10 Steps to becoming a Cruiser
If you’ve got this far and are looking at the 10 steps it takes to become a full-time cruiser, chances are high that you’ve given the idea of becoming a cruiser a little more than casual thought. Before getting into the 10 steps that it takes to become a cruiser.
It goes without saying that you need to already have a burning desire to Travel. And that you have a sense of adventure. You are not afraid to try new things out. And that you dream about sailing around the world or just sitting on your own boat in idyllic anchorages all the time.
1. Decide Where you Want to Cruise
One of the first steps to become a cruiser is deciding which cruising area is for you. Deciding on a cruising region is a very important step in the planning stages to become a cruiser.
You need to have a look at a map and circle the countries and regions that interest you. Deciding where you want to cruise plays a big part in most of the other decisions you need to make as you work through the steps to become a cruiser.
The Region You Wish to Cruise Will Impact:
- Your Required Cruising Budget
- Your Choice of Boat – The boat you need for cruising the Caribbean may be very different from the boat you need to cross the Pacific (see my post Do you need a Blue Water Boat to Cruise the Caribbean)
- Medical Coverage
- Visa Requirements and the time you are allowed to spend in each country – Impacts planning
Next, ask yourself, are these countries I want to visit sailing on my own boat? Or could some countries be part of a side excursion once you sail into a specific region?
For example, if you’re interested in cruising the Mediterranean, and have also marked a few Baltic or Scandinavian countries as places to wish to tour. But you have no desire to sail to the Baltic. Building a side trip into your sailing itinerary may make sense. Don’t worry about being precise with dates. It’s all going to change.
If you think that maybe sailing around the world is for you. But, you’re not one hundred percent sure at this stage. That’s no problem. You can plan for a portion of the trip and see if you want to carry on (that is if you have the right boat). You see, when you set off to sail around the world, you are not really setting off on an around the world passage.
For example, you are jumping off from Miami to Nassau, Bahamas (or wherever your jumping-off point is). Each part of the circumnavigation is a segment, Eastern Caribbean, North Coast of South America, South Pacific Crossing, French Polynesia, and so forth.
This means you have choices. You are thinking, maybe sailing around the world is for you but you first want to try the sail Caribbean. If after a season, you’re hooked on the cruising lifestyle and want to keep going but, are afraid of a big crossing. No problem, take six months or a year to go from the Caribbean through the ABC islands, Colombia to Panama.
When you get to Panama, you will have done a few three and five-day crossings. And will have seen a good variety of big seas, and maybe even a gale. You can then decide if you want to or are capable of crossing the Pacific, and so it goes.
The only big decisions about where you want to cruise that need to be made are the ones that affect your choice of boat. You don’t need to spend money on loads of offshore gear, such as extra sails, satellite weather receivers, or SSB radios if you are sailing the Mediterranean or Eastern Caribbean.
Even if you think you may decide to go around the world. Buy the gear and equip the boat once you have decided you’re ready to cross an ocean. This may be as late as sitting in Shelter Bay Marina, at the entrance to the Panama Canal!
2. Decide How You Want to Cruise
The Cruising Pace
Will you spend weeks at a destination, soaking up the culture? Or do you see yourself sailing from Europe to New Zealand in a year?
Your Cruising pace will influence the type of boat that you will want to buy. If you only have a year to sail halfway around the world, you will be looking at a boat that has a good cruising speed. If your pace is slower, a boat with a large comfortable cockpit may be more suited to you.
Will You Entertain Extensively or Do You Prefer Your Own Company?
We run into cruisers all the time who tell us they miss out on a large part of the social life because they chose a great sailing boat that has an awful cockpit for entertaining. They love their boat except for the cockpit and their ability to entertain.
If you are social, you will find that you fall into a social group of three couples at a time. That means you end up in a rotating cycle of sundowners and dinners where all three couples are involved. The social aspect is amazing. However, It becomes embarrassing for people who can only entertain one couple at a time. They feel they are always snubbing a couple.
If you have kids, you need to factor in that it may be three families. This is a large part of the reason so many kid boats are catamarans. You will be surprised to see how many people you can entertain on a 38ft catamaran, vs a 55ft mono.
For more information on choosing the perfect boat to become a cruiser on, see the ‘Ultimate Cruising Boat Evaluation Checklist’
Will You Eat Out or Cook on Board Most of The Time?
This decision effects your boat buying decision and cruising budget.
If you buy a boat with a tiny poorly laid out galley, as you had only planned on cruising the Mediterranean and will eat out every night. And then end up deciding to sail around the world, the galley layout may become a real negative to your cruising experience.
Will You Anchor Out or Spend Most of Your Time In a Marina
When you think of becoming a cruisier do you see yourself in a marina extensively? If so, the cost of the marina will be a large line item in your monthly budget. And maybe exacerbated by buying too large a boat. Remember catamarans cost 1.5 to 2x the cost of a Mono per foot of length in marina fees.
Will You Be Self Sufficient or Will You Need Land-Based Support?
Using professional paid weather-routers will take some of the planning stress off you if you are not able to interpret the weather or choose not to learn about interpreting weather. Just remember weather-routers, yacht agents, etc. all add to the cruising budget. Fifty or a hundred dollars here and there a month soon start to add up. To learn more about going with a paid router vs learning to read weather take a look at ‘Should You Learn How To Read Weather’.