It’s been a while since we’ve posted anything. The reason is pretty simple. For the last six months, we’ve been in transition. After four years as liveaboard cruisers, we’ve returned to the life of typical American dirt dwellers. We haven’t quite “swallowed the hook,” as we still have Eagle Too and continue to harbor dreams of extended island cruises. But our typical day to day now deals much more with home decorating and utility bills rather than passages and travel to exotic destinations. The money we used to spend at West Marine now goes to Lowe’s instead. And frankly, I just assume that the average reader of this blog probably doesn’t care that much about how we get 50 channels of TV without paying a cable bill or how we set up a drip irrigation system for watering house plants. You’re here for the marine maintenance tips and the travelogues. So I just haven’t felt compelled to post for a while.
But a recent message from a long-time reader asked for an update on how our life as CLODs (Cruisers Living On Dirt) is going. And in thinking about it, I realized maybe we do have some information and advice to share. After all, almost everyone who embarks on a life of cruising eventually has to wrap it up and move back ashore. And I’m here to tell you that after several years afloat, the transition back to land can be just as trying as the move onboard was. So here’s the first in what will probably be an occasional series about what we’ve learned as CLODs.
Let start with something simple:
Q. What do we like the most about returning to life ashore?
A. Lots of things. In no particular order, here are just a few:
Sleeping in a king sized bed, especially since it’s one that you don’t have to crawl into. Our sort-of-a-queen-sized master berth on Eagle Too was adequate at best. One of us always had to crawl over the other to get in or out, and it took some pretty elaborate contortions to perform the maneuver without banging our heads on the overhead. Just putting the sheets on it involved a lot of what I can only refer to as mattress swimming, squirming around like a stranded sea turtle with its flippers flailing, trying to make it off the beach and out to sea. Once or twice is humorous. But after four years, it wears a little thin.
Long hot showers and a full-sized toilet that you don’t have to wait in line to use. You can often tell a cruiser by their subtle aroma. Most cruisers are more like Europeans in that that usually don’t shower every day. Boat showers are typically cramped, use too much water, and generate way too much humidity onboard. But the average marina shower is always a crap shoot. The more pressed you are for time, the more likely you’ll find someone’s already using it, and has brought their bluetooth speaker and a hair dryer along, so you know they’re camped out for quite a while. And the toilets are often out of paper, clogged, or just dirty enough to make you reconsider exactly how much room still remains in your holding tank.
A washer and dryer that we don’t have to feed quarters into and that we don’t share with people washing oily rags, pet beds covered in fur, or sandy carpets. Or that leave their clothes in for hours after they’re done.
24/7 air conditioning (and in the winter, heat). As I write this, it’s over 100ºF outside, but it’s a cool, comfortable 75º inside, the air conditioning barely a quiet whisper in the background. Onboard, we’d either be in a floating sauna, or if lucky enough to be plugged into shore power, we’d be treated to the loud whir of the AC running non-stop, struggling to maintain a temperature below 80º despite the sunshade we’d rigged topside.
Unlimited ice and water. Friends of ours still tell the story about how amused they were when we met them for drinks on their boat one evening, and we were amazed that they offered us fresh ice with every refill (turns out they had an ice maker onboard). After several years of cruising, ice truly becomes a most valued commodity, so even though we now have a refrigerator that dispenses it on demand, after six months ashore we still hesitate before dumping a glass of it in the sink, as it seems such a waste.
No fear of passing storms. If it’s the middle of the night and we awaken to the sound of distant thunder, there’s no need to worry about whether the anchor alarm is set, or run a “rain drill,” pulling the wind scoops and closing all the hatches. No need to get dressed and go on deck to see where any neighboring boats lie that could possibly drag down on us. We can just sigh and go back to sleep.
Fast, reliable high speed internet. I don’t think I even need to explain this one. A 21st century life is a connected life, and it was always a struggle while cruising to find good internet for banking, bill payment and communications.
There’s more, but I think you get the idea.
Q. What do you miss the most about Life On The Hook™?
A. First I’d list the sense of community. Cruisers congregate, and I think because they all share a challenging, some would say difficult life, they relate to each other as equals. Drop anchor in any bay or harbor, make a radio call asking for information or assistance, and I assure you there will be several dinghies headed your way. People we’d barely met offered us help in so many ways, and we in turn tried to pay that forward to as many other cruisers as possible. Now that we’re living in a typical subdivision, we’re reminded that most Americans never bother to get to know their neighbors. The first thing most of our neighbors have done when they moved in is put up a privacy fence. Sometimes when we’re walking through the neighborhood, we’ll come across someone else who lives in the area, and while usually polite, they generally project a lack of interest in making our acquaintance. I think if we ever needed help with something that we couldn’t handle by ourselves, knocking on doors and requesting assistance would be met with reluctant skepticism.
