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About Cruising

What I Like most about Cruising... 15 Women Speak


WHY do we go cruising?

We asked some of our friends to share what they most like about sailing off into the sunset.

Ellen Sanpere   Heather Bansmer   Beth Leonard
Ellen Sanpere   Heather Bansmer   Beth Leonard
Jody Lipkin   Gwen Cornfield   Sally Erdle   Eileen Quinn   Gwen Hamlin   Elaine Lembo
Jody Lipkin   Gwen Cornfield   Sally Erdle   Eileen Quinn   Gwen Hamlin   Elaine Lembo
Pam Wall   Nancy Birnbaum   Suzanne Giesemann   Marcie Lynn   Debbie Leisure   Kathy Parsons
Pam Wall   Nancy Birnbaum   Suzanne Giesemann  

Marcie Lynn

  Debbie Leisure   Kathy Parsons


Ellen Sanpere
"Being a member of the larger cruising community"

Ellen SanpereCruising has been defined as, “fixing your boat in exotic places,” and when something breaks, Tony or I must determine how to repair or replace it, preferring to repair it, of course.

When outside help is required, we look first to our neighbors, then to local marine services, and only then to strangers from the phone book.

We can accept the help of the cruisers anchored nearby because we have done something for them (or somebody like them) in the past (or will in the future). It's also a great way to make a good friend, and that's what I like the most: being a member of the larger cruising community.

It's a far-flung borderless floating neighborhood, intimately connected to the environment, filled with acquaintances and friends who keep in touch no matter where they are (or where I am).

Those who are closest to me have diverse backgrounds, talents, styles, experiences and outlooks, but they are cruisers and accept me for who I am. We embrace our commonalities and let our differences work for each other. My identity now has more to do with how I live and what I can do, than what labels I wear (Crocs) or what car I drive (1988 Suzuki Samurai).

Best of all, when the boat work is done, cruisers really know how to relax and share stories, books, food, libations tips, and contacts in the next port. If there is a better life, I'd like to see it. Heck, I'd like to live it!

Free lance writer, photographer and life-long racer, Ellen Sanpere has lived on Cayenne III, mostly in St. Croix, USVI, with husband, Tony, since 1998, with annual visits to Chicago, IL where she sails Lake Michigan. Her articles have appeared in the Caribbean Compass, Latitudes & Attitudes, All At Sea, Cruising World, The Boca and SpinSheet. She is also a contributor to Gwen Hamlin's "Admiral's Angle" column (Latitudes and Attitudes Magazine.)

Read Ellen Sanpere's posts on the Women and Cruising blog (on this website).


Heather Bansmer
"It is hard to imagine the next adventure we may encounter and that is the wonderful thrill of it all."

Heather Bansmer

One of the greatest aspects I enjoy about cruising is that it holds a true sense of adventure for me.

Throughout the many good times and the occasional bad times, the cruising lifestyle is constantly shaping my life for the better. I feel an amazing sense of accomplishment when I look back and reminisce over the years and see the distances we have traveled, the weather we have endured, and the beautiful people we have been fortunate enough to meet.

It is hard to imagine the next adventure we may encounter and that is the wonderful thrill of it all.

The friendships and the cultures, the wildlife and the landscapes, the peacefulness and the self-sufficiency of cruising intertwine with the broken boat parts and bad weather, the bureaucracy and the ever-shrinking kitty fund, to meld into an exciting, glamorous, educational and very unique lifestyle. Initially, it was a lifestyle that I was curious and unsure of. Today, it is this world of living and not merely existing which I crave.

Heather Bansmer sails aboard her Westsail 32, Om Shanti, with her husband Shawn Breeding, and is co-author to the new guidebook, Sea of Cortez, A Cruiser's Guidebook.


Beth Leonard
"I have rejected the rigid certainty of the daily commute, the tyranny of the date book, the urgent insistence of the morning alarm."

Beth LeonardI love living at the interface between water and air, where all is possibility. I can unfurl white wings and ride the tumbling white horses for thousands of miles to a destination yet unnamed. I can stay tethered to the sea bottom and seek out new life forms in the all-but unknown universe beneath my feet. I can fall asleep to the rhythmic heave of the sea, or I can dine on fish or lobster now hiding in their grottos in the watery depths.

