Great Things About Voyaging–We Don’t Have to Travel

JHHOMD1-2170593

It’s funny…people we meet often assume that Phyllis and I are great travelers. And it’s easy to see how they might come to that conclusion. After all we have spent most of the last 20 years moving from place to place around the Atlantic rim. But actually nothing could be further from the truth.

That reality has been reinforced lately. You see, we left our base camp some 10 weeks ago, escaping the horrors of a Nova Scotia winter in an uninsulated cabin, and have been on the road ever since taking a good look at the western part of Phyllis’ native, and my adopted, land. I would be the first to say how incredibly fortunate we are to have this opportunity. And by and large we have had a wonderful time.

But guess what? We’re really missing our just perfectly soft pillows and perfectly firm mattress. And don’t get me started on the “pleasures” of road food, when eating out, and the frustration of cooking in ten different unfamiliar kitchens equipped with cheap thin pots and blunt knives, when we eat in. Then there are the joys of moving in and out of a new abode several times a week.

Now I’m not complaining…well not really, but what this experience brings home to us is how wonderful voyaging on a liveaboard boat is. We get to go to wild and stunningly beautiful places. We explore. We hike our buns off. We meet nice people and learn about interesting cultures. But at the end of a day we get to go home to our stuff, our way of doing things, and our food.

Phyllis and I call it running away with home, and it’s wonderful.

JHH_12102-Amalyies Havn

“Home” on the east coast of Greenland.

{ 24 comments… add one }

  • Dick Stevenson February 21, 2014, 4:10 am

    John & Phyllis,
    After 12 years of full time live-aboard life, you express Ginger’s and my sentiments exactly. We love wandering widely seeing new places and meeting new people while at the same time returning home to our own familiar mug of tea and our own personally configured pillow. For us, that is the ultimate in having your cake and eating it too.
    Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy

    Reply
  • Gus Wilson February 21, 2014, 6:20 am

    Helen and I could not agree more with John and Phyllis and Dick and Ginger. ( Wings is five paces from Alchemy in London.) We’ve been aboard since January 1, 2000, and 14 years ago yesterday set sail east from Galveston Bay in Texas. It is amusing when people ask us where home is – often when we are withing sight of or aboard Wings, and the answer is simple.
    Gus Wilson S/V Wings

    Reply
  • Matt February 21, 2014, 10:07 am

    The last time Katy and I did the Western Canada trip, we camped out of the back of a twelve-year-old Hyundai for three weeks. That’s certainly a lot of fun. But it also means you’re losing a lot of time to set-up and take-down every day, and you do find yourself praying for good weather a lot.

    I think that kind of travelling was a big factor driving our current interest in travel by boat…. five minutes to back down the ramp, extend the outriggers and park the trailer, and everything’s ready to go on board. Compare to an hour of unpacking, pitching the tent, inflating air mattresses, etc. and then repeating in reverse the next morning.

    Reply
    • John February 22, 2014, 1:48 pm

      Hi Matt,

      Now that’s a good point and gets one thinking. I have long thought your Superwind would be a great boat for exploring say Labrador. Trailer to Cartwright, launch, and off you go. I guess you could even use the boat as a camper on land while in transit?

      Reply
      • Matt February 23, 2014, 2:09 pm

        Yes indeed, John, we’re building the Starwind 860 with the idea of being able to live aboard for a few days while she’s on the trailer. It’ll be a bit more awkward than a real camper (climbing the boarding ladder to get in, etc.) but it will suffice for short periods.

        Most trailerable boats with cabins can be built (or modified) to allow short term live-aboard use while on the trailer. The key is to design the major systems so they are not dependent on the surrounding water – so the head should draw water from a supply tank instead of from a through-hull, you should be able to charge the boat’s batteries from the truck’s auxiliary power circuit as well as from the boat’s engine, things like that.

        While we won’t have anywhere near the on-board space of a “real” cruising boat, the beauty of this approach is what it does to your cruising range. We have 35,000 square kilometres of lake- and river-strewn wilderness available to us for day trips within a 90-minute highway ride of home base. Make a weekend trip of it, and we can choose from over a thousand distinct boating destinations spread over 200,000 square kilometres while still being back at the office on Monday.

        Reply
  • David Nutt February 21, 2014, 10:44 am

    Judy and I and our 4 kids spent 6 years and sailed 42,000 miles around the planet and never left home. During a brief trip back to the States our youngest said, when we arrived at our house, “I remember this island”. Now that we are back we often feel our life is hard aground and no tide or tug could ever get the house to the water and if it did the place would surely sink like a stone. Fortunately Danza lays on her mooring and will be our home again.

