The Boat to RV Transition

The Class A motorhome – self-propelled, on a dedicated bus/RV chassis – is ideal for those who want to just park and relax, with no setup tasks. They usually tow a small car or 4×4 “dinghy” for exploring in town.

Every cruiser above a certain age knows the feeling. It’s a lingering, hazy fear that someday, possibly sooner than later, hauling on halyards and grinding on winches will get to be too much, and the sailing lifestyle will come to an end.

Some sailors, defiant to the end, continue to voyage with the wind and the water until the elements (or worried families) put a stop to it. Others, perhaps more pragmatically, give up on the wind, but continue to travel the waters under power until the nursing home beckons.

Some sell the boat, buy a Florida condo, and spend their golden years by the seaside. Some turn tourist, living out of suitcases and airport lounges, hopping from all-inclusive resort to cruise ship to Caribbean time-share to rental cottage.

And some want to take their own bed, their own kitchen, and their own comfy chair with them on their continuing voyages. They turn their exploratory instincts inland, trading in their sails and anchors for tires and trailer hitches. Yes indeed, it’s time to talk motorhomes.

Trailer Park Life?

I’ve spent part of every summer for the last 20-odd years driving and camping across North America. And it’s really not that surprising that one runs into a few ex-sailors who’ve moved from boats to RVs. What is surprising is the sheer variety of lifestyles that show up among this crowd.

There’s certainly a large contingent—one that, to be honest, I can’t quite understand—who buy large and luxurious RVs only to park them bumper-to-bumper in boring flat gravel-covered fields every wet weekend.

There are others, though, for whom the RV is the same nomadic enabling machine as their old cruising boat used to be. With no real home base except on paper, they move with the seasons, staying just long enough to experience a place before moving onward to the next destination.

Another group—one in which I’ve encountered quite a few ex-sailors—likes to set up a home base in a pleasant midsize town from which they conduct over-the-road voyages of a few weeks to a few months at a time. They synchronize their medical, financial, and legal dealings around the home base months, and switch back to the relative ease and speed of road travel when they become stir-crazy.

Fifth-wheel trailers must be paired with a pickup truck. They are the easiest large trailers to handle on the road. A trucker’s licence is only required for the very largest, but basic trucker’s training is highly recommended for all sizes.

A Certain Appeal

The water-borne life is, to be honest, wonderful. I’m more than a little envious of those who are able to live it full-time.

After a few weeks on passage, though, maybe with a day or two of fresh gale thrown in for good measure, there’s something to be said for trips lasting only a few smooth, comfortable hours. And throughout most of Europe and North America a change of culture and scenery that would take days by water is rarely more than a few hours by RV.

There’s also the obvious, but sometimes overlooked, truth that a huge fraction of the world’s interesting places aren’t reachable by boat but can easily be visited by road. A yacht won’t take you to Drumheller, or the Blue Ridge Mountains, or the Grand Canyon.

Cruising by road also presents a potentially welcome break on the logistics front. Food can be procured two days, rather than two months, at a time. Spare parts usually come from a supply chain, rather than being stockpiled. The weather is something to keep an eye on, not something to run your life by.

This straight trailer would be paired with a full-size SUV or pickup truck. Its lower profile reduces drag, saving fuel on long cross-country voyages, and reduces the odds of hitting a low bridge. Licensing laws and the stability limits of large SUVs mean that straight trailers are limited to about four tonnes.

Not That Hard A Move

To people just starting out in cruising, the idea of being responsible for a yacht and all its systems is daunting. There is so much to learn, there are so many things that can go wrong, and something important is always broken.

Moving in the opposite direction is, from what I’ve seen of people who’ve made the transition, relatively easy:

  • An RV’s systems are, for the most part, just cheaper and easier-to-reach versions of their marine counterparts.
  • The skills needed to drive one safely are easy to learn from any one of thousands of trucking schools.
  • And while things can (and do) break, calling the Automobile Association from the shoulder of Interstate 90 is certainly preferable to calling the Coast Guard from the leading edge of a Force 9 gale.

While you can option-up a luxury motorhome to a million-plus dollars if you’re feeling profligate, highway cruising on a tight budget doesn’t face the same equipment and cost constraints as high-seas cruising. It’s quite possible to pick up a dated but quite serviceable travel trailer or Class C motorhome for ten or twenty thousand dollars, try the lifestyle for a few months to a year, and then bail out for not much more than the cost of fuel, site fees, and a few minor repairs.

