There are three major areas within the context of boat life problems that are not boat related. They included issues with people aboard, difficulties with people back home and money problems. In this article and video, we outline the various problems and offer solutions or tips to help make your transition into boat life less overwhelming. The video is at the bottom.
1. Boat Life Problems – Partners/Family
Unhappy Partner/Family Member On Board
More often than not we find failed bluewater cruisers are those where one partner, sometimes both, comes to the unexpected conclusion that they don’t like to sail. The usual story is that a couple gets a boat, spends months getting it ready and then heads out to sea. On the first passage something major breaks, the weather is heavier than expected or someone ends up being very green with seasickness. Fast-forward one more passages or one more month and the said partner says, ‘I’m done!’
There’s a romantic notion painted about sailing off into the sunset.
Books, movies and even YouTube channels often show excitement and adventure or peacefulness and bliss. For most people, sailing sucks. And I mean it really sucks. Most of the sailors I know that are full-time liveaboards actually don’t like the sailing bit. They like the anchoring and not moving bit. They like being in a tropical bay looking and wonderful views, finding social activities with others and soaking up the more stationary boat life.
Sailing can be bumpy, scary, unsettling and very uncomfortable – in any type of boat.
It’s difficult to move around, often impossible to cook, and takes quite a lot of time just to use the head. The only saving grace for many is that the sailing part of being a bluewater cruiser is that you really don’t sail that much of the time unless, of course, you’re on a mission to achieve a particular journey (around the world) or have limited time (one-year sabbatical).
There are successful cruisers where one partner doesn’t like to sail (or gets seasick) but they continue with the lifestyle because the pros outnumber the cons. The cruisers will usually plan trips during very calm weather conditions and make short quick hops rather than long passages.
The KEY with the successful cruisers that don’t like sailing is that they get to see the positive side of the lifestyle before throwing in the towel.
The big issue with all this is that you don’t know if you (or your partner) like sailing until you get experience. And getting experience isn’t necessarily easy. As my husband often says, ‘Sailing schools teach you how to sail but don’t give a feel for the overall life (and the passages you’ll be making)’ and ‘Charters provide a vacation, not a realistic experience of the lifestyle.’
We offer the Britican Experience where we take singles, couples, and families out to live the lifestyle while learning the ropes but there’s not many of us that offer this service.
What our suggestion is to combat boat life problems, at the very least, is to get you/your partner/your family (whoever is going to be sailing with you) out on a boat in the seas you’re planning on sailing in. Do this for a week or longer if possible. If your partner has a horrible time you can perhaps invest in something more realistic for your future dreams.
And if everyone loves the sailing experience then start taking classes to learn how to sail or how to sail where you want to go.
If possible, get more Chartering experience in various cruising areas that you want to eventually sail in. Before heading off into the sunset, find ways to get in as many positive sailing experiences because no matter who you are the sailing bit of sailing is going to sometimes suck big time.
Children and homeschooling – boat life problems
When we left land in 2014 on our new 56’ yacht not only did we not know anything about our yacht but we knew very little about sailing. We did have two years’ experience on our smaller 35’ sailboat but we only sailed in one area never making long passages. Additionally, we had no clue about how to homeschool our child.
Looking back I realize that we were insane.
In fact, anyone that sets out to sea has to be a bit crazy (in a good way). Homeschooling has probably been the hardest thing that my husband and I have had to contend with. With boat problems, we’ve been able to find solutions and usually quickly. And at the end of the day, it’s a boat…not a human being.
When you have a child that just won’t do schoolwork no matter how many different styles, approaches and systems to you try life becomes very difficult. Our daughter has Dyslexia which is also associated with ADAH so we’ve had to learn how to not only be teachers but to be special education teachers. It’s been an uphill struggle and only now we’re seeing a bit of light at the end of the tunnel. And I’m proud to say that that light is a huge beacon of positive light. I’m proud to say that our efforts have paid off but boy…what a challenge!
Our good days are finally outweighing our bad ones.
I can’t tell you the number of times I wanted to quit sailing and head back to land so I could put Sienna in school. Many times, I felt as if I wasn’t good enough. Other times I felt as if I wouldn’t be sane if I didn’t get a break that school would offer me.
We kept going though. It’s funny because I get seasick (or used to) AND I had serious issues with homeschooling. That’s a testament as to how awesome the rest of the lifestyle must be.
So, what can you do to prepare if your plans are to homeschool on your boat?
Well, if you’re already homeschooling then you simply need to set your expectations. Boat life certainly has its differences from land life. For example, you need to know that if your plans are to move often, more often than not there is no Internet connection or it’s too expensive or it doesn’t work well. Any Internet-based learning is a massive challenge.
And if you haven’t started homeschooling I suggest you give it a go before you leave land. You’ll discover what works, what doesn’t and then be able to plan accordingly. Getting supplies, books, and resources become very difficult once you’re in places like the Tropics. And starting on land will help you to set a routine, get your child accustomed to something new before more new stuff gets thrown at them.
2. Boat Life Problems – Family Back Home
Another major issue that bluewater cruisers face is problems with parent(s) back on the homeland AND the perception that siblings/other family/friends have of how you deal with those problems.
First of all, none of us want to see our parents age or get to the point where they can’t take care of themselves. And being away from our parents, if they did live close by before we left land, can cause quite a bit of guilt. It’s not that we want to leave our parent(s), it’s just that we want to live our life…to live our dream.
“Hey – I’m buying a boat, sailing away and taking the family.”
