, dirty spots I can’t seem to clean off, a few gel coat spots that probably need redoing and see the Dock Queens in this place (most of the boats haven’t left in months or years) and wonder what I am doing wrong.
I’m on the boat working on this or that ALL the time. JoAnne broke her back on a dock, slipped and fell on another and lost a pair of glasses. I’ve cracked my head on things and drawn so much blood, my long bones and marrow are having troubles keeping up the replacement blood cells. No one else writes about these things.
No one tells it “like it is”.
I find that both appalling and fascinating. Over these last few years of doing all the reading, I rarely came across a story or blog, book or tale of all the terrible things that happen to people. When I chose at one point to tell about the things that happened in one certain marina, I lost friends over it. They misread into my words that I was complaining and believed I was denigrating the marina and not telling the story.
I’ve had a difficult time putting some things into words since then because, frankly, I don’t like upsetting people and especially not real, true cruisers. But, telling this story is my way of leaving something for my kids to read and think about long after we’re all gone and dust (or fish food).
I write because I have a passion for writing. I don’t do it for money (ok, I have one published book. Makes me about 3.75 a month….) and I have other books waiting in the wings for publication, but it’s not about money. Never has been.
I don’t advertise on the blog like so many do. I don’t think it’s fair. Advertising permeates everything. Our phones, our Facebook accounts, email, television, radio, in-your-face in the stores, malls, on the sides of the roads and for cruisers to plaster their pages with “ads” to “Buy our book!” irritate me I guess.
I write because I like to, I like to tell the story. I want people to know, beyond any doubt that anyone can cruise. Anyone can become a sailor, and a good one. But you have to work at it, and it is NOT easy. It’s NOT going to come to you like magic. And no destination is as pristine as made out by many books and articles. There are problems ANY where you go.
Human beings are simply put, pigs sometimes. They throw crap everywhere. The water is full of plastic and junk and I daily pull things out around the marina. But, humans can be kind, considerate, helpful and just all-around, wonderful. They don’t have to throw junk in the water and pollute, but they do.
Because cruising today is NOT what it was twenty years ago, we are not on the “cutting edge” of visiting places. Boats aren’t any longer seen as “strange, new visitors from a far away place”. Boats are, unfortunately, considered a “Cash Cow” and the inhabitants are considered “wealthy”. Except those on derelicts. Who are considered by everyone to be “scum of the earth”. This is a wrong assumption, but sometimes it’s true.
The truth about cruising is there are good and light things, and deep, dark secrets. Some places we’ve seen have people doing drugs, drunks everywhere (I suspect those are the cruisers actually haha) and dirty, sinking boats. Other places have beautiful, spotless Dock Queens who never move. Wonder why they look so nice?
Then there is us, and Adventure. And almost EVERY OTHER extended cruiser we’ve met. All of our boats aren’t the best, well kept. They are sometimes messy inside. They are sometime dirty outside. We have too much crap. Too much in the lockers, too much in the forward cabin. Too much on the deck. Lines everywhere. Old lines. Not new, pretty braided stuff. Junky “look what I found in the trash” lines sometimes.
This is the stuff I write about. I do it because… honestly, I want people to see what it is like.
I don’t always tell the whole story either. There are no words for some things that would not offend a lot of people (try talking about composting heads in mixed company and you will grasp what I mean!)
I hope that folks enjoy what I write, and I’ve had a few tell me they love it. I’ve had a small number that hate on me. That’s ok. Everyone has an opinion. Some are just wrong, that’s all 🙂
I will let you all know in a few days how it’s going and whether or not we can “hang” at this for awhile in Southport. If you get here, let me know. We’ll meet you on the dock and greet you!