“Park model” RVs can be towed over the road by commercial trucks, but are really designed to be left in one place for a while. Often more luxurious and more dependent on shorepower than their streamlined cousins, they’re meant for people who want a “portable cottage”.

It’s Not All Roses

One thing I sometimes hear from people who have made this transition is that, on the boat, they were separated from the industrialized world. Out on the ocean, it’s just you, the yacht, the sea, and the wind.

On land, though, you can’t get away from the human influence. Your voyages rely on roads, built by others and shared with others. Your destinations, if they’re at all worth visiting, are undoubtedly being visited by others. The long periods of self-sufficient introspection that characterize ocean voyaging are noticeably absent from highway voyaging.

It’s also worth noting that many RVs are not built to be self-sufficient for long. And If you’re going to depend on shorepower and municipal water, the costs add up quickly:

  • Across most of North America, serviced overnight sites go for $30 to $60 a night. (Many of the best locations are unserviced, being limited to vehicles with their own batteries and water-sewer systems and to travellers willing to go without such amenities.)
  • Fuel, too, adds up quickly if you plan to pile on the mileage.
  • RVs depreciate at truly horrifying rates in their first few years of life. $200,000 this year becomes $160,000 next year, and $130,000 the year after that. Luckily, the market for used RVs is much more liquid than the market for cruising yachts, and that fall-off-a-cliff depreciation means that good deals on last decade’s rigs are easy to come by.

The darling of the North American rental fleet, Class C motorhomes are essentially the interior of a cruising boat bolted to the back of a commercial van chassis. Inexpensive and relatively easy to drive, they’re a popular choice among cruisers who can no longer grind a mainsheet winch without feeling sore. (The smaller Class B – built into the back of a van, with no boxy protrusion – is a better exploration vehicle, but is difficult to live out of for more than three or four weeks at a time.)

Is This For Me?

Maybe it is. Maybe it’s not. For quite a few people I’ve met in my travels, the RV has proven to be a good way to keep a voyager’s spirit alive and happy long after the human body has given up on the grunt work of sailing.

Just as long as you don’t do the “bumper-to-bumper in a gravel field on weekends in the rain” thing. That’s just weird.

Comments

[We know that several of our offshore voyaging members have given RVs a try. We would really like to hear about your experiences with the transition and how land cruising compares to traveling on the water. Please leave a comment. Eds.]

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Meet the Author

Matt

Matt, Engineering Correspondent, is a Professional Engineer and true renaissance man, with a wide range of expertise including photography and all things boat design. He has a unique ability to make complex subjects easy to understand and he keeps an eye on the rest of us to make sure that we don’t make any technical mistakes. Working as M. B. Marsh Marine Design, Matt designs innovative powerboats of all shapes and sizes.

33 comments… add one
  • Rene Nov 7, 2017, 4:24 am

    Thanks Mat for the interesting switch from water to hiway.
    Before we bought the boat we were doing a fair amount of traveling in our Monaco diesel-pusher, and still have it for the day when we no longer can manage the boat.
    There is little to compare between the two lifestyles, other then you leave your home behind.
    Depreciation ruled out for me to buy a new one. Mine was 10 years old with the 8.3 ltr Cummins and in like new condition. We park it always indoors, otherwise I would have sold it. It is much cheaper than a boat, like insurance, no bottom paint to worry about, no marina fees etc. Because we live on an acreage, and rarely visit RV parks. We are always on the move, and as such didnt want slide outs. For security we had a 150lbs wolf-cross onboard and never had any problems. It is a wonderful way to travel, but would advice to get proper drivers license and in Canada an “Air-ticket” is required for the air-brakes, which takes one day of instruction and a test to pass. It always helps to be mechanically handy, same goes for a boat and saves you a lot of money. Generators are somewhat smaller, fridges are usually electric and or propane, forced air heating on most units. Tires in Canada are good for 10 years and rarely are worn out after 10 years, and try to keep them out of the sun. Its a good idea to be a member of Good Sam and hopefully you never have to use it. Motorhomes are much simpler to operate than boats, not to worry about wind and currents, but boats do get you away from the madden crowd. Both are great lifestyles, and many do it full time, but we always enjoy returning to our acreage called “Anchorage”
    Rene

  • Francisco Moreno Nov 7, 2017, 7:51 am

    A decade ago, we rented a camper van (a small RV) in New Zealand for a couple of weeks. My wife and I sometimes discuss that maybe someday we’ll go RVing, so enjoyable and memorable the trip was.

