Cruising (maritime)
Cruising by boat is a lifestyle that involves living for extended time on a boat while traveling from place to place for pleasure. Cruising generally refers to trips of a few days or more, and can extend to round-the-world voyages.


Boats were almost exclusively used for working purposes prior to the nineteenth century. In 1857, the philosopher Henry David Thoreau
Henry David Thoreau
Henry David Thoreau was an American author, poet, philosopher, abolitionist, naturalist, tax resister, development critic, surveyor, historian, and leading transcendentalist...

, with his book Canoeing in Wilderness chronicling his canoe voyaging in the wilderness of Maine, was the first to convey the enjoyment of spiritual and lifestyle aspects of cruising. The concept of cruising for pleasure was popularized in the nineteenth century, by several widely read authors and books: John MacGregor
John MacGregor (sportsman)
John MacGregor , nicknamed Rob Roy after a renowned relative, was a Scottish explorer, travel writer and philanthropist. He is generally credited with the development of the first sailing canoes and with popularising canoeing as a middle class sport in Europe and the United States...

, 1866, A Thousand Miles in a Rob Roy Canoe; Robert Louis Stevenson
Robert Louis Stevenson
Robert Louis Balfour Stevenson was a Scottish novelist, poet, essayist and travel writer. His best-known books include Treasure Island, Kidnapped, and Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde....

, 1877, An Inland Voyage; and Nathaniel H. Bishop, 1879, Four Months in a Sneakbox.

Joshua Slocum
Joshua Slocum
Joshua Slocum was the first man to sail single-handedly around the world. He was a Canadian born, naturalised American seaman and adventurer, and a noted writer. In 1900 he told the story of this in Sailing Alone Around the World...

 was one of the first people to carry out a long-distance sailing voyage for pleasure, circumnavigating
Circumnavigation – literally, "navigation of a circumference" – refers to travelling all the way around an island, a continent, or the entire planet Earth.- Global circumnavigation :...

 the world between 1895 and 1898. Despite opinion that such a voyage was impossible and his having retired, Slocum rebuilt a derelict 37 feet (11.3 m) sloop Spray and sailed her single-handed
Single-handed sailing
The sport of single-handed sailing or solo sailing is sailing with only one crewmember . The term is usually used with reference to ocean and long-distance sailing, and particularly competitive sailing....

 around the world. His book Sailing Alone Around the World is a classic adventure, and inspired many others to take to the seas.

Other cruising authors have provided both inspiration and instruction to prospective cruisers. Key among these during the post World War II period are Electa and Irving Johnson
Irving Johnson
Irving McClure Johnson was an American author, lecturer, adventurer, and sail training pioneer....

, Miles and Beryl Smeeton
Miles and Beryl Smeeton
Miles Smeeton and Beryl Smeeton were a pioneering couple of cruising sailors, recipients of numerous sailing awards, prolific authors, and founders of the Cochrane Ecological Institute, a Canadian non-profit responsible for successfully reintroducing the swift fox to North America.-Biography:Miles...

, Bernard Moitessier
Bernard Moitessier
Bernard Moitessier was a renowned French yachtsman and author of books about his voyages and sailing....

, Peter Pye
Peter Pye
Peter Pye, , Dr Edward Arthur Pye. MRCS, LRCP, was a British yachtsman, author and doctor.Peter Pye was educated at Epsom College, then Trinity College, Cambridge and St George's Hospital, London....

, and Eric and Susan Hiscock. During the 1970s - 1990s Robin Lee Graham
Robin Lee Graham
Robin Lee Graham is an American sailor. He set out to sail around the world alone as a teenager in the summer of 1965. National Geographic Magazine carried the story, and he co-wrote a book, title Dove, detailing his journey....

, Lin and Larry Pardey
Lin and Larry Pardey
Lin and Larry Pardey are a married couple famous internationally for their expertise in small boat sailing. They have sailed over 185,000 miles together, having circumnavigated the world both eastabout and westabout. They have also sailed westabout past all the great southern capes, including...

, Annie Hill
Annie Hill
Annie Hill is an English sailor, author of books and articles about sailboat voyaging, living on a small amount of money and sailing junk rigs.-Biography:...

, Herb Payson, Linda and Steve Dashew, Margaret and Hal Roth
Hal Roth
Hal Roth was an American sailor and author. In 1971 he was awarded the Blue Water Medal of the Cruising Club of America. He died of lung cancer.Hal Roth was an avid sailor and prolific sailing writer...

