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Old 01-03-2019, 12:06   #1
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Biggest surprises from your first year or two of cruising

Some years ago I purchased an Airstream trailer. I had asked many questions, and thought I'd done my homework. Five years later I wrote a retrospective which you can still find over at airforums.com if you look for it. Everything had turned out more or less the way I expected. The finances were what I expected, we averaged the 20 nights a year that I figured we would, it was fun.



Except for the cost of tow vehicle maintenance.


I'd grossly underestimated the ongoing cost for maintenance and depreciation of a suitable tow vehicle. I had an older 3/4 ton pickup truck that worked OK and I figured I'd just use that. At this point it's been ten years since I bought the Airstream, and I've replaced the pickup. Twice. One of the facts to consider when contemplating a used 3/4 ton pickup truck is that nobody buys a 3/4 ton pickup truck because they're going to be nice to it. People buy them because they intend to use them in a way that would destroy a 1/2 ton pickup truck in short order. With 3/4 tons, it just takes longer.


I think I missed it because it's sort of off topic for the various information sources about Airstreams in particular or travel trailers in general. Part of it was that smaller trailers don't require as specialized a tow vehicle, and part of it was that many people with larger Airstreams have a large pickup for business purposes, or they park their trailer and don't move it often.



I'm trying to avoid that kind of mistake as we look towards a larger boat and a few years cruising. We'll be snowbirds, summers here, winters cruising.


I've tried to think through the usual stuff. Realistic acquisition budget. Realistic initial refit and ongoing maintenance allowances. Air travel. Money to spend ashore. Medical care. Communications. Other stuff that is covered in books and in the monthly budget summaries that some people post.



What did you miss when you did this? What were the unpleasant surprises, financially or otherwise, that your best-laid plans had missed? What don't we talk about much, because it's boring even though it's important?
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Old 06-03-2019, 09:23   #2
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Re: Biggest surprises from your first year or two of cruising

Interested in hearing the responses from this as well.
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Old 06-03-2019, 09:50   #3
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Re: Biggest surprises from your first year or two of cruising

Hi Jammer, interesting question. My situation is somewhat different than yours, so may not be translatable. We gave up the land house in 2015. Since then we’ve been reverse snowbirds; cruising in the summers and returning to various land options in the winter.

We (my spouse and I) eased into this new life slowly. By the time we cut the dock lines we were well prepared for challenges. Eyes Wide Open on the lifestyle, the money, the various cruising challenges. No surprises so far. Where I have come up short is around the logistics and management of our various piles of land-based stuff.

We sold the house, and got rid of most everything, but there were some things we kept. This includes a couple of small motorcycles, a storage trailer with “essentials”, and a car. Managing and juggling all these land-based things is turning out to be the more challenging than I thought.
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Old 06-03-2019, 10:06   #4
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Re: Biggest surprises from your first year or two of cruising

Greetings and welcome aboard the CF, Copple.
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Old 06-03-2019, 10:30   #5
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Re: Biggest surprises from your first year or two of cruising

What did you miss when you did this? What were the unpleasant surprises, financially or otherwise, that your best-laid plans had missed? What don't we talk about much, because it's boring even though it's important?
Good thread. Let's see.... First, unforeseeable boat issues:
-I missed blister issues a few times now. Sometimes they are not the end of the world, sometimes they are a big deal . All the time they make life miserable. Most often what was missed was blisters that had previously had a "fast fill and repaint then put the boat for sale". Once after being bitten a couple times I made up a disclosure sheet asking the owner "to your knowledge has the boat ever had blisters on the bottom". The broker hated that. One boat hull was so saturated that I discovered (after owning it for a while) that it had blisters on the INSIDE of the hull you could see in the underfloor areas. The surveyor missed that and I did too. Or we would have known it was a fast fill job on the outside.
-Tanks. Replacing tanks can be a big deal. Many are bad or about to be . I once bought a boat with a center bilge tank. The boat had 3 tanks and that one happened to be empty when surveyed. Nobody thought anything about it. The first time I filled it I just happened to look in the bilge on intuition. The diesel was readily flowing into the bilge! I immediately stopped filling. Turns out the 7 year old tank had a hole in the bottom the size of a pencil eraser. (stainless steel)
Another time and boat, The two tanks were not leaking, but the boat had sat unused for 5 years or more. When I started to use the boat, the tank started seeping just a bit. Both tanks were removed and new bottoms welded on them (aluminum)
-Rudders. It is my humble opinion that most rudders are filled with water. Many people just dont know it and don't investigate. The rudders I have checked were saturated with no obvious damage. The water leaks in at the shaft entry slowly into the common foam core. Drill a hole and water comes out.
-Stuffing boxes. IMHO if the boat has sat for very long and had little use, most SS shafts will have etched corroded shaft at the packing. This is because it's trapped low oxygen environment and not refreshed if the boat is not used. One looked like worms had eaten their way along the surface. Buying a little used boat, if the shaft log is dripping much when used I would assume the worst; that the shaft is bad.
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Old 06-03-2019, 11:10   #6
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Biggest surprises from your first year or two of cruising

Jammer, this is a good thread. I’ll try to add our experiences. We were more experienced coastal cruisers than some people when we left full time. We started with small sailboats 50 years ago and owned several of different sizes and types in East coast, Midwest and Western United States. Like many people we daysailed for many years and occasionally did weekend or weeklong cruises. Then several years before retirement we bought our cruising boat and extended our cruising range. So we had more experiences with operating and repairing problems and costs when we cut the dock lines and took off.