    But a large difference I see is water for human consumption. We cruise on essentially a regular home style water-quota, thanks to the watermaker and saltwater heads. Plus, our wastewater tanks are enormous compared to the sizes I see on most RVs, and don’t even remind me of the “cassette” on that NZ campervan and the fact I had to walk it over to a toilet every couple of days. Gag.

    I’ve seen the wastewater facilities available in Europe for RV’s —drive over a grill by the side of the road, get out (step on this grill !), and open a seacock… and that’s the part I don’t look forward to.

    • Matt Nov 7, 2017, 7:40 pm

      I’ve come across a few RVs (usually the ones that have been modified by ex-sailors) that have substantial water tankage of their own.
      Fresh off the lot, though, most of them make do with rather tiny freshwater tanks. The assumption seems to be that you’ll either fill the tank every couple of days, or there will be a garden hose tap to plug in to.
      North American wastewater disposal facilities, at least, seem to be pretty well standardized, pretty easy to get to, and not too unpleasant to work with.

      • Dick Stevenson Nov 7, 2017, 8:48 pm

        Hi Matt and Francisco,
        In N America there have been numerous type of black water disposal types and the only ones that were really objectionable were the ones that were poorly maintained. As an alternative I know some RVs (and boats) are going for composting toilets. As for water, unless you are truly off the grid, most anywhere will allow you a fill up. Extra tankage in paid-for bottle water or jerry cans is easy if you plan to be off the grid for a bit.
        My best, Dick Stevenson, l/v Alchemy

  • Dick Stevenson Nov 7, 2017, 8:10 am

    Hi Matt,
    Thanks for pursuing this subject: a well done beginning.
    I had always had a dream of wandering in an RV: probably had that dream even before sailing cruising.
    Once a grandchild entered our family, our 12 years of full time live aboard cruising moved to 6 on 6 off. Of those 6 months off, 2+ months are spent with our grandson & family while the rest of the time we wander the southern ½ of the US (we are doing this in the winter, so we are restricted to climes where constant below freezing is not likely).
    Our first winter we bought a small camper van to get some experience. It was great, but small for us to live-aboard for months at a time where weather is not ideal (like a boat, lots of time is spent outside when possible and lots of southern US can be quite cool/wet during the winter). It also was not ideal to get to trailheads where gravel/unpaved roads were the norm and most RVs definitely do not like unpaved roads. But it was a great way to get a foot in the door.
    We had outlined what we thought would work better and moved up to a 25-foot class C similar to the Greyhawk, one of your last pictures. With this we tow a car (our dinghy) that is built for off-road to get us to trailheads and off the beaten track locations (and makes excursions locally to shop, go to museums etc. far easier). We have 2 winters with this set up and it has checked most of the boxes we want for the life we lead.
    A couple of points: We spend much time in the US federal and state parks and many of them have size restrictions. I believe that rigs up to 28 feet (maybe 30 feet) can get into most, but much beyond that precludes many parks.
    Getting interrupted: will post now and write more later.
    Dick Stevenson, l/v Alchemy

    • Matt Nov 7, 2017, 7:37 pm

      Thanks for sharing your experience, Dick. The setup you describe – a class C motorhome with a smaller “dinghy” car in tow – seems to be one of the better ones for adventuring.
      Using a small 4×4 off-roader as the dinghy also means that (usually) you can just leave the 4×4 mechanisms in neutral to tow it flat, and not have to mess around with trailers or wheel dollies.

      I do know of one particularly nice place that had a sign saying something like: “This is how tall the roof overhanging the road by the office is. We aren’t moving the office and we aren’t moving the road. If you don’t fit, you can camp in the parking lot.” Compact dimensions do matter in a lot of places; a trailer more than about 10 m long & 3 m high starts to get pretty tight to handle in a lot of the best overnight spots.

      • Dick Stevenson Nov 7, 2017, 8:33 pm

        Hi Matt, And that is exactly how we tow. Checks a lot of boxes for us. Dick

  • Kevin McShane Nov 7, 2017, 2:54 pm

    Too bad I can’t post a photo of the camper I built on a 4×4 F-350 diesel. Wary and weary of mass produced, feebly insulated, non-aerodynamic, foolishly appointed slide-in campers, I started from scratch. Doing duty as Colorado ski hut, desert SouthWest off-road biking sag wagon, and outpost near the boat, I used 4″ insulation with full length ski cubby, three bike Yakima mount off the back, and all the infrastructure: propane, electrics, plumbing and cooking/fridge amenities. Long wide skylights, plenty of windows, all aluminum skin much like the Airstream, friends christened my creation “KonTiki” and I think it may actually float.

