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Old 14-09-2019, 19:35   #1
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Single-handed cruising lifestyle: what is it REALLY like?

Hi

I am thinking of living the cruising lifestyle. I am wondering of some of you that live life as single-handers (not couples) can share your experiences with me.

I am particularly interested in those that live on a yacht less than 30 ft and are actively cruising i.e. not living in a marina permanently. Also, I am planning to do this in Europe so posts from those cruising Europe are most welcome, although any US cruisers are welcome to share their thoughts as well of course.

I am interested in budgets of course, my annual target would be around 20,000 EUR (22,000 US), please let me know if you think this is feasible. The yacht, not more than 30,000 EUR (34,000 US).

But I would also like to find out what the lifestyle itself is REALLY like, i.e. is it lonely at times, is there boredom, does it get very tough living "on the hook" or even spending times in marinas? Are there particular exhilarating moments too?

Lastly I suppose there are two broad categories of livaboards (of course I am generalizing here): young people often on small budgets with an adventurous spirit, or older people, often retirees that choose for this lifestyle more as a reward for having slaved away in an office for decades. They often have bigger budgets and want more comfort.

I am in the "older" category (over 50), but don't mind roughing it: as you can see both in terms of boat price and length (under 30 ft) and budget, I am not in the rich cruisers category, and this is not just because I want to make the budget last, but also because I deliberately choose for the more simple and natural lifestyle.

Although I like to hear everyone's experience, it means I am particularly interested in people over 50 that are in the "go small, go simple, go now" category and what they have to say about it.

Thanks

Hugo
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Old 14-09-2019, 20:39   #2
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Re: Single-handed cruising lifestyle: what is it REALLY like?

I would recommend an older 32 to 34 foot, sailboat. Older as in pre 1990. One person living full-time on a sailboat will need places for all clothing, cooking, food, tools, etc. plus a 32 to 34 foot boat, will generally have larger tankage and it won't be down on its water line so much when you're living aboard.

yes you can do it on a smaller boat. Many people have. But having lived aboard for nearly 15 years now, a slightly larger boat makes life a little bit easier. It's still pretty easy to single hand. once you're in your 60s, A windlass will make retrieving the anchor, much easier.

I'm not sure the cost of marinas in Europe, but otherwise it should be quite doable with your monthly income. I would recommend keeping 25% of your purchase money aside for maintenance and upgrades. Any boat you will buy will need maintenance and upgrades. Plus VAT, Insurance Etc.
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Old 14-09-2019, 20:55   #3
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Re: Single-handed cruising lifestyle: what is it REALLY like?

"How to sail oceans" did a budget episode recently, something like $16k he spent but he's pretty frugal.



As far as what it's like, perhaps flick him a comment or two asking?
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Old 14-09-2019, 21:22   #4
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Re: Single-handed cruising lifestyle: what is it REALLY like?

I'd recommend a couple of weeks backpacking (minimal investment) in an isolated wilderness and see if no inter-personal relation is comfortable.
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Old 14-09-2019, 21:42   #5
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Re: Single-handed cruising lifestyle: what is it REALLY like?

Some of this you can muddle through over a few cups of quiet coffee.... by age 50, I'd assume you know yourself well enough and have been in a few situations that would give you an honest idea of if you'd like solitary sailing. Do you like going on long hikes/drives by yourself? Do you gain or lose energy in a crowd of people? You prefer an empty coffee shop to one that is jumpin?

We liveaboard all year here in the Med at the moment, so I can give you some specifics. Our boat is bigger and there is 3 of us (and 3 cats) but some things translate: You are only as alone as you want to be. Many times we walk the dock with a coffee or beer after boats come in and just strike up a conversation with the most interesting looking boat or people, and almost always have a night of drinking, eating, whatever. At anchor, we do it in the dinghy when we're craving a little extra conversation too, it's easy and fun. You can meet amazing people every single night if you want, or keep to yourself and not talk to anyone for weeks. Buy a flag with a big pint of beer on it (the BEER FLAG). Hoist it at anchor and you'll get people coming over if you like.

I don't recall if you wanted costs, but it's pretty easy... everything costs big bucks in summer, esp france and italy, so anchor out most of the time. Or go to greece and every town and village has a free town quay you can med moor at right by the restaurants all summer long, and with a smaller boat like yours, you can still be very economical stopping in a marina once a week to refill tanks and have some good conversations. In winter, we found a place in Greece to liveaboard 6 months water/electric/wifi included for 1200 bucks total, and that's for a 53 foot boat. Really, come to greece, and it'll be as cheap as chips, summer or winter.

Ok, coffee's done... don't worry about being alone. People are nice here. You will make as many friends as you choose, and have as many quiet nights as you need.
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Old 15-09-2019, 00:02   #6
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Re: Single-handed cruising lifestyle: what is it REALLY like?

Quote:
Many times we walk the dock with a coffee or beer after boats come in and just strike up a conversation with the most interesting looking boat or people, and almost always have a night of drinking, eating, whatever. At anchor, we do it in the dinghy when we're craving a little extra conversation too, it's easy and fun.
Ahhh! The essence of the cruising life, whether solo or not. This aspect, more than anything else, is what keeps me cruising, even after 32 years full time.

