Cruising Sailors, Cold Beers and Perspective

11 Reasons Cruising Sailors Make the Best Travellers

We’d meet the cruising sailors on the beach in Taganga, Colombia. Not exactly ON the beach, but in the water; literally, in the water.

They’d been keeping tabs as Kaia, with her trusty arm floats firmly in place, was demonstrating to her father how well she could now swim with her face in the water.

“How’s that,” she’d ask after each subsequent five second burst of furry and foamy froth? Gasping for air and with water beading off her face, she’d add, “See how I swim like a Wermaid?”

“We still can’t get the ‘MER’ part quite right,” I admitted out loud in a breaking-the-ice fashion in the direction of the small group of now smiling strangers.

And just like that our day and the following evening became infinitely better.
Muriel and Tutty Lee S/V Mistress

They turned out to be Tutty and Muriel Lee, cruising sailors who left their Toronto lives five years earlier aboard S/V Mistress and were now entertaining friends for a few months based out of the Santa Marta marina just one bay away.

The same marina we agreed to rendezvous the following evening for sunset libations. There, along with others, we’d be introduced to another cruising couple by the names of Mike and Ineke Davies of S/V Contari who’ve been cruising 17 years and counting. A fact made all the more impressive once you learn that their decision to assume the lifestyle came on the heels of literally no prior sailing experience.

As expected, the beers and the banter were good. So good, in fact, that as our group of relative strangers sat chatting
Ineke & Mike Davies S/V Conari

away, I drifted off in a sort of out of body experience watching as our table of eight and the other large table beside us held forth in the day’s fading light. It was, I came to realize later that evening, a ‘cruising sailor thing’ that was making the beer taste so good and the conversation some of the most natural, easy going and memorable of any I could remember for quite some time.

And it was then that I realized why cruising sailors make the best travellers.


Eleven reasons cruising sailors make the best travellers

They’re not confined by the concept of ‘child friendly’—In a world of water where Mother Nature’s temper tantrums can be as violent as they are unpredictable, the term ‘child friendly’ doesn’t get shown the level of itinerary altering reverence it does on dry land. A cruising sailor knows better than anyone, that the planet was not designed to be child friendly. And, yet, still, they go. And happily, too.
Marina living, the life for me.

They’re Minimalist to the Core—With such limited living space they’ve quickly come to understand the differences between the concepts of needs and luxury. As such, they tend to do with less and are the masters of making the most of situations and things other, non-cruising sailors either take for granted or are altogether oblivious to.

They’re stories are consistently better than yours—Yes, that ten day, guided and fully catered hike to the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro last year sounded amazing. As did the previous year’s two weeks on that luxury 5 star resort in Fiji. But one question. How was the rest of your year? Exactly.

Cruising sailors don’t have this dilemma because for them it’s the journey as much as the destination that matters the most. The journey of day to day living that provides for the sort of riveting adventures that most office workers can only dream of emulating and, even then, only in short, periodic bursts.

They’re brave—Yes, quitting your job and deciding to book a flight to another part of the world for an extended period of time may take some guts. But I dare say it pales to the courage to set out across a large expanse of watery globe in a tiny floating vessel containing the bulk of your worldly possessions. Cruising sailors take it to another whole level. A level more easily attained because…

They’re REALLY committed—like the brave bastard who invented the bullet proof vest and said, “I’m so sure it works, take this gun and shoot me,” cruising sailors are truly committed to the belief they can make it work. And it’s a level of commitment that begins long before they even begin to cast off their lines.

For the cruising sailor the commitment starts with doing away with the old lives. Things such as their jobs, their homes, their belongings, their identities and, to some extent, even their friends and families. It’s a not so little and insignificant list of items that provide for an endless obstacle course to ‘making it happen.’ An obstacle course that only the truly committed are able to will their way through.

They tend to be friendlier—Of course there are exceptions, but on the whole, cruising sailors thrive on
Adventure at the water’s edge.

interacting with their fellow cruisers. They realize that while the exotic ports of call are a major drawcard, it’s the people met along the way that help to truly make it special. And of course it doesn’t hurt that they’re smart enough to realize it’s these people that may just come sailing to the rescue if things go truly pear shaped. Not surprisingly…

Their social network is simply far superior to yours. Period.—You’ve got 1200 Facebook friends, an Instagram following of 500 and another 800 on Twitter, cool. They can pull into any marina between the Bahamas and Cartagena and in less than an hour be having drinks with ‘an old friend they haven’t seen in years’. Now that’s special. If you agree, please like and share.

They’re humble people—In the backpacking world there’s always at least one. At least back in the old days before staring into your phone in hostel lounge rooms became all the rage, there was always at least one person who was more than content to half-heartedly ‘listen’ to your recently wrapped up travel escapade about two months spent doing something like volunteer work with local farming families in Ecuador. Just before virtually dismissing it with their tale of 6 months wearing loincloths living like a true indigenous local in the remote village of ‘Imliksokul’. Today, I think such upmanship is all done online.

Cruisers? It’s simple. They’re older. At least old enough to know better than to engage in a stupid pissing contest like that. Plus…

They’re always looking to learn and are always willing to help when they can—In the same vein as above, there tend to be three types of traveller. Ones that tend to derive a perverted pleasure in watching inexperienced travellers flail. Second, ones that, in their willingness to ‘help’ do so in such a demeaning and condescending manner it can’t be helped but to be met with thanks in the form of resentment.

And then there’s the third type into which many cruising sailors fall. These being people who are mature and wise enough to know the second you think you know it all, the ocean will be sure to teach you yet one more lesson not to forget. But also, not too old to have forgotten what starting out their own cruising lifestyles felt like.

Suffice to say, cruising sailors are a pretty wise, compassionate lot.
Daddeeee, I want a boat, PLEASE.

Their threshold for headache and hardship is endless—Nothing’s worse than travelling with a friend who constantly whines about the food, local transportation and the standards of a $6 dorm bed.

This is not going to be the case with a cruising sailor. Already primed to function at a grade A performance level with limited resources at their disposal, theirs is more a costly, never ending battle against machinery, electronics and the elements. Namely, that their floating home doesn’t transform itself into a very poor rendition of a submarine. And all while they sleep, no less.

These are hearty-the-glass-is-half-full-people of the highest calibre. Not surprisingly, if they’re ever on a dilapidated bus that breaks down in the middle of any Third World night, you’re not likely to hear them complaining. Most likely they’ll be helping the driver fix the problem. Because, above all…

They’re resilient—The majority of backpacking travellers pride themselves on managing to get off the grid. The ‘less touristy’ the better; but, of course. But a very small percentage would have the wherewithal to do so void of the services of a travel forum, good guide book and tourist level transportation.

Cruising sailors have no such problems. They realize their floating home is their ticket to ride but that getting off the grid means being prepared to do so. Being prepared meaning not only having the tools and replacement parts on board to fix things en route but, more importantly, the skills and knowledge to use them. And better still, having the presence of mind to conjure a remedy for a situation at sea when no such replacement parts are anywhere to be found.

That’s resiliency with a big ‘R’. The sort of resiliency that’ll always trump that reliable and well told backpacker bar story.  The one involving a last minute hitchhiked ride out of that stretch of guerrilla held jungle in Colombia.

You know, back before the country got over run with tourists.






One Comment

  1. Cecelia March 3, 2017 Reply

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