    • RDE Nov 7, 2017, 11:36 pm

      Sounds like a great rig. Used ambulances with a Powerstroke and only about 100k on them are everywhere for 5-6k. Hire a shipwright to build a yacht interior in one and you have a far superior rig to a 120k Sprinter at a fraction of the cost.

      The local ski area runs similar buses up a 2,000′ elevation climb on snow covered roads many times a day. I question whether 4 wheel drive is necessary or even desirable on this type of rig. Especially when you put a winch on front.

      Depreciation: You can buy a premium quality diesel motor home with all steel chassis (Foretravel Unihome) that cost a quarter million dollars new for about 25k. The problem is that big motorhomes are like boats without anchoring gear— they can only go to motorhome ghettos. Not my style. If I car camp I look for little dirt roads that nobody goes on.

      • Matt Nov 10, 2017, 7:18 am

        In probably 40,000 km of over-the-road travel, including some very remote places, I’ve come across a total of 4 km where I actually needed four-wheel drive.

        You pay a non-negligible cost in weight, maintenance, and fuel consumption to have a 4×4 system. It is totally worth it if you really are serious about going a long way off the beaten path. But, most of the time, people who are into that kind of travel will park the RV somewhere flat and accessible, and use a small towed 4×4 such as a Jeep Wrangler to do the exploring.

  • Dick Stevenson Nov 7, 2017, 3:30 pm

    Hi Kevin, Sounds terrific. Dick Stevenson

  • Doug Nov 7, 2017, 3:57 pm

    If you’re looking for a smaller camper, http://xpcamper.com/ are the best built I’ve found.

    • Kevin McShane Nov 7, 2017, 4:20 pm

      Thanks Dick.
      For a cool $450K, Earthroamer.com near Boulder, will blow knock your socks off.
      I suggest clicking their exciting website just to see what can be done with enough money and creative genius.

      • Kevin McShane Nov 7, 2017, 4:22 pm
        • Matt Nov 7, 2017, 7:47 pm

          Oh my. That’s an impressively capable vehicle. I cannot, however, imagine spending $450,000 (that’s, like, a fully equipped Hallberg-Rassy HR40) on one! At that price, I’d start to expect Unimog underpinnings instead of a Ford F-pickup….

  • Dick Stevenson Nov 7, 2017, 4:34 pm

    Hi Kevin,
    A friend is a principal at “Overland Journal” and “Expedition Portal” and has introduced me to many of these quite wonderful vehicles and to how impressively they could empty your wallet. They are astounding vehicles and if your wish is go most anywhere by land in any weather, they check a lot of boxes. And if anyone wants to see them in action, I do not believe there could be a better place than Iceland.
    My best, Dick Stevenson, l/v Alchemy

  • Rene Nov 7, 2017, 5:47 pm

    Hi Dick,
    Interesting you bring up Iceland.
    In 1968 we sail in a 30ft Avenir(built by Huisman) to the east coast of Iceland.
    The local fishermen kept asking, where do you keep the fish? No we do not fish, just exploring. But you are too far north with a small boat like this. Thats where we all agreed on.
    The locals could only drive over to the next village, 6km, but every one had a four wheel drive Jeep, we had never seen before in Europe. Then we were told the Japanese were using Iceland as a testing ground.
    Rene

  • Dick Stevenson Nov 7, 2017, 6:13 pm

    Hi Rene,
    A coffee table photo essay book of the eye-popping, over the top, but still clearly functional for their intended purpose vehicles of Iceland would be great fun.
    Dick

    • Matt Nov 7, 2017, 7:54 pm

      I would love to see that. The creativity of Icelandic mechanics when confronted with really hard problems is quite amazing. In a way, it’s the same effect that we used to see (and sometimes still do) with local boatbuilding traditions adapting to the materials and conditions of each area, and yielding geographically and culturally distinctive classic designs as a result. Something we should be careful not to lose in an era of mass production and increasing homogeneity.

