We left home a year ago, and what a year it’s been!
When making our choice to go cruising south, there were unknowns…. Would we enjoy living on a boat? What would happen if we encountered health issues? Would our boat stand up to the demands put on it? We didn’t really know if we’d enjoy the cruising lifestyle, or how long we might be gone, or how far south we’d actually travel. We were geared to be away from home for a year or two; and if all went well, we hoped to get as far south as Grenada in the Caribbean, but the Bahamas would suffice.
Today, we’re in Grenada! Sometimes I feel I need to pinch myself to believe it. Really…. we’re just a mom & pop in our 60’s on a 32’ boat …. and we’ve travelled from our home port on Lake Simcoe, Ontario all the way south to the Spice Island. I don’t know exactly how far we’ve traveled, but we estimate it’s been about 8,000 km at an average speed of about 5 knots (less than 10km/hr) ……. that’d be like traveling across Canada in a golf cart; though sailing is certainly much more exhilarating! Cheaper too, I wonder? Our log shows that we’ve used 1400 litres of diesel fuel, at an approximate cost of $1300 USD. We’ve logged 880 travel hours; with 645 engine hours …. much more motor-sailing, than pure sailing! From our travels, we now have a SIM card collection, as well as a foreign currency collection.
Living on a boat. Where we had land, there is now water. Our home is on Serenada, and the dinghy is the new family car. Unless you’ve done it, it’s hard to appreciate what it’s all about. The living space on Serenada, a 32’ Ontario, is smaller (way smaller) than our family room back home! (Visit our 13.October.2013 blog post for a tour.) At home, I can walk in my kitchen. Aboard Serenada, I can only stand in her galley; it’s floor measures less than 2’ x 1½.’ Stove, frig/freezer, sink, cupboards and drawer (yes, only one) all fit in a 5’ x 4’ space. Gil & I cannot walk past each other aboard Serenada – there is no space wide enough. We must literally crawl into bed, and to get out involves a tuck and twist. No shower – we’re using the world’s largest bath tub. No washer/dryer – always a trip to a laundromat (when you can find one). No dishwasher. No hot water, unless it’s boiled. No ice. Further, we must manage our limited supplies of power, propane, and water; and minimize our waste.
Serenada below deck
This new life isn’t about sitting under palm trees with your favourite book and an umbrella drink in hand.
This lifestyle is labour intensive. Food shopping involves a dinghy trip to a dock, walk(s) to the grocery/markets, packing it all into wet/dry bags, muling it all back to the dock, loading it into the dinghy, unloading it into the boat; then ‘processing’ it before it goes below deck: remove all cardboard/boxing and labels (they can carry roach eggs), wash all fruits and veggies, and wipe fruits with diluted vinegar (no fruit flies); then finding room to pack it all into our small frig/freezer, and the various storage spaces we’ve created on the boat (ie. food hammocks).
Cooking requires that all ingredients are brought out before preparation begins, as the surfaces we use are the ‘doors’ to the frig/freezer and pantry. Dishes are hand washed. Laundry can take hours, especially if there are limited machines, the needed change or tokens have to be procured, and other cruisers have the same agenda. Serenada’s many systems – engine/propulsion, fuel, steering/autopilot, anchoring, propane, electrical, water/plumbing/septic, heating/cooling, energy generation/storage, dinghy transport, sails/rigging …. require continual vigilance. Boat maintenance has become an added ‘activity of daily living.’ Cruising has even been described as continually repairing your boat in exotic locations J. Gathering weather information, and knowledge of the islands and their anchorages, planning passages and making them, can consume us when we travel.
grocery shopping in the USA
(the markets in the islands are much more modest)
How is it that anyone could enjoy this cruising lifestyle? Yet we do, as do many others. We’ve been impressed by who we meet. There are many like us – retired couples; but also several families (some with infants!)(one family had six children!); a few solo sailors – both men and women; cruisers in their 20’s and in their 80’s; from so many countries (the Americas, the Caribbean, all over Europe, even South Africa and Japan – we are getting an education on world flags); and on all sizes of boats (from 20’ to 200’); most of whom have cruised for months or years, but some of whom have cruised for decades. What is the attraction?
It’s not a vacation. It’s an adventure!
We’ve been to so many places (175 stops along the way) …. the Kawartha Lakes, NYC, the Chesapeake Bay, ICW waterway, Cumberland Island, the Florida Keys, Bahamas, Dominican Republic, Virgin Islands, St. Martin, Guadeloupe, Les Saintes, Dominica, Martinique, Tobago Cays, Mayreau, Grenada, and others; all with their own flavour.
We’ve managed our share of challenges…. the engine quitting (x3), and therefore having to sail onto our anchor (x2); losing our ability to steer; a dinghy davit breaking while in big seas on the north coast of the DR; being hit by squalls; discovering that we were adrift from our mooring ball in the middle of the night; the dinghy’s outboard motor quitting; as well as the continual need for maintenance as smaller items breakdown - water pump, the head, winlass, stereo, bilge pump …. and more.
dolphins playing at our bow
swimming with sea turtles
Gil's catch - mahi mahi
We’ve experienced many special moments …. catching and cooking our own crabs from the Chesapeake; ditto with oysters, conch, and mahi mahi; tossing back the remora, barracuda and moray eel; witnessing a pod of feeding whales; dolphins playing at our bow; swimming with sea turtles; watching the leatherbacks lay their eggs and hatchlings emerge from the sand; snorkeling in the clear turquoise water; hiking the many island trails; watching locals snare birds and crabs, spearfish, and bring in their fishing nets; squatter rainbows and shorter shadows; waking to the sounds of roosters or tree frogs; and all those incredible sunrises and sunsets!
No one ever asks: “What do you do?” It doesn’t seem to matter. You may become aware of a person’s particular skill or talent, only out of need for it. Cruisers are always helping each other out; it’s a great community to be a part of.
Cruisers are also very social! Our life is much more social than either of us expected it would be. Happy hour is near ritualistic; sundowners are almost a daily occurrence. They happen in our cockpits, on the beach, or at a local pub. They require no special occasion; and thankfully often involve appi’s.
We lose track of time. Often we have to check our phone to know what day of the week it is! The sun’s lower position in the sky signals the time to get active in the galley. Such is our new life.