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Old 25-07-2020, 06:12   #1
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IS CRUISING DEAD or DYING, STABLE or GROWING?

Well, the question I'm really interested in getting feedback on is: Is there a waning of interest in sailing in particular, and cruising in general?

Despite a few popular young cruising YouTubers, are young people into the responsibility of sailing and boat ownership, enough to turn that interest into owning their own boat, to the point where we have a stable population of people entering the hobby/lifestyle, equal to those retiring from it?

What do you see in the marinas and harbors?
Over the years, have you seen the average age of folks in these places, go up, down, or stay about the same?
Are you seeing as many new boats added to the fleet as years ago, or is seeing a new(er) boat, a rarity?
Are you seeing the same trends over the years, like, are the same number of folks retiring into the cruising/liveaboard lifestyle, young families getting their first boat for weekend excursions, 20 somethings interested in buying their first 20+ foot handyman special, is there a growth in the minimalist/"tiny house" lifestyle that has added to the number of liveaboards?

This may not be a good year to use anecdotal experience to base a trend on, but at the same time, this may be the year more boat owners than usual, decide to sell their boat. I'm really interested in what folks in this forum have seen over their years, not just this year.
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Old 25-07-2020, 06:23   #2
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Re: IS CRUISING DEAD or DYING, STABLE or GROWING?

My belief is that at least in the US that excess income needed to do things like cruise is decreasing, so activities like that are going away.
Or maybe it’s all the money is spent on cell phone data plans and McMansions and new SUV’s ?

Or maybe people are just lazy now and want instant gratification. Big power boats sell well, because in my opinion you can buy one today and drive it today, an airplane for Instance takes a license that takes work, and people are too lazy to obtain, so general aviation is in its death throws.

Or maybe people are just lazy. We dinghy cruise a lot, where we are now there are several nice neighborhoods to dinghy around in, they all have docks, and many docks have boats, and many of those boats are ski and wakeboarding boats, but you never, ever see anyone out skiing or wakeboarding, rarely someone will pull a kid on a tube, but that’s rare.
Water skiing is hard, it’s takes effort and work. Much easier to water ski on the X-box.

As a kid we went water skiing a lot, we would load the boat, hook it up to the car, drive down to the lake, launch the boat and go water skiing. Then that afternoon we would put the boat on the trailer, take it to the gas station to fill up, drive home, unload the boat and put stuff away and wash the boat, then put the boat and trailer away.
Sometimes we went fishing in the Gulf, that added about three or four hours of driving, staying in a Motel, launching the boat, all the work of the fishing gear etc., then loading the boat back uo driving home, washing the boat etc.

These people in the houses we dinghy by won’t even walk to the boat house and push a button to lower the boat in the water.
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Old 25-07-2020, 06:28   #3
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Re: IS CRUISING DEAD or DYING, STABLE or GROWING?

I see a lot of boats that don't get a lot of use. It seems like a lot of people either have the money or the time, but not both.
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Old 25-07-2020, 06:31   #4
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Re: IS CRUISING DEAD or DYING, STABLE or GROWING?

I would say that the liveaboard lifestyle is waning. I can't point to concrete numbers but it seems clear that there are increasing barriers going up. The number of marinas allowing liveabords is dropping quickly. Two in my area alone in the past few years no longer allow it. The expense of maintaining a boat is going up. Boatyards that allow people to work on thier own boat are going away do to legal and environmental problems. Restrictions on anchoring are increasing rapidly. It has become an increasingly difficult lifestyle with a sigma of vagabond associated with it. There are still people starting though, however they seem to be more affluent. A couple in thier 40s just bought the boat next too me, and moved aboard with thier cat and sailed off up the US east coast. Bless them. I don't think that it will ever completely die unless the government just outlaws it, which could happen. Requiring people to have a physical address and not a mail forwarding address would pretty much kill the lifestyle.
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Old 25-07-2020, 06:33   #5
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Re: IS CRUISING DEAD or DYING, STABLE or GROWING?

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Requiring people to have a physical address and not a mail forwarding address would pretty much kill the lifestyle.
Thatís been required since 911 in order to have a bank account.
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Old 25-07-2020, 06:40   #6
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Re: IS CRUISING DEAD or DYING, STABLE or GROWING?

Lots of cruisers in Caribbean .... seems like half of Canada is out there
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Old 25-07-2020, 07:03   #7
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Re: IS CRUISING DEAD or DYING, STABLE or GROWING?