I have long since left behind the sterile ruled lines and hard right angles of the human-built, earth-bound, two-dimensional world. I no longer glimpse the moon as a disembodied face through a pane of glass or notice the wind and rain only on the short dash to the car. I have rejected the rigid certainty of the daily commute, the tyranny of the date book, the urgent insistence of the morning alarm. I have accepted the uncertainty of a storm at sea, the tyranny of the contrary wind, the urgent insistence of breaking water on a shoal.

I exist at the interface where air meets water. I live connected to the natural world, soaring high above the earth's surface. I too have become fluid, restless, yet at rest. I, too, have become possibility.

With her husband, Evans Starzinger, Beth Leonard traded in her fast-paced corporate career in 1992 and has since completed two circumnavigations while becoming one of the most prolific writers about cruising.

Beth is the author of 3 books: The Voyager's Handbook , Following Seas and the award-winning Blue Horizons.

See also (on this website)


Jody Lipkin
"It's like being on vacation as a way of life"

Jody LipkinWhat do I like most cruising? 

Off the top of my head I think of lazy days in the sun reading a great book…naps in the afternoon…snorkeling or diving in pristine anchorages…having time to bake your favorite recipes and acquiring new ones…exploring all the new places and meeting new people.

It's like being on vacation as a way of life. 

That being said, about 20% of the time things can get dicey, but that's usually where the best stories come from.  My husband “Mr. Bitchin” always says, “Cruising is 90% boredom and 10% sheer terror.”

I'll take the whole package; the bad only makes you appreciate the good that much more. The important thing is to be happy doing what you're doing, and to be the best you can be at what you do.  We're all different!

Jody Lipkin (aka Jody Bitchin) cruised on S/V Lost Soul with Bob Bitchin for 5 years (over 50,000 miles ) before he started Latitudes & Attitudes Magazine. Jody & Bob are currently building a new boat called Attitude so they can go out and sail the seas again.


Gwen Cornfield
"Cruising never flat lined"

I sure miss cruising!

I quit cruising reluctantly around 2001. I live a comfortable, city existence in Vancouver BUT – my life now feels as if it is “flat lining”. You know, when a patient's heart has stopped and the cardiograph shows no peaks and drops to indicate the beat – just a long, never ending flat line.

Gwen Cornfield

Cruising never flat lined.

Every day, at times every hour, had peaks and drops, from sheer ecstasy to total misery, up and down it dipped. I easily accepted and easily forgot the stresses of a howling gale when at the end we slipped into a calm bay of turquoise water, surrounded by peaceful beauty. How could that be so incredibly blissful without the battle to get there? The graph constantly dipped and soared and this made the life so wonderful for me.

In my present life I never have anything that makes me feel as desperately tired, frightened, cold and sick as I felt while cruising. But the down side is that I never have things that thrill to extremes my heart and mind. I would willingly endure the down dips of life's graph to once again enjoy the heights of cruising.

After learning to sail around Africa's dreaded Cape of Storms, Gwen Cornfield sailed the islands of the Indian Ocean, across the Pacific and down the coast of South America. She later spent twenty years cruising and diving aboard Loreley from Vancouver to the Caribbean, where in 1995 she was diagnosed with a brain tumor. The balance issues resulting from surgery may have ended her cruising days, but her name will be familiar to many. She has written for cruising magazines in the USA, Britain, Norway, South Africa, Canada and the Caribbean.


Sally Erdle
"Having time, simply having time"

Sally Erdle

Cruising gave me time to play with the other kids. Here in 1991, during our circumnavigation, some children in Gizo, Solomon Islands, hear their own voices on a tape recorder for the first time.

What I liked most about cruising was that adopting a simpler, more "old fashioned" lifestyle, and spending significant amounts of time at sea or in deserted anchorages, allowed the LUXURY of loads of leisure time.

This time was spent doing things together -- sailing the boat, swimming, snorkeling, exploring ashore, talking and just hanging out together -- and also having plenty of time to one's self for reading, projects (I sketched, took photos, wrote, and tried to learn to speak Turkish), thinking, pondering the universe and dreaming... All that unstructured time on our own made the "must do's" sharper and periods of solitude made new and old friends in social ports (and at home) dearer.

We had plenty of time to think about priorities in life, and having time, simply having time, was a top one.

