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Issue 649

07/18/2013 at 5:08pm

Life On A HookLife On A Hook-A Different Perspective

To a boater it looks like the water moving in and out of Matanzas Pass with each tide flows just to give an endless amount of marine life a chance to grab a hold on a defenseless hull and never let loose again. Barnacles, snails, brine shrimp, all sort of algae turn a boat‘s bottom into an upside down habitat. In a few days they form a thin cover, within a few weeks a thick layer that slows down the boat and makes rowing hard. Every now and than I am forced to beach the tender, take the engine off and flip the inflatable for a cleanup.

Setting off on a cruise almost four years ago I learned pretty quick, that the transition from landlubber to live-aboard would require more than just quitting a flat, selling a car and hopping on a yacht. Regardless if it is just cruising up and down a coast, staying mainly in one place or even venturing a nomadic life on a whole circumnavigation: attitudes had to be adjusted, habits had to be given up and new ones set in their place. Like spending the day tomorrow diving under my floating home to clean the organic growth from my hull, something which is required every other week. It has become as natural as cutting the grass in the backyard had been before.

Halfway done with cleaning the dinghy, a couple walked up to me and we started chatting about living on a boat. Our perspectives could hardly have been more different. They had just bought a house in Coral Springs and moved from Idaho.It felt like to them that a cruiser like me living on a sailboat seemed to be part of an exotic tribe that required further investigation.

And while her husband, a little embarrassed, slowly moved away from the typical low-water odor evaporating from the bottom of my dinghy into some fresh air, she began to ask me a thousand questions. They all summed up to: How is it to live on a sailboat?

For a moment I was tempted to simplify my answer to: "Amazing"

But that would just support another stereotypical impression of the cruising life that is framed by five o‘clock cocktails, white beaches, fresh coconut and a bikini top drying tied to a lifeline. And as a fact all of this is part of the cruising lifestyle, and for sure not the least important ones. But there is more to look at, like a very basic fundamental that is obvious but often overseen: Being very independent.

If you begin the life of a cruiser you either have a lot of money that makes you independent or you learn to save money and become independent that way.

Paulinchen, my sailboat home, spends most of her time on chain and hook, some on a mooring ball and almost none in marinas. An average night in a marina costs between $45 and $70. And for that you have to bring your bed, your sheets and even your breakfast! For a week of vacation that is expensive. But a nomadic cruiser has to spend 365 nights somewhere.

I’ve learned to anchor in all kinds of weather and environments and sometimes a mooring ball is an alternative. A trade that pays off-if the fee includes the real reason to choose this alternative - cruiser treats like access to an air-conditioned shower ashore, a freshwater tap, a laundry and maybe even Wi-Fi. Small things that seem to be nothing special, but all things that I have learned to value living on a boat. Even if the perspective of a shower that is shared with strangers does not seem to be too desirable, it is pure luxury compared to the solar-heated bag filled with water on the foredeck that serves the purpose afloat.

But the life away from shore power, fresh water and cable TV is not only giving up the roots of civilization, it just changes your perspective on some of them. Doing so it builds the foundations for a life of freedom, flexibility and full of curiosity. Living an unplugged life allows a peek into ports, towns, rivers, bays and finally souls. It brings me to people and places I would never have seen without it. And wherever I drop my anchor I can lift it another day and move on with all that I own. I spent a summer in Canada, and before that sailed from Finland to the Bahamas. And now I am in Fort Myers Beach for a few months.

After a while the couple watching my dinghy cleaning efforts prepared to continue their beach walk, the woman looked at me, thought for a moment and said, "You are living the dream."Her husband stared, irritated: "You dream of scratching barnacles off an inflatable?"

It is all about perspective.


Hinnerk Weiler


Readers can follow Weiler’s journey at