The Cruising Life: Women’s Perspectives. Part 6: The First Year Struggles

Welcome to Part 6: I know that before we even left land, I heard many times that “The first year is the hardest” and it certainly makes sense. Now, I will say lately I’ve seen a couple of people say just the opposite, that the first year is like a honeymoon and then it gets harder. I thought it would be interesting to see the different things that people struggled with.

What were the biggest struggles for you in your first year? How did you deal with them to get through?

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Abyni @AbynisInstagram My biggest struggle was probably just adjusting. It was a big big change that I hadn’t really prepared myself for. Being away from my friends and family that were still on land was also really difficult. I mainly just try to stay in touch via facebook when I can get WiFi and spend a lot of my time playing music, which pretty much always lifts my mood.

Alexandra @SVBanyan The biggest struggles the first year was to fully comprehend just how much weather ruled my life. I know right? Not what you expected to read and certainly not one of the top 5. Oftentimes, the areas we visited were so unique and interesting that I wanted to stay and keep exploring. But, there was weather coming and we’d have to move to take advantage of either great sailing conditions, or seek shelter. Although I understood the concept “in theory”, I really didn’t get how frustrated at times, I would be because of it.

Barb @SVMelindaKay My husband didn’t always trust my decisions when I was steering.  That has been our only fight so far onboard.

Barb @HartsatSea We both worked nearly up until we left and the boat wasn’t ready. One of our dock neighbors had cruised to Norway and Sweden, and he told us, “You don’t go when you are ready, you go when the boat is safe.” We had to start heading south, and we had to get out of town so that we could have time to fix the boat without friends, family, and jobs getting in the way. There were many important parts, such as the wind generator, the pactor modem, and the new VHF radio, still in boxes in the forward cabin. So, in addition to starting out on our big cruise, navigating, sailing, enjoying the adventure, and fixing things that broke, we still had a lot of work to do. It was an interesting year.

 

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CJ @SVRagnarok Basically everyday is a struggle. When we first left I had panic attacks anytime we were moving. I finally got comfortable moving, but anchoring would make me nervous. Now it’s docking that I dread. But I’ve just been trying to be honest with my feelings and calm down. One of the hardest days where I physically struggled was when we were on the Tennessee river trying to sail upwind, so we were just zig zagging in a narrow channel. Lots of work, I was worn out, it wasn’t fun, stuff was falling everywhere inside. I was over it.

Carla @SVMahi My biggest struggle the first year related to adjustment.  You are adjusting to living in tight quarters, becoming familiar with your sailboat and boat systems, adjustment to living on a retiree income, boat schooling, also living away from your support network of friends and family.   During the refit, everything seemed to cost more than we budgeted for.  Everything seemed new.  There were many decisions to work through as well.

However, once we settled into the groove, and learned to take care of one issue at a time, we slowly adjusted and began to enjoy the cruising lifestyle.  We look back and think about how overwhelmed we felt at times the first year- and how much more relaxed everything is now.  We adjusted.
For those soon-to-be cruisers still working on a refit or searching for a boat, remember to keep an eye on the eventual prize- being at anchor in a secluded cove, feeling the warm breeze ease your soul.  Getting through the initial struggle is worth it.

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Carly @SaltyKisses My biggest struggle was the issue with blue and pink jobs. I felt like the kids were always my responsibility and was often left out of fun activities with other cruisers. As soon as we started talking about getting another boat I thought it be a good idea to get this out in the open. My husband agreed that I needed to make more time for myself and speak up when I wanted to do something. I have accepted that there will always be blue and pink jobs no matter how hard we try to fuse them. I have more patience to school our kids and Carl has the natural skill of knowing what systems need some love.

Cheri @SVConsort Lack of real privacy. I’m a private person, and since moving aboard we have spent a good bit of time in marinas. I don’t really like being so very close to my neighbors! It’s not that I don’t like them, it’s just too close for me. We anchor out almost exclusively since we left the US, and that suits me better.  Also, just living in such close proximity with my husband has its challenges. Looking the other way when your spouse is doing something unattractive is a skill to cultivate, for sure.

 

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Duwan @MakeLikeanApeMan  This question is so easy – SEASICKNESS! I also suffered a bit of homesickness too, but I think that maybe have been part of feeling so awful all of the time. I knew I was going to suffer from seasickness before we started our adventure – but I just didn’t know how often, how bad it was going to be, and how awful I would feel for days after we got to our destination, dropped the hook and stayed put for a few days.

