This Vessel just appeared about 5' from our stern as he was coming in to the fuel dock at C-Quarters Marina. It looked like a refurbished WWII landing Craft
No matter how much you read or talk to others about "Living the Cruising Dream" one can not assume they know exactly what it is really about until you begin the journey. Cruising for extended periods has many similarities for all but is a totally different experience to each individual out there doing it. Until you toss off the lines and take off it is truly just a dream. The dream is always in front of you but the real and practical experience quickly alters all the assumptions you previously held.
Before we departed Corpus Christi on this cruise we had sailed Wand'rin Star exactly 1,166.7 Nautical Miles. A bit of this was in Puget Sound where we bought the vessel and some in Galveston Bay where we had the boat trucked to have some work done on the boat, and then the trip down the ICW to Corpus Christi where the majority of NM's were sailing around the Corpus Christi Bay area. This certainly prepared us to manage the boat and take it to the next level but the next 922.2 NM that we have traveled to date on this cruise has exposed several elements or challenges that are difficult to plan for since they are hard to see through the dream. These challenges of course include the Boat, preparation, weather, cruising budget, provisioning, boat maintenance, route planning, personal/family needs & time. The Cruising magazines are full of stories of those who literally cut all the strings, sold everything they had and took off across the oceans. So far I know of only 1 couple personally who did exactly that, they were in their early 40's no children, and planned to go out a few years and then return to their professional lives. They completed their 3+ year cruise successfully sold the boat and returned to work. Even though we have cut a lot of material strings we still have enough material things we have to attend to that it takes time away from the cruising goals. Then their are the human needs both ours personally and family that also have to be attended to. These things do not always fit seamlessly into the cruising lifestyle.
After thoroughly (I thought) researching for the perfect vessel for us to cruise on I was sure I might use the experience to write the book on helping others to buy the perfect boat. I even completed a set of chapters and consulted with my daughter who is a professional writer about possibly completing this project. I revisit these thoughts occasionally and revise my notes. These last 900 NM has clearly demonstrated that I am not yet qualified to write the book just yet. There is a lot more out here that should be considered when shopping for the perfect vessel.
Even though we put about 1200 NM under our keel preparing to to this cruise we did not do enough practice in more demanding environments. We are doing this as we go. I had several opportunities to be out in demanding Gulf of Mexico environments but we did not get the Admiral out in our own boat offshore enough where she could feel comfortable. The Admirals experience is almost entirely in protected waters of lakes, bays, and the ICW. I was so intent on providing her small steps as we went along that I neglected planning these experiences for her. This meant she had to be thrown into an environment that she did not feel she was fully prepared for and her greatest concern is that if I became incapacitated she would not be able to bring the boat in alone. This is a very valid concern and one we will have to manage until she gets up to speed.
Everything is determined by the weather. In places that you really do not want to stay to long you may have several days lay over waiting for the weather to improve. In places where you want to stay for several days you either stay just one night or cruise on by since you have just a short weather window and need to get on down the coast.
Not sure how long it will take for us to figure this one out. It seems common for first time cruisers to way over provision, we still are. Mainly it is learning how to get the things you need that are not within walking distance to wherever you moor the boat. We have no problem walking 2 miles one way now to get to a store. We both have back packs and can carry lots of stuff. There is often pubic transportation. One Marina offered us a company truck, another had bicycles, and some have offered to drive us. Enterprise has a great weekend deal on rent cars. You can get one way rentals from Hertz if needed and we have done this twice so far. So we are learning that we do not have to have so much stuff on the boat, it is may not be available where we are today but we can get it at the next port.
So far this means paying close attention to the Yanmar diesel. Check your belts fuel filters and oil daily. We have made 3 trips to West Marine along the way and have had a couple of items shipped to us but this is not even a hassle. Our running gear for sailing has not even been stressed yet but that means I will need to pay close attention when we do get all the sails out.
The US Gulf Coast is very cruiser friendly so this is again dependent on weather, cruising budget, and personal interest. Skipper Bob cruising guide, Southern Waterways Guide, and recently the joining of the America's Great Loop Cruisers' Association are references we use. Active Captain provide us initially with all of our local knowledge but now I make the time to talk to locals at every stop. NOAA charts along with our chart plotters are all cross referenced.
Some of the things difficult to plan for are those events that require you to find a safe place to leave the boat and return to home base to take care of Dr. Visits, elderly parent needs or other life demands. These task are a bit more problematic when you do not have a land base especially when you continue to put miles between you and the things you need to take care of in your home state.
All the above affect the cruising budget. The budget affects when and where you will go next. One piece of advice given by one of the cruising guides is that if you expect to stay a week or longer then find a marina that offers a monthly rate. The $300 month is a lot cheaper than the $1-$2 a foot rate if you stay more than a few days. Not every marina offers monthly rates to transient boats and as you move toward high traffic areas the rates are higher. This means spending more time in route planning to find those marinas who will acomodate you. Hopefully the weather improves and we can find some nice anchorages along the way instead.
It works best to have no schedule, I can not imagine having to be at a certain destination by a certain date. This would be a recipe for unwanted problems for sure. Given that you just have to take everything in stride and appreciate where you are. Today I got to see two dolphins in the Carrabelle River feeding in really shallow water. Then soon after a Otter was working through the marina and I enjoyed his antics for 20 minutes.