Saying Good Bye
This, our last b/log for BoatUS finds us some 2,500 miles from Feel Free where she lies high and dry in what we call her boat spa- the dry storage boat yard of San Carlos Mexico.
We are camping on Franklin Island which is a forest conservation zone located on the eastern shores of Georgian Bay on the southern section of the Canadian Shield. It amuses me that the pink and black lichen pocked rock upon which I sit as I write this last blog is about 2.5 billion years old and I’m happy to report, looks pretty good for its age.
Liz and I got to this particular piece of paradise with the aid of a canoe loaned to us by our good friend Chris. We’ve been canoe camping for the past two weeks and expect to continue for the next month and a half.
We expect to see lots more of this pre Cambrian rock in all its wildly beautiful manifestations and paddle across numerous lakes and rivers as the last of the Canadian summer turns to autumn. I look forward to return to this exact rock in October to see this surrounding forest of green transform itself into a mural of red, gold, orange and brown.
After that, it’ll be back to Feel Free. As always, we enjoy our separation from the boat and as always, I’m sure we’ll be anxious to return to her.
This upcoming return to the boat will somehow be different from the countless previous reunions. Until now, we always had a pretty clear idea of where we were headed after we got back to the boat.
When we returned to the boat in 2000 in Hawaii, we were bound for Australia via the Marshalls, Kiribati, Vanuatu and New Caledonia. When we returned to the boat in Australia, we were bound for Malaysia via Indonesia and Singapore. When we returned to the boat in Malaysia we were off to Turkey via the Indian Ocean and the Red Sea.
When we returned to Turkey it was on to Malta.
When we got back to the boat in Malta we were headed for the Caribbean.
When we returned to Feel Free in Curacao, we knew our next big stop was Panama.
After Panama, it was San Carlos Mexico.
When we get back to Feel Free in Mexico, our next destination is unknown.
The circumnavigation is complete. We’ve been wandering around the world’s oceans off and on for 27 years. 99% of our cruising friends made over those years have ‘re-entered’- gone home, got land based, swallowed the hook, started families, rejoined their families, gone back to work, sold their boat, bought a house and a car, rejoined the mainstream.
Not us, not yet. Even inveterate cruisers do a bit of a double take when they realize Liz and Tom are still ‘out there’. What gives? Maybe it’s time. As Liz says “Maybe it’s time to start a family- at 61 and 63 we’re not getting any younger!”
A year ago I would have told you that at this time, (August 2012) we’d be closing in on the B.C. coast after sailing from Mexico to Hawaii. We’d soon be looking for a mooring on Vancouver Island and listing Feel Free for sale with thoughts of buying a house and all that entails.
Instead, we stopped in Mexico. We weren’t quite ready for the final return destination. As we got back to the Pacific and closer to B.C. these little voices were saying “Are you sure you are ready to be back in the ‘real world’ and all it offers and demands?” Instead of marina shopping we’re ‘canoe cruising’ in the wilds of northern Ontario feeling good about the fact that Feel Free is in a Mexican spa at only 26 degrees North latitude.
The bare, basic and bold truth of the matter is that we don’t know what to do or where to go. There, now I’ve said it.
We’re a pair of aging cruisers (gawd we’ve even taken to wearing Tilly-like hats) who don’t know what to do with the remainder of their lives. But dear reader, before you shed that tear for us, bear in mind it ‘aint so bad. Especially when you consider the core of the problem is a surfeit of options:
- 1) Stay and cruise Mexico from the northern Sea of Cortez to the ‘Mexican Riviera’. This well beaten path involves sailing south in the winter to the warm waters of PV, Manzanillo and Zihuatanejo until the spring, then back north to the Sea of Cortez for the spring and as much of the summer as you can take before hauling the boat for the remainder of the Mexican season.
- 2) Sail to Hawaii, then British Colombia in the spring and summer after wintering in Mexico.
- 3) Sail back to Hawaii, the South Pacific and Australia. We always regretted not visiting Tasmania on our previous two trips to Australia. This option is quite attractive because we wish to sell Feel Free in the future and Australia is one place where boat prices aren’t depressed. A boat broker recently told me that the number of boats listed for sale in North America and Europe has increased by 2.5 times in the last three years. Sailing to Australia has one major proviso- it’s a one way trip. We’re not sailing back from Australia. The boat either sells in Australia or returns on board a yacht transporter.
At this point, it’s hard to visualize life without a cruising sailboat. As much as the idea of having a house, a dog, a garden, consistently reliable internet access all day and every day, a two car garage, one filled with a car, the other with a canoe, kayak and a couple of bicycles appeals, a non-cruising lifestyle is a bit, well, scary.
In a recent Cruising World article entitled “Swallowing the Hook”, two time circumnavigator Beth Leonard discussed the ‘re-entry issue’. She interviewed a number of cruisers, some long timers and some as she called them “sabbatical cruisers”, cruisers who are taking a break in their careers for different periods of time.
Some reported no difficulty returning to land based lives while others lamented the loss of their sailing lifestyle. Leonard concluded that success or failure for the re-entrants was largely based on one’s self definition. For those who defined themselves as cruisers, returning to land proved difficult. They continued to view themselves as cruisers and couldn’t readjust, even became depressed. Often, these people felt pushed into swallowing the anchor for financial or family reasons or health problems.
If they didn’t have some reason to be excited about returning to shore, they were less likely to report being happy to return.
Whereas those who felt ready to stop cruising and get on with another chapter of their lives, particularly those who had something exciting to look forward to ashore appeared happy to swallow the hook.
Many of these re-entrants claimed to have gotten what they wanted from cruising and felt it was time to move on. These folks tend to re-enter successfully.
Liz and I have been cruising, albeit sometimes off and on when you take into consideration our work stints, for about 27 years. We clearly define ourselves as cruisers. It is who we are, it is what we do. The problem is we want to do more: live in a house in a beautiful and somewhat rural area of Canada, have a garden, get involved in a community whose members aren’t constantly pulling the hook and disappearing over the horizon; maybe even launch new careers, at 61 and 63 difficult probably, but not impossible.
The Leonard article really got us thinking. I totally agree with what she says. Our dilemma is that we belong in both of the camps she talks about. We clearly define ourselves as cruisers and we clearly look forward to moving forward and starting new projects even though those projects are only partially fleshed out now.
Regardless of which route we take in the future, Liz and I feel incredibly grateful that we have been able to share all of those years of voyaging together to distant shores. We experienced the joy of countless landfalls, received the hospitality and generosity of countless people on almost every continent. We felt the satisfaction one gets when you set off on your own without the safety net society provides and found that we could rely on ourselves and our boat to see us through those moments when an adventure becomes an ordeal.
What better way could there have been to see the some 50 countries that we visited- to have experienced all those countries, all those sights, all those wonderful people without even leaving our home. What a way to go.
To those contemplating such a lifestyle, can we recommend it? Absolutely! Should you go now or later? Probably now, because it is later than you think.
Finally, we’d like to thank BoatUS for providing us with this platform to tell our story and all of you who followed Liz and me in our travels for the past (almost) five years. We hope that we have provided some worthwhile insights into our lifestyle and that you have found it mildly amusing as well.
Fair winds and following seas to all…………………………………………………….