This is an old and a new topic for us. My wife sailed on dinghies on Lake Erie when she was a kid and never after that until we got an old 42' cruiser. I had never sailed in my life except for a 4 hours every Saturday for 4 weeks in a beginner sailing course. We sailed this old boat from the Pacific Northwest
down to Mexico
and on to New Zealand
- overall 4 years truly offshore
. Before that we sailed on weekends, a week here and there, and a final pre-offshore shake down cruise around Vancouver Island for 4 weeks. I was 54 and she was 52. We are now 64/61.
Our only rule
: We'll do it as long as it is fun. When it isn't fun anymore, we will stop. That rule
applied to every step of the way. From the time we first started thinking about it through each big step along the way. "Are we OK after spending 4 weeks out in remote
anchorages". "Did we enjoy the long passage
?" "Did we enjoy Mexico
?" "What about going truly offshore for 25 days to the Marquesas
We had fun in all of it. We had some real bummers some of the time, but were exhilarated more times. In between we enjoyed the hell out of it. My wife wanted to know that I knew enough of the technical stuff to get us places safely. I prepared by working in a boatyard as an apprentice for 5 years. I anally prepared the boat for safety
, and off the grid liveability. We took baby steps which became bigger steps and gained confidence each time. We also calibrated our enjoyment and tolerance to a different lifestyle.
But everything was mutual. We agreed on every big thing together. There was no forcing each other to do anything the other really didn't want to do. And we learned together what we were capable of and what we felt comfortable doing. We waited until our beloved Rottie passed on, sold the house, sold the cars, put the things we wanted to save in a little storage
unit and just went. If we had had the money
we would have bought a condo and closed it up to come back to. We did not want to be landlords - no way no how. (Fact of the matter is, if we had tons of money
, we would sail farther and break it up by traveling back and forth to home and other "vacations". We don't though.)
What we did with all this was to make it a joint venture. Happily my wife is outgoing and a bit adventurous, so long as she trusted me to manage the risks - to the extent possible knowing full well that we not come back but most likely would. The couples that didn't make it down to Mexico, or split up in Mexico, mostly were not on the same page like we were. This was mostly "the male skipper's dream and the woman's nightmare". For an extreme example see: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/219703.Cape_Horn
This couple is still together (amazing) and still boat together. I worked on their powerboat once here. But there are lots of empty boats or boats with just a bitter (or happy) skipper
down in Mexico. Many of the boats are sold. Many of the marriages are done. But also, many crew along the way were thrown off of boats or deserted along or at the end of passages too. Some spouses just can't handle the "differenceness" of cruising. Language, walking to get everything, culture, communications
, etc. Others love it because it is different.
We absolutely loved cruising together. I would never consider doing it by myself. I know how lucky I am to have a wife who loved it equally. Unfortunately I had to do all the maintenance
and repair work which really gets you down sometimes. But she was right there with me standing watches (we double handed our voyages except from San Diego
to Cabo San Lucas where we had friends along). I trust her on night watch as she does me. Trust is essential. So each of you needs to earn that trust and you can only do it on the boat a step at a time.
Anyone who goes out and buys a boat, sails
in on weekends with the spouse, does all the work, and then BAM! goes cruising is rolling the dice. Odds are not with you on that one. Your boat has to be prepared and so do your skills. You don't need much if all you do is hang out in marinas
and don't do more than easy day sails
. But if the boat starts breaking - like the fresh water
pump and you can't get it working then one or both of you may not make it. Hardy souls who rough it excluded.
We were totally worried about the 24/7/365 closeness. We fought enough on land to worry about in a small boat. You don't have much ability to get away. We both liked books
and they provided some escape even if you were only 5 feet away. We had to sit there and steam more than once, and think about quitting the whole deal, or do things that might get you put away for a long time. But we actually got closer than we had ever been. It was a pleasant surprise. I think we actually did, and may be still do, fight more on land.
But I am an inveterate explorer at anchorages and marinas. I'll go off by myself for hours at a time and just wander. This gave us both alone time. She went back to the US to work for months at a time. If we didn't need the money she would not have done that. I stayed on the boat by myself those times and I pretty much hated it, but I survived by finding things to do, and more exploring. And you need a hobby that you can do on your own to escape as well - fishing
, reading, crafts, hanging out with friends. I should note that some couples don't make it because of alcohol and/or drugs. Some people's escape is oblivion. That has split people up or make it hazardous to health
and happiness, alone or together. There are too many lonely drunks on boats by themselves.
And of course, medical
, financial, family
, etc. issues.
We mixed it up by buying
clunker cars in Mexico and New Zealand
. That allowed us off the boat and we didn't have to walk so much to do simple things. That was great and took away one of the hardest things to deal with when cruising - lack of mobility. We used buses when possible but usually there were none. So we walked. We got fit. Our college clothes fit us again. We were proud of ourselves and our self-reliance. We did it as a team.
We knew one couple from years ago, and still consider them friends, where the skipper
who was driven to go cruising was the woman. Her husband really didn't want to do it but they decided together that they would do it for a few years and then get out of it. They sold in Australian and now do others things in their retirement
. Great couple.
In fact we didn't really know too many people who really didn't like each other. That may be because we didn't hang around unhappy people who didn't like what they were doing. One of the things that bound us together even more were the friendships we made - lifelong and temporary. You cruise from place to place and run in to many of the same people you hung out with before. We still hang out with people we met in Mexico and New Zealand 10 years ago. We keep in tough with more. They were all couples.
A few were "kid boats" - those with small children
. Almost none had teenagers or older. 95% of them were happy - kids
and parents. The only issue for them was to find other kid boats for the kids
to hang out together. But they all stayed together.
Like I said above, we made decisions together. If one of us didn't feel comfortable doing something, we didn't do it. We might get persuaded but it had to be a soft sell. Never "do it my way or the high way".
Starting out we hated our corporate, big city lives. Both of us. We had some money but it wasn't doing it for us. Burnout. We wanted to do something different, something exciting. But we had no kids and no family
nearby. That helped. Some couples argue about visiting the kids or parents or whatever. Miss their friends. Oh, the grandmother can't imagine not being with the new grandbaby. Grandfather wants to keep going. Splitsville. Or just grumble inside themselves and are miserable. If that's important you need to work it out.
So now we are starting over with another boat. One that I will spend the next couple of years fixing up to go out. My wife wants to do it too. But we won't do it unless we both want to do it and so long as it is fun. No pressure. No regrets. And we aren't scared of not seeing land disappear on the horizon. But if one is and doesn't get over it (not implying anything negative) then I don't recommend it. It'll bite you later, only in a different place farther away.
Several have mentioned how much comfort they get from having a safety
net to come back to - house, cars, stuff. That is essential for some people. Takes a lot of pressure off the relationship knowing you can escape and get back without a life altering screwup. We did it the other way and have spent the last 5 years re-accumulating "stuff" that we sold or gave away before the first trip. We want the easy back scenario so we can make decisions based on fun and not worry
Hope some of this makes sense. Everyone is different but this worked for us.