Friday, 14 September 2012

The Challenges of Cruising Young

Back in the 70's when ocean cruising first took off, there were a plethora of young greasy men and women building or buying small boats and heading out on the ocean. These days, not so much. Many of the cruisers out here today are the peers of those who went cruising in the 70's at a young age. The cruisers chose to work and go cruising later in life. This has caused serious inflation in the cruising world, and made life very difficult for young people to cruise financially. For those young cruisers out here, we do feel a sense of jealousy from our elders for being young and healthy. So what new dynamics have come out of the modern cruising world for young people?

First off, we have to look at "Cruiser Inflation" our cruising peers are on fixed incomes and in retirement. We are on no income. For the older set they don't mind paying $400 to clear into a country, they will get paid again in a couple weeks. For those of us who have no income we have to make decisions about which countries to visit and which not to. As an example Jennie and I did not go to Providencia, a real disappointment for us. We had to look at our budget and decide the $100 plus to clear in was not in our budget at the time. Thirty years ago, you did not have to pay to clear in anywhere, it was a privilege to have someone visit your remote island. So Jennie and I face this same dillema again, do we clear into the Galapagos or not. The clearance fee is $500, you can only stay for maximum 20 days, and when there you cannot cruise anywhere. You are subjected to paying over inflated tourist prices for excursions. Right now we will probably just sail right on by it. A stop that all sailors for hundreds of years always made, but now it is just too much of a cost. We can easily see $2000 plus gone in a couple weeks. So the "new age" older cruisers are seriously inflating the cost of cruising for us young-uns.

A huge issue for those under 30 is the economy. We saw the economy and decided to go cruising instead of focus on careers that would never materialize. I think more than the economy is the sense of fear that young people have today. The anxiety of not having medical insurance, or saving for retirement, or in some extreme cases the fear of other countries and war. This fear inhibited society has kept younger generations from really innovating or taking risks, we develop iPhone apps and working meaningless service jobs instead. I feel a bad economy is the perfect time not to be earning, because you will earn less in a bad economy, so save your working years for the good times. I am a firm believer in the inability in younger generations to make things happen.

We see many backpackers here in Bocas Del Toro Panama. They are very cookie cutter people. All are just out of a university degree (Bachelors or Masters), most are women, and they are taking 6 months to "find themselves". The result is 6 months of binge drinking and laying in the sand. While Jennie and I are busy trying to fix motors, or strip old varnish off the deck. When we arrive at a new destination after a week offshore we feel a huge sense of accomplishment. We have to budget because we have the responsibility of a boat, and we need to take care and protect our home. We cannot just fly home when funds run out. There seems to always a fear of responsibility in our peers, but the rewards are so much greater when you take on the responsibilities.

Taking care of a boat is hard. Our generation for the most part have half decent jobs or no job and live in their parents homes. Taking responsibility for a home and mortgage is too much (especially given the current home ownership hurdles), I imagine taking responsibility of a boat and the lives of those on it would be overwhelming for them. Jennie and I enjoy the challenge and pressures of ownership. We love tackling issues that arise. We are solvers of problems, not avoiders.

Another social dynamic of the generation Y, is we grew up fearing failure; incomplete instead of fails, everyone passes, and participation ribbons. The fear of failure is so great because we are a generation that does not understand what failure is. Jennie and I have failed many things, and they have been our greatest learning experiences. If our generation walks into a job interview with a list of failures greater than their list of achievements we are passed on for a perfectionist. You cannot be a perfectionist if you want to really cruise the world. You also have to have a high tolerance for failure.  Failure is just pushing your boundaries of competence, you will never know how far you can go until you find out where it ends. Then you start working  to push the boundaries of where it ends. Generation Y, has never been allowed to fail, the result is to not try at all.

We have met a few younger cruisers from all walks of life. We are all similar and all different. Most of us have given up on the economy and social stigmatism of our generation. We are hard working, risk taking, and aware enough to see that we drew a short straw. We know that in a few years work will come back, it is simple mortality. Old people get old, they can't work and they die. Right now old people are blocking young people from working in jobs of responsibility, and are acting like the jobs they do require some 30 years of experience. The reality is that 30 years of experience for most of the people is only one year repeated 30 times. I can tell you that for those age deficient cruisers out here, we can easily say age and experience has nothing to do with capabilities and what you can achieve.

The biggest challenge for young people cruising is what do we do when the money runs out. We do not have annuities paying us monthly stipends. Jennie and I will be 28 and 31 when we are done cruising. We need to figure out where we can work, when do we have kids, do we go back to school, and is cruising going to remain a part of our lives. Retirees out here cruising deep down know that when they finish it is only a few years before they are in a home, or living as dependents of their children. We have a life to live after, older cruisers have much less of one. I think this is where the real jealousy comes from. Young cruisers get to take the lessons learned and experience gained and carry it with them through their life. Where as older cruisers are doing the same, but they are taking their 9 to 5 job lessons and bringing that cruising with them.

Our biggest challenge cruising is what to do next. the nagging annoyances are the same in this life or life back on land, no one really thinks us capable of cruising. The reality is it is not rocket science. We get frustrated when lectured of how things are done and what to expect by older cruisers. Some advice is very valuable and a huge help. We don't seem to have the same acceptance of any opinions or advice we have to give. This is the same on the water as on land. I imagine you will find younger cruisers pretty quiet about giving advice, but we have learned the same lessons, just from a different view point. We have sat having drinks, and clearance procedures have come up and Jennie and I are wrong, everyone gangs up a bit on us (mainly because we made a clearance choice that saved us a couple hundred dollars compared to their choice). We just went to after and confirmed our point. We didn't argue, because we would never be right because of our age. We also didn't go and point out how they were wrong. No point really.