, and Beth Leonard & Evans Starzinger
Evans Starzinger
Evans Starzinger and Beth Leonard are among the leading blue water cruising sailors today.Cruising During the 1990s they completed a Circumnavigation aboard a 37' ketch, using the typical tropical route but including Cape Hope...

 have provided inspiration for people to set off voyaging.

The dawn of the personal web page in the 1990s, and more recently the blog site spawned thousands of cruising websites detailing the adventures of cruising sailors around the world. These provide both a means for cruising sailors to stay in touch with families and loved ones and equally serve to propagate the lifestyle and share information between cruisers and 'want-to-be' cruisers.

The development of ocean crossing rallies, most notably the ARC (Atlantic Rally for Cruisers
Atlantic Rally for Cruisers
The Atlantic Rally for Cruisers is an annual transatlantic sailing event for cruiser yachts held since 1986. It also includes a sailing competition for racers under the auspices of the Royal Ocean Racing Club...

), have encouraged less experienced sailors to undertake ocean crossings. These rallies provide a group of sailors crossing the same ocean at the same time with safety inspections, weather information and social functions. But there are very mixed feelings among the cruising community about the effect of these rallies. There are concerns that they lower the level of self-sufficiency and seamanship and create social clique which divide the community.

Types of boats used

Cruising is done on both sail
A sailboat or sailing boat is a boat propelled partly or entirely by sails. The term covers a variety of boats, larger than small vessels such as sailboards and smaller than sailing ships, but distinctions in the size are not strictly defined and what constitutes a sailing ship, sailboat, or a...

 and power
A motorboat is a boat which is powered by an engine. Some motorboats are fitted with inboard engines, others have an outboard motor installed on the rear, containing the internal combustion engine, the gearbox and the propeller in one portable unit.An inboard/outboard contains a hybrid of a...

 boats, although sail predominates over longer distances, as ocean-going power boats are considerably more expensive to purchase and operate. The size of the typical cruising boat has increased over the years and is currently in the range of 10 to 15 metres although smaller boats have been used in around-the-world trips, but are generally not recommended given the dangers involved. Many cruisers are "long term" and travel for many years, the most adventurous among them circle the globe
Circumnavigation – literally, "navigation of a circumference" – refers to travelling all the way around an island, a continent, or the entire planet Earth.- Global circumnavigation :...

 over a period of three to ten years. Many others take a year or two off from work and school for shorter trips and the chance to experience the cruising lifestyle.

Sailing near shore and at sea

Sailing at sea is totally different from sailing near shore. Before embarking on a sea voyage, planning and preparation will include studying charts, almanacs and navigation books and recent weather conditions of the route to be followed. In addition, food needs to be stocked, navigation instruments and the ship itself needs to be revised and the crew needs to be given exact directions on the jobs they need to perform (e.g. the watch; which is generally 4 hours on and 4 hours off, navigation, steering, rigging sails, ...). In addition, the crew needs to be well trained at working together and with the ship in question. Finally, the sailor must be mentally prepared for dealing with harsh situations. An alternative for those people may however be sailing near the coast, which still gives a certain amount of safety. Sailing near the coast can be done as a ship is always granted 'innocent passage
Innocent passage
Innocent passage is a concept in admiralty law which allows for a vessel to pass through the territorial waters of another state subject to certain restrictions. The UN Convention on the Law of the Sea defines innocent passage as:...

' through the country (most countries usually claim up to 22 km (14 mi) off the coast
Territorial waters
Territorial waters, or a territorial sea, as defined by the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, is a belt of coastal waters extending at most from the baseline of a coastal state...

). When this method is practiced however, one must still remember that if the ship needs to stop (e.g. for repairs), you will probably first need to go to a customs checkpoint to have your passport
A passport is a document, issued by a national government, which certifies, for the purpose of international travel, the identity and nationality of its holder. The elements of identity are name, date of birth, sex, and place of birth....



Cruisers use a variety of equipment and techniques to make their voyages possible, or simply more comfortable.
The use of wind vane self steering
Self-steering gear
Self-steering gear is equipment used on ships and boats to maintain a chosen course without constant human action. It is also known by several other terms, such as autopilot and autohelm...

 was common on long distance cruising yachts but is increasingly being supplemented or replaced by electrical auto-pilots.

Though in the past many cruisers had no means of generating electricity
Electricity is a general term encompassing a variety of phenomena resulting from the presence and flow of electric charge. These include many easily recognizable phenomena, such as lightning, static electricity, and the flow of electrical current in an electrical wire...

 on board and depended on kerosene
Kerosene, sometimes spelled kerosine in scientific and industrial usage, also known as paraffin or paraffin oil in the United Kingdom, Hong Kong, Ireland and South Africa, is a combustible hydrocarbon liquid. The name is derived from Greek keros...

 and dry-cell batteries
Battery (electricity)
An electrical battery is one or more electrochemical cells that convert stored chemical energy into electrical energy. Since the invention of the first battery in 1800 by Alessandro Volta and especially since the technically improved Daniell cell in 1836, batteries have become a common power...

