You would think that just getting out would signify fearlessness. In many ways that is true, although I will say that we learned our lessons early on to wait until the time is right, resulting in there being much less to fear. But how do you know when that is? Do we wait for a sign? Where is the manual for this? You can only learn so much from the journeys of those who have gone before you. In the end we must all write our own manual. That's where Bruce and I are right now. What happens AFTER the Dream is realized? What happens when you actually REACH that finish line???
We've been asked many times along the way, "Why did you go that way? - Why did you choose the route you did? - Why do you move so slowly? - Was there any one place that you would want to settle down and live?" Since the unveiling of our most recent plan, questions are rolling in again. And now there's a NEW question. "Are you finished Cruising?"
Our dream was to make it to Grenada on our own boat. That was our finish line. But then I wasn't done. I wanted to continue on in order to keep feeding the addiction that is only satisfied by reaching the next new destination. But Bruce is ready for some comfort. He is ready for some certainty and routine... an easier life. While there is no guarantee of that with our new plan, it's what we have decided to do. We've moved the finish line and so a new plan is born.
When we first started our cruising journey, we had a lot of encouragement from those already out here. But there were some warnings tossed in there as well... In my bright-eyed optimistic state, I ignored those nay-sayers thinking that happiness comes from within ~ those are just unhappy people.
But today I heard myself giving similarly ominous advice to a Cruiser-in-Waiting, and it stunned me. WAIT! What happened to me? Have I become one of those unhappy people??? We have had a run of frustration with our generator and it seems that we just can't figure out what's wrong with the damned thing. It's disheartening to get up every day and work on that same thing again, with the same dashing of hope as a result. Has it turned me?
And then we lost ours. At least temporarily. Perhaps staying in one place for so long is the cause and once we get moving again, we'll rediscover the joy. But there are deeper causes at work here and it's time to admit that our Cruising days are numbered!
There. I've said it out loud. Bruce is 21 years my senior. He is 76 years old, and while he still has a lot of energy, he's slowing down. He is tired of fixing things. He is tired of the underlying stress of keeping all the little items on the maintenance list ticked off. He is tired of worrying about just keeping the boat in shape and wants to enjoy some leisure time. This has all just become too much work! He remembers fondly the time when the boat was a place he could to go tinker and putter, then he could return home to the modern conveniences. Conveniences like running water we don't have to make ourselves, electricity that we don't have to make ourselves, refrigeration that doesn't have to be babied, a laundry machine that washes the clothes for you, and the list goes on... Conveniences we gave up - tossed away to pursue the lure of these Caribbean islands.
I have to say that I wasn't happy when he confessed this to me, but I think in my heart I knew it was coming. And I've just had to admit it to myself, and then convince myself that it was OK. Remember that fear of failure? We have not failed. We have made it to the finish line we set for ourselves. I've had to adjust my mental picture of our future though, and that's not easy for me.
So this is my farewell to the dream. It is part of my processing and puts the period on the sentence, as well as the era... our Cruising era. When I think of no longer experiencing the feeling of smug entitlement derived from floating in these crystal waters right in the middle of "the view" from shore, it makes my chest tighten. I'm not ready. I can't go back to a life shackled to land. I must maintain my supremacy over dirt dwellers.
I look to my peers to see what they're doing. And then I see that so many of the cruising couples we've met and followed are changing things up as well. They're leaving the boat part of the year to fly to where their families are... they're taking jobs and renting apartments or buying RVs to live in part of the year. And they're OK. In fact, I think it increases the appreciation of time spent on the boat after the initial thrill of the early cruising days has passed. We can get that back!
So, I adjust my mental self image and my self-defined role in this world, and go back to being just a person who has a boat. No longer liveaboards, no longer truly Cruisers. I remember wanting that title so badly and how proud I was to achieve it. Cruiser Class of 2013! Happy days!
But you know what? I'm not sad about this. I'm not ashamed or regretful. We did it. We made the cut and we did it our way. And now... we aren't going back. We are going forward. And we are answering the question: "Is there any one island that you've been to where you could imagine yourselves settling down?" The answer: "YES! Puerto Rico!"
And we won't be dirt dwellers... we'll be ROCK Dwellers! And are we giving up Cruising entirely? Well in the purest sense, we are. But we are keeping the boat for a while longer so that we can spend more time exploring the VI. The more I think of it, the more I realize that this plan is good. In fact, it's BETTER than Good. It's GREAT! We will have a new home, with a pool and a BEACH at our doorstep, AND we can still pop over to the boat and tinker. And when we're done with that, we can take the boat on a short sail to one of a thousand amazing anchorages.
We can become "Locals". We LIVE in the CARIBBEAN for pete's sake! Who could be sad about that??? We can help others find their way in our territory. We can offer cruisers a place to stop over and maybe a run to the grocery store or a load of laundry. And we can explore our new island home in leisure.
There she is! Negative-Nellie be GONE! And while there will always be some lingering fear, I think we have been given a sign. This plan just popped up before our eyes and fell into place. We are turning the hour-glass-of-life over, beginning a new chapter in the manual, and re-positioning the finish line!