Is There Life After Full-Time Cruising?

Phyllis in "thankful to be voyaging" mode.
Phyllis in “thankful to be voyaging” mode.

Most of the time I consider myself to be incredibly fortunate to live the life I do. But, every once in a while—I’m kind of scared to even admit this, as I realize how many people wish they could go cruising—I wonder: Did John and I make the right choice twenty years ago, when we quit our jobs, rented our house (which we eventually sold), and went off cruising full-time?

No Place To Go Back To

It’s usually when I hear someone talking about how busy they are with family and friends, how connected and involved they are in their community, how rooted they feel in their place, that I have these thoughts.

Yea, I have friends, but they are spread all over, and I’m not part of their daily life. Yea, I have family, but they all live inland, where I don’t think I can ever live again after spending so many years by the water. Yea, I’m involved in a community, but it’s the sailing community, and it is, for the most part, online and world-wide (though we are starting to make connections here in Nova Scotia).

And, no, I don’t feel rooted in any one place. Since I’ve moved around all my life (with my parents—who continued to move after I left—and afterwards on my own), I’ve never had that sense of rootedness that people who have lived in the same place all or most of their lives have.

Though this post is a reflection of my feelings, not John’s, I think it’s important to add that when we sold our house in Bermuda in 2004 to fund our continued cruising, we knew we were closing that door forever, thereby ruthlessly tearing up any roots that John had embedded in the place he was born and grew up in. So he is, like me, rootless.

Which means that, unlike for most cruisers (I’m making an assumption here), for us there is no home place “to go back to” after we stop full-time voyaging.

Isolated Anchorages In Remote Places

And our usual form of cruising adds to this sense of disconnection: Instead of sailing from populated anchorage to populated anchorage with a number of other cruisers with whom future sailing-in-company itineraries are planned and lifelong friendships are developed, we tend to seek out isolated anchorages in remote parts of the northern high latitudes.

And, for the most part, I am okay with this. I have never been one to get involved in a lot of group activities or go out multiple nights of a week. Neither is John, though he is more extroverted than I am.

Besides, for us, anyway, the full-time live-aboard cruising lifestyle, by definition, means you and your partner are happy to spend a lot of time with each other. And not a day goes by that I am not thankful for the wonderful interesting life I have had and continue to have with a wonderful interesting partner.

What If…?

However, on the other hand, our un-rootedness and our primarily solitary cruising lifestyle do contribute to another big part of the insecurity I feel, which is that my whole lifestyle revolves around one person. If something happens to John I won’t just lose my life partner, I’ll lose my job (I won’t be able to keep AAC going on my own), my home (the boat), my mode of traveling (I won’t continue cruising without him—I started too late and I’m now too old), and probably a big part of my community (the sailing community).

So, though I don’t want to waste the wonderful present by worrying about a future problem that might never occur, when I hear people talking about their strong sense of place in a community, in a wide circle of family and friends, I get nervous.

The Future

And then, of course, there is the fact that twenty years have passed since John and I embarked on the cruising lifestyle, and part of the reason these ponderings are showing up with more frequency these days is that, as we are aging, we are starting to look at things somewhat differently than we did all those years ago. We are starting to yearn for a place that we can call home—a place where we have friends, connections, roots of our own.

But that entails no longer voyaging full-time, because developing roots and connections means, bottomline, being in one place for extended periods of time. It means being on the radar when people are planning social occasions. It means getting involved in a community, by volunteering, or taking classes, or being part of a bookclub. But, before we can do any of that, it means choosing the place where we want to plant our roots, and that we’re finding hard to do.

And one of the reasons we are finding the decision so difficult is that it requires figuring out what to do with Morgan’s Cloud during the times we aren’t voyaging, which is what we’ve been exploring the last couple of years:

  • hauling her in Nova Scotia,
  • leaving her in the water in Nova Scotia,
  • taking her south for the winter to leave in the water where it doesn’t freeze,
  • relocating across the continent to British Columbia where the water doesn’t get hard,
  • changing boats…

We’re considering them all.

So, over the next while, we will be writing about this new journey we are on: the journey of figuring out life after full-time cruising.


Do any other live-aboard cruisers share my feelings of un-rootedness? Are you also thinking about what happens after full-time cruising? Or have you already started down this road? Please leave a comment.

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Phyllis has sailed over 40,000 offshore miles with John on their McCurdy & Rhodes 56, Morgan's Cloud, most of it in the high latitudes, and has crossed the Atlantic three times. As a woman who came to sailing as an adult, she brings a fresh perspective to cruising, which has helped her communicate what they do in an approachable way, first in yachting magazines and, for the last 18 years, as co-editor/publisher of AAC.

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