Sally Erdle circumnavigated Bequia-to-Bequia with her husband, Tom Hopman, and their cat from 1989 to 1994 aboard their 1963 vintage Rhodes 41 double-headsail sloop, So Long, before settling back in the Caribbean to start the cruising newspaper Caribbean Compass in 1995.


Eileen Quinn
"Feeling connected to the natural world."

Eileen Quinn

I like feeling connected to the natural world.  I like cruisers.  The cruising community is unique in its warmth and openness.  I like experiencing new places, especially those with cultures that are so different from mine.

Eileen Quinn has recorded five CDs of smart and funny bluewater music inspired by 12 years and 40,000 nautical miles of cruising.


Gwen Hamlin
"Boat maintenance IS NOT my favorite part of cruising"

Gwen HamlinJust now, in the midst of a paint job top to bottom in Fiji, cruising for me is about boat maintenance in foreign ports.  It’s not my favorite part of cruising. 

My favorite part of cruising is being anchored all on our own in remote locations with little sign of mankind, preferably with perfect weather and no time pressures, so I can take time to drink in all the details of the natural world: the sky, day and night; the sea, above and below; land formations in all their infinite varieties of shape and detail. 

But it’s also anchorages shared with one or two of our newest best friends where we might spend the day hiking or snorkeling and wind up with a few adult beverages, a shared fish dinner, and good conversation or a hot game of cribbage.  

And, of course, it’s the opportunity to visit places that are not at all like home and to meet people who live differently than we do.

But even boat maintenance in foreign ports has its rewards. Because Tackless II is our home – and I mean home in the deepest sense of the word – and because she has not only enabled these special experiences of cruising, but been our refuge when we’ve needed a break, it feels GOOD to take care of her.  I’m not the best yard worker on earth, god knows, and neither of us is anal retentive like many boat owners.  We’d rather be out there floating than fussing.  But the boat has taken good care of us, so it feels good (or will feel good when it’s over!) to honor our obligation to her. 

And here’s the thing, while we’re doing that, we get to live on foreign turf, pick up bits of language, learn our way around town, eat local foods.  When you’re in the yard, you rarely take time out for the highlights or take the local excursions, but you see the country you’re in on an extended, day-to-day, I-live-here level.  That’s hard to beat!

So, in the end, I think the best part of cruising for me is the broadening of perspective: perspective about who I am and want to be, about what is really important in life, about obligations and responsibilities both large and small, and mostly about the complexities of this world we live in and of her peoples –  differences that are in danger of being homogenized out of existence.

Formerly a successful charterboat captain and dive instructor aboard her own boat Whisper, Gwen Hamlin has since cruised the Caribbean, Central America and Mexico and is currently in the Pacific with her husband Don Wilson aboard Tackless II. www.thetwocaptains.com. Gwen writes the monthly Admiral's Angle column for Latitudes and Attitudes Magazine. It appears here (on this website) the month after it appears in the magazine.

Read Gwen's contribution to our Galley Advice from 18 Cruising Women article (on this website).

Read the complete Admiral's Angle archives (on this website).


Elaine Lembo Credit: Herb Mc Cormick

Elaine Lembo
"It keeps me in the present moment"

I love the cruising life, which I've lived for more than two decades, because it keeps me in the present moment and replaces cares and worries with perspective and appreciation for all the good we have within our reach in this world. It takes me outside, where I can focus on nature, and reassuringly, gain insight into what's going on inside. It shows me there's another way to live, to think, and to write.

Elaine Lembo has lived aboard and cruised in New England and in the Caribbean, where she also worked as charter crew aboard a luxury yacht. She's a writer and journalist, having worked as a reporter and editor at newspapers as large as The Washington Post and as small as the Limin' Times in Tortola, B.V.I. For the last decade, she's worked at Cruising World magazine, where she's managing editor. She also writes about chartering for Power Cruising, CW's sister magazine. When she's not working, she's riding her bike, foil fencing, or sailing with partner Rick Martell aboard Land's End, their 1935 classic wood ketch.



Pam Wall
“The great food we find all over the world!”

Pam Wall

This morning I am sitting on my dock, drinking tea grown and purchased in the Azores, yummy sour dough bread from California where I was attending the Sail America Boat Show, smearing the sour dough with butter I had provisioned with in Lagos, Portugal before the Trans Atlantic Passage, and best of all the candied honey I found in the open air market in Lagos just before we left Portugal!

