Living Aboard a Boat Reflections on Cruising

S is for Side Effects of Cruising

Friday, April 22, 2016S.V. CAMBRIA

During the month of April, we're participating in the Blogging From A to Z Challenge where every day (excluding Sundays) we'll be posting to the blog . . . alphabetically. The overall theme we've chosen to tie all the entries together is living aboard a boat and cruising – things we've learned along the way: our thoughts, reflections, and tips for those just starting out or who are interested in this lifestyle.

Warning: May cause increased heart rate and breathlessness (due to incredible views), sweating (from hiking or other boat activities), nausea (from sea sickness) or shortness of breath.

Living-aboard and cruising are addictive and, for the last 15 years, have been our drugs of choice. Like all drugs, there are possible side effects – additional, sometimes unexpected, consequences from the lifestyle. But unlike its counterpart, most of the side effects from cruising have been positive.  

Here are some of the ways cruising and living-aboard have changed our lives:

1)  We have an ever-growing and diverse set of tools.
Prior to cruising, David’s toolbox was made up primarily of mechanics tools and mine had even less variety (a hammer, some screwdrivers and wrenches, if I recall). Now it includes tools for plumbing, rigging, woodworking, cabinet-making, electrical work, painting, varnishing, fibreglass work, air-conditioning, refrigeration, heating (to name a few) and keeps growing every year.

2)  We’re a Jack (and Jill) of all trades.
David’s a mechanical engineer and has always been good at taking things apart, figuring out how they work, and fixing them. Owning a boat has stepped that up to a whole new level. Now he’s also a plumber, an electrician, a diesel mechanic, a shipwright and a joiner. As for me, I was a French teacher so, unless there were some verbs that needed conjugated, I had a lot to learn . . . still do (you should see the sheer panic in David’s eyes whenever I take a project on by myself). When I’m not busy breaking things, I’m an excellent assistant and equal the skills of any layman (or woman) in a boatyard.

3) We’ve become anti-social.
Cruising has brought out the introverts in us (I’ve actually always been one). We like people and making new friends; but the longer we live on the water, the more we prefer to be by ourselves. We’re not opposed to dinner or drinks with a couple of friends, but please don’t invite us to the potluck.

4)  Trust takes on a new, deeper meaning.
I depend on David in ways that I never imagined I would . . . or could. And vice versa. When living on land, trust had a superficial meaning that we rarely, if ever, looked beyond. It simply meant we believed someone: That we had a level of confidence and faith that they were telling us the truth and we could count on them to act accordingly. Years of living-aboard and cruising have changed that and, today, trust is everything. It’s the foundation we’ve built our lives on: The complete knowledge that I’ve got his back and he’s got mine. Not only do we trust each other to be faithful and true but, more importantly, we trust each other with our lives in a way that I don’t think would be possible if we still lived on land. 

5)  Less really is more.
The less stuff we have to take care of and worry about, the happier we are (guitars excepted).

6)  Modesty takes a backseat.
It’s difficult to live in less than 400 square feet with another person and be modest. You can try all you want but, in the end, practicality takes over and you’re showering naked off the stern just like everybody else.

7)  We’ve discovered new hobbies and talents.
With cruising, comes time to learn more about yourself and try new things. David’s always been a Renaissance man and has had several interests and hobbies throughout the years – racing cars, flying planes, playing musical instruments, playing and coaching football (soccer), and on and on and on. Not only does he like these things, but he’s good at them (which is very annoying). For me, it was different. Apart from hanging out with family and friends, I spent my time working and studying. I’d go hiking on the weekends but, other than that, I made very little time for outside interests. That changed when we started cruising and, since then, I’ve built up a list of hobbies for myself . . . and discovered a hidden talent or two.

8)  We have a heightened sense of awareness.
We know Cambria like the back of our hands. If anything changes, from the slightest sound to the faintest odor to the wind speed or direction, we’re aware of it and diagnosing the situation . . . twenty-four hours a day.

9)  We see the world differently.
Experience changes a person’s perspective on life and how they see the world, and cruising is no exception. Living on the water and close to nature has emphasized the importance of respecting the environment – recycling, reusing and conserving resources – while meeting new people and visiting different cultures has helped us become more globally-minded and tolerant than we were 15 years ago (though, in all fairness, if we weren’t globally-minded and tolerant to begin with, we probably wouldn’t have been attracted to this lifestyle).

