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Forever or failure?

5 years ago today. Motoring in typically glassy summer PNW waters to Canada.

5 years ago today. Motoring in typically glassy summer PNW waters to Canada.

My friend and Voyaging with Kids co-author Michael Robertson wrote a post back in April, one I’ve been thinking about ever since. It’s a good post; to me it says stop worrying about whether you will like cruising or not. Just go. You might like it or you might not but the only way to find out is to find out. Excellent advice.

But something about this concept bothers me–and it’s not Michael’s idea, but a common perception in the wider cruising community. And that is the idea that you’re cut out to be a full-time cruising sailor. Or you’re not. What, you only cruised for two years? And only to New Zealand? Too bad you couldn’t hack it.

I call b.s. on that. Who cruises forever anyway? Can you think of anybody besides Cap’n Fatty? I sure can’t.

But I’m guilty of thinking the same silly thing, over and over. They only sailed to Mexico? They must have chickened out and scrapped their plans for the South Pacific. They’re selling their boat after only a year? Must have been too hard. They couldn’t even get off the dock and they’re selling their boat? Ha! Another cruising-wannabe that couldn’t hack it.

These are terrible thoughts.

The reality is that people “stop” cruising for an infinite number of reasons but I don’t think any of them means they can’t hack cruising. We run out of money, or health. Or we just get tired of it and it’s not fun anymore. Boats break. Sometimes the kids we drag along really don’t like leaving their friends behind on a regular basis. It’s certainly not an easy or convenient way to live for months or years at a time. As Michael R. wrote, it is scary. We might miss home, and miss our families who can’t afford to fly around the world to meet us. Sometimes we’ve just had enough, dream fulfilled.

Cruising is not a forever or failure thing. Sometimes you go cruising for a while. And then you stop. You might go again one day, or not. This doesn’t mean that you’re not cut out for the cruising life. It means you did it, and then moved on to something else as we do just about everything in life. Michael J. and I have work-cruised-work-cruised-work-cruised-worked for over 17 years now and it’s a life that suits us. I’m sure we’re not done yet. (I can’t seem to hack staying put, either.)

I don’t think there’s anything such as failure when it comes to cruising. Cruising success is not measured in distance, or time. Even if you “only” take your boat out on the weekends, maybe a week out to the San Juans, you learn something about yourself, something important. And that’s the journey we’re all on.

Exploring our for-now backyard.

Exploring our for-now backyard.

Simple things.

Simple things.

Why we’re stuck in New Zealand: that’s Leah amongst her āpiti wearing her favourite pink sweatshirt, doing the kapa haka.



  1. Leah says:

    So well said!

    I hope we never achieve all of our dreams; so we can’t ever look around and realize we have no new ones to take their places.

    Changing adventures (and living in one place absolutely counts as a new kind of adventure!!) seems like an excellent way of ensuring there’s always another sparkle of a dream waiting to be explored, chased, and lusted after…

    And I think that makes it even more critical that there are role models like you guys, showing the world that you *can* change tacks and try new things, move back to the US for a bit and then throw it all back to the wind for a try at NZ, and look good doing it!!!

  2. Karen Jakos Riley says:

    I enjoy reading your blogs. Your thoughts about cruising forever or failure make good points. Cruising is as individual as each on of us. No matter how long or short you cruise. Your new life chapter in NZ is a different kind of cruising. From what I read and the photos posted, it looks like NZ cruising agrees with all four of you.
    And I would like to be put on the list of cruisers that have been be ‘cruising” (not just living aboard) for a long time (thirty years come September).(Mike for over 40+ years)
    Keep writing!

  3. Paul Lambert says:

    Never regret what you’ve done. Most of us who follow voyagers like you are envious of your travels. I always dreamed that some day I would do the same. I’ve read every book about sailing to far off places, twice. Alas, I’ve only enjoyed it all from my armchair. Look where you have ended up. New Zealand. One of the last safe paradise left. Enjoy your postings

  4. Livia says:

    I think there is a weird assumption that everyone plans to cruise forever and that anything else is failure.

    We said we would go cruising, not go cruising forever. When we finished we hadn’t quit, we had successfully completed our goal.

  5. Dale Roberts says:

    Thank you. Glad to see you still exploring life.

  6. anne byatt says:

    cruising no matter how long or how short or how old you are, cruising is a life experience
    that is always with you.

  7. Mike Riley says:

    You have it all wrong. The Sea changes people. That is a fact, known forever by sailors. Sometimes it changes people devoted to sailing and makes them into farmers. Sometimes it takes brand new sailors and turns them into circumnavigators.

    Whatever. Enjoy the change. It will happen. You can not stop it. Well, you can- don’t go to sea in the first place! But what fun is that?

  8. Excellent! It’s easy to feel discouraged a bit at this point for me because we’re in the working phase right now. We bought the boat and are living on it, but it’s going to take a couple years to save up in order to go on our adventure. In the meantime, we’re learning to enjoy the everyday adventures of living on a sailboat in Southeast Alaska with three kids!