, today electrical demands are much higher and nearly all cruisers have electrical devices such as lights, communications equipment and refrigeration. Although most boats can generate power from their inboard engines, an increasing number carry auxiliary generators. Carrying sufficient fuel to power engine and generator over a long voyage can be a problem, so many cruising boats are equipped with other ancillary generating devices such as solar panel
Photovoltaic module
A solar panel is a packaged, connected assembly of solar cells, also known as photovoltaic cells...

s, wind turbine
Wind turbine
A wind turbine is a device that converts kinetic energy from the wind into mechanical energy. If the mechanical energy is used to produce electricity, the device may be called a wind generator or wind charger. If the mechanical energy is used to drive machinery, such as for grinding grain or...

s and towed turbines.

Satellite communication
Communications satellite
A communications satellite is an artificial satellite stationed in space for the purpose of telecommunications...

s are becoming more common on cruising boats. Many boats are now equipped with satellite telephone systems; however, these systems can be expensive to use, and may operate only in certain areas. Many cruisers still use short wave
High frequency
High frequency radio frequencies are between 3 and 30 MHz. Also known as the decameter band or decameter wave as the wavelengths range from one to ten decameters . Frequencies immediately below HF are denoted Medium-frequency , and the next higher frequencies are known as Very high frequency...

 maritime SSB
Single-sideband modulation
Single-sideband modulation or Single-sideband suppressed-carrier is a refinement of amplitude modulation that more efficiently uses electrical power and bandwidth....

 and amateur radio
Amateur radio
Amateur radio is the use of designated radio frequency spectrum for purposes of private recreation, non-commercial exchange of messages, wireless experimentation, self-training, and emergency communication...

, which has no running costs. These radios provide two-way voice communications, can receive weather fax graphics or GRIB files via a laptop computer, and with a compatible modem (e.g. PACTOR
PACTOR is a radio modulation mode used by amateur radio operators, marine radio stations, and radio stations in isolated areas to send and receive digital information via radio. A robust network of PACTOR stations has been established to relay data between radio stations and the Internet,...

) can send and receive email at very slow speed. Such emails are usually limited to basic communication using plain text, without HTML
HyperText Markup Language is the predominant markup language for web pages. HTML elements are the basic building-blocks of webpages....

 formatting or attachments.

Awareness of impending weather
Weather is the state of the atmosphere, to the degree that it is hot or cold, wet or dry, calm or stormy, clear or cloudy. Most weather phenomena occur in the troposphere, just below the stratosphere. Weather refers, generally, to day-to-day temperature and precipitation activity, whereas climate...

 conditions is particularly important to cruising sailors who are often far from safe harbours and need to steer clear of dangerous weather conditions. Most cruising boats are equipped with a barometer or a weather station that records barometric pressure as well as temperature and provides rudimentary forecasting. For more sophisticated weather forecasting, cruisers rely on their ability to receive forecasts by radio, phone or satellite.

Cruisers navigate using paper charts and radar
Radar is an object-detection system which uses radio waves to determine the range, altitude, direction, or speed of objects. It can be used to detect aircraft, ships, spacecraft, guided missiles, motor vehicles, weather formations, and terrain. The radar dish or antenna transmits pulses of radio...

. Modern yachts are often also equipped with a chartplotter
A Chartplotter is a device used in marine navigation that integrates GPS data with an electronic navigational chart . The chartplotter displays the ENC along with the position, heading and speed of the ship, and may display additional information from radar, automatic information systems or other...

 which enables the use of electronic charts and is linked to GPS satellites that provide position reports. Some chartplotters have the ability to interface charts and radar images. Those that still wish to work with traditional charts as well as with GPS may do so using a Yeoman Plotter
Yeoman Plotter
The Yeoman Plotter is a plotter used on ships and boats, which allows GPS and radar navigation data to be used much more effectively with traditional paper charts...

. Certain advanced sailing vessels have a completely automated sailing system which includes a plotter, as well as course correcting through a link with the ship's steering organs (e.g. sails, propeller). One such device can be found at the Maltese Falcon
The Maltese Falcon (yacht)
The Maltese Falcon built by Perini Navi is a clipper sailing luxury yacht, commissioned and formerly owned by American venture capitalist Tom Perkins. It is one of the largest privately-owned sailing yachts in the world at , similar to Royal Huisman's Athena and Lürssen's Eos...


