We’ve done extended cruises twice now, so you might think I’ve gotten all my fears out of the way.
There are the things under our control: how well we’re provisioned, how well we anchor, how well we watch the weather. What we do to tie up the dinghy. These all have to do with preparation and almost ticking off the boxes; if we don’t do what we are supposed to, the chances of something not-so-good happening goes up exponentially.
Then there are the things that are beyond our control. Squalls. Lightning strikes. Someone else’s boat dragging. Irritable and petty customs officials or marina people. Days when it feels like everything is going sideways. Family emergencies back home.
These fears are more difficult to deal with, as far as I am concerned. Sure, we can prepare as best we can. We can have a plan for reducing sail early, or practice storm tactics like heaving to. We can ground our electronics and set anchor watches. We can remind ourselves that we are guests in other countries, and present ourselves as respectfully and politely as possible, taking into account local customs and expectations. We can work on redundant communications systems (radio, internet, Iridium Go) and work on mental and physical flexibility to help with the down days.
As mom of a high school senior (who will be off to college in the fall) and a college freshman, as daughter with aging-but-still-really-active-and-capable parents and mother-in-law, my current biggest fear is that family emergency one.
I don’t think anything bad will happen. I’m not LOOKING for anything bad to happen.
But one of the challenges of cruising is the distance. Even if we’re cruising the Chesapeake Bay (and our plan is to go further afield), crossing the Bay can be an all-day affair. Being 3 hours from reaching land (to say nothing of then having to find a car or a way to get somewhere to rent one) is way different than getting a phone call and being able to hop in the vehicle that’s parked in your driveway. This might be one of the single most difficult concepts for non-cruisers to grasp. In our 60-mile-an-hour world, a 5-mile-an-hour existence is almost impossible to comprehend.
One reason we made the decision to not sell the house this year is that our second child, who will be a college freshman in the fall, has anxiety and wants to have a home base, even if it’s a home base they never really come back to. The mental piece of knowing a safety net is there is an important one for Bee - frankly, it’s important for all of us, though the safety net looks different to each person.
Communication is one way to build a safety net. Cell phones and data coverage make this easier than ever before, although there are still an incredible number of places around even in the US where there is spotty coverage at best. Verizon and ATT shine in different areas - as cruisers, we’re on the move all the time. Heck, even in Charlottesville, choosing which of those 2 carriers is best can depend greatly on where you’ll be spending the most time.
The drawback to this ease is, of course, the attendant worry when communication can’t happen. The first time we went cruising, being out of touch for a week or even a month at a time was absolutely no big deal. Standing in line at the local phone company (BATELCO, I’m looking at you!) clutching an international calling card or tracking down the nearest place to send a fax was our life - and we had a lot of other life to pursue. These days, I worry if a text to either kid goes unanswered for an hour.
Of course, the first time we went cruising I was the kid, not the parent. I wonder how much quiet freaking out was happening by my parents?
The ultimate way to quell the fear would be to put everyone on the boat with us and take them cruising. They would be close by, easy to communicate with, and right THERE.
Laughing out loud yet?
The next best way to mitigate the fear is to acknowledge it. To realize it’s real - and look for ways to address it. We’ll have cell phones with a data plan, an Iridium Go. A ham radio (we’re both Extra class radio operators) and a VHF. At least for the first couple of years, we’ll be cruising the East Coast of the US so should theoretically be within a couple of days of being able to get to whomever needs us, if they should physically need us. We have friends and family who can be emergency emergency back up.
We’ll set up some kind of regular communication schedule, even if it’s as simple as a text message, and we will definitely share any major movement plans ahead of time.
The first time we went cruising, I was scared of hurricanes and pirates, worried that something would happen to the boat or to me and Jeremy. This time around, I’m more apprehensive about something happening to someone I love and not being able to be there fast enough.
But life is for living, for our families and for us.
Don’t let your fear hold you back.