When you tell your parents, ‘hey – I’m buying a boat, sailing away and taking the family,’ it’s very disruptive to parents and to relatives and friends. On one side of the coin, they may feel sadness that they won’t see you as much and on the other side of the coin it could raise insecurities in themselves as to why they haven’t lived their dream. (Yes…I realize the second point is a bit deep.)
If you didn’t live near your parents and didn’t see them often the guilt of not visiting weekly won’t be as bad because you weren’t doing it anyway. But what will be bad is when something goes wrong and you’re seen to be having the time of your life.
Landies (people that live on land) think that cruisers have it made.
They think that life is one big party. And that there are no problems. When you have a parent in need and you’re in the tropics appearing to be ‘living the life,’ your siblings and other family members will not be happy with you.
So…what can you do about this before you go or now before something happens? Our suggestion is to talk to your parent(s) about the future, research the options and know what’s available for extra assistance. Ensure that there are people around, locally, that can help you in emergencies. And if you have siblings, discuss what the plan is and how you’re all going to make it work.
This past Christmas, when we flew home to see Simon’s dad, we entered the flat and there were pizza boxes all over the floor.
The fridge and freezer were totally empty and the car was missing. Long story short, Simon’s dad just stopped going out. He didn’t leave the flat in months. Aside from being depressed, he was physically okay.
Simon is an only child so no siblings. Some family members got hostile telling Simon something along the lines of:
“You better not think about dumping your father on us while you’re out having the time of your life!”
We spent our weeks in the UK with Keith going out, having fun and making arrangements for him to get out more often. We found a service that helps older people with a variety of things – it’s no so much a medical ‘carer’ but a ‘carer’ that makes sure he’s okay.
Keith now has this lovely local woman that visits him at least three times a week. She gets him out shopping, helps him to make dinners for the week and introduces him to coffee clubs and so forth. The difference has been amazing.
And the great thing is that we get updates every few days.
We’ve spoken to his doctors and we have a plan in place but as long as we can allow Keith to stay in his home AND be healthy we’re doing our best to make it work. We also have plans for him to fly out twice this year rather than the one time he usually does.
So…helping your parents to transition into old age is difficult no matter where you are. In some cases, you have to allow circumstances to take place to know what the next step is. If, however, you can be proactive about options, especially with family members back home, it might make this issue more manageable.
3. Boat Life Problems – Making Money
How much money does it take to buy a boat and go sailing? The answer is…All Of It. The first year is the worst and over time you get wiser about what to spend your money on. You also get more proactive and fix things before they break. Every year since we’ve started we’ve spent less and less.
What we’ve seen quite a bit, however, is that new boaties spend way too much on things they don’t need in the first place. A good example is one of those $2000+ First Aid Medical Bags that have everything and anything you need for an emergency.
Those medical bags are only useful if you know how to use the instruments.
If you know how to put in an IV, take blood pressure, insert a catheter, and sew stitches then it might be valuable for you. If not, it’s a waste of money. A friend in sea safety says they’re a complete waste of time if you’re not a trained nurse or doctor…but people buy them because they want to feel safe. Or perhaps people buy them because salespeople prey on their fears.
We would have saved a fortune if we had someone telling us what we needed versus what was a waste of time.
So our tip is to get a mentor. Find someone that has done what you plan on doing and use them as a sounding board for what you really need and what you don’t!
Making an income?
The second biggest money issue we come across is…should you just use your savings and see how far you can get?
In some cases ‘yes’ and in others ‘no’. I know so many people that have had a brilliant ride – they had a set amount and sailed until the money ran dry. In most cases, they want back to land to make more money so to return to the sea and in other situations, they returned permanently back to land life.
Did any of them regret it? No. They had a blast. They lived life. Perhaps if they didn’t go they would have never done it later?!
In a few rare cases, I’ve met liveaboards that decided to settle on a particular country and gain employment legally so that worked out well.
Ideally, however, it’s nice to have savings to support you AND some sort of income coming in that is non-cruising related.
I’m talking about money from property that you rent out back home, a pension, book royalties, work you can fulfill on the boat from your homeland (remote work) and so forth.
The one situation that we see over and over and over again that just doesn’t seem to work are the people that try to make money from an anchorage. People with skills in electricity, woodworking, anything marine or Diesel engine, hairdresser or cooks are some that I’m thinking of. They envision themselves being able to get jobs from other cruisers to fund they kitty.
People with these skills will certainly get a bit of work but not enough.
If you’re a foreigner in a country and are seen to be taking jobs illegally (e.g. not having a work permit) from local people you won’t be liked. In fact, you might just be kicked out of the country.
You can’t get word-of-mouth referrals because other cruisers won’t refer you unless it’s on the hush-hush. So, if you pay George from the boat next to you to fix your generator you can’t publicly recommend him without someone (the locals, other cruisers) getting mad at you. I know this first hand!
We had a lovely cruiser, whom I cannot name, help us fix a high-pressure pump. The cruiser was in the process of getting a work permit for the country we were in. I put a referral on the local cruiser forum noting the fantastic job he did and within seconds I got several other cruisers messaging me saying, ‘take that down – you’re going to get him in trouble’. My intention was to help my cruiser friend but I soon learned it’s best to keep quiet.
So…if you haven’t read any of the Rich Dad, Poor Dad books you might want to check them out. The author talks about multiple sources of income. If you can set up a few sources and come up with ways to set up more and more little bits of income add up to quite a bit.
Boat Life Problems Video
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