When we first started researching the actual process of preparing for – and the reality of living on – a sailboat full time, we turned to the Internet as a first line of education. We’re also supplementing with a ton of books, which we will be writing reviews on in the future (stay tuned). We continually come across a common theme both on the Internet and in the books we’ve accumulated. The cruising community has a meme that appears to be universal, and if you’ve spent any time AT ALL reading through cruising-related forums or FaceCrack groups you’ve heard it many times over. It goes something like this: “Cruising is another name for working on boats in exotic locations”. This common phrase gets extrapolated into other forms as well, and manifests in such statements as, “Get used to it. You’ll always have a list of things that need fixed,” or “Budget $20,000 for the boat purchase and $40,000 for the repairs and refit that you’re going to have to do to make it seaworthy. Then plan another $40,000 for the first year to replace the stuff that breaks.”
I’ve seen it so often that I can predict when it’s going to be added to a comment thread. And then there’s this thing that I’ve seen dozens of times in quite a few different forms:
Yes, I fully expect to be fixing stuff on the boat pretty much all the time. It’s good that I’m handy, I guess. I’ve always maintained all our house and vehicle systems myself, so I’m pretty good at diagnosing and fixing all sorts of mechanical, electrical, and hyrdological tomfoolery. This tired diatribe by boat owners about nonstop repairs has led me to wonder something though. Did every cruiser live a charmed life when they were on land? I have to admit I’m getting a little tired of the “all we do is fix our boat” comments.
I get it that some people are just joking, but seriously? Stop already. I guess the ones who bother me the most are the ones who are saying it in an almost… ‘martyr’… kind of way. “Oh, poooor me, I have to spend every second of my life fixing my boat instead of enjoying life like you think I do!” It’s as if they feel a need to prove that they’re living in the real world and aren’t on a 24/7 vacation.
In our experience, living on land is no different from what we’re told to expect when we live on a boat.
Here on land you have to upkeep the lawn, the windows, do the cleaning, the painting, the siding, and fix the damned toilets. Then the mower breaks and I have to fix it. Then I have to fix the leak in the washing machine. Damn it! Is the dishwasher not working again? I was GOING to replace the glitchy kitchen lights this weekend, but instead I have to fix the broken garage door. Oh, and replace the deck. When is that going to happen? Preferably before one of the kids falls through a hole in it.
The last two decades of living in a house that we own has been a nonstop litany of things that need fixed or maintained. In the last year alone I’ve replaced three sets of brakes on cars, replaced a dishwasher, serviced our air conditioner, fixed three plumbing leaks (one pipe and two faucets), replaced a washer and dryer (which I then had to fix a month later), rewired ceiling fans and lights, cleaned out carburetors on mowers, trimmers, edgers, and a chain saw, replaced a timing belt on a car, bought two full new sets of tires to replace worn out ones, replaced a battery in a car and a mower, painted walls, replaced broken door knobs, fixed sheetrock, fixed a garage door opener, fixed the landscaping where erosion was causing a problem, trimmed trees, fixed a skylight leak, mowed the lawn over and over, fixed the mower (again), replaced the door and window switch on a van, installed a trailer hitch and had to fix the factory trailer wiring, updated the breaker panel (old breakers worn out), repaired soffit and siding trim, fixed swimming pool plumbing, repaired window screens, fixed more crap on the cars, etc etc etc etc ad nauseum. That’s just the stuff off the top of my head.
I could go on for quite a while.
Honey? The toilet handle broke again… and there is suddenly a puddle of water appearing in the hallway every morning. And no, its not the dog.
WHY IS THERE ALWAYS MILDEW ON THE BATHROOM CEILING? Omg. Because the “exhaust fan” is a joke. If it works at all.
Keep in mind that we don’t live in a shack built of sticks. We have a decent house, in a fairly new neighborhood, that cost more than twice what our boat cost. And it’s not just our current house. Every house we’ve owned (four to date) and every car we’ve owned (dozens) has required maintenance and upkeep.
Yeah, hurricanes, I get it. Our house is in Oklahoma. Go look up photos from tornadoes. Do it. Keep in mind whilst you’re looking that when a tornado warning comes, you get about a five minute notice (as opposed to weeks for a hurricane), and you can’t relocate your house to get out of the way of the approaching storm. The same can be said for floods. Lightning. Land slides. Earthquakes. Ice storms. Hail.
WHO THE HELL DESIGNED THIS WASHING MACHINE? Why is there not a filter to catch this stuff? WHY do I have to empty this shit so often?
Why is the reset button on our dryer clear in the back? Seriously? Why do we have to remove all of the (clean) clothes off of the top of the dryer, move the dryer to the middle of the laundry room and tip it over to hit this damn thing. I get that it shouldn’t be so easy as to accidentally hit it, but come ON.
The pool needs bleach. Again. Oh, and the dog tripped over the hose to the filter… so yeah, our side yard is now flooded and I’m going to have to fix that before our kids can get in the water.
When having guests over results in “Wow, you guys are in the middle of remodeling?” because your floors are cement after the city sewer system backed up and soaked your carpets, so you had to rip them all up (ew), but the aforementioned list has kept you from getting to something like replacing the flooring…
In other words, “Living on land” is another way to say “Fixing your house and cars all the time in the same place where it’s utterly miserable outside for half the year.”
I get it. The boat is going to take a lot of work/repairs/time/money. So does land life. So does life in general.
I ALSO get that a lot of cruisers say this trying to at least joke about it. The unfortunate thing is that it gets tossed around in comments to people aspiring to be cruisers themselves, and those who are asking questions to see if the lifestyle would be suitable for them… i.e.: ‘Well don’t expect buying a boat to be a vacation! Remember, Cruising is just fixing your boat in exotic locations.’ It gets to be a bit much. I wonder how many people put aside their dreams because they got the impression that nothing fun ever happens on a boat because you’re always fixing crap. Obviously, unless you’re a masochist, you’re doing something other than JUST fixing your boat (or you’re really really bad at fixing things) or you wouldn’t still be out there doing this.
I also realize that the prospect of maintenance on a boat is a bit more important than maintenance on a house. If your toilet springs a leak in your house it’s not going to potentially sink your home and endanger your life. It’s still maintenance though, still does damage, and still requires time, effort, and money. Probably more than it would on a boat. Flooring is really expensive.
OK. I think the rant is over and I got it out of my system.
If you happen to be reading this and you’re that person who is considering a transition to the cruising life, please don’t let your dreams get squashed because of this unfortunate meme the cruising community has developed. Remember, things break. Everywhere. Not just on boats. I, for one, am REALLY looking forward to the number of systems that need attention and require maintenance to be greatly reduced once we live on a boat. Contrary to popular opinion, I’m betting that I’ll have some time to enjoy it.