I love to eat! Can you tell? And having so many delicious foods aboard our boat is a delight! Where else can you stock up and KEEP so much varied food?

One of the many reasons "I Love Cruising" is the great food we find all over the world!

One of the reasons I love cruising is because we can see anywhere in the world, we can experience different cultures, meet new and foreign friends, and never leave the comfort of our home, Kandarik! We can see the world from the vantage point of our own little home. We can sleep in our beds (our cozy bunk) we can look out from our living room (our main saloon) and we can always entertain in our own dining room (the galley). And what a view we get from our veranda (cockpit) different in every port! Now I ask you, isn't that wonderful? Where else could we find such comfortable travel?

One of the reasons I love cruising is because Andy and I become completely self sufficient together! We can each work together to keep our lives running smoothly with just the elements surrounding us, and a good sturdy craft to carry us and protect us. We love being alone and dealing with all the different challenges when being on a small boat sailing across oceans and visiting new and intriguing countries. Being solely responsible for your own well being is another reason I love cruising!

Pam Wall is Outfitting Manager at West Marine. She sailed around the world with her husband and young children. Pam teaches sailing at Women on the Water Week in the British Virgin Islands. Pam has her own website www.pamwall.com, that she is using to pass along more information, more inspiration, and more knowledge to other sailors and cruisers!

More articles from Pam Wall on this website:


Nancy Birnbaum
"The sense of spiritual fulfillment and being fully alive"

Nancy BirnbaumCruising combines my favorite things; travel, adventuring, sailing and the great folks you meet along the way!

Having developed my Wanderlust early in life (my parents were travel agents which might have helped), and thanks to an uncle with a deep love of sailing, I spent my formative years racing and day-sailing around the Chesapeake Bay. It wasn't until moving to the San Francisco Bay that I got the cruising bug. Probably from reading too many stories in Latitude 38!

Cruising allows me to be fully self-actualized. It gives me the opportunity to empower the transformational changes that we all seek. I feel empowered when I do battle with the elements and come through it unscathed. I feel transformed when immersing myself in new cultures. The sense of spiritual fulfillment and being fully alive is what draws me to the cruising lifestyle.

That and a connectedness that surpasses all other relationships, this is why I desire to leave the security of home and career and dwell in the world of oceans, in peace and natural beauty.

Nancy Birnbaum, former editor of the Seven Seas Cruising Association's Commodores' Bulletin, is a freelance editor and writer. She is the Online Editor of the Cruising Compass for Blue Water Sailing Magazine.
seaknots.ning.com (Search members for “cruisingeditor”)


Suzanne Giesemann
“The sense of pride and competence I get at those times when I feel as if my boat and I are one”

Suzanne Giesemann

The freedom, travel, and great cruising friends are what attract me, of course, but what I like best isn't quite so tangible: It's the sense of pride and competence I get at those times when I feel as if my boat and I are one.

These moments are often interspersed with times when everything goes wrong, but when I trim the sails just right or maneuver Liberty without incident into a tight slip, cleat off a line with confidence, and work as an equal partner with my husband, I know that my actions are the result of that great teacher: experience. Inside that learning curve are years of memories, some good, some not so good, but all of them treasures of a lifestyle I feel privileged to have experienced.

Suzanne Giesemann, the author of Living a Dream, It's Your Boat Too: A Woman's Guide to Greater Enjoyment on the Water, and monthly columnist for Blue Water Sailing magazine, cruises with her husband, Ty, aboard their Morgan 46, Liberty.
www.libertysails.com www.SuzanneGiesemann.com

Read Suzanne Giesemann's posts on the Women and Cruising blog (on this website)


Marcie Lynn
“Cruising is beyond just traveling...it's cultural immersion."

Marcie Connelly-Lynn

Probably three things come to mind immediately...independence, adventure and travel.

Independence and self-reliance are key ingredients of the cruising life. Neither David nor I was brought up sailing...we learned it all from scratch in our 40's. We found a whole new life and a whole new way to look at our lives. Where endless meetings, product introductions and bottom lines once ruled, we're now concerned with weather windows, bottom paint and charting courses. We're constantly challenged to be innovative and imaginative.

I've always loved to travel, but cruising is beyond just traveling...it's cultural immersion.

