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De-Myth-Defying the Cruising Life

Tricia and Jim Bowen

Falcon VII
Kelly-Peterson 46 center cockpit cutter
May 25th, 2016

I was chatting with some other cruisers about blogs. Lots of us write them. Personally, I enjoy keeping friends and family up to date with what we’re up to and where we’re going. I know that some of you are living vicariously through our crazy adventures, but we realized that there are some aspects of cruising that are usually left out of blogs – the more mundane and stressful parts of cruising. So I thought I would give you a glimpse into our everyday cruising life.

Myth #1: Everything is always wonderful and we’re always having fun adventures. Well, it would be nice to think so, but in reality, we are two human beings living 24/7 on a 46 foot boat. Lots of people are on even smaller, more cramped boats. Sometimes tensions mount, stressful situations creep up and we just want to get away from each other. We want to get off the boat, but that’s not always possible. Fortunately, Falcon VII is big enough that we’ve each learned to find a corner or berth to crawl into, to get away and think. We’re pretty resilient and always manage to figure out how to get back to being partners again, to being thankful for where we are and grateful for the opportunity we have to cruise in these amazing places.

Adventures in the Sea of Cortez: CC BY SA 2.0 unmodified

Adventures in the Sea of Cortez: CC BY SA 2.0 unmodified

Myth #2: Cruisers sit around drinking tea and reading books all day. I actually ran into someone on the docks in Port Angeles who thought that! And we had just finished many months of preparation for our big trip down the Coast, usually putting in 10 – 12 hours per day prior to leaving for Mexico. Now that we’re in Mexico, the work doesn’t end. There are always boat projects to be done; daily, weekly and monthly maintenance; sewing canvas projects needing attention; varnishing wood, polishing stainless, etc. When we can, we choose to ignore it all and just enjoy our surroundings and the wonderful cruisers we are hanging out with. We have lists upon lists of things to be tackled… sometime.

Myth #3: There’s nothing to leaving the boat and flying home to BC for the summer. We didn’t even know that boats needed to be ‘put to bed’ or decommissioned before the summer heat arrives and you fly away to stay cool. In 2015, Jim put together a spreadsheet with 186 items on it that we had to deal with. Some took only a minute, but others took many hours! Like washing and stowing all sails; washing all woodwork below decks; chucking out all fresh food and dumping out open containers; giving away canned goods; covering all exposed plastic with aluminum foil; putting out cockroach poison, and so much more that you don’t want to know about.

Myth #4: Staying on the boat in Mexico for the summer is easy. The first time we heard about summer marina preparation, was at a casual cruisers’ meeting in La Cruz in May 2014. We had no idea what living in the tropics in the humid summer would be like. We had to spend hundreds of dollars on additional mooring lines to macramé ourselves into our slip, so the swells didn’t beat up the boat. We purchased and installed an air conditioner, and Jim built a plywood box to shelter it over our main hatch. It successfully maintained low humidity and kept the temperature at an even 84 F below decks, while it was well over 95 F and extremely humid outside. We lived in our ‘cave’ during the days, becoming nocturnal animals and venturing out in the evenings, when it was cooler. We sewed a 21 foot long sun / rain awning to deal with extreme sun and hours of torrential rains. We started unplugging the boat every evening to prevent inverter/charger damage, due to power brownouts and blackouts, when lightning struck near the marina. I dumped out food when we found crawly little bugs in the flour, oatmeal, cereal and my popcorn.

Sailing photo: CCO Public Domain

Sailing photo: CCO Public Domain

Myth #5: Owning and living on a sailboat is about going sailing. The reality is that, although we‘ve never actually made the calculation, we think that we put in somewhere around 100 hours of work for every hour of sailing. For any other endeavour in life, if you worked with those odds, people would call you crazy! I guess we are. Having said that, those rare moments when we are out at sea and turn off the engine and hear the non-sound of the boat under sail, are absolute magic. We are addicted to them.

Myth #6: Naw, I’m not going to keep going. You get the idea.

We love our cruising life, but sometimes living on a boat is just like living in a house. You can’t ignore things or things go wrong, equipment fails, feelings get hurt, etc. So we learned to take things in our stride, maintain a balance, help others when we can, take each issue one at a time and breathe. Always breathe!

We own a little book about gratitude. Here are a couple of quotes:

Be grateful for the chance to follow your dreams. Strive to conquer your fears of the unknown with each step. 

When life gives you a hundred reasons to cry, show life that you have a thousand reasons to smile.

Keep smiling!

Published with permission from Tricia and Jim Bowen’s blog.
Cover photo: CC BY 2.0 unmodified

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  1. Rita Balaam says:

    Well said Trish and well written. Are you coming back for the summer to BC?

  2. Marian Leighton says:

    No question about all the work! I helped maintain Van Kedisi’s blog from Vancouver while Dick and different crew sailed from Turkey to Barbados in 2013. David Greer, another BCA member set it up and was instrumental in its use especially when he was crew when they crossed the Atlantic. This year I am doing it as they sail from Curacou in the Caribbean to NZ~~they are currently in the Marquesas. I try to add what he sends out via ham/inReach and WiFi when he has it and add in the good with the more difficult (don’t want to say bad!). We did summers in Turkey for many years and though it was not as hot as Mexico would be, there were times on the hard when work was ongoing that it was well into the 40″s C and I felt like mutinying! Happy Cruising! I am heading to Tahiti in June for some French Polynesian experience.