I sit waiting…waiting for this week full of gray skies, torrential winds and rain to be over (I’ve already read two books); waiting for a professional captain to arrive, the guy who will guide us off shore neophytes around Cape Hatteras on our last big sail (he’s delayed a couple of days); waiting for a pump out so we don’t have to walk to the marina bathrooms all the time; waiting for a Uber to take us to the grocery store; waiting for parts to be shipped; waiting to get word that we can stay in a slip that has shore power; waiting for slack tide so we can safely move to a slip without shore power, because we can’t stay; waiting for washers and dryers so I can do the laundry (luckily I hit a lull). You get the idea.
Cruising has become more waiting than moving. At least, that’s how it feels since we crossed from the Bahamas back to the U.S. I can understand why bona fide cruisers may take to wearing the same clothes too many days and to growing their hair long. Why do it? Who cares? It can wait. Don’t need to be anywhere by anytime.
Cruising has also proven itself to be more about fixing than sailing. In the past two weeks, we needed an electronics specialist to fix our intermittent navigation instrument issues (he found an errant loose cable behind the distribution panel and tightened it). Then the diesel engine expert diagnosed our overheated generator, but parts will take 6-8 weeks to be fabricated. So, this week, we sit in a slip without shore power, running the engine for an hour or two a day to charge our batteries. Without a generator to substitute for shore power, we don’t run the freezer (it eats volumes of battery amp hours so we turned it off ) and can’t use the TV/entertainment center, air conditioning, water heater or charge our laptops. There’s always something broken, about to break, or acting strange. Keeping busy is one thing, but fretting over “what’s going to happen next” is just not for me. We’ve found that Dolce Vento requires much more maintenance, care and feeding than John and I expected or can manage. Even with our crew member, Cindy, a certified marine technician, helping out in so many ways, it’s exhausting.
Bona fide cruisers are DIY fix-it experts, doing systems maintenance, and willingly, spending hours tracking and diagnosing any and all electrical, plumbing/water, refrigeration, HVAC, diesel engine, outboard and electronics/navigation instrument problems. Only as a last resort, do bona fide cruisers hire someone to do the work. Either that or they don’t have those systems and live without them.
All this adds up to bare bones living more often than not, which we’ve learned over the past months, bona fide cruisers tolerate quite well. They crave the “we can do it ourselves” simplicity and the isolation of it all. They avoid marina slips, preferring to hang on a mooring or anchor, succumbing to a marina stop only for fuel or water (if they don’t have a water maker). Of course, you have to have a dinghy for visiting the landed civilized world or other boaters for everything from meeting up with other sailors, shopping, dumping the trash, doing the laundry, picking up shipments or touring the land.
I’m fine for a week or even a month, but the bona fide cruising life style is, quite frankly, more than I can stomach. Therefore, (drum roll please), I declare to all that I am not and will never be a bona fide cruiser — I can’t wait, I can’t fix and I can’t be disconnected from all that city life provides, friends and family.
It’s really amazing how many people stop by our boat to tell us how they wish they could “living the dream” like we are. They are right. We have been living “living the dream” on Dolce Vento since last June. I can’t wait for the last 690 mile sail around Cape Hatteras — “the BIG sail” – as I call it. I’m planning route options this week. Clearly, if I did’t do this adventure, I would regret it the rest of my life, always having that hollow ache inside me, always romanticizing the dream, never knowing what it would be like.
This adventure has purpose – to do what I have not done before – captain an ocean capable sail boat over 2000 miles, in differing conditions, pushing myself to use my sailing skills, being enveloped in breathtaking sunsets on the water and seeing my first and only true Greenflash.
I really didn’t know if I was bona fide cruiser material, even though I know I am a sailor who has always enjoyed the thrill of a boat cutting through water under sail and putting the rail in the water once in a while. So, I thought, maybe I could cruise, be a bona fide cruiser. But, you know, this adventure answered my question. To keep cruising serves no purpose.