10) We became amateur meteorologists.
When we’re out cruising, the weather is one of the most important factors in our lives. To help make the experience more relaxing and safe, we’ve had to learn local weather patterns, where to access weather forecasts, how to read and analyze synoptic weather charts (and build our own forecasts based on the information), and how to read and interpret grib files – all of which is a daily job.

To read more about the side effects of cruising, check out The Monkey’s Fist, a site where cruisers share links to blog posts on topics about living-aboard and cruising.

Do you live-aboard, cruise or travel by RV? What are some of the side effects the lifestyle change has made in your life? Join the conversation below in our comments section or on our Facebook page.

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  1. What a wonderful list! How nice to have a mechanical engineer on board who is good with taking things apart, diagnosing the issue and putting it back together. Scott's good like that too. Me, not so much, but I'm learning.

    Thanks for the link back to MOFI too :-)

    1. Not only is it nice, but it saves a lot of money!

  2. How interesting that you have become more anti-social! We're both introverts and like a quiet evening at home, but I don't know if not seeing other people for days at a time will make us long for interaction with anyone but each other!
    I'm hoping to become an amateur astronomer. I'm fascinated by stars, but the city lights block them out. - Lucy

    1. I've always been really shy and David's sort of a loner, so I think cruising offered us opportunities to be alone in ways that weren't possible on land that really appealed to both of us (I'm a hiker and I enjoy camping but I'm not a backcountry camper -- I like my creature comforts too much).

    2. I'm fascinated by how many bloggers are shy and/or introverted (like me).

  3. Fun list! And every word of it true. Oddly, just minutes ago I posted my "R" post (limited internet has me lagging) where I explore another side effect -- living simply aboard brings a new definition of "luxury" and appreciation for things we took for granted in our previous land lives. Long hot showers come to mind. :-)

    And as Ellen mentioned, thanx for the MoFi link!

    1. Ah, yes! The long, hot showers! They're the only thing I really miss from land-life and I relish in them all winter long.

  4. This list makes me really look forward to cruising. Also, I'm very happy to report that I was not drinking coffee while reading that list. I snorted out loud when I read that part about David's look of sheer panic when you took something on yourself. I've seen that look. I also have seen the 'helicopter husband' when i'm doing something that he believes should be in his domain. The problem is that the entire boat is his domain. I could lay around an eat bonbons all day, but I fear we'd all get a little tired of that after awhile. We'd love to meet you guys before you leave for parts north. We're not that far from you in tacoma. When do you leave? Maybe we could drive up and say howdy.

    1. Yeah, it's a look I know all too well. I try not to take it personally. He's a "fixer" and because he's also a little old-fashioned, has this need to take care of me, whether I want him to or not.

      Meeting up with you and Mike would be great! I'll send you a PM through Facebook.

  5. Love this list, having our camper has made me want to declutter a lot more at home, I'm so happy when we're out and about and everything is centered around what is essential. Our camper is old and when you're driving you can concentrate on nothing else, as we always say she drives more like a boat than a vehicle but you have to stick to a narrow road. Wind speed and weather is something we watch like hawks if we have to move about a lot :)

    I was talking with an ex colleague the other day, and we've both said we've become more anti-social was we've got older, I'm quite happy by myself and as long as I had a kindle to read, or something to write with I think I'd be quite happy!

    Mars xx
    @TrollbeadBlog from
    Curling Stones for Lego People

    1. Sometimes I wish I had the ability to thrive in social settings, but there really is a sense of peace and contentment that stems from enjoying your own company . . . particularly when there's a good book at hand.

  6. I find it so interesting, even mind-boggling that cruising made us - just like you - less social. Being by yourselves by necessity or choice, makes it part of your life. While, initially, we missed social contact once we arrived in the South Pacific, after a while, we didn't want it anymore. The worst thing is that we feel socially inept now that we are back on land. And, even worse: we don't care! We love our peace and quiet whether it is on the water or in the woods!

    Liesbet @ Roaming About – A Life Less Ordinary

    1. I know. Because of the wonderful cruising community and the opportunities to meet people with similar interests and outlooks on life, becoming more anti-social seems counter intuitive but it happens!