Schedules, cruising, and the 800-mile passage nobody wants to make

Sailboat motoring with distant coastline ahead

“After this, no more schedules!” Jamie ranted a little while coiling lines at the mast possibly a little more vigorously than necessary while we motored into Banderas Bay yesterday morning. It’s a basic principle of cruising to avoid a schedule. Usually we’re pretty good at it, but this last week we sailed Totem more than 800 nautical miles, passing stunning cruising grounds, all to make a deadline. Jamie is over it.

pinterest image schedules and cruisingWhat’s the problem with schedules, anyway? Our pre-cruising life was run by schedules and routines that kept life nicely on the rails for a busy family. But for cruisers, schedules are incompatible on a few levels.

Weather. This is the primary enemy of the schedule: weather is unpredictable, and non-negotiable. The catchphrase for many is “weather always wins,” and it does. Want a current example? Check out the Golden Globe Race, where competitors are dropping like . Plan to depart on a particular day if you want: the weather may cooperate, and it may not. Weather does drive our big picture schedule: anticipate hurricane season, and be somewhere that minimizes risk. Swapping hemispheres is a nice way to do that.

Rushing through paradise. Time moves differently when you’re cruising, and feeling the minimum of experiential satisfaction in a place takes time; and then, there is always more to explore. Living in a world of 12 days annual vacation makes us look ridiculous when we express feeling totally shortchanged that we could only spend two and a half weeks sailing in Vanuatu before moving on to New Caledonia. But that’s exactly the conversation I had with Good Old Boat editor (my Voyaging with Kids co-author!) Michael Robertson recently; we both felt cheated by the couple of weeks we’d spent in Vanuatu. His family even flew back from Australia to Vanuatu in order to see more of the country they had only been able to cruise in for a few weeks on their way to the big land down under.

shrimp boat leaving puerto penasco

Shrimper leaving Puerto Penasco, not long before our own departure to sail south to Puerto Vallarta

Schedules are also the enemy because they get in the way of the ability of spontaneity. Being able to adapt plans on the fly because you’ve made a friend on shore and he’s like to lead you up ‘his’ volcano in a few days is the kind of flexibility you want to have in your life as a cruiser!

Kid boats. When we work with coaching clients who will go cruising with kids aboard, we try to impress the importance of flexibility so that when they connect with another cruising family and the kids (and parents!) hit it off, it’s not a big deal to make a last-minute change in plans to facilitate playdates or movie nights or whatever kid community is needed. And yet, we see new cruisers committing months ahead to places where friends or family will fly in “to see their new life!” that force the need to move on, to sail in an opposite direction from those new friends. One family wondered to us why they were struggling to connect with boats, not connecting the dots that their schedule-driven route wasn’t compatible.

Rugged Baja mountains glow at sunrise.

What about visitors?

We like to describe having intentions, vs. having plans. Of course we make an effort to match the one that lines up with their arrival, but have to impress the point that we might not be able to despite best intentions. When we’ve had crew fly in, they’re advised to consider booking a hotel for at least one night – just in case.

Next month, a production company is coming to Totem to film our life aboard (kind of exciting! Kind of scary). When we determined some weeks ago that we might not make their first choice of timing, she laughed and reminded me that when we were first discussing possibilities with them, I told her (sort of joking, sort of not) what we tell all our guests: “you can pick the date, or pick the place, but not both.” We were pretty sure we could manage the boatyard project timeline to arrive at their chosen place on the chosen date, but the weather was a wild card and entirely out of our control. The timeframe for filming was shifted to one we’re 100% sure of aligning date/place around, since we’ll spend the next few months in a relatively small range of the Mexican coastline.

Hanging out in the cockpit, mid-Gulf of California

This aspect of the evils of scheduling can be hard to explain to someone who hasn’t been cruising yet. A few times we’ve seen carefully outlined itineraries; multi-year routing plans with arrival dates and departure dates from one place to the next. Sometimes they even come with marina reservations! And sometimes I have to bite my tongue. “Your plan is never going to happen the way you imagine” is not a supportive response. But sometimes, people get so wedded to the schedule that when it fails, so does the cruise; our goal is to get people successfully, happily cruising on their terms. Schedules sabotage that success for most people. And really: when you find paradise, why rush through it, just because you laid out a timeline?

