Monday May 20, 2013
A group of us 30-something cruisers, enjoying the spoils of Jamaica
(Photo courtesy of Jason Windebank)
(The title, in case you’re wondering, is not in reference to us, but to the main age group of cruisers you’ll find out there. While checking my facts/numbers of what’s considered ‘middle-aged’ on Webster’s, their thesaurus defined it as ‘being on the wrong side of 40’. Very cruel Websters, very cruel…)
After all the great times we’ve been having in the Bahamas, Jamaica, and Cuba, I’ve realized that a lot of it had to do with the people we’re spending our time with. And most of those people, coincidentally, happen to be right in our age group. Which almost seems to be a bit of an anomaly in the cruising world. Chances are, if you’re a cruiser, you’ve had at least one over the hill birthday. Some people might argue if that age is 40 or 50, but either way, most cruisers have passed both. Us on the other hand, are what people refer to as young cruisers. The 40 and under crowd. (Not that being over 40 makes one old, I think that would just put you into the young(er) cruising group.) We were even affectionately referred to as ‘the kids’ while spending a few weeks in Long Island Bahamas, which seems to be the only place we’ve been so far where we were actually a novelty for being young, baffling a few other cruisers on what we were out doing. On more than one occasion, multiple people would come up to us and ask where we were visiting from, or what family member’s boat were we staying on, or even upon learning we were cruisers ourselves, how long we were ‘chartering’ our boat for. In the end it became laughable, because none of these are the case. We’re just cruisers that were very fortunate not to have to wait until retirement to get out here. And even better, we’ve been finding a bevy of people our age to spend that time with.
One thing you’ll find out about cruisers is they stick together. The thing with young cruisers is they really stick together. Even though there’s more and more of us popping up every year, we’re still a general rarity among cruisers as a whole. Not that there is anything wrong with the over 40 crowd. They’re great to talk to, very encouraging, and usually have the best stocked liquor cabinets and snack spreads when they invite you aboard for a sundowner. But the real fun with young cruisers and why we’re attracted to each other like magnets, is that we’re mostly all out here for the first time. Although it’s all well meaning, there isn’t the ‘been there, done that’ attitude that comes with the older and more experienced cruiser. We share in common first mistakes and revel getting to a new location for the first time. When we’re around each other there isn’t the ‘What you need to be doing is this….’, or ‘Where you need to go is…, but only during this time of year because that’s when all the other cruisers are there, and make sure to avoid this certain area like the plague.’. Don’t get me wrong. I’m already recommending areas to fellow young soon-to-be cruisers, but there’s something different about a fresh pair of eyes vs. someone who is out for their 22nd season.**
So one of the things I’ve wondered as we’ve been out here, clinging to every young cruiser we meet, is why are there so few of us out here? We’ve listened to a good number of cruising couples in their 50’s & 60’s that have been out cruising for 20-30 years, usually on and off throughout that period. Which would put them at our age when they started. So why so few of us now? If you really wanted to get into it, there’s a thread on the Sailnet forums asking the same exact thing with hundreds of responses and opinions. But since I can’t answer for the general population, I guess I’ll just have to give a quick rundown on why we’re out here now, and how we did it.
First we’ll start with the why, since that is what’s sent the wheels into motion. After visiting my parents in Vietnam in 2007, where they were temporarily relocated for my dad’s job, we were bitten by the travel bug. Experiencing new sights, and a whole new way of living. We were intrigued. And that was only one small part of the world. Imagine what else was out there for us to find. How we got into sailing was Matt. A little more info about getting into sailing in general is on our About Us page, but Matt, ever the OCD researcher, started reading about cruising online and brought it up to me. Which at first was a big ‘hell no’. I was not going to move my life onto a dinky little boat while constantly putting myself in raging and life threatening oceans and seas as we went from new place to new place. But then he turned me on to blogs such as Bumfuzzle and The Slapdash, and I was instantly hooked. I learned that as long as we were well versed in sailing, there isn’t much danger out there, and all of the places we could visit looked like a lot of fun! That was all it took to change my mind.
Then comes the how. This was the toughie. We had a good life going for us back home. Going away on weekend trips to Traverse City or Chicago, spending Saturday nights grabbing a nice meal out before going to the bar with friends. We owned a home that we built in 2004 and were constantly making upgrades like adding a hot tub, and building a nice patio area to house it. New items kept popping up in my closet when I’d see something at the mall and decided I couldn’t live without it. Once we made the firm decision to go cruising, all this had to stop. Want to go to Traverse City? It will have to be spent in a tent, with most of the meals brought in a cooler from home. A trip to Chicago? Better make sure your friends are willing to split the cost of a hotel room with you. While at the restaurant, try to order only a sandwich or appetizer for your meal if you can, and at the bar, drink the cheapest draft they have and then switch to soda after your second drink. And that was only the first year while transitioning. The second year saving, Chicago was out, camping was a ‘birthday treat’, and we’d skip the restaurant and meet our friends at the bar. Year three? Ugh. We were basically hermits, only meeting up with our friends if it could be done at someone’s house where we made our own dinner instead of going out, and then stayed in for the evening to drink beer we’d purchased from the store. All my clothes became second hand. It was not an impossible life, but it was much tougher than we were used to. We even sold our house a year before leaving, banking the very little money we made after the market crash, and saving as much money as we could while staying with Matt’s mom and step-dad.
So maybe this is why there’s only one young cruiser to every 10 middle-aged to retired ones? They think it isn’t in the reach of someone their age who hasn’t spent a lifetime saving up for such adventures? Again, there’s a million and one possible reason of why people in their 20’s and 30’s aren’t throwing off the bow lines to sail into the sunset, but I think we should encourage that more do. After all, if you really have a dream, the only person that can stand in your way is you. No one knows what tomorrow can hold, and no one should put off their dreams until it’s too late. To quote Mark Twain and finally join every other cruiser that has said this at some point, “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed in the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”
And now, an ode to the young cruising friends we have met along the way that have made our travels so unbelievably great. (* Denotes that photo used is courtesy of listed cruiser)
*Jackie & Ron on s/v Hullabaloo (soon-to-be cruisers)
Our very first cruising friends from back in MI. We love them so much!!
*Bill & Grace on s/v Calico Skies (soon-to-be cruisers)
*Kim & Scott on s/v Anthyllide
Brian & Stephanie on s/v Rode Trip
Ryan and Tasha on s/v Hideaway
*Frank & Yu on s/v Moitessier
*Scott & Brittany on s/v Asante
*Eben & Genevieve on s/v Necesse
*Ren & Ashley on s/v Nila Girl
*Jason & Piers on s/v Tamarisk
*Ana Bianca on s/v Kajaya
**I’m not saying that all older or more experienced cruisers are like this. But we have found our fair share of them.