    Reply
  • Scott Flanders February 21, 2014, 12:47 pm

    John, there is an alternative. Mary and I have lived the past two winters in the Bubba Camper, Dodge crew cab long bed with a 4 wheelcampers.com, Keystone model in the bed. It is a pop up with little windage. We also tow a Jeep. So we have our little home with us while Egret waits in Iceland for our return. Looking at the ice charts it will be a while before we can return thru Greenland and eventually to the U.S. In the Bubba Camper we pick a spot and explore by Jeep and hike quite a bit. It also gets us to places for exceptional photography. Currently near Sedona, Arizona in red rock country. Stunning.

    S.

    Reply
    • John February 21, 2014, 9:39 pm

      Hi Scott and Victor,

      Campers are certainly an interesting alternative for running away with home on land. Not sure we are ready for that yet, particularly since we are really focused on getting back on the water after 18 months on the beach, but it’s certainly something to think about.

      Reply
      • Matt February 22, 2014, 10:31 am

        My wife’s grandfather made that switch a few years ago…. sold the Nonsuch, bought a Roadtrek, and hit the highways for a while.
        You reach a point, eventually, where the urge to voyage is still strong but the ability to handle halyards and dock lines is not. At that point, an easier-to-handle land vehicle that shares a cruising sailboat’s spirit and purpose really starts to look appealing.

        Reply
        • John February 22, 2014, 1:38 pm

          Hi Matt,

          We have some friends, also sailors, who just bought a Roadtrek. Although I know exactly nothing about campers, the Roadtrek looked like a good option: self contained, quite rugged, and not too big, but still very comfortable for two.

          Reply
  • Victor Raymond February 21, 2014, 12:51 pm

    When we travel by land we either take the RV (Mercedes Sprinter so the mileage is good) or by SUV so we can carry our own water, cooking gear, food, utensils plus gear and clothing for the fun at hand. Our required stops are for fuel, fresh food and good water; nothing else.
    The only difficult transition is from boat to land and back again as we don’t have double of everything.
    I have a full time logistics managers (Judy and I) working day and night to be sure we have the right stuff in the right place. Inevitably something is left behind then rediscovered when returning. :)

    Reply
    • John February 21, 2014, 9:42 pm

      Hi Victor,

      We go through the same thing every time we move from the boat to Base Camp or back the other way. No matter how many lists we keep, something always gets screwed up! We have finally given up and are working toward two of everything.

      Reply
      • David Snyder February 24, 2014, 10:50 am

        When my wife and I started doing overnight trips, we quickly realized that we needed a separate wine bottle opener for the house and the boat and they couldn’t be shared (and can opener). There’s nothing worse than getting to an anchorage and having nothing to open the wine bottle with. Luckily in the past few years we’ve “mistake proofed” the problem by only buying wine with screw tops for the boat trips!

        Reply
  • Richard Elder February 21, 2014, 7:23 pm

    Like I’ve always said, when you are sailing on the ocean on a sailboat you are already there. (As opposed to a powerboat where you are in the process of getting somewhere.)

    Reply
  • Stedem Wood February 22, 2014, 3:09 am

    I’m enjoying everyone’s comments.

    Two decades ago I finished a round trip sail to New Zealand from my home near Seattle. The cruising life was a great pivot for someone career bound, and something to “keep in my back pocket,” as I pursued a more harried existence.

    Since my cruising experience, I’ve been convinced that a boat is the ultimate backpack, and everyone’s comments seem to agree.

    I’m back on a boat today, and get to resume cruising from where I turned around last time. The boat’s a bit of an upgrade, so I’m even more convinced that I couldn’t find a better way to visit a very large swath of the world.

    Stedem Wood

    Reply
  • Dick Stevenson February 22, 2014, 3:58 am

    Hey all,
    I greatly look forward to wandering North America in some kind of 4 wheeled vehicle. It has so much to offer.
    In preparation for a time when we are no longer full time on the boat we have started kicking tires and doing research. I would appreciate contact with those who have boating and 4 wheels voyaging experience.
    I suspect this is best done off line so I can be reached at Alchemy128(at)aol.com.
    Thanks, Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy

    Reply
    • John February 22, 2014, 1:43 pm

      Hi Dick,

      Given the number of voyagers that eventually transition to campers, I’m perfectly happy to host the discussion here at AAC.

      One question I have for those of you that know about campers is what about winter travel? Phyllis and I are really enjoying this tour through the Rockies and the western Canada in winter. Is it practical to do that in a camper with night time temperatures down to -20C?