Sojourner, I don't think we've enough years left to get to the Med, so you should get out here to the Pacific so that we can dinghy by and say g'day... I think we might get along ok!

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Old 15-09-2019, 00:53   #7
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pirate Re: Single-handed cruising lifestyle: what is it REALLY like?

If you want to go small buy in the UK, something like a Konsort or Merlin.. Plenty of room and you can chose between twin or fin keel..
Some places are cheaper than others and as has been said June, July and August marina prices rocket.
But on your budget its eminently doable.
Boredom depends one whether you depend on others to entertain you or if your happy with your own company.
A cheerful outlook goes a long way, and a basic grasp of languages.. A Bonjour, Buenas dia etc is welcomed
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Old 15-09-2019, 01:02   #8
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Re: Single-handed cruising lifestyle: what is it REALLY like?

I think how happy you will be or not has much more to do with yourself than the cruising lifestyle.

I was not happy during the time that I was cruising alone. Yes, I enjoyed the boat. However, I didn’t enjoy putting my New Year’s clothes into a garbage bag to dinghy over in the pouring rain. It stopped shortly after I arrived at the dinghy dock. It was night time. Not many people around. So I literally got naked and changed right on the dinghy dock into my New Year’s clothes. If it wasn’t for the extremely attractive girl that I was going out with that night, I wouldn’t even have went. But the people on land make plans that are not based on the weather.

Then there is the matter of personal taste with social life. I truly don’t enjoy talking to random people. It’s not fun for me to go strike up conversations walking around the shore like sojourner does. I find that tedious and exhausting. I truly don’t want to hear whatever it is those people have to say. And I’m busy thinking about other things or doing other things. So, in my case, it’s better to bring someone with me on the boat. As in, become a couple. And then go on the boat. While alone on the boat, I certainly got lonely because I don’t like to talk to people randomly, yet there was no one on the boat to talk to and share all of the experiences with.

I think one of the earlier posters said that you should go spend some time completely alone. This was good advice.Because that is a very important part of this stuff. There are hardships of course. And there are also very joyful times. But do any of these times mean anything if you don’t have anyone to discuss them with? No one to share them with? I found they lost much of their meeting without someone to share it with.

Each person will have their own unique perspective on this isolation.
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Old 15-09-2019, 01:43   #9
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Re: Single-handed cruising lifestyle: what is it REALLY like?

Great post and sums up cruising - you get back what you put in an you choose what to do and when. Love the idea of the beer flag. Got to get one of those.


@hugo_b -
I'm in the "same boat as you". In my 50's and starting out on this full time cruising. My budget is a little more but then whether you live in a small, cheap 30 footer, or a spanking new 50 footer the social life can be exactly the same. You still have to choose to be on your own, or make the effort and socialize with others.



Your budget looks fine - Like others have said, the biggest (non maintenance) cost will be marinas in Europe. In summer they are really expensive but there's no reason to stay in a marina. Most of the time you can live on the hook and dingy in as needed. That will reduce your costs. After that you have check in/out fees, some cruising permits and diesel. Your budget can cover all this and then some.



Quote:
Originally Posted by Sojourner View Post
Some of this you can muddle through over a few cups of quiet coffee.... by age 50, I'd assume you know yourself well enough and have been in a few situations that would give you an honest idea of if you'd like solitary sailing. Do you like going on long hikes/drives by yourself? Do you gain or lose energy in a crowd of people? You prefer an empty coffee shop to one that is jumpin?

We liveaboard all year here in the Med at the moment, so I can give you some specifics. Our boat is bigger and there is 3 of us (and 3 cats) but some things translate: You are only as alone as you want to be. Many times we walk the dock with a coffee or beer after boats come in and just strike up a conversation with the most interesting looking boat or people, and almost always have a night of drinking, eating, whatever. At anchor, we do it in the dinghy when we're craving a little extra conversation too, it's easy and fun. You can meet amazing people every single night if you want, or keep to yourself and not talk to anyone for weeks. Buy a flag with a big pint of beer on it (the BEER FLAG). Hoist it at anchor and you'll get people coming over if you like.

I don't recall if you wanted costs, but it's pretty easy... everything costs big bucks in summer, esp france and italy, so anchor out most of the time. Or go to greece and every town and village has a free town quay you can med moor at right by the restaurants all summer long, and with a smaller boat like yours, you can still be very economical stopping in a marina once a week to refill tanks and have some good conversations. In winter, we found a place in Greece to liveaboard 6 months water/electric/wifi included for 1200 bucks total, and that's for a 53 foot boat. Really, come to greece, and it'll be as cheap as chips, summer or winter.

Ok, coffee's done... don't worry about being alone. People are nice here. You will make as many friends as you choose, and have as many quiet nights as you need.
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Old 15-09-2019, 04:59   #10
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Re: Single-handed cruising lifestyle: what is it REALLY like?

