This article is about yacht cruising. For cruising on cruise liners see the article Cruise ship.

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 work prior to the nineteenth century. In 1857, the philosopher Henry David Thoreau, 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, 1866, A Thousand Miles in a Rob Roy Canoe; Robert Louis Stevenson, 1877, An Inland Voyage and Nathaniel H. Bishop, 1879, Four Months in a Sneakbox.

Joshua Slocum was one of the first people to carry out a long-distance voyage for pleasure, circumnavigating the world between 1895 and 1898. Despite opinion that such a voyage was impossible and despite being a retired sea captain, Slocum rebuilt a derelict sloop Spray and sailed her single-handed around the world. His book Sailing Alone Around the World is still considered a classic adventure, and inspired many others to take to the seas.

Other cruising authors have provided both inspiration and instruction to would-be cruisers. Key among these during the post war period are Miles and Beryl Smeeton, Bernard Moitessier, and Eric & Susan Hiscock. During the 1970s - 1980s, Robin Lee Graham, Lin and Larry Pardey, Annie Hill, Herb Payson, Linda & Steve Dashew and Hal & Margaret Roth have provided inspiration for people to set off voyaging.

Types of boats used

Cruising is done on both sail and power boats, although sail predominates over longer distances, as ocean-going power boats are considerably more expensive to purchase and operate. In both cases however, the boats are still quite costly as the size required is usually up to 20 meters. Smaller boats have been used in around-the-world trips, but is generally not recommended given the dangers involved. Many cruisers are "long term" and travel for many years, the most adventurous circling the globe over a period of three to ten years. Many others take a year or two off from work and school for short trips and the chance to experience the cruising lifestyle.

Sailing near shore and at sea

Sailing at sea is totally different than sealing 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 (eg 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' trough the country (most countries usually claim up to 22km of the coast). When this method is practiced however, one must still remember that if the ship needs to stop (eg for repairs), you will probably first need to go to a customs checkpoint to have your passport checked.


Cruisers use a variety of equipment and techniques to make their voyages possible, or simply more comfortable. The use of wind vane self steering is common on long distance cruising yachts.

Though in the past many cruisers had no means of generating electricity on board and depended on kerosene and dry cell batteries, today most have electrical devices such as lights and communications. Although most boats can generate power from their inboard engines, and some carry generators, carrying sufficient fuel for these over a long voyage can be a problem, so many cruising boats are equipped with generating devices such as solar panels, wind turbines and towed turbines.

Satellite communications 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 restricted areas. Many cruisers still use short wave maritime SSB and Amateur radio, which has no running costs. These radios provide two-way voice communications, can receive weather fax graphics via a laptop computer and with a compatible modem (e.g. PACTOR), can send and receive email at very slow speed. Such emails are usually limited to basic communication using plain text, without HTML formatting or attachments.

Watermakers which turn seawater into potable water are increasingly common on ocean crossing yachts. Radar, GPS are usually present and electronic charting systems are also found on cruising yachts.


Obtaining and maintaining a yacht is very costly. Generally, 4% of the purchase price will be spent annually on boat maintenance). An alternative solution is to sail on someone else's yacht. 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.


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 EPIRBs and liferafts.

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.

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 sailers or general purpose daysailing or racing boats pressed into service for the purpose.
  • Daysailing is recreational sailing that does not involve racing or cruising. Many racers refer to all non-racers as "cruisers," including dinghy and small keelboat sailors who primarily focus on daysailing.
  • Travel on cruise ships may be referred to as cruising. Those who take frequent cruise ship vacations may be called cruisers.

Further reading

  • ; Jim Howard, Charles J. Doane Handbook of offshore cruising: The Dream and Reality of Modern Ocean Cruising. .
  • William F. Buckley, Jr., 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 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

See also


External links

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