That 800 n.m. passage…

Our deadline was wholly worthwhile: meeting Niall’s flight into Puerto Vallarta, where he’ll spend winter break on Totem. But those 817 miles wound through island-sprinkled cruising grounds that many take months and even years to explore. Not gonna lie: it smarts a little! But it’s OK: we’ve been there, and we’ll be back next year, and we’ll take our time then.

dolphin spotting from sailboat bow

Yes, we have crew aboard! Sharing this passage with two of our coaching clients

This passage… it was pretty cool, honestly. A shakedown to be at sea for pretty much a week straight (we anchored one night, about halfway through) after six months on the hard. A chance to feel that slick new Coppercoat bottom. A chance to share the sail with a couple of our coaching clients, too, something new for us that enriched the experience.

Dates and deadlines inevitably creep in, but we make every effort to hold them at bay. Cruising on a schedule is an oxymoron: learning patience is the reality. Instead of rushing, we invest in our present environment as much as possible. It’s why we went cruising, after all: breaking out from a scripted life to seek the unexpected.

We did it! Decorating Totem this morning with ALL THREE kids aboard

~

Update: we have an EVENTS page now! Speaking dates / locations, boat shows, etc. at a single point of reference. Yes, I appreciate the irony of this in a post about how we avoid schedules! Ahhh… right. Embrace scheduling a little and come meet us!

Email subscribers: please note our events post about January speaking engagements in Toronto & Seattle included the wrong date for the Seattle Yacht Club. The correct date is Thursday evening, January 31st. Details on the events page.

 

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14 Responses to Schedules, cruising, and the 800-mile passage nobody wants to make

  1. Ann Cornwell December 21, 2018 at 11:29 am #

    You’ll let us now when and where to watch the film, right? SO glad Niall is HOME! with the four of you!

    • Behan December 23, 2018 at 9:01 am #

      Will definitely let you know! xoxo

  2. Jim (in Essex) December 21, 2018 at 12:26 pm #

    Schedules can be a bear esp. if the party you are meeting is not experienced in the realities of cruising. If you had been delayed in meeting Niall on the other hand, you & he would be in complete sync for a Plan B or C or D… no sweat. Best to all & have a happy Christmas!

    • Behan December 23, 2018 at 9:01 am #

      You know it Jim! Wishing you happy holidays from our crew!

  3. Carla December 21, 2018 at 12:28 pm #

    Glad that Niall was able to see you on his break from school! I am happy to see you back at sea and launched again.

    We left Marathon after replacing a few items and back in the Bahamas. After spending quality time with friends here at GHC, will head through the Bahamas. Haven’t decided to go east or west after that. Some decisions are fluid and will be decided eventually.

    Miss you guys! Hope we meet up in the Pacific.

    • Behan December 23, 2018 at 9:00 am #

      GHC must feel like home, perfect for holidays! I hope we get that Pacific meetup too. <3

  4. Tracey December 21, 2018 at 12:38 pm #

    Yay for Niall being back on Totem!

    • Behan December 23, 2018 at 9:00 am #

      SO GOOD!

  5. Melissa December 21, 2018 at 1:39 pm #

    Reading this I thought, why Behan is a cruiser midwife!! Merry Christmas to all of you!!!

    • Behan December 23, 2018 at 8:25 am #

      Awww you know I harbored that deep inside! I aspire to be a cruising doula at least. xoxo

  6. Nina December 21, 2018 at 3:15 pm #

    Congrats on the filming gig and more importantly Niall’s visit home!

    • Behan December 23, 2018 at 8:26 am #

      Thanks Nina, feels so good! Will we see you in MX next year?

  7. Kim Brown December 22, 2018 at 7:10 am #

    Great article as always Behan. A comment about kid boats… This past year we met several kid boats that said they didn’t see other kid boats for months. When I heard ‘months’ I thought how is that possible. The longest stint that our daughter went without seeing another kid boat was 17 days and that’s because we were crossing the Atlantic. Otherwise, it’s usually a week at most when we don’t see other kid boats. In this past sailing season the only time we were kid free was during overnight passages! Anyway – you hit the nail on the head. The reason that kid boats don’t see other kid boats comes down to the fact that they’re always on some sort of schedule – either racing ahead or following behind many of the other kid boats. For us…when we meet other kid boats (and get along wth the family) we move mountains to keep close. If it wasn’t for other kid boats I don’t think Simon or I would still be doing what we’re doing 😉 Happy Holidays Sailing Totem – may 2019 be a really awesome year for you all. Big smiles, Kim

    • Behan December 23, 2018 at 9:03 am #

      You are spot on re: the influence of the schedule… and moving mountains to keep those boats close when you connect! And yes, critical success factor for our family too. Love from an ocean away, I’m so glad you’re in good hands after what was probably quite a scare in Grenada.

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