  • Dick Stevenson Nov 8, 2017, 9:15 am

    Hi all,
    I thought I would jot down some random thoughts for cruisers on boats thinking of land cruising on an RV. In no particular order:
    You are quite likely to be dis-appointed in the quality of build of most RVs. Some approach what we are used to on our ocean-going sailboats, but most do not come close. This is not necessarily a criticism. Your life is not dependent on the quality of construction of your RV in the same way as it is on a boat. Also, weight matters, but less weight on an RV means thinner walls, not higher tech.
    Land cruising demands far less of what I call “low grade anxiety” or just plain vigilance: again, your life and the well-being of your vehicle are not on the line.
    Some have commented on the un-appealing nature of the congregation of big rigs en masse. (Please remember Georgetown in the Bahamas or Marathon.) Like anchorages, there is something for everyone. The campgrounds in many nat’l and state parks in the US (and they are unheralded jewels) are often simply delightful places to enjoy the parks and return to your own “home” at night. That and meet like-minded people. Isolation is also possible with a bit more effort as is a more sedentary campground with lots of planned activities and lots of social activity.
    Most RVs do not like rough roads and the price goes up dramatically with the vehicle’s ability to negotiate off road challenges. Our solution is to park our RV in some reasonable spot and use our “dinghy” to get to off paved roads locations.
    Same with tolerating cold. “Four season RVs” are generally not up to tolerating sustained low temps (low 20sF, -5C) without mods. (We have tolerated overnight low 20s in our generic class C.) My take is that true 4 season RVs are expedition level vehicles and, once again, the price shoots up. Again, this makes sense as the vast majority of RV users think it is crazy not to go toward warmth if you have a vehicle that can move (again similar to water cruisers).
    For those with real aspirations to enjoy expedition level (off paved road) wandering in vehicles, go to “Overland Journal” (http://store.overlandjournal.com/) for a ton of ideas, wonderful pictures, and good write ups of trips.
    My best, Dick Stevenson, l/v Alchemy

  • Leigh Merchant Nov 8, 2017, 12:20 pm

    There is one more category of RV out there that is a bit more like life on the water in that one can get to those remote locations: a go anywhere type of truck with a fully outfitted, fully insulated (to minus 40C.) accommodation on a four wheel drive Unimog or similar. Sail in the summer, keep the Mog the other side of the equator and spend another summer in it. Then back to the boat. Subsequent commenters are obviously aware of this type of vehicle and make good points. A couple of other things that will remind you of sailing while driving one of these rigs is that the cost of parts is equally high and the buy-in price is about the same.
    Cheers, Leigh

  • Douwe Gorter Nov 8, 2017, 1:11 pm

    Not quite the information I am looking for on a website aimed at sailing. I’d prefer to stay with SAILING, (yeah correct, not looking for the perfect motorboat on this website either), there are plenty websites for camping, RV’s etc.

    • Kevin McShane Nov 8, 2017, 1:32 pm

      Howzit Douwe,
      As Tom Hanks might say: “Yeah, okay, I get it, but…”
      As like minded folks might digress during a conversation, often in a fascinating direction, my take on this topic is leavened by a recollection of seeing Lin and Larry Pardee jumping into their (I think) “Bigfoot” four season truck camper leaving the Annapolis boat show. Granted this is not technically a sailing post, but again I go back to any cockpit conversation that goes off in an relevant tangent…Attainable (check), Adventure (can be, check), Cruising (well, my homeport is Honolulu, and we cruise no matter).

    • Marc Dacey Nov 8, 2017, 1:35 pm

      While I don’t even own a car (although I’ve owned two sailboats), I do not resent the discussion of RVs in this forum. Certainly, there’s a Venn diagram of gear used on sailboats, RVs and in off-grid homesteading; when setting up my solar panels, MPPT, wind gen and battery bank/charger/inverter, I found a great deal of useful tips in the worlds of RVs and off-grid housing, despite the obvious links. I’ve also known people who’ve “crossed over”…and you’ve never seen such robust RVs as an ex-sailor who has converted a Hino truck to a fully self-sufficient camper van suitable for Canadian winters!

    • Matt Nov 10, 2017, 7:23 am

      That’s a valid point, Douwe, and John and I did discuss this a bit before I decided to write this article.

      What it boils down to is that a lot of sailors I meet in my travels are getting into their 60s and 70s, and the physical labour of handling a large boat is getting to be too much. I don’t get many questions from them about how RVs work, but I do get a *lot* of questions about how to make the transition to road travel and keep the voyaging spirit alive.