The cruising population in the US is getting much older with many cruisers aging out every new season, CLOD-ing or sitting it out in marinas most of the time talking things easy.

Places like Vero or Marathon are a bit like the post-post-retirement communities of older cruisers who sit on a mooring most of the time and only rarely go for a quick Bahamas jaunt or two -or maybe not even that.

I do not see a whole lot of newer cruisers taking their place, not nearly as many as older ones age out. The younger kids don't seem to stick around for more than a season or two before selling or putting their boat in the hard trying to sell. Even many longer-term cruisers are becoming fed up now with COVID and pulling the plug.

The anchorages seem to be empty of cruisers, we often have them all to ourselves sharing it perhaps with a few derilict boats sliwly rotting away/dragging ashore/sinking. There are sometimes boat trash sqatting on derilict boats, we can all recognize those types instantly -but not many actual cruisers out there living the lifestyle in the wild these days.

The anchor-out cruiser is definitely becoming a rare breed. While the older cruisers often tend to stay in one marina, they also tend to not anchor out when they do move around as well, preferring to marina-hop. The younger cruisers tend to do so as well, anchoring only when nearby marinas are not available or convenient. Mile Hammock in Camp Lejeune North Carolina is a good example, or Chesapeake City on the C&D canal. Otherwise folks tend to avoid anchoring it seems.

There are still quite a few boats on the East Coast migrating up and down each season, but it is more of a marina lifestyle and not an anchorage-based community like it was in decades past. People want to tie up and plug in, and have all the conveniences of shoreside living. Roughing it on the hook is not very popular.

In a selfish way that is good for those of us who do and who also like to be a little more isolated at times. It is certainly not at all necessary to find a secret gunkhole anchor spot to get away all by ourselves, when even the well-established spots are usually deserted. The boat sqatters are not hard to get away from as they are not mobile, it is a rare day when such a boat moves in to spoil the neighborhood. Avoid theirs and never deal with them.
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Old 25-07-2020, 07:04   #8
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Re: IS CRUISING DEAD or DYING, STABLE or GROWING?

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Originally Posted by cpisz View Post
I would say that the liveaboard lifestyle is waning. I can't point to concrete numbers but it seems clear that there are increasing barriers going up. The number of marinas allowing liveabords is dropping quickly. Two in my area alone in the past few years no longer allow it. The expense of maintaining a boat is going up. Boatyards that allow people to work on thier own boat are going away do to legal and environmental problems. Restrictions on anchoring are increasing rapidly. It has become an increasingly difficult lifestyle with a sigma of vagabond associated with it. There are still people starting though, however they seem to be more affluent. A couple in thier 40s just bought the boat next too me, and moved aboard with thier cat and sailed off up the US east coast. Bless them. I don't think that it will ever completely die unless the government just outlaws it, which could happen. Requiring people to have a physical address and not a mail forwarding address would pretty much kill the lifestyle.
To me, liveaboard is not the same as cruiser. We had our previous cat at two different marinas for eight years. Got to know a lot of the liveaboards as we were doing refits, etc, and spending lots of time on the dock. Wonderful people. But none of them that i met ever took the boat out for more than a few days. One couple we met in 2006, were heading out from Texas to Florida "as soon as they finished some boat projects". They were still there ten years later. Another was heading to the Bahamas a year before us. He was still on the dock two years after we returned. Most of the others never expressed any interest in leaving the marina. They had relatively nice boats and were kept in working order. But they were used primarily as floating home, not transportation to distant locations.

We have logged a couple of trips from Texas to Bahamas for a few months, then back. Been up and down the Texas coast a bit. We have the boat, have the financial capacity to do it, and am retired. But elderly parents limit the Bahamas runs to every other year only. We have a house on the water, and daysail a bit. Honestly i have no interest in living on a boat, and my wife even less. Part time cruisers is what i guess we are. I have friends that are all similar, and suspect more people will be the same.
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Old 25-07-2020, 07:13   #9
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Re: IS CRUISING DEAD or DYING, STABLE or GROWING?

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Lots of cruisers in Caribbean .... seems like half of Canada is out there
It does seem that the Bahamas and beyond is the cruising destination where most cruisers tend to gravitate, and when they are not there as they come back across the gulf stream they change gears and go to ground into the marinas. There are so many places to cruise and explore right off the ICW but instead most folks adopt a different mindset when they get back.
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Old 25-07-2020, 07:36   #10
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Re: IS CRUISING DEAD or DYING, STABLE or GROWING?

