One Year Cruising: The Challenges
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Last Updated on November 28, 2019 by Amy
June 18th marked the one year anniversary of our departure from Florida and into full time cruising. Look how far we’ve come!
It’s been a year since we left Florida in June of 2015 and started our cruising life. Since then, we spent 3 weeks in the Bahamas, sailed up to Nova Scotia, Maine, Bermuda, and back down for three months in the Caribbean. Then we went through the Panama Canal and crossed the Pacific Ocean, making landfall in Futa Hiva, French Polynesia. Since then, we’ve been making our way through the island of French Polynesia.
Lately, we’ve been on holiday in the states, being extremely productive for a 12-day visit. We saw almost all of our family in Texas, had a few good meals with close friends, worked on our videos, and attended a wedding in California.
We are now back in Tahiti on Starry Horizons. Our newlywed friends, Liz and Brandon, have joined us for the first part of their honeymoon.
During our visit, we loved catching up with friends and family and their questions have caused us to pause and look back at the last year of cruising. It certainly has its downsides.
Boating is a pretty gender divided hobby, unfortunately. Cruising couples generally have their roles fairly outlined in “pink jobs” and “blue jobs”, and we are fairly standard with those responsibilities. I handle cooking, cleaning, provisioning, and light maintenance. David handled our energy and water needs, and most maintenance projects. The only area we differ from the “normal cruising couple” is in captaining. While David is officially our captain, I’ve handled all docking and close-quarters maneuvering since Antigua.
This division really comes into play around other couples. Women and men typically separate and discuss topics that are relevant to traditional roles. There have been a few times when I’ve been eavesdropping on the “men’s” conversations and wish I was participating in that conversation instead of my own. David also scores more invites to adventures like spearfishing or kiteboarding then I do. Granted, part of this is some personal development I need to work on myself, figuring out how to stay involved in conversations that I find interesting. And sometimes, I find a woman who wants to chat about the typical “boy” stuff!
And then, of course, sometimes there are things that are just blatant sexism, like the employee of a large marine store who asked me what it was my husband did that allows us to afford this lifestyle.
The answer at the time: he works for me!
David and I have struggled from day one with falling into our roles on the boat.
When we purchased Starry Horizons, David took on the project of working with our brokers and specing out our boat. I was still working full time running my own business. This business was where I’d worked since I was a teenager. I could step in and do almost any job (Captain, Serve, Cook, Sales, etc). David was spending a ton of time researching all the aspects of the boat. He had to get comfortable with making a decision on his own.
We have had and continue to have some frustrations around making decisions. David is often more knowledgeable then I am, but might still like my opinion. I would get frustrated when trying to make a decision without all the information. Sometimes, David might already have a gut instinct, and – hey I’m not a mind reader – so I would try to contribute but ultimately the decision would go the other way. That resulted in more frustrations for me because I didn’t feel like I had a say.
We are still working on this all the time. We both have to learn to ask ourselves if we are discussing to discuss or to make a decision, and if so who is making the decision.
For example, we made the decision to get a sat phone back when we started, and now we are upgrading to the IridiumGo. David has been on this from day one, so it’s his decision. Another example would be researching where to go and what to do. David leaves me to do the research in cruising guides and it’s my decision to make. And while we discuss the weather forecast and the sail plan while out at sea, the captain on watch gets to make the decision and the other crew member has to go with it – period.
Fear of the Unknown
Moving our boat from place to place during a circumnavigation means we are almost never in the same place twice. In fact, I can only think of two places we have backtracked to: Halifax, Canada, and Rodney Bay, St Lucia.
Coming into new places can be overwhelming. Even though we have cruising guides, we don’t really know where things are. It takes an effort to find where to anchor, where to take the dinghy, where the customs office is, etc.
Coming back to Houston is such a relief for its familiarity. I know Houston so well, it’s a breath of fresh air to not have to think as much about where to find the things I need. I’m familiar enough with the city that I can make adjustments to our drives on the fly or can navigate without a map or directions. It’s a little bizarre how satisfying that is!