      I’ve also talked to quite a few folks who used to have sailboats, and successfully made the switch to RVs. There’s a bit of holier-than-thou sentiment among some sailors about anything with wheels, which is really too bad, because spending some years on a boat and then switching to RVs is a really good way to see as much of the world as possible before your time’s up.

      Just as we discuss on this site how to get into the long-distance cruising lifestyle, we should also give some thought to how to gracefully leave it when the time comes.

    • Stein Varjord Nov 20, 2017, 3:23 pm

      Hi Douwe.
      I’m totally fanatic about sailing and love to tease motorboaters with the like of: “Motorboats are cars that fell in the sea and sadly didn’t sink!” 🙂 Since I live in Amsterdam I also tell people that “Cars are as smart in cities as brushing your teeth with a vacuum cleaner. Really stupid. Like cars, vacuum cleaners suck!” 😀

      Still, there’s a difference between my opinions and interests on one side, and what I’d like to be informed about on the other side. This site has an enormous amount of information on a lot of different topics that have just one thing in common: They are related to people who like to experience or explore. Those are way better key words for what should be here than the word “sailing”.

      Attainable Adventure Cruising is the name here. Cruising and adventure happen anywhere and by any means. RVs etc are completely relevant. Of course, the sea and boats will remain the main context for AAC, but I would not wish to limit any type of thoughts.

  • Wilson Nov 8, 2017, 6:05 pm

    Hi Matt

    Land yachting has great virtue. In the spring of 2015 we spent a month driving across Canada, from Vancouver home to Nova Scotia in a second hand 5-series BMW. This was more like high end camp cruising than luxury yachting, but a lot of fun. We tented most of the way and received some funny looks when we pulled into a campground in a Beemer and proceeded to pull a food box, little camp stove and pup tent out of the trunk.

    One of the many great and wonderful surprises of the trip was the beauty of the southern prairies, just along the border with the States. Driving through rolling country on those long straight secondary roads was (except for the velocity) like being at sea in many respects. At first glance the landscape, like the ocean, could have been called monotonous but pretty soon we started to notice and appreciate the diversity of birds, plants and animals close alongside while constantly scanning the horizon for distant features and oncoming traffic. One lonesome and very windy campsite on the bald prairie felt very much like a desolate, gale ridden anchorage although the risk of dragging was less.

    We realized early on that the Beemer was not very appropriate for gravel roads so before heading out on another more remote trip we will probably look for a more capable vehicle. But we also noticed that people in the big RVs would often pull into their campsite, appear outdoors long enough to plug into shore power and orient the TV dish antenna, and then disappear for the night. We were at the other extreme, eating supper in front of a campfire and swatting bugs. Like sailing, it is what you make of it more than the particulars of your equipment.

    • Francisco Moreno Nov 9, 2017, 9:33 am

      In the fall of 2013, we drove from Montreal to Havre-Saint-Pierre downstream on the Saint Lawrence, backtracked a bit, and went north to Lake Manicouagan, thence to Labrador City, Churchill falls, and Happy Valley-Goose Bay. From there south to Blanc Sablon, the ferry, L’Anse aux Meadows (for the Viking colony) and finally into St John’s, Newfoundland.

      We drove a VW Touareg and had full-body mosquito netting, but late in the season and especially east of Labrador City it ceased to be a necessity. We slept in a tent in open fields, or “Crown Land,” as they call it there.

      After sailing, best thing we ever did.

    • Matt Nov 11, 2017, 8:21 am

      I do recall one place out in the prairies where the risk of dragging was non-negligible, and people were tethering their tents and trailers to parked trucks so the wind wouldn’t carry them off like tumbleweeds.

      There was one day, a while ago, when Dad and I had just finished setting up camp – in cold driving rain – and got some awnings rigged. A big Winnebago pulled in beside us, four hydraulic legs spun out and levelled it, a power slide-out extended, and a TV dish folded out of the roof. Then the driver stood up from his chair. And at that moment, I understood the appeal of a big luxurious vehicle.

      By and large, though, I agree with the “keep it simple” crowd. If I’m just going to extend a TV dish and kick back with BBC News for the night, I may as well just stay home. The point of voyaging is to see new places and experience new things.

      • Marc Dacey Nov 12, 2017, 9:26 pm

        Yeah, the RV equivalent of “the dock queen” holds little appeal, while I can still walk, that is. A VW camper van, on the other hand, with some means of a touch of gensetting, strikes me as one way to see Canada, which could take years, really, to do well.

