The cruising life, towards which M and her husband have worked so hard, is not turning out to be what she expected.
M and her husband got a good deal on the boat of their dreams. It needed work, so their first seven months living aboard were spent at a dock working on projects. With winter nipping at their heels, they came down the Intracoastal Waterway to a mooring in balmy Marathon where they continued boat work in the popular cruising hangout. Finally in March, they crossed to the Bahamas.
M thought she was ready for cruising. She’d read books, attended seminars and taken sailing classes. She had experienced friends and family giving her good advice. What could be wrong?
M is bored.
“Every day, I’m surrounded by beautiful water, sunny skies, and gorgeous vistas in every direction, but…is it possible that every day being the same BEAUTIFULNESS gets old? Do we understand, when we seek the simplicity of cruising, the SAMENESS we are choosing?
Sure, we have gut-wrenching diversions of storms, scary passages, and alarming gear failures, but otherwise cruising seems to me a tedious stream of boat repairs in the midst of gorgeous, serene sameness!
And though I like getting together with other cruisers once in awhile, I get really bored with one potluck after another and the endless cruiser talk about batteries, solar power, refrigeration, anchoring, and heads.”
“I’ve promised my husband five years,” says M, “but I have to figure out why I’m bored in most people’s version of paradise. Am I the only one who feels like this? I feel tremendously guilty over it.”
M is not the first person to ask about boredom.
It comes up occasionally in our Women & Cruising Seminars, and, honestly, it’s the one question that stumps us, because it is so far away from our experience.
The Admirals echo that confusion.
From Truus, world traveler on Key of D, “Boredom? Ha!… It never happens for me.” Period!
“Boredom?” says Sheri, recently moved ashore from Procyon. “I never got bored on the boat. I kept expecting it would happen, but it never did. Life just seemed to be full all the time.”
“I really don’t even get the idea of boredom,” chimes in single-hander Debbie of Illusions. “If I feel boredom coming on or am tired of what I’m doing, I do something else.”
And Ellen of Cayenne III? She can’t get over the boredom of her new life ashore!
Of course, Admirals are Admirals because they’re fully invested in the cruising lifestyle. Their success belies the many for whom it doesn’t work out, whose boats are up for sale within a year or two, and who then disappear from the cruising conversation. There are various reasons. Boredom may be one.
Carolyn of Que Tal points out that there’s a difference between simple boredom, which is temporary and which we all experience, and what she calls “chronic boredom.”
“It’s a chicken-or-egg kind of issue. If the various components that make up cruising — sailing, navigating, exploring new places and, yes, even boat repair and maintenance – don’t interest you, then they’ll seem boring. And if you think they’re boring, you’re not likely to get involved. But if you don’t get involved, they can’t become interesting.”
Why do some people have a hard time while others adapt more readily?
Some struggling cruisers may be confronting the difference between expectations and reality. Living aboard and cruising full-time sounds great in theory, but it’s not the same as a week’s vacation. All those fundamentals Carolyn talks about, even if you go into it believing you are interested, require constant ongoing attention and effort. Not everybody bargains for that degree of commitment.
Another difference between vacation and full-time cruising is that vacation is a break from everyday life, where you temporarily leave problems behind. Cruising, however, is a full-time exchange of realities, so any issues you have with yourself or your partner come with you. Most times, if problems were not getting sorted out on land, it won’t be easier in the confines of a boat amidst the challenges of sailing her. That can be a fatal disillusionment!
If your new reality continues to feel like vacation because your partner wooed you aboard by pledging to do all the work, be prepared for that to boomerang. Remaining disconnected from all that needs to be done on a cruising boat will eventually leave you feeling sidelined, disempowered, and, perhaps worst of all, that others are judging you. A crew that stays so out of balance is one that cannot go on for long.
One other pitfall that could bring on chronic boredom comes when you confuse strong family ties with geographical proximity, causing you to cling too close to home and not push out to a distant horizon. The result is a sense of feeling stalled out, stuck, neither home nor away, without ever having given the adventure a fair chance.
Of course, sometimes boredom is just the passing kind. All that free time, time no longer channeled by outside forces like a work schedule, can seem overwhelming to new cruisers like M, switching gears from land life to cruising mode for the first time, especially since afloat they’re removed from familiar filler activities like Internet, TV or shopping malls.
Trust me. Your cruising boat can carry you forth to a hugely fulfilling life if you let it.
All that is required of you to banish boredom is to take some initiatives.
Take one for the boat: Learn something new about your boat’s operation every day, whether it seems boring to you or not. Every one of my Admirals believes that taking an active part in the management of the boat is essential to successful cruising (plus involvement makes “cruiser talk” less alien!) First grade is boring to a child in September, but by summer they’re a whiz at reading and math.
Take one for yourself: Most of us have something we’ve always wanted to do if we “ever had the time,” whether it’s writing, photography, or knitting baby blankets. All you have to do is choose a project and start! All the Admirals have a passion (or three!) they pursue, whether it’s writing blogs, researching a cookbook, collecting bird sightings, making things with shells, or learning a new instrument. Anything goes. Think of it as a chance to reinvent yourself.
Take one for your mind: Most cruisers are big readers. Try pushing your tastes out to include more meaty material, particularly things that relate to your cruising experience and the places you visit. Check out podcasts and audiobooks for an easy way to transform long night passages.
Take one for your body: Get off the boat. Go hiking, snorkeling or diving. Take up kayaking, windsurfing or kite-boarding. Walk the beaches and collect shells. Go to local markets and learn about local foods.
Take an initiative for nature: “Many women who really bond with the cruising life, take a particular satisfaction from nature,” observes active birder, Diana Doyle. Rediscovering the natural world (all but forgotten in the artificial techno world left behind) and learning as much as you can about its elements — moon phases, weather or current patterns, or fish and bird behavior — rather than passively watching another sunset, re-situates you more firmly in your new reality.
Take one for your soul: Meet locals, not just cruisers. Figure out how to give something back.
I can’t say whether any of this will answer M’s dilemma, but giving it time is key. As one woman told us at a seminar, “If I had continually asked myself those first six months, ‘Am I happy? Am I enjoying this?’ I’d have driven myself crazy. It’s a huge adjustment. Tell new cruisers just to give it time.”
Special thanks to M!
This article was first published in the Cruising Outpost magazine.
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Read also on this website
- Bored aboard: My guilty secret, by Margaret Bujnoch
- Women & Cruising Seminars
- Taking Passions Cruising (Admiral’s Angle column # 41): Cruising is not “all about sailing”! We bring other interests and passions with us or find them along the way and find ways to integrate them into our floating lifestyle.
- Getting You On Board (Admiral’s Angle column # 49): Some ideas of how and why your partner may need to adjust his view of cruising to make it work for you.
- Friending Locals (Admiral’s Angle column # 57): What’s behind the knack of forging successful bonds with local peoples in the places we visit.