But the thing was – I really wanted to do it – sailing was my idea. I concentrated on all the good stuff and sucked it up, hoping it would get better. I finally got a recommendation of on medicine that helped a lot. And after 5 years, I think I am over it – no seasickness last season. I was taking my medicine, of course, but even when I wasn’t and the anchorage got rough (which it did often), I was fine. I wrote a little blog post after my very worst bout of seasickness.

 

Jenny @SVRocketScience My first year of cruising was a bit wild. I met my DH in St. Thomas, USVI, where I was on vacation from Germany. I had never set foot on a boat before I met him. We sailed together for a week, then everybody went their separate ways. We met again 6 months later. My very first night cruising we went from Trinidad to Grenada. I puked about every 30 seconds. It was horrible. I can’t tell you why I didn’t give up. I just didn’t. I haven’t gotten over the seasickness yet, though it has gotten better. We spent 2 months sailing from Trinidad to Cartagena, Colombia, where we left the boat to fly to Vegas and get married. I left my whole life behind to move onto a sailboat and go cruising. It was hard, because I knew nothing, and I left everything I knew. But here I am, 10 years later, still at it!

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Katy @SVKlickitatII My biggest struggle our first year was fear. I was petrified about 90% of the time early on (virtually no sailing experience prior to starting to cruise), and this diminished to about 50-75% by the end of the season. Now (starting our 6th season), I still get scared on occasion but it takes a lot more to do it. All I can say is keeping at it helped the most – learning that the boat was solid, that its heavy keel and the fact that the sails would spill their wind when overpowered made us unlikely to tip over or sink, that heeling is normal, and that I could be in control and become competent all helped. It also helped tremendously when we learned and began practicing the “reef before you need to” maxim – that one may have been a marriage-saver.

 

Kerry @YaNevaKnow Biggest struggle the first year was being on an ocean in the dark, putting in reefs or altering the sail configuration or gybing in the dark. I was so scared, we were in big seas and strong winds – I couldn’t see what I was doing. I initially tried using a headlamp but found that a bit of a problem so eventually we chose to put on the deck lights and re-rig the way we set up the outhaul and barber hauler so we could gybe without leaving the central cockpit – skipper was a very clever engineer!!! I could now gybe solo.

 

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Liza @SVInspiration Looking back, it was hard to switch from being a go-go-go person, to winding down. You learn pretty quickly on a boat that your days of multi-tasking have gone out the window. It’s just not possible to multi-task on a boat. There isn’t enough room, and really, you just need to get one thing out of the way before starting the next. So, I’ve had to calm down, relax, decompress, unwind, breathe. It took a long time to get used to, but I think I’m a better person because of it. The new me focuses on the other person and listens to them while in conversation; Pays attention to the world around. Having taken a step back, I now see how much better my experiences are because I’m actually living them…not just going through the motions.

The other thing that has been a constant struggle for me, is our lack of internet on board. (My husband can live happily offline for days, until he needs a weather update and the latest soccer scores.) Even with the many options out there, it’s not an expense we are willing to include in our budget. It was hard to shake the idea of needing an internet connection at all times in our first year off the dock. Going into our forth year of cruising, we still only get internet when we are ashore at a bar/restaurant/hotel. The general lack of wifi, and the poor connections available are frustrating, but perhaps I’ve gotten used to living without it? Or maybe I’ve learned to be a calmer person? Regardless, the struggle continues because I want, so badly, to stay in touch with friends and family.

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Melinda @BurnettsAhoy My husband and I learned to sail just one summer before we set out.  I lacked confidence when we started – every maneuver, from docking to anchoring to reefing, was terrifying.  The best thing we did was hire a captain to take us on our first offshore.  He was an experienced catamaran cruiser, and throughout the year we sought his advice.  Having one experienced person you trust that knows your kind of boat you can call or email was more valuable to me than any Facebook group or blog, which just isn’t as personal.  Also, I had a little bit of a boredom issue (it would settle in right after homeschooling the kids every day), but writing or playing the ukulele has helped me.

 

Melinda Taylor Lack of self confidence. Thinking I couldn’t do something before I’d even tried, especially repairs and maintenance.

 

Melissa @SVSlowDancing Weather rules.  We “understood” that before we began cruising 4 years ago, but we didn’t really UNDERSTAND. We used a weather service along with other sources. The weather patterns seemed different, more changeable and potentially treacherous.   We talked; we read; we talked some more; we were extra cautious about our travel.  I felt so good as we conquered the learning curve.  We embrace our journey as we follow rainbows.  Keep on Sailing!

