'Til the butter melts

Pursuing the cruising dream in 32' of sailing ketch

Cruiser? Or “Sailor”? Or what?


There are several blogs I follow pretty reliably. This is easy when they’re delivered straight to your inbox – maybe too easy. There’s a temptation to sign up for too many of them, too much reading material arrives, and now and then I’m tempted to ditch it all – the good, bad and ugly – and start over.

And that would be a pity, because there really are some great writers out there doing some wonderful work. The secret I’ve found is to be very selective about which ones I sign up for, and if I find a blog has headed off in a direction I’m just not resonating with, I unsubscribe. It saves my time, and inconveniences fewer electrons.

Now the point is not lost on me that when we announced that we weren’t headed back to the boat this fall, our readership demographic was likely to go through a shift as well – but that’s as it should be. Hopefully those who wanted “fun in the sun” 24/7 will find it elsewhere, and those who want to hear how we handle reintegration into what some folks call the “real world” will check in once in a while to see how we’re doing.

And the answer so far is “Not very well”.

Anyway, all of this is just a preamble to sharing a mini-conversation I had with a blogger last week, at a site called Yacht Kate. In the intro to her recent post, Heather wrote “…don’t even get me started on my dislike of the term “cruising.”

Which got ME thinking about exactly that – so naturally I had to “get her started”! You can read it yourself in the comments of that page from the link above, but here it is, in short form:

ME: “I may be opening Pandora’s box here, but I’m curious about your thoughts on the term “cruising”? As self-described commuter-cruisers (7 months on the boat someplace warm, 5 months on land working), we’re curious. Is there a stigma in some areas that we’re not familiar with, perhaps?”

Heather: “The OED defines cruise as: A voyage on a ship or boat taken for pleasure or as a holiday. I have always found the word “cruising” to make life on board to sound rather easy-breezy and vacation-y, when really it is hard work. There are wonderful, lovely times, but like anything worth while you have to put your back into to make those times happen, and to be able to enjoy them. “Cruiser” and “Cruising” are north american terms, and there is a culture associated with them. Many other places just say sailor or yachtie, and that has always felt like a better fit for us. Perhaps when you peddle words for a living they matter in a different way.”

Which brings me to what cruising is. And isn’t. And the way people who don’t live and travel on their private boat frequently seem to view that life when we use the term “Cruising” or “Cruiser”.

If your only connection to the term “Cruise” involves getting on a motorized city on the water with 1000 (or 5000) fellow humans, to be wined and dined by 2000 paid staff while said floating city is delivered to an artificial land city carefully constructed to effortlessly and (almost) painlessly separate you from every penny you possess (Say, Nassau, Bahamas), then when I say “Cruising”, the image in your mind is unlikely to match the reality Nicki and I lived the last couple of years.

Of course, Heather is absolutely right: Cruising is hard work. In fact, it’s almost exactly like real life in every important respect, except one. Boats sink. Houses don’t. Oh, and boats are really small, like, 150 square feet, in our case. One tenth of what most people think of as a “small” house.

So why do it? Because you can, I guess. Because of the opportunities it offers to experience life on its own terms. I lost count of how many times strangers ashore would find out we were living on our boat, “sailing” from Maine to Florida, and say some version of “I want your life”. It often happened that this would be a day when things had gone “less-than-perfectly” aboard Sionna, but of course we never mentioned that – we’d just smile and say “You can have one just like it if you want to/dare.” I don’t think they believed it.

So are Nicki & I really “Cruisers”, if we’ve suddenly made this abrupt (maybe temporary) course change and turned our backs on the lifestyle? Have we lost our “street cred”?

You tell me. Maybe we need a different handle. Maybe we’re just “Sailors”. I sure don’t feel like a “Yachtie”.

Author: s/v sionna

Living the dream in 32'. We left Maine on August 18th, 2016, and have gradually worked our way south until we felt warm enough. After spending the summer in Maine, working to replenish the cruising kitty, and rehabilitating an old house, we’re headed back on the boat, bringing Sionna back home to northern waters. Follow our blog here!

2 thoughts on “Cruiser? Or “Sailor”? Or what?

  1. I also dislike the term cruisers but, like so many areas in life, it’s just easier to go with a general moniker than to try to explain The subtleties of what you’re doing each and every time you’re asked. That being said, cruising for me is a mindset, a separation from the status quo, a willingness to say no to the excess of consumerism and reckless irresponsibility regarding our environment. You and Nicki will have that mindset whether you’re traveling in Sionna on the water or on your feet in Maine. To me, you will always be voyagers and I look forward to whatever adventures you choose to share.

    SV Kintala

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Deb! Always appreciating your thoughts – and no I haven’t forgotten that I owe you a reply. Just can’t find your message right now… (sigh!)


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