We were surprised by the high cost to deal with a seeping diesel tank which was under the sole and galley cabinets. We were surprised by the increasing costs of insurance and marina fees. We were annoyed by increasing proliferation of mooring buoys in what were accessible anchorages.

We were surprised at how much the weather our boat can handle while keeping us feeling safe and reasonably comfortable. We were also pleasantly surprised by how much we enjoyed meeting other cruisers and sharing stories or meals with them as new friends. We were pleasantly surprised to find we didn’t have to go too far away to be “far away”. Adventure abounds just beyond our dock lines. We are continuously surprised how sealife and nature never stop amazing us, dolphins bring us joy and bobtail squid delight us.

We have also found that this community of cruisers on CF is an continuous source of information, entertainment and support.
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Old 06-03-2019, 11:23   #7
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Re: Biggest surprises from your first year or two of cruising

Other things:
Our dingy needs evolved over the years. At the start we used an 8 ft Dyer Dhow hard dingy. We discovered that a dingy isn't just to get you ashore, but is an exploration tool. A good fast dingy can open your cruising ground and horizons immensely. The Dyer Dhow was wet, slow and very limited. We moved on to a 2 hp outboard which helped a little. But through the years a good RIB and 15 hp engine became our tool of choice. It was not unusual to go 10-15 miles from the anchorage to find new places the mothership could not go. And many of those places were not trodden on by most of the cruising crowd.
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Old 06-03-2019, 11:28   #8
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Re: Biggest surprises from your first year or two of cruising

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Originally Posted by Mike OReilly View Post
We sold the house, and got rid of most everything, but there were some things we kept. This includes a couple of small motorcycles, a storage trailer with “essentials”, and a car. Managing and juggling all these land-based things is turning out to be the more challenging than I thought.

Interesting, Mike. I never would have thought of that. Our plans involve moving to a place that has been chosen to be able to be readily "mothballed" for a period of months while cruising before we leave. The idea being we would live there summers and return there when our travels have concluded. Do any the surprises you encountered apply to a situation like ours?


Quote:
Originally Posted by Tayana42 View Post
[...]

We were surprised by the high cost to deal with a seeping diesel tank which was under the sole and galley cabinets. We were surprised by the increasing costs of insurance and marina fees. We were annoyed by increasing proliferation of mooring buoys in what were accessible anchorages.

So, two posts for leaking tanks being a surprise.


One question I continue to ponder is the costs I should anticipate for mooring and slip fees. We intend to anchor out but it is clear that, in practice, nearly all cruisers come into a slip at least occasionally.
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Old 06-03-2019, 11:48   #9
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Re: Biggest surprises from your first year or two of cruising

Setting aside the maintenance surprises/costs, the biggest thing I've learnt (this is exacerbated by having a rolling rotation of new crew every couple of months) in my first half year is its exhausting. This is primarily because I've been trying to do too much.

One of the bigger surprises has been the amount of time I spend wandering the streets of foreign towns trying to find parts- the upside is you see some interesting places (if you like industrial parks) and meet some amazing people.

Another thing I've realised is both provisioning and admin/paperwork (including research of the next destination and or cruising ground) also take up an extraordinary amount of time.

But its totally worth it.
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Old 06-03-2019, 12:29   #10
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Re: Biggest surprises from your first year or two of cruising

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jammer View Post

What did you miss when you did this? What were the unpleasant surprises, financially or otherwise, that your best-laid plans had missed? What don't we talk about much, because it's boring even though it's important?
I spent a lot of time on budget planning and expectations. Yet I've still spend about $44k/yr against a planned $36k/yr planned budget.

The "surprises" are really only 2:

- the boat will cost more than expected because there are lots of little things you don't think about till they hit your checkbook and they add up to more than you think if you keep track

- even if you think you are going to be some type of anchor out God, the marina costs are going to be more than you think

I've posted monthly cruising costs tha last 3o months. feel fee to look at each and decide "I wouldn't spend that much on that" and come to a budget for yourself.
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Old 06-03-2019, 12:40   #11
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Re: Biggest surprises from your first year or two of cruising

Similar to Olly, my biggest surprise was just how many things, mostly small, go wrong, even on a little well found cruising boat. Some people seem to have miraculous luck with just hopping aboard and going, but for me it was a tough first couple years trying to get off the docks and up and running. Could be a leaky tank or a bad lightbulb.. lots and lots of trips to supply stores and far too many online purchases.

