I’ve been off the boat for over a month, and away from our cruiser friends for three months. Desperate landlocked times call for desperate landbased measures – Road Trip to Canada to see Cruiser Friends!!
Cruisers, you say? Even as we planned our departure from New York and prepared our boat for full time cruising in 2014, I didn’t know that “cruising” was a thing, or that “cruisers” were a people. I knew that we would be living aboard our sailboat travelling around the islands semi-permanently. I didn’t know that that made us “cruisers”.
The first time Jason used the term to describe us, I wasn’t entirely comfortable with the classification. “Cruisers” sounded to me like teenage kids that drive the main drag in town, sound system booming, arms strewn out the rolled down window to show off the new bling, baseball hats cocked askew. Or worse – like middle aged men frequenting the bars and parks of Christopher Street looking for a young male mate. Of all the terms I tried to apply to what we were doing – early retirement, extended sabbatical, long sojourn, lifestyle change, working remotely – cruising was not on the list.
I only had to meet a handful of cruisers before I understood that not only was “cruising” a thing that people do, it was a thing I’d like to do with these people. The typical cruiser is between fifty five and seventy five years old, perhaps married since they were teenagers or products of a second lease in life, usually retired early with a generous pension or the beneficiaries of a short lucrative career. But cruisers run the gamut – from twenty to forty year olds, just getting by on an old beat up boat, picking up short term jobs along the way; to thirty to fifty year olds, raising kids on the boat for a couple of years, homeschooling full time, and traveling in packs with other “kid boats”; to forty to fifty-five years olds, figuring out how to work remotely or considering going back to work for a while; to fifty-five to seventy-five year olds living out an adventurous retirement.
We don’t fit these molds. We’re mid thirties to early forties, with no current intention of returning to the full-time office-based work force. It’s hard for people to understand. (Ok, it was hard for me to understand too. When I first met Jason, I called home to my mom concerned about this guy I had a crush on with “an alternative lifestyle.” And I keep applying for jobs in New York.) People back in the “real world” assume we’re unemployable or just temporarily unemployed. They assume we’ll quickly tire of this vagrant lifestyle and return to our jobs in the city.
Our fellow cruisers embrace us all the same. They invite us to yoga class and bingo, to hashes and hikes, to dinghy drifts and happy hours. They inspect our sparse, small-print boat card with reading glasses and finally conclude “very sleek” before shuffling it to the bottom of the pile as “completely illegible”. They put us to shame at late night parties and on long hikes. They don’t pester us with the nagging questions we get from mainland about when we’re moving back to land, when we’re going back to work, when we’re having children. They let us cruise with them. And that’s enough. That’s a lot. (No one wants to be that boat full of yahoos who all the other cruisers move away from in anchorages and avoid in beach bars.)
I like these other cruisers; I really like them.
Cruisers wake up before the sunrise and go to bed shortly after sunset (unfathomable to me in my past life, watching repeated sunrises from my Midtown Manhattan desk after another all-nighter). We all have solar panels and wind generators and water desalinators, and generally (I hope) try to do as little damage as possible to the water we sail in and the islands we anchor at. No one-time-use plastic, no high-energy-drawing electronics, no littering or dumping. Cruisers are the first to come out to lend a hand when you’ve found yourself in a pinch, offering a tow or tools or an extra hand, and they give back to the community they’ve found themselves in, volunteering with local organizations and organizing beach and trail cleanups. We check in to see where the neighbors are headed next, wait to see their mast pull into the next harbor, call to say we’re glad they made it ok.
It turns out, cruisers are a semi-nomadic tribe of interesting people leading sustainable lives in beautiful places. Count me in!