We are in Canary Islands which are one of the nodes on this side of the Atlantic. Possibly the biggest node.


I would say cruising is still vastly popular but the distribution has changed.


Now there is a more 'vacation cruisers' than ever before - think of ARC rally and the likes. People want to cruise in crowds and go to places where other cruisers are. They will often fly in and out of the destinations and lay up their boats off season.



Before (maybe 20 years ago) there were more long range / long duration cruisers - people on unlimited vacations, sailing without fixed schedules, tending to go out there and seek places 'undiscovered' or 'unspoiled' to stay there, far from the crowd.


If you add up these two groups, I think now there is about 100% more cruising being done than say 20 years ago. Just one look at many popular Caribbean anchorages confirms this guess too.


Cheers,
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Old 25-07-2020, 08:08   #11
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Re: IS CRUISING DEAD or DYING, STABLE or GROWING?

My view, based on some data and some extrapolation, is that long distance/duration cruising is indeed on the decline. I put this largely down to declining economic situation of younger generations, although Jimmy Cornell (who also says the numbers are in decline) adds political uncertainty and more erratic weather patters due to climate change as causes.

The demographic of the typical cruiser has changed in the last 30-40 years. Cruisers are now older and richer. With age comes reduced physical abilities, plus the fact that people have now spent a lifetime at a certain comfort/luxury level, so naturally they carry those standards into retirement. Entry-level boats are now much larger, and carry far more luxuries, than in the past.

I do wonder if we'll see a reversal of this as the Baby Boomers sail off into the sunset. Those in the younger generations who have the wherewithal to get off the treadmill may find boat ownership becoming more attractive as the markets decline. Fibreglass lasts a long time, and there already is a glut of used boats out there.
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Old 25-07-2020, 08:46   #12
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Re: IS CRUISING DEAD or DYING, STABLE or GROWING?

My impression is that the average member of this forum is not far off the average in this data. And the average is getting older.



Many traditional pastimes have gone down this path, replaced by something new. My parents didn't sail, though my wife's did. My children will sail less. Perhaps our generation was the anomaly, gifted with the boom in fiberglass boats, eventually overtaken by the internet and chartering. Times change. I just hope they find rewarding stuff to do.



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Old 25-07-2020, 08:58   #13
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Re: IS CRUISING DEAD or DYING, STABLE or GROWING?

There is a basic question to be asked first, as noted in some of the posts: how do you define a cruiser? In my own research 1978-82, mainly in the Pacific islands, I started with a basic criteria. Have you been away from your home port for more than 18 months? [how I arrived at the number took some reading and thought.] Even then estimates of cruisers were simply that, estimates. Nobody could do an accurate count of cruisers then and I imagine it is just as hard now to count cruisers.

Picking 18 months was not to say that other ocean passages are not ‘legitimate’ sailing activities, but in my case it was the sociological interest in ‘why cruise’ and I wanted longer term sailors/cruisers, people committed to the lifestyle. Of course, we can argue the definition and the count will change as we argue. All I know is that we see ‘cruisers’ coming by every so often, probably as many as a 10 or 20 years ago. But, to estimate now is beyond me as I’m not ‘out there’.

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Old 25-07-2020, 09:08   #14
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Re: IS CRUISING DEAD or DYING, STABLE or GROWING?

I am familiar with several cruising clubs in the US and Europe that have looked at this carefully. They have seen the average age of members steadily increasing over decades, and portion of "young" members decreasing. Each is making a concerted effort to attract younger members. Meanwhile, overall membership growth has been good but still not largely young new members. My local club has seen reduced interest in cruising and some shift to power boats.

This year is interesting: in Scandinavia, demand for used sailboats has increased strongly as, apparently, people see sailing as a safe recreation. Here in Maine, things got off to a slow start but are picking up considerably.
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Old 25-07-2020, 09:10   #15
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Re: IS CRUISING DEAD or DYING, STABLE or GROWING?

Covid may have a positive impact. Brokers say sales are strong right now & I've been told it's almost impossible to buy a decent used camper/rv. The presumption is that people are tired of the quarantine but afraid of conventional travel/crowds. They see boats and rv's as a way to get out and do things while still maintaining some relative isolation/safety. Hopefully this will translate to some percentage adopting the cruising lifestyle for many years to come. We definitely need some younger blood out here!
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