But after the first couple years, once you've gone thru the cycle of everything onboard breaking at least once, things get much easier and you find you now have 2 or 3 of every spare you could possibly need!

That's not to say the to-do list ever gets any smaller.
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Old 06-03-2019, 12:51   #12
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Re: Biggest surprises from your first year or two of cruising

We've never costed this lifstyle. We are not wealthy but it really does not matter to us. This is our chosen life. I guess we must have enough as we've been doing it since 1994
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Old 06-03-2019, 13:08   #13
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Re: Biggest surprises from your first year or two of cruising

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Interesting, Mike. I never would have thought of that. Our plans involve moving to a place that has been chosen to be able to be readily "mothballed" for a period of months while cruising before we leave. The idea being we would live there summers and return there when our travels have concluded. Do any the surprises you encountered apply to a situation like ours?
Hard to say. I think the sources of my challenge is that I hadn’t really given this aspect much consideration — certainly not the same level that I applied to other aspects of moving on board. I’m not sure what I could have done differently, and it’s not a huge issue because we do have working solutions in place for everything, but it mostly relies on the good will of our friends.

I think you’ve got an immediate plus on your side since you plan to keep a chuck of land as a some sort of foci of operations. Our challenge would be less if we had a chuck of land to call our own. Although this might introduce other challenges. The other aspect is the damn large size of Canada, and the challenge of moving “stuff” around.

As far as the other aspects of this life, there haven’t been any unexpected surprises — yet . Boat maintenance, general costs, lifestyle expectations, all have fallen within expectations and plans.

Oh, wait… there has been one unsought surprise. Living close on our smallish sailboat has improved my relationship with my spouse. We’ve discovered that we actually do better when we’re on board. So that’s a nice surprise .
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Old 06-03-2019, 13:34   #14
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Re: Biggest surprises from your first year or two of cruising

We haven't done as much long-distance or long-term cruising as we'd like... and don't intend to move aboard anyway...

But two non-boat things stand out as issues from our last over-winter trip: mail, and home oversight. Mail can be solved "for permanently" relatively easily, I think, through something like St. Brendans. A long-term but not permanent solution seemed to take a bit more work. Not huge...

Home oversight, not yet completely solved as we speak. Friends and neighbors? Not comfortable with that. Property management company? Maybe, but most seem to be set up for rental properties... We'll see how that goes...

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Old 06-03-2019, 14:15   #15
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Re: Biggest surprises from your first year or two of cruising

Much depends on what "other entanglements" you choose to retain.


Your OP about the towing vehicle is very interesting, in that your airstream forums appeared from your telling to not cover that subject. I doubt that was merely wishful thinking on your part that the main propulsion for your trailer would not be part of the overall equation.


Admittedly, I am not a full time cruiser. When I lived in N California, I used my boat often, including anchoring out regularly and sailing and motoring. I knew all my systems, inside and out, and had maintained the boat entirely by myself for those 18 years before I sailed north; except for two times that I had other folks work on the boat, both cases they screwed up - early new exhaust riser (I've done the past two myself) and standing rigging furler install (idiot didn't use loctite on extrusion screws!!!). We always kept ahead with preventative maintenance for hoses, fluid changes, equipment replacement and SPARES on hand.



The end result was an event-free cruise/delivery of six weeks up the coast. That's because there were NO surprises that we couldn't deal with. All we had to do was an oil change half-way up.


Any new-to-you boat is going to have what one could call "teething pains" until YOU know everything there is to know about it. How long that takes is up to any skipper's personal interests and abilities.


And after all that is said and done, we all know stuff happens. There are no guarantees in life.


And if one of your biggest concerns is marina costs, consider yourself extremely lucky because you still have options, right?


This is a classical over planning vs. just go kinda discussion. Everybody on this forum that we've grown to know, like and trust cautions us that success lies somewhere in between with a healthy dose of reality.


A cake dropped on the floor isn't a problem, it's a reality. There is no problem so great it can't be solved. So you either pick the bits up and reassemble them, bake a new one or buy a new one. Lots of solvable problems to deal with reality.


While it's healthy to be aware of these possibilities, I recommend not overthinking these potential issues. Do the heavy lifting things before you embark. Change the freshwater pump before you go and keep the working old one for a spare, or vice versa. Learn everything about your boat before you go and/or dig deep as you start along.


The pattern of some of your posts, while illuminating, indicates a certain unusual combination of forward thinking mixed with trepidation, like the one about burning solar panels. I'm sure you were serious, but I haven't read anything about that issue in the last 15 years of reading multiple boating forums. Now, NOT fusing batteries: I'm sure you understand that, which can be more catastrophic than solar panels.



Safe journey.
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