Beyond visiting a port or country for the usual two week vacation, we “live” in the country...sometimes for months. We learn the language, the shortcuts, the times for the fresh markets and the names of the vendors who give us the best deals. We celebrate local holidays, make local friends and share family outings and celebrations. Each new port, each new country, each new experience in our cruising lives is a new adventure.

To me...this is what life is all about.

Marcie Lynn and her husband, David, have lived aboard their 1986 Liberty 458 cutter since 2000. They've accumulated nearly 50,000 nautical miles including a circumnavigation of South America and two Atlantic crossings. Marcie is a member of the Board of Directors for the Seven Seas Cruising Association (SSCA) and has written several articles on the cruising life.

Read Marcie Lynn's contributions to our Galley Advice from 18 Cruising Women article and to the Women and Cruising blog (on this website).


Debbie Leisure
"The freedom to visit countries at leisure"

The joys of cruising for me are simple:
Debbie LeisureThe ability to travel to far off lands (even if they are not that far off) at my leisure, in my time frame, and take my home with me.  No matter where one travels, you have the security of your home with you all the time. The freedom to visit countries at leisure is a wonderful thing.

The joy of meeting people and making friends from all over the world from all walks of life.  I would never have imagined before my cruising life going to a cocktail party and listening to conversations going on in four or five different languages, sometimes the same conversation in that many languages.  It has been a wonder to me to meet so many wonderful people from all over the world.

The instant friends you make because you have something in common with them as soon as you meet.  You then share an experience with them and sometimes make a friend for life. And years will pass and there that friend is again, in another place, maybe on another boat, but your paths are crossing again and you are sharing again, and convinced you will meet again somewhere in your cruising life.  The cruising community is far flung but close-knit, a wonder in and of itself.

Debbie Leisure sails her 29' Island Pocket, Illusions single-handed. Originally from Missouri, she has sailed the Eastern Caribbean for the last five years, and recently made landfall in Charleston, SC.  Future plans include spending the summer in the North Carolina area, visiting family in Missouri, and possibly cruising the Bahamas next winter.

Read Debbie Leisure's posts on the Women and Cruising blog (on this website).


Kathy Parsons
"Get to know so many neat people"

One big thing I like about cruising is that you move away from living your life according to what you believe (or have been told) your life SHOULD be like to what you WANT it to be like. 

I'm not saying that you can't do that ashore - it's just that when you move aboard a boat, you move SO far out of the box, that the weight of "shoulds" largely disappears. 

Because the life is fairly inexpensive, I don't have to devote so much effort to earning money and that has given me a tremendous gift - the gift of time. Really, what is more precious in this life than time!

I've had time to make friends, to learn new things, to see and experience the world. I've had time to watch sunrises and sunsets - and to fly back to the States and be there for my family when they’ve needed me. 

Kathy Parsons Sharing photos I took of Bahamian boys playing in the rain and performing for the camera

And I like the fact that I'm living on less - that cruising tames even a tiny bit the incredible consumerism of the culture I grew up in. I like it that I walk and ride buses, that I get exercise, that I live a pretty healthy life, and that I'm outdoors most of the time.

And I love that, over time, you can experience quite a lot of variety as you cruise from place to place. For several years, I spent each winter with my head underwater diving in the Bahamas, more attuned to life under water and the behavior of the fish on the reefs than people.  But other years I’ve spent months immersed in other cultures, making friends, learning language, experiencing the countries in depth.  Like other cruisers, I've been thrilled to get to know so many neat people - other boaters, but also people in the countries where I've cruised, friendships I’ve been able to maintain wherever I go thanks to email and Skype. I can’t imagine I would have had this worldwide network of friendships -- -- with such variety in age, nationality, background -- if I’d lived ashore.

Kathy Parsons has lived aboard a sailboat for 18 years. She and partner Bill Raynor have been cruising the US, Bahamas, Central America, and Caribbean. Kathy is author of the books Spanish for Cruisers and French for Cruisers, popular language guides for boaters.

Read what Kathy Parsons had to say in our Galley Advice from 18 Cruising Women article. Check out Kathy Parsons' posts on the Women and Cruising blog (on this website).

Read also, on the Women & Cruising blog:

A follow-on to our feature article “What I like Most About Cruising…15 Women Speak”