Learning the Boat
We knew that maintaining our boat was going to be a constant, learning-on-the-fly process. Since Starry Horizons is so new, we are fortunate enough to be spending less time doing work on her than other cruisers have to do. Anything that needs work, though, is typically something we have had no experience fixing in the past.
David does a great job of tackling these projects and figuring out how to fix systems, but it can be stressful and we may lack the parts we need.
Example: the fan that ventilates our generator locker into the anchor locker stopped working. We have to keep the generator locker open when we run the water maker or else the watermaker pump will overheat. It’s a $20 part, but not available where we are.
Our Small Universe
A good majority of the time on Starry Horizons is just the two of us. It gets all too easy to be sucked into a routine of not talking to other people. It doesn’t bother David as much, but I’ve found that if I don’t know any other boats near us, I have to just suck it up and go introduce myself to people. It’s the same with activities. We could easily read, work on videos, or write all day, but I get too antsy most of the time, which often results in me exploring a town or going snorkeling on my own. Even though I consider myself an outgoing person, I have to work three times harder to meet my minimum social requirements.
The Totality of the Boat
Leaving the boat is an ordeal. Almost everything we own is onboard. With the exception of the land I still own, Starry Horizons is our biggest asset. The weather in Tahiti has been rainy and windy, and leaving Starry Horizons on a mooring is a bit terrifying. We’ve asked friends to keep an eye on her and the marina dove the mooring for us. We still worry about her! I had a bit of a freakout, but fortunately, every time I have a freakout David is super calm.
Great Post , I actually read the Pros post first but this was an interesting follow up
Thanks Andrew! Glad you enjoyed it.
Good post, thanks for sharing. I think it would be scary to leave the boat long term on a mooring too!
Especially with the weather as rough as it was. When we left the boat in Maine it was in a very sheltered bay where it was flat calm all the time.
Nice work! Stumbled on your site while researching our upcoming trip to Nova Scotia in a week. We’re Charlie and Karen from San Antonio. Our Pacific Seacraft 44, TracenJ, is in Ptown on the tip of cape cod. We spend 1/2 of each month on the boat and the other half in TX where I work. Love Kemah, Seabrook, been racing J24s there for years. One of our crew, Scott Harrison, used to captain on Star Fleet. Small world. We’re planning on a couple of trips to Nova Scotia this summer (our back and forth lifestyle). Bras d’or lakes, maybe the Magdalene Islands, Lunenburg, all seems quite nice. Looks like you had a nice time there. Our plans are also to head south to the Caribean from Nova Scotia as we’ve spent the last two winters in the Bahamas and ready for something new. Rather than follow the east coast to Norfolk and have to work east again, a one or two hop from NS to St Martin is pretty appealing. Appreciate all the hard work you put into your website and videos. Thanks again. Charlie and Karen
Hi Charlie and Karen, welcome in advance to Nova Scotia! If you are in or near Halifax let me know. I live here and have cruised the area extensively.
You are awesome Louise!
Just reading your note now. We returned from Halifax yesterday. Left our boat on a mooring in Eastern passage just south of Dartmouth. Had a great time along the south coast visiting Shelburne, Lockeporte on Canada Day (love the grease pole!), Brooklin marina in Liverpool, Lunenburg, and downtown Halifax on the wharf at the public docks. We’ll return to Eastern passage on Aug 5 and spend two weeks sailing to the Bras d’or lakes and back. Any of your thoughts would be great. Thanks.
Hey Charlie and Karen! Yes I know Scott!
We loved Nova Scotia. It’s David’s favorite place we’ve been and my second favorite (second to French Polynesia). The Bras d’or Lakes were stunning and I loved Halifax. I’m sure you’ve read our blog posts about it.
Glad you are enjoying the blog and videos!
Well said, Amy. I can relate to so much of what you have written!
Glad you are back safely and that SH was fine and dandy when you returned.
Can’t believe how much you accomplished in just 12 days!!! Bet you are tired.
Thanks for bravely sharing you feelings
Great post. Lots of insight on what it is actually like to live the dream of quitting your jobs and sailing the world!