Jeremy Wyatt, Communications Director for World Cruising Club, has seen many bluewater cruisers set off on the voyage of a lifetime. He has advice on when, and how, to go
I spend much of my time chatting with aspiring bluewater cruisers at boat shows and the seminars we organise, about all aspects of ‘living the dream’. Some have a well thought out plan, and start the conversation with: “We’ll be going in three years”. To them I say well done and keep focused.
The harder conversations often begin with “As soon as X is sorted, we’ll be off.” In mathematics, ‘X’ is a variable, sometimes unknown. It’s particularly apt when thinking about the best time to head off cruising, as the factors influencing your decision will vary depending on many variables. Here are my thoughts on some of the most common ‘X’ factors to consider when planning for the best time to go cruising.
Or perhaps the lack of it, for to truly enjoy your liveaboard cruising life it’s best done without work interrupting. Trying to balance work and sailing is hard, even more so when you have to fit-out and prepare a boat.
This is related to employment. If you can organise your life to have sufficient funds without needing to work every day, then that is another box ticked. How much is sufficient? Well, that depends on your lifestyle. Most cruisers tend to spend what they can afford and manage their cruising life accordingly. Just remember that once you have bought and fitted out your boat, that is the significant spend done.
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Health, or relative health, is important. This is probably the number one factor that causes cruisers to cancel or radically alter their ARC sailing plans. It’s perhaps understandable, as those with the time and the funds to go sailing tend to be retired and therefore at a time of life when health shocks are statistically more likely.
The age of your children is important. With younger children the best time to cruise is from around six or seven years old through to about 12. Children need to be old enough to listen and understand instructions from their parents – their safety will depend on this – but young enough to still enjoy spending time with their parents; and lastly not yet into the secondary education exam pathway.
Having grown-up kids may not make it any easier, at least until they have flown the nest and are independent. Even then, the emotional tug of a first or new grandchild can also be an anchor to keep you close to home. Grabbing your gap-year 18-25 year old son or daughter (or their friends) can be a good crew strategy, but best have two teenagers with you as they like company of their own kind.
Unless you are a dedicated single-hander, or have a large pool of family and friends to crew for you, then you’ll want your significant other to be with you. Often it needs some time to build confidence and experience as a cruising couple, not to mention getting used to living in a space just 45ft long!
Caring for ageing parents is becoming the norm these days as we all live longer. This is often a big factor on when to go, or not.
The thought of leaving your fluffy bundle of fun at home with family or friends may be too much for some people to consider. Certainly taking Fido away with you is one solution, but it will impact on the type of boat you chose and where you’re able to go.
If you’re planning a round the world voyage then Australia and New Zealand will be off the itinerary due to very strict quarantine rules.
Perhaps one of the easier factors to get right. It may be a case of leaving the grown-up kids at home, or finding a tenant, or a housesitter. Some do ‘sell-up and sail’ but this brings its own difficulties since it involves major life de-cluttering – not an easy thing to do.
9. A suitable boat
No less important that the factors above, in some ways it easier to solve. My advice for offshore cruising is to get as much boat as you can afford, and no more than you can handle with two people. Don’t forget that this boat will be your home for many months, so you need to enjoy living on it, and have sufficient room to store all those trappings of boating life. Locker space makes living easy!
I can’t tell you when is the best time to go off and sail, since your mix of ‘X’ factors will be different to mine. Having all your boxes ticked will be the right time for you. However, having seen many plans fall away when one or more of the ‘X’ factors isn’t right, I’m a strong advocate of ‘don’t leave it too late’ or you may not go at all.
First published in the December 2019 edition of Yachting World.