August 16, 2011

The cruising yardstick

I LEARNED YESTERDAY that there is a yardstick whereby you can calculate whether or not you are a successful cruiser. In the modern vernacular, it’s called the fun-to-suck ratio, and the ideal ratio is 90 percent fun to 10 percent suck. (Incidentally, if you’re prone to Spoonerisms[1], you have to be very careful when describing this ratio.)

I found this interesting snippet of information on a blog written by Livia, who cruises with Carol on a 35-foot fin-keel sloop (probably a Wauquiez) called Estrellita 5.10b. Also in the modern idiom, they appear not to have surnames, but I can tell you that Carol is male and Livia is female.

Estrellita hails from Victoria BC, Canada, and is presently in San Francisco, as far as I can make out. Livia and Carol have been cruising for more than 400 days and their plan, according to Livia’s blog, is “to cruise as long as it’s fun. Our definition of fun is at least 80 percent-20 percent on the fun-to-suck ratio, with an ideal fun-to-suck ratio of 90 percent-10 percent.”

Well, far be it from me to criticize, but as a plan it’s not exactly precise. What’s fun, and what sucks, if you’ll forgive the expression, is very individual. I once sailed thousands of miles with a skipper who loved being in the cockpit in the cold and rain. He delighted in the feeling of rain dribbling down his back. For him, that was fun. For me in the identical situation, the fun-suck ratio was 0-100 percent.

The Pardeys, after 14 years of cruising, said that the success rate among people who set sail for a planned cruise of 6 to 18 months was 35 to 40 percent. Among those who declared they were “going off forever,” or said their intention was to sail around the world, the rate dropped to between 10 and 20 percent.

Now there is a difference, sometimes quite subtle, between sailors who set out to cruise, and sailors who set out simply to wander around aimlessly and enjoy the liveaboard lifestyle. I believe the aimless wanderers are much more likely to find themselves ashore, at odds with their companions and crew, in the shortest time.

I have always advised would-be cruisers to have an achievable goal, a concrete objective for the cruise. This saves you from days and weeks of frustrating arguments and “what-iffing” about where to go, when to go, and what to do there. It doesn’t have to be a grandly pretentious goal. You can simply follow in Slocum’s wake. You can collect postage stamps, or seashells, from five continents. You can take temperature measurements in mid-ocean for your local university. Your goal can be to deliver extra-large cooking pots to Pacific-island cannibals. Almost any excuse serves as a goal — one that will eventually end up as a list of ports and dates.

That will give you a feeling of achievement, which I regard as vital on an extended cruise. You’ll know when you’re half-way. You’ll know when you’ve arrived. And in the end you’ll experience the wonderful joy of accomplishment that the aimless wanderer searching vainly for the 90-percent fun will never find.

[1]It was Dr. Spooner who came into the room saying: “I must hush my brat, it’s roaring with pain outside.”

Today’s Thought
In all things, success depends on previous preparation, and without such preparation there is sure to be failure.
— Confucius, Analects

Boaters’ Rules of Thumb, #236
What’s the cost of cruising? Here’s what Lin and Larry Pardey reckon after decades of sailing around the world:

Take all of your everyday onshore living expenses and subtract your automobile costs, two-thirds of your clothing bills, all your rent or mortgage payments and your boat mooring costs. Add 33 percent to your food costs. The result is a close approximation of your cruising costs over an extended period.

Two small boys with fishing poles were peering into a small can.
“Gee,” said one, “How did you get your little sister to dig so many worms?”
“I bribed her,” said the other. “Out of every 10 she dug up, I let her eat one.”

(Drop by every Monday, Wednesday, Friday for a new Mainly about Boats column.)


Anonymous said...

Another boat-related dangerous potential Spoonerism for the careless is one we used to say as students in Cambridge back in the 60s - "Punts are not for kissing in."

SV Estrellita 5.10b said...

How fun to find myself on your blog!

What’s fun, and what sucks, if you’ll forgive the expression, is very individual.

You put your finger on the crux of why I love the formula (of course, I'm biased). I always felt that too many cruisers forget to ask themselves what they as individuals like and don't like about cruising and build their cruising around that. Instead, they pick goals that someone else has suggested are important...and later find out they don't enjoy that path.

It also allows for change over time - what is fun to me will change over the years as will what sucks.

- Livia (Gilstrap) aboard a Wauquiez Pretorien 35 (good eye!)