We got an email recently from a cruising buddy, who had been in touch with a family planning to go cruising. They don’t have a boat yet, but were actively looking and trying to get ahead in anticipating the cruising life.
The fundamental question they wanted to ask was this: how can you start acquiring essentials for long term cruising before you have a boat? The underlying concept: while you have time (and an income), attempt source the essentials by trolling eBay and Craigslist so you minimize paying retail at the last minute.
My gut reaction was that accumulating stuff at that stage was a little premature. The kneejerk response was rooted in two parts. First, after four years of living aboard, I pretty much think of “stuff” as the enemy. Second, I remember how hard it was getting rid of too much stuff when we moved out of our house in 2008. And besides… there are so very many things that could come with the boat you purchase, why put time and effort (and cash) into it now? Overwhelmingly, cruisers have at least a year with a boat before they take off. Isn’t’ that enough? This acquiring-in-advance just felt like a distraction, and a reversal of the simple life cruising idealizes.
Dinghy on the Beach, Baja
But then I started to think about it some more…and Jamie and I started ruminating…and brainstorming…and the list of things you could reasonably acquire in advance started to grow.
It’s not just about the stuff you need (which is highly subject to individual interpretation, anyway). It’s about the dream of cruising: of keeping it present, and doing little things every day which bring it closer to reality.
It’s also about saving money. With time and patience, there really are quite a few things which are generally essential to have, and if you can score a fantastic deal, the worst case is that you end up having to resell one later. This is potentially a hassle (not to be underestimated in the chaos of trying to cut docklines at last!) but not going to literally cost much. I think it’s fair to say that almost every cruiser we know- ourselves included- hemorrhaged cash as their anticipated departure date loomed. Much of this is due to unknowns (we really did not plan to buy that autopilot THE DAY BEFORE WE LEFT, but when the one on the boat died, we didn’t exactly want to hand-steer from Puget Sound to San Francisco either).
So stay tuned. Lists o’ Stuff are coming.