      Reply
      • Victor Raymond February 22, 2014, 8:06 pm

        John, Dick, Matt et al,
        Winter camping in an RV is not without its challenges but doable. My suggestion is to order or buy a used RV with that in mind. Many of the same systems used on boats ie hydronic heating with small boilers, using engine coolant for domestic hot water and heating with fan coils or small radiators is all possible. You won’t be blazing new trails here with these systems. Quality and quantity of insulation, auxiliary heating pads for all water tanks is something to consider before buying rather than after.
        4×4 RV’s are available but usually custom jobs unless you take a 4×4 pickup truck and add a winterized camper which I would not recommend having tried the relatively comfortable ride of a Mercedes chassis ie Sprinter models. Many coach manufacturers have taken this chassis and made wonderfully compact and efficient (albeit costly) Class C motorhomes with them. The dual rear wheels has a lot going for it in terms of roll which is hard to match with a slide in pickup camper.
        Needless to say there are endless possibilities and solutions depending on one’s actual and perceived needs.
        A good friend told me in the beginning not to expect perfection on the first purchase. Buy expecting to turn it in for a suitable model next go around. Expensive yes, but you just can’t think of everything until you do it.

        Reply
        • Richard Elder February 23, 2014, 12:44 am

          Hi Victor & Dick,
          When I lived in Bellingham WA I had an older Chinook 19 footer that I used as a ski cabin for trips to Canada for several years. Great to have a forced air heater and hot shower ready as soon as you are done skiing, and at that size its perfect for stealth camping in a city. Winterizing — added insulation around the tankage and heat tape in critical areas isn’t particularly difficult.

          Your Sprinter is certainly the Mercedes of small RV’s, but unless you drive it 30K a year a low mileage mid 80′s gas Chinook will give you equal build quality and a lower total annual ownership cost because the purchase price is so much lower.

          Reply
        • John February 23, 2014, 1:16 pm

          Hi Victor,

          Thanks for the first hand information. Your last tip brings to mind boats in that most of the voyagers I know have owned several boats before getting it right!

          Reply
          • Laurent February 23, 2014, 6:26 pm

            I owned 2 campers for a total of about 17 years.
            They were both cheap 2nd or 3rd hand commercial vans I converted with with limited comfort and budgets.
            I think that the main interest of campers is that, wherever you are, you can freely decide at the last minute to eat at restaurant or “at home” and, in Europe at least, you can, or could, often camp for one or two nights near tourist sites or beaches without to much fuss, installing your home-bedroom very close to the archeological site you are going to visit the next day.
            I think that, for this kind of use, it makes no sense to buy elaborate and/or very visible campers. This will alienate the restaurant owners, or the camper-parks owners you decided to avoid with no sensible advantage for you.
            Also typical luxury campers usually make limited yearly mileages while their liveabord installations are built to last 20 years or more if used 1 or 2 months per year.
            After 10 years, the mechanics often get hard to maintain (part availability etc…), while the furniture etc.. is still nearly new, so you have to be very educated in mechanics for the next 10 years or to replace the whole vehicle at a high cost long before most of what you paid for is really worn-out.
            If you want 4×4 transmission, hydroponic heating, insulation, fully equipped bathroom + additional internal space to be able to use your camper as a mobile ski-resort studio in cold climates, I’m afraid that the amortization cost of this vehicle in its expected life-time might make those kind of holidays a bit expensive…

            Laurent

  • Dick Stevenson February 22, 2014, 3:13 pm

    John,
    Great.
    The short answer (to RVs tolerating low temps) appears to be: probable not without a specialty item. This was a major question as I wish to spend at least one more winter of my life doing serious x-country skiing, preferably back country somewhere. Admittedly, I was looking at RVs in southern California so most of the dealers knew only a little. The best I could find among conventional brands were promises of not having pipes/tanks etc. freeze for temps of just below freezing, maybe -5 C or so, but if I mentioned northern Vermont night-time temps (-30 C), they blanched. Some of the big bus types with enclosed everything did better as there is some sort of heat going to the storage areas but no one would commit to a temp. There are also specialty RVs (some looking like a Humvee on steroids) that sound like you could live on the moon on them—at a very pretty price. Maybe a reader knows more as we are just starting our research.
    My best, Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy

    Reply
    • John February 23, 2014, 1:14 pm

      Hi Dick,

      Thanks for the information. Really useful to us since, like you and Ginger, x-country skiing is one of our primary motivators for land cruising. Phyllis and I would really appreciate updates as you learn more.

      Reply
  • scott flanders February 24, 2014, 10:46 am

    All. We have been at for nearly 13 years of full time live aboard and managed to squeeze in a 5 cape circumnavigation in a small powerboat. However, its time for a change, not give up boating but include something different. This is why we bought what we did and have been winter camping the past 2 winters. We have 2 electric heaters and propane heat when dry camping. Its large for a pop top – bed mounted camper but small for a camper. As you know as a boater you don’t really need much. We have a diesel 4wd pickup and tow a Jeep. The Jeep thing has been a ball and still gives us a bit of a rush now and again off road and then we also enjoy photography so the whole package rolls along pretty well. We can be contacted offline at scottflndrs@yahoo.com

    S.

    Reply

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