A watermaker is a device used to obtain potable water by reverse osmosis of seawater. In boating and yachting circles, desalinators are often referred to as "watermakers".-Varieties:Many different versions are frequently used by long-distance ocean cruisers...

s which turn seawater into potable water are increasingly common on ocean-crossing yachts.


Purchasing and maintaining a yacht can be costly. Most cruising sailors do not own a house and consider their boat their home during the duration of their cruise. Many cruisers find they spend, on average, 4% of their boat's purchase price annually on boat maintenance.

Like living a conventional life on land, the cost of cruising is variable. How much you end up spending depends largely on your spending habits (do you eat out a lot and frequent marinas, or do you prepare local foods aboard and anchor out?) and the size and condition of your boat (larger boats are more expensive to maintain because their systems are larger and more expensive). Cruisers rarely ask this question, because they already know the answer to how much they are spending. It is want-to-be cruisers who are most eager to know the cost of living the dream. Probably the best way to approximate how much cruising will cost you is to look at the actual costs of cruisers out there today and determine from that information how much you are likely to spend. The following blogs by active cruisers feature detailed accountings of monthly expenditures:

An alternative solution is to sail on someone else's yacht
Boat Sharing
Boat Sharing describes the ownership of boats, mainly sailing boats, by a non-profit organisation for its members, for pleasure use.A boat sharing organisation may be an association, club, cooperative or company...

. This may be done by working on the boat as an extra crewmember, yet can still be quite costly. Finding a yacht may be done by a yachting club
Yacht club
A yacht club is a sports club specifically related to sailing and yachting.-Description:Yacht Clubs are mostly located by the sea, although there are some that have been established at a lake or riverside locations...

 or through a crew finder website.


Travel by water brings hazards: collision, weather, and equipment failure can lead to dangerous situations such as a sinking or severely disabled and dangerous vessel. For this reason many long distance cruising yachts carry with them emergency equipment such as SART
Sart is a name for the settled inhabitants of Central Asia which has had shifting meanings over the centuries. Sarts, known sometimes as Ak-Sart in ancient times, did not have any particular ethnic identification, and were usually town-dwellers.-Origin:There are several theories about the origin...

s, EPIRBs and liferaft
Lifeboat (shipboard)
A lifeboat is a small, rigid or inflatable watercraft carried for emergency evacuation in the event of a disaster aboard ship. In the military, a lifeboat may be referred to as a whaleboat, dinghy, or gig. The ship's tenders of cruise ships often double as lifeboats. Recreational sailors sometimes...

s or proactive lifeboats. Medical emergencies are also of concern, as a medical emergency can occur on a long passage when the closest port is over a week away. For this reason before going cruising many people go through first aid training and carry medical kits. In some parts of the world (e.g., near the Horn of Africa) piracy
Piracy is an act of robbery or criminal violence at sea. The term can include acts committed on land, in the air, or in other major bodies of water or on a shore. It does not normally include crimes committed against persons traveling on the same vessel as the perpetrator...

 can be a problem.

Other kinds of maritime cruising

  • Camp cruising, also known as beach cruising or gunkhole cruising, is a form of cruising in which sailors sail from point to point in an open or semi-enclosed boat, generally remaining within sight of land. Camp cruisers either camp ashore ("camp cruising" or "beach cruising"), or aboard the boat at anchor. The boats used may be specialized cruising dinghies, small keelboats, trailer sailer
    Trailer sailer
    A trailer sailer is a small yacht or large dinghy style of sailboat that is moved to sailing locations and stored on a road trailer. It is neither a Day sailer or a Pocket cruiser but may be used for either purpose depending upon design suitability...

    s or general purpose daysailing or racing boats pressed into service for the purpose.

  • Daysailing is recreational sailing that does not involve racing
    Dinghy racing
    Dinghy racing is the competitive sport of sailing dinghies. Dinghy racing has affected aspects of the modern dinghy, including hull design, sail materials and sailplan, and techniques such as planing and trapezing.-Organisation of dinghy racing:...

     or cruising. Many racers
    Dinghy racing
    Dinghy racing is the competitive sport of sailing dinghies. Dinghy racing has affected aspects of the modern dinghy, including hull design, sail materials and sailplan, and techniques such as planing and trapezing.-Organisation of dinghy racing:...

     refer to all non-racers as "cruisers," including dinghy
    Dinghy sailing
    Dinghy sailing is the activity of sailing small boats by using five essential controls:* the sails* the foils ....

     and small keelboat sailors who primarily focus on daysailing.

