I’m missing cruising. After months of sitting in a marina conducting maintenance and waiting on hurricane season to end, I’m longing for the symphony of chaos, overwhelming joy and unexpected fortune that I call cruising. As I looked through my journal to review our 3rd year of cruising and compile some stats, I came across this entry that seems to sum up what I’ve truly enjoyed about cruising with my family. “You don’t come out here for the routine, run of the mill days. Instead, you strap in, hold on tight, and enjoy your ride on the cruisicoaster”!
One day you’re re-anchoring 4 times, the last time in the rain after dark, exchanging not-so- pleasantries with your spouse as the kids roll their eyes…..and the next, you’re smiling through your snorkel while experiencing an underwater Dr. Seuss wonderland alongside your family in the clearest of waters. This is but a typical ride on the cruisicoaster. It is unpredictable and has many tracks, but always follows a pattern of exciting and indescribable highs followed by gut-wrenching lows, so fasten your seat belt folks!
In my case the anticipation of this thrill ride builds the night before a passage. Whether backing out of the slip or weighing anchor for a new destination, I begin to walk through the steps in my mind and run through my checklist of passage prep one last time. This is me approaching the exhilarating cruisicoaster as I advance forward in line. Finally, I’m at the empty track, next in line for my ride. The gates open as those lucky few who just rode the coaster return on the tracks with a mix of elation and terror on their faces, clearing the way for me to sit in the coveted seat for my very own thrill ride. Which track will I take? Will this be the one that pushes my limits and puts me over the edge, never to ride again? Or will it bring sheer joy and remind me of the beauty of time spent with those I love, gently embraced by Mother Ocean? Will I grip the rail and grit my teeth until the fall is over or will I welcome the excitement, raising my arms in the air and screaming at the top of my lungs? The anticipation continues to build as my seatbelt gets one final safety check, I grab the rail in front of me and hold on for whatever the future holds.
The start is slow and easy. Everyone is excited for this joy ride in the beginning. The coaster chugs its way up the tracks and my mind is still running through my passage checklist as the anchor comes up or docklines are untied. I put the engine in gear, and we are finally underway. The mizzen goes up and we set a course for the next few hours, perhaps with the aid of our trusty autopilot – easy start. I take in the views as we approach the highest point of the tracks; my heart is filled with joy! At some point along this joy ride however, we stop climbing and following a momentary pause at the top, we plumet down, spiraling out of our comfort zone. The thrill is on! This IS after all what we signed up for, but sometimes the cruisicoaster dips too low….and just stays there.
Whether mechanical failures far from any marina, routine maintenance projects that get extended for months while waiting on specialized parts in a foreign port, family strife in an enclosed space or an intimate interlude with a very pissed off Mother Nature, there are many forms this low can take. The isolation and solitude that so many desire can sometimes permeate and become a low as well, so be careful what you wish for. The lows are the ultimate test of skill, patience, and resilience so hold on tight and scream if you need! The good news is these lows are often followed by the unexpected and truly spectacular highs.
The simultaneous freedom and vulnerability of sailing the expansive sea with your family is a glorious, yet humbling experience. Seeing the wonder and excitement in my girls as they watch dolphins on the bow, paddling to untouched beaches with beautiful waterfalls far from the spoils of tourism, or taking notice of all the colors in a sunrise or sunset as if Mother Nature is speaking directly to me saying, “I got your back girl” – these are the highs that warm my heart and bring a smile to my face. The sound of a humpback whale’s song heard through the hull of the boat or surfacing nearby with a majestic exhale is simply breathtaking! But it doesn’t take extraordinary moments like this to produce the high. Most times it is the simple things like watching the kids master a new recipe at sea, getting the sails beautifully balanced and finally shutting down the engine or fresh fruits and veggies purchased in the most unlikely of places.
One thing is a constant: You’ve bought a ticket for the cruisicoaster if you’re out here. Everyone’s ride is different, but once we buckle our seatbelts, we all expect the unexpected, embrace adversity, and learn to appreciate the simple things in life. My photos often depict paradise: a life of freedom with the perfect blend of adventure and tranquility…..because who wants to grab a camera when life is going to hell? What they don’t depict are the times you planned (if you are riding the cruisicoaster, we highly recommend avoiding “the P word”) to go somewhere and a mechanical failure not only prevents you from going to your destination, but also diverts you to an unexpected, more costly one. Or the times when Mother Ocean decides to remind you of how tiny and vulnerable you are amidst her awesome power (usually several miles from land).
Eventually, the coaster slows and the highs and lows merge to allow you to unbuckle and exit the ride. This plateau is essential to rest and drum up some courage to jump on the next one. Sometimes this break involves cocktails (or pizza) and reunions with fellow cruisers on dry land, other times the tools and spare parts come out amidst a flurry of colorful language, and still others we’re kissing the ground after a long journey and sprinting down the dock with a Great Dane in search of grass in a new land.
I may have only cruised for three years in a mere fraction of the world, but what I can conclude is that out here, we all ride the cruisicoaster. Cruisers often describe this lifestyle as the highest of highs and lowest of lows, yet we still all choose to be here. You quickly realize that the highs depicted on magazine covers and social media cannot exist without the ever-present lows. And be careful trying to one-up another cruiser with the tales of your thrill ride….someone on the dock has dropped lower than you could ever imagine and lived to tell you the tale, and yet another has climbed higher on a once in a lifetime track you could only dream of! Overall, the cruising community shares this drive to ride the coaster, and is there to celebrate the highs with you, normalize the lows, and help you navigate your way back onto the right track. You grow tolerance for this polarized lifestyle – not always a good thing, but a necessary thing to some extent if you want to continue riding the coaster. Ultimately, most days, the highs outweigh the low, or people stop riding the cruisicoaster altogether.
Right now, I must admit that I’m missing standing in line, with anticipation building for my next ride. I miss the unexplainable highs and have learned to tolerate and work through (and sometimes around) the lows. Lows are unavoidable in life and you have to muster up some gumption to push on through or everyone around suffers along with you. This is especially true out here when you can’t just drive away to work for an “escape”. Riding the cruisicoaster has taught me this and introduced me to some fantastic people with the most incredible perspectives on life. The cruisicoaster has also taught us as a family how to deal with isolation and other lows, knowing that with persistence and patience another high will come along when we least expect it, and man will we enjoy the view from the top! Together we’ll continue to enjoy the highs and embrace the lows for as long as the track continues. See you in line thrill seekers!
Written and created by the HelmsMistress, a rad lass who runs the helm on Tulum-5, homeschools the kids and takes care of a myriad of other things that I don’t wanna do. All of the posts and photos on this website are done from a cruising sailboat currently in Panama. We LOVE what we do and we want to make sure you know we love cruising and traveling with our kids, Great Dane and sailing kitty too.