When Are You Coming Home? Lies Cruisers Tell

14 Nov

Q: Do you have a planned end to your cruise? When you get to a particular place? After a set number of years?  When you (or the girls) get to be a particular age?

A:  It is barely mid-November, and already I am getting reports from home about snow.  I sit in the cockpit reading my email, and when a chill wind blows and the temperature plummets to 24 C, I put on a fleece.  I can’t even handle the suggestion of snow anymore, much less the reality.  Perhaps these notes are my family’s passive-aggressive way of keeping us out at sea.  So if you ask me today when I’m going home, I’ll shout out, “Never!  Not in a million years!”

Which is a lie.  Of course we’re going home again.  But the problem with asking about The End is simple.  It is the absolute, number one, gold medal, top-ranked worst question to ask a cruiser because the answer you get will be worthless.  Because nobody really knows.

When we started out, we knew we would be gone for two years, maximum.  Maybe less.  I had never set foot on a boat before, so we took a “try it and see” approach to the cruising life.  But we had a fixed best-before date, and it was summer 2012.  Home in time for grade three and junior Kindergarten.

And then we decided to cross the Pacific.  We needed more time – another year, at least.  And then we were in the Pacific.  So much to see, such great distances to travel – one year more.  And we needed money, which involved a work stop, which ate up a few months more.  Plans flexed and morphed.

When I went home for a visit in April, we had one year to go.  That was it.  Erik and I had talked it through, built an Excel spreadsheet, looked at family ages, individual needs, finances and a host of other relevant factors.  One more year was all we could squeak out.  That’s it.  And, like a fool, I told people that.  I believed it sincerely.  We were wrapping up.  One last tour of glory!  The kids loved being back home, and I thought that would be that.

But when the girls and I arrived back in New Zealand, they announced that another five years on the boat would be about right.  Erik and I raised our eyebrows at each other.  Five might be pushing it a bit, but two.  Two we could do.

I still honestly believe that we have two years left in us.  But I know perfectly well that I might be a great big lying liar on this point.

Am I ready to say goodbye to this?  Not yet.

Cruising isn’t like a vacation – you don’t go in with a set schedule.  And that means you don’t have to think about the end until you get there.  Because once you step off the boat for the last time, it’s over.  You are making a total lifestyle change.  And that is wrenching, even when you are ready for it.  Even when the time is right, and you give your boat a fond pat and a thanks-for-the-memories, you are breaking up with a life you might truly have loved.  All of your days and nights from this point on will be different.  Maybe equally satisfying, but of a different character.

So the most honest answer is: I don’t know when we are going home for good.  And I won’t know until we have actually bumped up against the end.  We aren’t ready to stop yet.  We know what we value, and we know what will tip us back into a land life at some point.  But it won’t happen today.

And, if I have any choice in the matter, it won’t happen in the middle of a Canadian winter, either.


  1. Erik Schaefer

    That’s just it, Mike. Our rule was, we would only continue while the trip was working for everyone. So far, so good.

  2. Mike

    Amy: thanks for answering my question. I get it. I guess the best you can hope for is that you all agree when to come back.

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