  • Travel on cruise ship
    Cruise ship
    A cruise ship or cruise liner is a passenger ship used for pleasure voyages, where the voyage itself and the ship's amenities are part of the experience, as well as the different destinations along the way...

    may be referred to as cruising. Those who take frequent cruise ship vacations may be called cruisers.

  • Expedition cruising, where the trips can be a combination of scientists working and tourists along for the adventure, or where scientists lead a group of tourists in order for the tourists to observe animals, plants or natural phenomena.

See also

  • Boat building
    Boat building
    Boat building, one of the oldest branches of engineering, is concerned with constructing the hulls of boats and, for sailboats, the masts, spars and rigging.-Parts:* Bow - the front and generally sharp end of the hull...

  • Cabin Cruiser
    Cabin cruiser
    A cabin cruiser is a type of power boat that provides accommodation for its crew and passengers inside the structure of the craft.A cabin cruiser usually ranges in size from in length, with larger pleasure craft usually considered yachts. Many cabin cruisers can be recovered and towed with a...

  • Electric boat
    Electric boat
    While a significant majority of water vessels are powered by diesel engines, with sail power and gasoline engines also remaining popular, boats powered by electricity have been used for over 120 years. Electric boats were very popular from the 1880s until the 1920s, when the internal combustion...

  • Gunkholing
    Gunkholing is a boating and sea kayaking term referring to a type of cruising in shallow or shoal water, meandering from place to place, spending the nights in coves. The term refers to the gunk, or mud, typical of the creeks, coves, marshes, sloughs, and rivers that are referred to as gunkholes...

  • Maritime mobile amateur radio
    Maritime mobile amateur radio
    Most countries' amateur radio licences allow licensed operators to install and use radio transmission equipment while at sea. Such operation is known as maritime mobile amateur radio...

  • River cruise
    River cruise
    A River cruise is a voyage along inland waterways, often stopping at multiple ports along the way. Since cities and towns often grew up around rivers, river cruise ships frequently dock in the center of cities and towns.- Descriptions :...

  • Sailboat
    A sailboat or sailing boat is a boat propelled partly or entirely by sails. The term covers a variety of boats, larger than small vessels such as sailboards and smaller than sailing ships, but distinctions in the size are not strictly defined and what constitutes a sailing ship, sailboat, or a...

  • Sailing
    Sailing is the propulsion of a vehicle and the control of its movement with large foils called sails. By changing the rigging, rudder, and sometimes the keel or centre board, a sailor manages the force of the wind on the sails in order to move the boat relative to its surrounding medium and...

  • Ship location mapping service
    Sailwx is an integrated maritime information service that aggregates worldwide ship locations into a single map. Weather conditions including ocean currents, wave height and tides are also available and can be integrated into ship location maps....

     of vessels worldwide
  • The Cruising Association
    The Cruising Association
    The Cruising Association is a major organisation for cruising sailors in Britain. Membership is composed of those who cruise inland, inshore and offshore by sail or power....

Further reading

  • William F. Buckley, Jr.
    William F. Buckley, Jr.
    William Frank Buckley, Jr. was an American conservative author and commentator. He founded the political magazine National Review in 1955, hosted 1,429 episodes of the television show Firing Line from 1966 until 1999, and was a nationally syndicated newspaper columnist. His writing was noted for...

    , Atlantic High - an account of an Atlantic passage.
  • William F. Buckley, Jr., Racing Through Paradise - etc. about a Pacific passage.
  • Michael Carr, "Weather Prediction Simplified"
  • Don Casey, Dragged Aboard: a Cruising Guide for the Reluctant Mate
  • Linda and Steve Dashew, Offshore Cruisers' Encyclopedia
  • Linda and Steve Dashew, Mariner's Weather Handbook
  • Robin Lee Graham, Dove - The story of a 16-year-old boy who sails around the world in a 28 feet (8.5 m) sloop in the nineteensixties
  • Eric Hiscock, Cruising Under Sail - just the facts, a classic.
  • Beth A. Leonard, The Voyager's Handbook
  • Elbert Maloney, Dutton's Navigation and Piloting - a classic, professional reference, continuously updated.
  • Lawrence and Lin Pardey, The Self-Sufficient Sailor -
  • Lin Pardey, 'Care and Feeding of Sailing Crew'
  • Lin and Larry Pardey, "Storm Tactics Handbook."
  • Merle Turner,Celestial Navigation for the Cruising Navigator - some theory.
  • Alan Villiers, Cruise of the Conrad. Scribner's, 1937. Reprinted, Seafarer Books, 2006.
  • Jeff & Raine Williams Around the World in Eighty Megabytes
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