Sarah Gayle Learning to put stuff back in it’s place!  A BIG change for me, who usually left projects and tools laying about various rooms for weeks or months.  Now everything has a home and it must be retuned to it when you are done using it!

Preparing my Mom (80) for my departure.  I did lots of visits before, planned and taught her communication tools she could use to stay in touch with me (facetime, e-mail, FB), but also coped with my own emotions that what I was about to do for me, could make these the last times I saw my Mom.  Big stuff, but I am fortunate to have a very understanding and formerly adventurous mom, so she got why I need to go, and that made all the difference.

 

Sarah @YoginiSailor The biggest struggle was not having steady financial security. I’m still dealing with that!! Also just learning a new routine, knots, constant cleaning and fixing of things. I dealt with this by reminding myself one day I will know it and weighing the benefits of living on board instead of on land. For me there are many more benefits of living on the sea!

 

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Stacey @SVSmitty Transitioning from a professional career, and leaving friends and family behind were my biggest struggles. I was pretty quickly able to move on past my career defining who I am, but I still struggle with missing friends and family; this also includes those cruising friends that I have met along the way. However, I have no regrets as I live each day to the fullest and look forward to the future. I am very fortunate that some people can afford to fly in to visit us. Also, I keep in touch with most people by either text, email, or FB.

 

Susie @Wanderings  The first time we went cruising back in 2001 we didn’t have a watermaker. Back then in the western med even in winter water ashore was scarce and hence expensive for us to acquire. With limited water laundry had to be taken ashore which used to drive us mad as our cruising timetable was often set by the Spanish laundries rather than the weather. This time we have a watermaker and two large builders trugs so are well equipped to do our own laundry and life is so much easier.

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Tammy @ThingsWeDidToday  Our first year was plagued with cold weather and breakdowns by equipment that we did not expect.  We moved aboard almost a year prior to our departure thinking this would give us enough time to work through all of our systems.  Somehow living aboard just isn’t the same as cruising so we had all sorts of equipment failure.  And COLD.  We left South Texas in the fall and just didn’t get far enough south fast enough!  Our heaters quit working almost immediately so we froze our tushes off. I never want to experience that kind of bone-chilling dampness again… I also have a blog post, “What I Look for in Cruising (Rant)”

 

Byn @OhSailYes Oh, man. I suppose that because this IS my first year, some of these things are standing out to me a little more than someone who has the perspective of time and distance.

Part of my blog-style is that I want to be real and show the good, the bad and the ugly. That means that I’ve had several, shall we say, slightly brutal posts (some with language warnings and everything). Here are some of my posts on the Struggles I’ve had this year (and yes, there are plenty of good things, too, but that’s not the topic of this post!)

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“Language warning. This post is filled with sailor-like language. If you don’t like swearing/cussing, whatever the hell you want to call it, DO NOT READ THIS POST.

Are you still here? Then hold onto your pants, because its been a shit-tacular evening and I’m going to give you a clear peek inside my brain. I was going to say day, but other than the accumulation of two days of rocking and bouncing around on the anchor chain making me constantly nauseated, the shit didn’t really hit the fan until a couple of hours ago. Read More: Language Warning: The No Good, Very Bad, Anxiety Ridden, Stressful Day

 

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Transitions: The Hard Parts “The other day I posted that, in addition to the good things, I was struggling with some of the ‘hard parts’ of this transition. I didn’t expect going from living on land to living on a boat to be a seamless change, of course, but I was surprised by some of the things that bothered me.

…I realized that all of the ‘challenges’ that I had prepared myself for weren’t the challenging things for me. I had read about so many of the things that other people found challenging, thinking that I wasn’t going to have *that* hard of a time, because those things didn’t sound challenging to me.” Read More: Transitions: The Hard Parts

 

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My Struggles with Loneliness and Depression “it would be really nice not to feel so disconnected from those friends that I’ve known for years. I’m not a different person, and there is history there that you build on for years, even if its only online… I can’t seem to even maintain my online friendships (for the most part). Its making me fairly… well, soon I won’t even have online regularly. I wonder if I’ll even be able to keep in touch with anyone. That is a really depressing thought.