Awareness of our natural surroundings. As cruisers, we usually knew the phase of the moon, when the tide turned, what the wind forecast was for the next few days, and when the next front was expected to pass. Sunsets were a daily cause for quiet celebration. And while cruising (not so much while living in a marina, but more while out traveling) we were almost daily treated to some delightful display of marine life, be it a jumping dolphin, a spotted ray swimming by, or even just a grouper or barracuda hanging out in our boat’s shadow.
A sense that we were living self-sufficiently and lightly. There’s a satisfaction in making your own power and water and providing for your own needs. While cruising, we got by on about 15 gallons of water a day. Many cruisers would say that that was extravagant, but we had a water maker, so we didn’t sweat it. Fifteen gallons a day works out to about 450 gallons a month. Now, according to our water bill, we’re using between 12,000 and 18,000 gallons a month just to water our lawn. We don’t have a choice, because our homeowners association would have a fit if we turned off the sprinkler system. But it does make you think about how we use our resources.
Personal physical fitness. A cruising life is an active life. When sailing, we were almost always in motion. Even when anchored or tied to a dock, simply moving around on the boat meant dozens of trips up and down the companionway stairs, or twisting, turning and bending during movement that just isn’t necessary to get around in a single story house with wide hallways and 9 foot ceilings. Climbing in and out of a dinghy is way more physically demanding than getting in and out of a car. We used to walk or bicycle almost everywhere we went ashore. Now we drive. And let me tell you, after six months, we can tell. We’re gaining weight, developing aches and pains, and just generally starting to feel older than we did when our lives involved much more fresh air and physical activity.
There’s more I could say on the subject, but this makes a good start. It’s actually too early for us to say with certainty what we miss or don’t miss about a Life On The Hook™, or whether becoming CLODs was or wasn’t the best decision. It will be a while before we can answer those questions definitively. But I will say this—the thing we clearly learned is that cruising changes you. It changes you in ways that just learning to sail or buying a boat or doing an occasional charter doesn’t begin to. Many of those changes I believe are beneficial, making us better human beings. Some of those changes probably put us a bit out of step with modern American society, which can be stressful. But having lived what we have lived so far, I can’t imagine our lives without having had that experience. So many moments, so many memories, so many good people well met. We have been greatly enriched by this amazing adventure together.
Robert my friend, so good to hear from you again. I could cut-n-past your post directly onto theretirementproject nearly word for word. One difference is that we found our land life to be healthier than we managed on the boat. We actually walk more now than we did when living on the hook. Just step out the door and start a miles long hike to explore one of St. Louis’ abundance of parks, many filled with amazing trees that are hundreds of years old. We will soon add bicycles to our hoard of land stuff, and will likely join a climbing gym again. (Hauling my 64 year old bones up 50’ of simulated rock wall is a pretty good workout, much more fun than pushing weights around, and a damn sight safer than climbing a mast or scampering across a heaving, rolling, pitching, rain swept deck in the middle of the night.) Six grand kids living about 50 feet away fill our days with laugher and fun and give us a sense of belonging. We do miss living on big water, being surrounded by the natural world, and the community of cruisers. City living is the polar opposite of life on the hook. It has its good sides, but the rhythm of living this way, after years on the boat, feels off and disjointed. And I’m glad that it does.
I was just today wondering how you’ve gotten along. Good to hear about your experiences since moving ashore. I’m sure your observation that almost everyone returns to a more conventional lifestyle at some point is a truism. I’ve read several books by people who’ve been full-time cruisers/voyagers and they’ve all returned to land at least for part of the time. Much of what you have observed is similar to my experience returning to the US after spending 2 years in rural West Africa. That was 30 years ago and it still affects my life. I still hope to follow in the footsteps of those who spend some years cruising either island hopping or something long distance. We have kids in college still and a promotion has tightened the golden handcuffs but we will see. We’re doing the occasional charter for now. Just returned from a week long instructional charter in the US/BVI. Although we’ve chartered several times, I’ve never had any formal training and never been on a large cat so we did the ASA courses from basic bareboat to cat chartering. We are currently planning to return to the VI next spring and charter a cat. Hope all is well.
With a little luck, we’ll cross paths again out there someday!