You can learn a lot about cruising as a single hander on a small boat by just doing it locally say within 200 miles of your marina

Does it get boring? Yes

Is it exciting? yes, when the weather comes up and you are out of position (not in a good spot)

Do you enjoy repairing things and experimenting with solar? If so, that's a good start. How about painting and sanding?

Are you good with electrical/electronics or good enough to keep the simple systems going

Are you experienced with boating, anchoring, tides?

On a small boat, I'm thinking you will have to stay on the move or you will go out of your mind with boredom

Several sailing goals might help. Start small then expand......

Here's a list of small boats put together by a guy that circumnavigated twice on a 28' sailboat, and some information to plan.

https://atomvoyages.com/planning/goo...oats-list.html

https://atomvoyages.com/planning/cruising-q-a-a.html

His website:

https://atomvoyages.com/
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Old 15-09-2019, 07:40   #11
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Re: Single-handed cruising lifestyle: what is it REALLY like?

Beats being alone and solo leaving on land!

All excellent advices above, the only thing I have to add is that you must have the ability to make decisions entirely by yourself, sometimes very quickly....

So read all the posts above twice then binge watch on Youtube:
  • Adventures of an old sea dog
  • How to sail oceans
  • Junkming (Ming Ming)
  • And last but not least WindHippieSailing
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Old 15-09-2019, 09:41   #12
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Re: Single-handed cruising lifestyle: what is it REALLY like?

Hi Hugo. As always there is some very good advice and insight that has been shared with you here. There is always something to do on a boat to keep you busy. There are also books,internet, netflix, amazon primetime etc to keep you busy as well. The lifestyle is a good one and there is a large community of wonderful crusiers that you will befriend. They will become your support group. If you are interested in companionship remember that most cruisers are coupled up so finding a partner in this community will be difficult. You will need to fly in your own gals or meet them by experiencing the lands that you go to. Get off of your boat as much as you can and dinghy to the shore to make friends and find suitable partners. Good luck
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Old 15-09-2019, 10:15   #13
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Re: Single-handed cruising lifestyle: what is it REALLY like?

Early on we were warned: "beware of single handers - they talk too much, and always appear at dinnertime". We have met - and enjoyed the company of - some notable exceptions, but the stereotype often applies.
Knowing the prejudices of others might help you avoid the pitfalls!
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Old 15-09-2019, 10:18   #14
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Re: Single-handed cruising lifestyle: what is it REALLY like?

Quote:
Originally Posted by sailorchic34 View Post
I would recommend an older 32 to 34 foot, sailboat.... One person living full-time on a sailboat will need places for all clothing, cooking, food, tools, etc. plus a 32 to 34 foot boat, will generally have larger tankage and it won't be down on its water line so much when you're living aboard.

yes you can do it on a smaller boat. Many people have. But having lived aboard for nearly 15 years now, a slightly larger boat makes life a little bit easier. .... A windlass will make retrieving the anchor, much easier.
There is a lot of very good advice on this thread, but from a practical boat point of view, SailorChic's advice is spot on. The tankage will give you a lot more options. Think 30 gallons of diesel versus 7; or 50, 100, o more gallons of fresh water versus 20 gallons. It will allow you to sail further, or let you avoid refilling when it is expensive.


It is more difficult to store a dinghy on a smaller boat (27-30 feet or 8.5 to 9M). While I prefer a hard dinghy, I have used deflatable dinghies and even those are a bit of a pain in the neck on a smaller boat. Storing your stuff becomes an issue on a smaller boat, including spares.


Also, a larger boat will be more practical if you have a guest, even if just for a day or two. Should you desire a crew for a trip, you will have more options with a boat a few feet larger.


Good luck with your new endeavor.
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Old 15-09-2019, 10:47   #15
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Re: Single-handed cruising lifestyle: what is it REALLY like?

I have two friends who match the profile you described. One boat is a BCC (about 26 long) the other is a one off about 32 maybe 34ft. The BCC will be vastly more expensive of course.



I do not know their budgets, likely 20-40k judged by how the boats and the guys look.


Both of them are single male 60+.


Boredom yes. Fear yes. Loneliness yes. What else do you, expect a human is a human. If normal human stuff like boredom, fear and loneliness are big NO NO for you, find yourself a different hobby.


BTW, in my book, if you sit and watch and think, you quickly discover boredom fear loneliness joy and happiness are things that you either have or not have. They are not some mystic states that happen to exist outside of your head. ymmv



The one thing that, I think, differentiates an office life and a boat life is uncertainty. There is no paycheck coming at the end of the month, there is no policeman to stop by and ask for the lost road. There is no continuous droll of the media about how, why to live, love or die.


If you handle uncertainty well, go get a boat and see with your own eyes what it is like FOR YOU to sail a boat and cruise alone.


Get a sensible 32-36 boat and should you discover ALONE is not for you, you can still find a person who may be willing to join you in your adventure.


Good luck.


If undecided toss a coin: heads- sail, tails -sail, edge- NO SAIL!!! ;-)


Cheers,
b.
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