Summing it up, our biggest challenges are the same challenges that all youth face: what do we do next, why does no one believe what we say, and when will the old people get off their high horses and realize they are not as great as they make themselves out to be. For Jennie and I we just need to relax, and enjoy our time away from work.


Anonymous said...

Dave, I usually appreciate your blog, but this one is down right pathetic. Maybe older cruisers waited to cruise until they were fully prepare and can enjoy the experience rather than be frustrated and unhappy! Blaming older cruisers for the entry fees charged by opportunist foreign countries "because they can" is also pathetic. Here in Seattle, the economy is booming and it's really hard to even hire a responsibly capable person. You just sound like a spoiled underachiever!

Anonymous said...

Wow, I'm young too but this post just came off as way judgemental.

Dave Wyness said...

I wrote this to start putting thoughts of younger cruisers we've met along the way and our own opinions and experiences in words. I knew it would get under peoples skins.

It is understandable how many of you will find this post harsh. However, they are just facts and experiences we have observed.

Maybe we are spoiled to be out here cruising and enjoying life, but if so we spoiled ourselves after years of hard work and personal sacrifice.

Relative to astronauts we are under achievers, but from our observations there are not many of us out here our age. Define what it is to achieve as you wish, but I think we have done ok in life. WE set our own personal goals and we achieve them, and we enjoy our time spent working towards those goals.

Older cruisers with pensions, $300k plus boats and bank accounts to match don't mind bribing an official $100 to make clearance easier, the government then wants a cut, and cruiser inflation occurs. Example in Panama residents need to get a licence to drive a boat, it lasts 3 years, if you are born panamanian you pay $18 if you are white you pay $260..... the licence is the same. If you are a cruiser here, you get a far larger fine for a boating violation than if you are a local.... Because retirees are coming down here and flaunting their wealth comparative to the surrounding people. Everyone justs wants their cut.

Anonymous said...

So, I wanted to cruise back in 1984, but instead I worked for 28+ years. Now I go cruising and it is all my fault?

Oh come on! What crap!

Listen to the others' comments -- stop blamin' the "older" cruisers for something that is not their fault (but is ALSO their problem, too - just like you).

FYI, not all "older" cruisers have unlimited incomes.

Stop being do self-absorbed. You need a (light) smack up the backside of your head.

Somebody's goin' to get a hurt real bad! (apologies to Russell Peters)

(I'm sure you'll have fun with my comment... ;-)


Dave Wyness said...

I actually hesitated for months about this post because I knew it would piss a bunch of old and young people off. I equally discriminate if you happen to read it.

I started a thread that got a lot of comments and views (30 000) and I took the opinions and simplified it into a few paragraphs.

After months of young cruisers we met reiterating the same challenges, and old cruisers reinforcing the stereo type. I gave up and wrote it out.

I guess the reality of the world is for each person to discover on their own.

Jesse on s/v Smitty said...


I hope you don't get discourage by some of these responses. I am 37 and working with my Bride to get out there cruising. So I fall in between you and those complaining about your post and share many of the same values and thoughts as you.

I have tried to have similar conversations with many about how the personal choices of the Baby Boomers and following generations are having significant impacts on inflation and the way of life of those that followed. You can see it in the housing and mortgage crises and in the general cost of items. Many of these cruisers you are out there with are only able to go in the $300K plus boats because of cashing in on a false inflation in the value of their houses or the stock market. Their only real “success” was being lucky enough to be born prior to the 1960s; they were able to “market time” by sheer luck. Those of us that have come after are forced to deal with the reality of working for less money in real dollars and seeing the buying power of those dollars continue to diminish.

And please don’t give me the BS response you aim towards the Occupiers or other derogatory names you have for those that don’t agree with you. I have degrees in geology and chemistry and my wife in accounting. We have been working for 15 years and have advanced to beyond a normal career path. We have no kids and our only debt is our mortgage on a small, 750 sf house purchased for $240K in 2002. We did everything “right” in accordance with “American Dream”; college, saving, house, etc. Yet we find ourselves in the middle of the reality that even earning a household income over $150K a year, we won’t be able to retire like those before us. There will be no social security, our 401Ks and IRAs will be lucky to be valued in equivalent dollars as we put in and our house will likely be worth less then we paid for it.

So I agree with what you and Jeanie are doing. Get out there and get life experiences. Those are way more important than earning less than your labors are worth.

Keep Cruising!

Jesse on s/v Smitty

Anonymous said...

Hey Dave,

Just discovered your blog because we are in the process of doing something similar. Strangely, my wife and I are both from the lower mainland, and my wife actually knew Jessie!

I liked this post. Our generation is fairly quiet on this point, but most of us have figured out that we got a raw deal. While older people (like the posters above) take it very personally, it's actually just supply and demand.

Baby boomers rode a demographic and technological wave that made many of them very wealthy, often by accident (such as the way property prices have skyrocketed by thousands of percent over the last 60 years), here in Europe. The oversupply of money has driven up prices, not just in the cruising world, but in life generally. It's just maths, but it's understandable that older people would take it personally, as it undermines the achievements they are proud of.

That's why they shout down anyone who mentions this. Didn't you know, we're just lazy ner'do'wells who don't appreciate how hard our betters worked to get their free education, cheap housing, lucrative pensions, etc?