  • chris Nov 9, 2017, 4:32 pm

    Vow Matt!
    25 comments on RV on a hardcore cruising website: this clearly demonstrates the attraction of the lifestyle to cruisers. Us too are looking into RV , but for a different reason. We are into our 3rd year cruising and live mostly onboard but have kept a small place in the french country side as a landbase for the few months of the year where cruising is not that enjoyable or safe where we are. We are looking at a small RV as a substitude for our land base. This would have the benefit to give us wheels when not living on board, and possibly to generate income by leasing out our brick and mortar landbase long term. We will see how it goes, but it was interesting to read your article and the comments. I was expecting some engineer talks from you, but not this time! 😉
    Chris

  • rene Nov 20, 2017, 5:36 pm

    Hi Stein Varjord,
    Appreciate the amount of sail you have in your blood, like I did many years ago. But when your legs start making noises like the rigging on a one hundred year old tall-ship, you too will start to like motorboats. Reading your jokes, and as an ex-patriot, it looks like the time spent in A´dam starts to affect you, so be careful 🙁 !! Since your dislike for cars, I take it you move around on a Harley D. , wonderfull bikes, and bet you didnt know all HD ever made are still on the road. It just takes a few semi-trucks to pick up all the parts.
    Happy trails!!
    Rene

  • Stein Varjord Nov 20, 2017, 5:48 pm

    Hi Matt.
    Interesting topics, and not new to me. Even though sailing has been my lifelong passion, I’ve also been doing some land based travelling. Mostly Europe though. Several long trips in small not adapted vans have been glorious. A lot (!) of travelling with van and a trailer with some racing boat too.

    Since I’ve moved to Amsterdam, I’ve sold it this summer, but in Norway I had a 1988 VW LT4x4, which looks just like a very big VW T3 van. The 4×4 was intended for military use, (mine was for UN) so it has another chassis than the normal LT. Real 4×4 where front wheel drive could be disengaged, high and (very) low series gears, vacuum controlled diff locks front and rear, enough belly clearance to sit under it without jacking it up and ridiculously big wheels (96 cm high…). 1,85m headroom inside without a lifting roof. Almost no “furniture”. Only a diesel oven (Refleks) two foldable benches for sleeping and boxes with whatever we wanted to bring. Lots of space for play tools.

    Wildly charismatic vehicle that I used to get high up on mountain roads in the winter to use it as a base for off piste exploring on snowboard and cross country skis. It was perfect for that and a lot of people thought it was perfect for travelling. In reality it was totally useless for that. Way too brutal machinery. Not capable of decent cruising speeds, not comfortable to drive, needed too much fuel and too much maintenance.

    The 4×4 expedition vehicles mentioned earlier in this thread are much more modern and capable on those issues, but still I think they are the wrong tool, for the same reasons and some more reasons, no matter what type of travel. Having a really cool vehicle makes me proud. I love feeling proud, but there’s a limit to how much I’ll be willing to give away for that feeling. Give away what, then?

    Well, that depends on who is asked, of course, but if I travel, I want to get into the experience I look for. That would mean nature and lonesome places, but more often in a car, it means people places. Not camping parks, of course, but real people places. Old cities and villages, farms, culture, landscapes of history.

    It’s very rare that these places justify any overlanding capacity. Even in Norwegian inland winters, good tires, rear wheel drive and a diff lock is almost always plenty. The very few times one can use more, one can normally also park the car and walk there. That means that almost always, the 4×4 capacity and tough properties of the mastodont type vehicle serves only two functions: Boost my ego and empty my wallet. Bad choice.

    So, I strongly believe that for good cruising, also on the sea, one needs to take a sharp look at the balance between on one side factors like luxury, pride, nerdy equipment wishes, etc, which normally means bigger, heavier and more expensive. Then on the other side what promotes the actual experience, which normally means one has to look for a smaller footprint, in many ways. Smaller, simpler lighter car (or boat) that is more discrete. Something that is actually able to get close and also isn’t a massive wall between us and the places and people we want to experience. Something that doesn’t dominate our surroundings.

    What’s the point of travelling if all we get is to look at it through a bullet proof window? If a zoo is good enough, why go into the nature? If television gets us closer than our voyage, why leave home? We’ll have to forego some comforts and such to be able to really experience, but exactly that completely insignificant sacrifice gives us the real deal of adventure travelling. Real experiences are real luxury.

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