Marina creep is a term I’ve created to describe the knotting dark feeling that a cruiser gets after day three of being in a marina. By the third morning, a marina moored sailor wakes with a heavy heart and a sense of dread that seems to appear from left field. Let me back up so to explain marina creep more clearly…
Many full time sailing cruisers avoid marinas as much as possible
Marinas are often busy, noisy, costly and lacking in wind (to keep the mosquitos away). Furthermore, if you’ve seen one marina, you’ve seen them all. The 360 degree view is almost always a bunch of sailboat masts. If you’re lucky you might get a volcano or green hillside in the background. If you’re not, the backdrop could include a highway, noisy city or industrial port. For the most part, however, marinas are much the same anywhere in the world.
Unlike marinas, cruisers enjoy staying in a no cost mooring that is a quietly protected anchorage away from close neighbors, the sounds of civilization, and those pesky biting (mosquitos) or egg-laying (cockroaches) bugs.
Some cruisers anchor for a couple days and others anchor for a couple weeks in one bay. After an indeterminate stay, cruisers lift their anchor and head to the next no cost, safe, picturesque and hopefully bug-free mooring.
Moving from one lovely mooring to the next is the basic agenda for cruisers
From time to time a swell will come in and a new calmer anchorage is sought out. Or a bay that should be perfect is complicated by a new hotel going up with noisy jackhammers breaking the peace. And of course, there’s usually an issue with an Italian or French boat that anchors too close causing the afflicted party a conflict that may end in moving. (No offence to Italians or French people – I love them both…they just have this thing about anchoring 5’ away from the only boat in a bay!)
On occasions, however, a full-time sailor will have to enter a marina
Some cruisers need to fill up their potable water tanks, others have to make a repair and some enter a marina to pick up guests.
Regardless as to the main reason, there are always ‘marina jobs’ that are prioritized to make the most of the marina environment. When we stay at a marina our list usually starts small but then it grows – we will clean the topside of the boat and polish the chrome, send someone up the mast to check the rigging, fill up with water, go shopping to fill the freezer with meat and frozen veg and on and on.
At first, there’s a bit of novelty about being in a marina
Getting on and off the boat takes seconds at a marina whereas at an anchorage it can take up to a ½ hour to get the dingy down, motor to a dingy dock and finally reach land. It really sucks when you return to the boat by dingy and realize that you forgot the milk!
Getting off the boat when the hook is down is never a spontaneous or quick event
Knowing that it’s easier to get loads of food, often delivered to the back of the boat, makes a marina environment appealing too! Trying to get more than one backpack and two shopping sacks for each person while anchored is impossible. Furthermore, the task of doing a big shop while the boat is out in a bay takes hours and it’s just not fun.
And when moored in a marina, there are usually services that you often won’t find in a secluded picturesque bay…I’m talking about shops that sell nail polish, printer cartridges and proper café latte’s!
So there is this initial excitement that happens when having the ability to instantly get from boat to land in seconds
But then something happens that causes a downward spiral towards marina creep…
The list of ‘things to do while in a marina’ gets compiled and although it starts out small the list grows.
So, on day one you take seconds to jump off the boat, go for a walk getting a frozen chocolate coffee with whipped cream and dark chocolate drizzle while window shopping for a replacement bikini or crocks for the little one. You soak in the sights and sounds of civilization and then you start feeling a heavy presence pressing down on you.
You then realize that the stay in the marina needs to be as short as possible so to avoid spending money (knowing that anchoring is free). You rush back to the boat to start a few tasks so to alleviate the unproductive morning.
A crewmember who was sent out to get something repaired or buy a replacement part inevitably then returns saying that it’s going to take days longer than expected. A discussion ensues about whether to stay in the marina to wait or go outside and anchor. Usually, someone will pipe up and say, ‘well, if we stay in the marina we can then get XYZ done…’
Then, the list grows even more to compensate for the cost of the marina as the stay gets extended
If we need to wait three days to get our furling mechanism fixed that means we have time to open out the spinnaker, wash it, dry it and pack it away AND we can even Sicoflex some of the teak deck! AND…I can silicon the bathroom seams as they’re starting to disintegrate AND we can do the Engine service, AND, AND, AND…
Ultimately, the novelty of being in touch with civilization turns sour and becomes a race to get mounting jobs done.
