Whether you’re just starting out as a full time cruiser or are in your fifth season, finding a boat buddy (or buddies) to sail with provide numerous benefits. Some boats buddy-up with one other boat and others can be found sailing amongst five to ten other boats.
Some boat buddies stay with each other for the entire season.
Others go off alone for a duration and then possibly meet back up. Some boats meet each other season after season. There are no rules!
When we sailed in the Mediterranean, we met up with our boat buddies on Why Knot for two seasons in a row. We spent months with them before having to go our separate ways. Other kid boats would join us from time to time but only for a couple weeks or so.
This partial list comes from my guide, ‘We’ve Got The Boat – Now What Do We Do?’ Request my guide and get five more reasons for finding a boat buddy.
1. Sharing Knowledge – More Heads Are Better Than One!
If you were a fly on cockpit seat you’d hear the same ole conversations every night. Boat buddies often talk about a very finite range of topics.
Those include: passage planning to the next anchorage (Should we go today or wait until tomorrow?), weather reports (Did you see that the forecast is calling for gusts of up to 30 knots this weekend?), potential destinations (I heard this bay is great for snorkeling.), excursions (We can climb a volcano or go to waterfalls!), help with breakages and servicing or tool requirements (Hey – can I borrow your ratchet gun again?).
And those topics are usually discussed on the beach, with beer in hand wading in water to about waist depth, or over one of the boats for a delicious pot luck dinner.
And joint discussions don’t stop at anchorage; they carry onto the sea too!
At sea, while all the boats are making way to the next destination, discussions over the VHF will involve sea conditions, the location of lobster pots, whale/dolphin sightings, depths and passage diversions.
For example, three of us boat buddies decided to leave Marigot Bay in St Lucia and head down to the Pitons, the southern mountains. The first boat, Pura Vida, exited the harbor and radioed back saying the swell was way larger than expected.
Not much longer, our other boat buddy, Rondo, got on the VHF and cautioned us about fishing nets on the starboard side of the waterway. Once all three of us were in the open sea we discussed the likelihood of a bumpy passage and worse, the potential of a very bumpy anchorage. The three boats offered up various options and as a group we decided to divert to another more protected bay.
While making our way to the anchorage, one boat spotted a pod of 20 dolphins and another gave the location of a Pilot Whale.
2. Having a boat buddy under passage in sticky situations can be invaluable.
When we motored down the Intracoastal Waterway in Florida, a canal like system inside the State, we ran aground. The charts were way off. The depth should have been 13’ but our 8’ keel proved them wrong.
Our boat buddy, Michael on Entitled, helped us out. He went ahead of us and found areas with more depth so that we could find our way out. He also scoured an anchorage area with his depth sounder to ensure that we’d have enough depth to anchor and swing.
And then there’s the not-so-common-but-it-happens occurrence of issues. What kind of issues? Well, I’m talking about prop failure, engine failure, high water alarms and that kind of thing.
While in the US Virgin Islands our boat buddy Pura Vida lost response with their prop.
They were dangerously close to land, had to quickly get their sails out and turn to a point of sail that would take them away from danger. You can watch this whole situation unfold in our video Sailing St John Virgin Islands.
During the issue, my husband, Simon, walked them through various options that they had. Once Pura Vida was away from immediate danger we discussed how to get them safely to an anchorage under sail power only. After quite a bit of time the prop came back online and it started working again. We think that it was somehow fouled and whatever fouled it, broke away.
On another occasion, sailing vessel Temerity called us over the VHF saying they were turning back towards a previous anchorage due to a high water alarm. If you’ve never heard of that alarm it’s not a good one! A high water alarm goes off when your bilges are filling with water.
We quickly responded to Termity, having just left the anchorage, saying we’re on our way. The worse case scenario would have been for them to abandon ship but we’d be on our way to get them. Fortunately, and due to more heads being better than one, we asked the crew to taste the water. By doing so, you can determine if the water was fresh or salt.
If it’s fresh water it’s not the end of the world.
In Temerity’s case, it was fresh water, and a solution to the leak was quickly found. Fresh water is an internal leak and can usually be stopped by simply turning off the fresh water pump. Salt water, on the other hand, is coming from the outside and there’s in infinite amount of it. By having boat buddies and the ability to work with each other we often come up with options and solutions that might have been overlooked.
3. The Race Is On!
I’m not sure if it’s just my husband, Simon, or if it’s all men, but he will race any boat that’s remotely close to us. It doesn’t matter what the boat is, if there’s another one out there he is surely racing it.
When having boat buddies you can make an otherwise dull passage much more fun by having a friendly race. Even if the boats are different sizes and types (monohull vs catamaran), you can still come up with a handicap system and enliven the sail.
4. Sanity For Parents And Boatkids
Aside from sharing knowledge, buddy boating really comes into it’s own when considering kid boats. When travelling with other kid boats the children can look forward to play dates and the parents can potentially enjoy date nights.
And going for excursions like volcano climbing, mountain hikes, snorkeling trips, visiting old forts and the such are so much better when other kids are around. Instead of our daughter complaining, I can’t make it to the top of this hill, she’s racing another kid.
Furthermore, homeschooling can be shared.
We’ve put all the kids together and have done a wide variety of learning based activities. Instead of reading a book about mangroves, we took the kids to the mangroves and let them swim next to them, under them and discussed everything there is to know about mangroves.
Simon and I have had several passages this year where our daughter has been on another boat. And we’ve had several children join us for a sail too. When it comes to getting things done, having support is fantastic. When we need to go to town to get groceries, a buddy boat will take Sienna for a few hours.
5. Too Much Tuna For One Boat
Some Tuna’s, Mahi Mahi, Snappers and the like are huge. Sure you can fillet it and freeze what you’re not going to eat, but it’s much better to call up your boat buddies and say, it’s Fish Taco’s on Britican tonight. Or come on over for some California Rolls.
Aside from sharing our fresh catch, cruisers are known for having potluck dinners. Usually we’ll decide we’re going to have one on a particular boat and then everyone discusses what they’ll contribute. We’ve had the best meals ever – and no one has to work too hard. You just make one salad or a dessert and everyone enjoys.
Aside from potluck dinners, we often share dinner making.
At first I was scared about feeding seven adults and five kids but it’s actually not that hard. Taco’s always work in addition to a shepherds pie or lasagna. Or sometimes one boat will cook for the kids and another will cook for the adults.
The great thing about sharing dinner making is that we have nights off from cooking altogether!
And just a word about alcohol here. In the cruising community you always BYOB (bring your own beer). Always. That makes it easy on all boats, as it’s impossible to store drinks and serve them up night after night.
I say ‘night after night’. In the course of several months, there were probably less than 10 nights total where we didn’t share dinners together. If we didn’t do a potluck or cook for each other, we went out to a restaurant.
That might seem like too much socializing but something amazing happens in the cruising community. You seem to find the family that you always wanted but didn’t necessary have. It’s a family that you choose to what to be with almost every night. (Mom – that doesn’t mean I don’t love you. )
Would you like to know five more benefits to having a boat buddy? Make sure to request my guide!
Request my guide and get many more tips to being a new cruiser…
Boat Buddy Photos
If you have any burning questions or just want to chat with Simon or I, buy us a drink and we’ll ring to you to answer your questions (by email or phone – your preference). All donations go to keeping these articles free.
Other Articles You Might Be Interested In…
- How To Fit In As A New Cruiser
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- Picking Up A Mooring Ball
- 40 Reasons Why Living On A Sailboat Rocks