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David and I have been suffering lately from what one of our friends recently declared “senioritis”. In thinking about it, there are a lot of similarities between college and our adventure; 4-5 years (the five-year plan was mine!), steep learning curve, alcohol-heavy social environment, draining your bank account….
As we’ve recently discussed, we’ve got less than a year left of cruising before we complete our circumnavigation. We’re staring down the barrel of potentially big changes in our lives with a lot of big decisions to make too.
It’s understandable that we’ve fallen into a bit of a funk. Cruising is HARD. The ups are really up and the downs are really down. I’m shocked how many couples we’ve met out cruising who split up within a year. Cruising ends marriages, ya’ll. You deal with each other’s LITERAL shit. You share a small living space (our boat is big and it’s still only 1/4 the size of the standard American home). You are constantly making hard decisions.
Breaking out of the funk is not an easy thing to do, but here are a few strategies we’ve used to take a step back from the cruising life. I’m going to start with the one we’re employing now, but I do want to put in a disclaimer. A lot of these strategies (but not all) hinge on having flexibility in your budget. Out here cruising, we’ve met plenty of people who haven’t been home in years because they can’t afford to, or avoid staying in a cheap marina because they don’t want to pay marina fees when anchoring is free. And yet…we’re still all on the same adventure.
David and I have been docked at Eden Island Marina in Seychelles for over a month now. We didn’t plan on this; the winds around Seychelles pick up for the month of August, and we missed the last window in July. But we’re reaping the benefits – this is exactly what we needed.
One of the biggest struggles with the cruising life sometimes is a lack of routine. Every day looks incredibly different, even in the span of one week. You might be doing an overnight passage with long watches, you might need to get up early to catch the morning’s high tide, or you might have to dedicate all day to filing up your diesel tank with jerry cans.
Living in the marina here has been the opposite. David and I have developed a wonderful routine:
- Wake up at 0540 am
- Exercise (TRX x 3, running x3, yoga x1)
- Have breakfast
- Quick shower
- Work on videos/blog posts/writing/reading
- Walk to the supermarket to pick up food for lunch and dinner
- Eat lunch
- Back to videos/blog posts/writing/reading
- Quit at 1700 pm to read on the lounge deck
- Cook dinner
Part of what is making this so enjoyable is the relative luxury of Seychelles. We’ve got a western-style grocery store a 5-minute walk away, which stocks South African products and produce we don’t get to enjoy often (like leafy greens and fresh herbs). There are nearly a dozen restaurants to choose from on Eden Island. The marina is clean and cheaper than most we’ve been to. As our dock neighbors said (paraphrased): we’re going to enjoy the crap out of this marina because we haven’t seen one like it in four months, and won’t see one like it for another four months.
Additionally, the marina life fulfills a need for familiarity. When you are constantly on the move, even the smallest tasks can be a struggle. Even something as simple as coming into a new anchorage; where do I drop the hook? what’s the best way to get to shore? am I going to be here long enough that I need to worry about trash? groceries? water?
Here in Eden Island Marina, we know where everything is. We say hello to the same staff every morning. Accessing shore is as easy as one step. We’re friendly with our neighbor cruising boats. I even have consistent faces that I say hello to on every morning run. It can be such a relief!
We have been so fortunate in that our friends and family have been pretty gung-ho about visiting us. In fact, there’s even some friendly competition over who will have visited us the most by the end of our circumnavigation. Right now, David’s brother Thomas is winning with four visits (the passage to Canada, Fiji, Australia, and Thailand).
First of all, seeing cruising through someone else’s eyes is refreshing. We often tend to forget the positive sides of our lives. When friends or family visit we get to see them excited about the locations we are visiting or about certain aspects of our lifestyle. There’s a certain joy in teaching someone to drive the dinghy, watching them learn to paddleboard, or taking them out on their first snorkel.
One of the hardest parts of cruising is missing out on things back home. Having our guests come visit allows us some important time with people that are part of our former lives.
And I think the best, most refreshing visit for me was when my best friend Carlanna came to visit in Thailand. David and I were at a rough patch, having had to haul out in Thailand twice. To have someone visit that you are really close to, was such a nice break.
In some countries, David and I have taken the opportunity to leave the boat and do some land travel. We spent 12 days exploring Sri Lanka, five weeks driving around New Zealand, and six weeks hopping around Australia (a kangaroo pun!). While traveling this way has its own set of difficulties (six weeks of Australia might have been too much), it gets us away from the boat life and a good change of scenery (sometimes you just want the bed to stop moving damn it!).
If you’re really at a breaking point, even just stepping away for a night or two might make a huge difference. Leave your boat wherever you feel comfortable, and stay a night or two in a hotel.
I have been within 40 feet of David for 99% of the past four years. That’s A LOT of time with just one person. David and I are awake and together for roughly 16 hours a day. If you are still working, think about how much time a day you spend within 40 feet of your partner. Maybe an hour a day during the workweek? Maybe cruising years are like dog years for your marriage; David and I have been married for nine years, but it really feels like forty.
Maybe taking a step away from your partner for a whole day, or a few nights, would do you some good. Spending a few hundred dollars on a hotel that might save your marriage? Priceless.
This is the method we use most often when we need a break from the cruising life, although now that we’ve tried living in a marina, I think the marina is more effective for our overall happiness (more cost-effective, but less time-efficient). Flying home gets us a break from the boat life and a chance to see our friends and family, but it does make our schedule pretty crazy and costs a lot of money, depending on where you are flying from.
As it is, we’ve been home on average, twice a year. In New Zealand we took a month to fly back home for the holidays, which has been our longest trip home. Also in New Zealand, we flew back for just a few days to attend David’s grandfather’s memorial service. In fact, three of our last six visits back to the states were to be with family at memorials for our grandparents. On the one hand, it’s a very sad reason to fly back home, but on the other, it’s a great opportunity to visit with our extended families. Most of our visits back to the US have been 10 – 14 days.
The costs add up; we have to store Starry Horizons someplace we are comfortable, plus the flights, dining out, and other travel expenses.
While, in general, rallies aren’t our thing, we understand that they can be really important to a lot of cruisers. They provide a safety net in the form of being near and talking to more experienced cruisers. They make decisions easier – the route and anchorage are chosen for you – and help get you set up in your new location.
Rallies also provide opportunities to socialize more often in a lifestyle which can be isolating. While cruising with the Wonderful Sail 2 Indonesia Rally, I was always able to find someone for a shore excursion to spend some time without David. And I often attended rally events – social and cultural – without him.
Buddy boating can be a similar balm. Instead of being with a larger number of boats, you can pick and choose who you want to hang out with. Buddy boats often have similar interests or demographics to provide a sense of familiarity and comfort.
We greatly enjoyed bonding with Slow Flight and Mirniy Okean while in the rally, and continued our buddy boating beyond that – we spent a month with Slow Flight in the Maldives!
We’ve implemented three of these strategies since we arrived in Seychelles – we flew home (for a memorial service), had two sets of friends visit, and then have spent a month in the marina. When we were at the airport in Houston, boarding our flight to come back to Starry Horizons, I said to David; “this is the first time I’m not excited to get back to the boat”.
Now, I’m feeling 100% different. I’m excited for Madagascar (one of the places I was most excited to visit from the start). We’ll be merging back together with our buddy boats Slow Flight (coming from Reunion) and Mirniy Okean (coming from Chagos). Before I know it, it’ll be my birthday, then Christmas, then we’ll be crossing our wake in the Caribbean and throwing one hell of a party to celebrate.
And I can’t wait to share it all with you!