I’ve come to the realization that there are two modes to a cruisers life
Mode one is the typical day-to-day experience of living in various anchorages and enjoying the sails between moorings. The views are spectacular, the swimming is great, there’s wildlife all around and life is rather simple. Jobs still need to be done – we do laundry, cook meals, clean the boat (vacuum, dust, bathrooms) and complete homeschooling every day, but the list of jobs isn’t overwhelming. In fact, it’s rather normal.
Sometimes we need to make repairs in a bay but we know there’s a nice refreshing swim to follow and a lovely sunset to enjoy as a reward.
But…there’s only so much you can do when you’re anchored
Mode two is life at the marina (short-stay*) and the experience starts off on a high and ends in almost deep depression. Expectations of what can get done are never met. The list of projects increases by the day and everyone on board looks forward to the evening drink because it signifies that the hellish work schedule can stop.
On the contrary, when anchored in a bay the evening drink signifies a day well spent
For two years I’ve been living on our boat, Britican, and it’s taken me over 30 short-stay marinas to finally determine what causes my day three depression syndrome. Up until a few days ago I simply thought there was something wrong with me. I couldn’t figure out why I enjoyed marinas but ultimately felt this strong desire to get out of them. At least I now know what’s going on!
So let me expand on my initial introduction to Marina Creep so that you don’t have the unfortunate task of:
1. Having it happen to you and not understanding it or having a label for it (We can call it MC for short! We can then see people in marina’s and quietly mumble to ourselves that a passerby has MC.) OR
2. Starting your cruising life and failing to prepare for it
Marina Creep is the knotting dark feeling that a cruiser gets after day three of being in a marina. By the third morning, a marina moored sailor wakes with a heavy heart and a sense of dread that seems to appear from left field. Marina Creep comes from the novelty of being around civilization and then deteriorating into an increasing and overwhelming list of things to do as the marina stay inevitably extends due to underestimating how long things take (getting fixes or parts). (I normally don’t do run-on sentences but I like that one!)
Knowing what Marina Creep is can help you prepare for it
The best thing to do is to realize that if you’re entering a marina for a repair it will take at least 3x the amount of time that you’re told. If you’re waiting for a part to arrive, that could take around 2 weeks to a month more than you expect. In fact, it’s much quicker and less expensive to get a family member or friend to buy the item you need and fly with it out to the boat.
As far as the overwhelming list that goes up by the day…you can perhaps force mornings or evenings off to do something fun. Perhaps go out sightseeing, for an excursion or find a movie theatre with English movies (or subtitles). We often fall into the trap where we work, work, work and we lose sight as to the reason why we left the rat race in the first place.
Marina Creep is a real thing so take this information seriously. Having one crewmember afflicted is a problem but when the whole boat gets the creep it can be disastrous.
So the moral of my story? Keep Marina Creep at Bay by staying in the Bay!
(Hehehehe. How corny can I be?!)
And a special note for people that work on a boat AND/OR kid boats…
Marina Creep is bad enough when you’re a couple or a boatful of adults that are simply sailing around. Adding the element of work and/or homeschooling and general entertainment for children can cause arguments disputes and in extreme cases DIVORCE.
This past week while we’ve been in Rodney Bay Marina I’ve been trying to clean, do boat maintenance, provision for food, work (answer emails, write blogs, create and upload videos, read), do two hours of homeschooling every day, take our daughter to the pool, read books and play. Thankfully, I have crewmember Eve on board who has helped with provisioning, cleaning, cooking and taking Sienna to the pool.
Normally there are other children around for our daughter, Sienna, to play with
But when there aren’t any she becomes very needed. Sienna doesn’t like to play alone – she’s ultra social. As long as she’s with someone else she’ll do or play anything. And when there’s no one around it needs to be one of us adults. Thankfully, Sienna will sit and watch a movie or play on the iPad for a little while but for the most part she’s a social bee.
Hubby wants to service the engine (rightly so) and I want to upload a video because there’s wifi. And Sienna wants to play Barbies. All the while we know that time is in short supply. Marina Creep plus extra activities is hell.
Have you had any experience with Marina Creep? Or perhaps you can come up with a better name for the above said affliction?
* Full time cruisers do stay in marinas for long stays and that’s a different situation. In the Mediterranean, cruisers sail from May to November. Between November and April/May cruisers pick a marina to ‘winter’ in because the sailing conditions are not safe or favorable. Read about our wintering experience here. When staying in a marina for months ‘marina creep’ is not the issue. Instead the issue is simply not being able to sail!