Its like we left town and everyone just disappeared off of the radar.” Read More: The Hard Parts: Loneliness and Depression

On Missing my Adult Kids Back Home, The Challenges of Living Aboard in Close Quarters , Panic Attacks (while the boat was OUT of the water, go figure) and Paradise can be Cranky, Too.

All of that being said, the most surprising struggle has been with my marriage. I kind of thought that having all the one on one time together would give my husband and I more time to talk and satisfy that part of me that has missed him so much all of these years of him being gone working all the time. The adjustment has been ROUGH, though. External stressors didn’t help at all, unexpected financial issues that we both dealt with in entirely different ways and just relationship issues that we had been able to put on the back burner for YEARS suddenly came roaring to the surface… all at the time when all of us are trying to transition into this new lifestyle, it was a lot. It IS a lot. We’re still struggling through and it is HARD. I’m still 99.9% sure that we’ll get through this struggle as well. We’ve been together 23 years. We’re not giving up, but I can’t say I always feel that positive about it. I’ll just say its been hard. I’m going to write a more in depth post on this topic when we get to Question 19 (How has Cruising Affected Your Marriage), but for now, I feel like I’ve left you with PLENTY to chew on!
One More RECOMMENDED BLOG POST:

I read this blog post on Circumdance not too long ago and it really REALLY resonated with me. My reasons, the things I miss and feel disconnected from are different from the writer’s, but still, she captures the feelings and emotional challenges SO well. You might find it helpful if you’re struggling.

“I cried for what seemed like hours, my body heaving with sobs.  A violent storm of grief passing through me.  Adam lay next to me, trying to comfort me, feeling helpless in the face of my overwhelming sadness over what I (my very own self) had set in motion… [Read More]

 

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Anonymous: I try too hard and do too much to make everything perfect. This cruise was my idea, so my first year I spent a lot of time feeling bad and apologizing when everything wasn’t perfect. I over compensated by trying to do everything and now I feel like I’m expected to keep doing that. I plan the passage, plot the route, raise the anchor, stow the anchor, plan the meals, cook the meals underway, run up and down the companionway adjusting the chartplotter and fetching food and drinks, stand my watches, talk on the radio, select the anchor location, deploy the anchor, and lower the dinghy so I can go into town for groceries. I also do all the paperwork and talk to officials because DH is hard of hearing. My brain is the repository of the boat inventory and every detail of where we have been and what we have done. Obviously, I’m still struggling with this issue.

 

Anonymous 2: Here goes…  Honesty at its best: Sex life is so much harder when it’s HOT!!!  You don’t want to be touched or to touch each other when it’s hot outside all day!  If you’re not plugged in with AC sex can be hard and not very enticing.  We decided that for the month of September we would go into a marina to jump start the sex life!  It’s sad but true and brutally honest. Trying to conserve water and trying not to immediately sweat after a shower is nearly impossible during summer months so be prepared for HOT spots during your cruising periods & less sexual attraction.

Editors Note:

A lot of cruising women were awesome enough to contribute to this blog series about women who are living/lived the cruising life. Whether they’ve been cruising for 6 months or 30 years, these are the perspectives of various women from different parts of the world. I know I’m already learning from their stories, I hope you can learn something new as well! I’ll be posting a question from this series every Wednesday and Friday for the 10 week series, so keep an eye out for our posts! The topics range in topic from typical cruising questions, to more personal anonymous stories that might make you feel like you’ve met a kindred spirit.

If you are a current or former cruising woman and would like to contribute to future posts, please email me at bynsfb@gmail.com with the subject line “Cruising Questions from Byn” and I’ll send you the list of questions. Answer as many as you like and return with a few photos and I’ll add your contribution as we go

See the other posts in this series:

Part 1: What Makes it Worth it?

Part 2: What Would You do Differently?

Part 3: What has been your most surprising experience?

Part 4: Where Would You Revisit?

Part 5: What is Your Favorite Physical Activity Onboard?

Part 6: What were the biggest struggles for you in your first year? How did you deal with them to get through?

Part 7: What Technology is Essential for You?

Part 8: What is your best piece of advice for people who are getting ready to take off on a cruising adventure?

Part 9: What has been your scariest moment?

Part 10: Budget Friendly Tips?

Part 11: Best Social Media Tips?

Part 12: Your Best Life Hacks for the Boat

Part 13: Your Favorite Photo

Part 14: How Did Cruising Affect Your Marriage/Relationship?

Part 15: Let’s Talk About Sex

 

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