Pandemic closes down the world. The world decides to go cruising!

OK, not exactly, but there's been a very unexpected impact of : we are seeing a surge in people making plans to go cruising. Back in March, Jamie and I feared our work would evaporate overnight. We thought the market would tank. What's happening? Pretty much exactly the opposite so far. In the last three months, the onboarding rate for new coaching clients has more doubled. For insight into the reasons, here are a range of themes coming through along the decisions to go.

Stalled career

Pandemic restrictions have slowed down, or even halted, many businesses. For a number of people we're working with, the low-work stretch ahead is a great opportunity to check out of ‘normal ' for a while. One we work with operates outdoor education programs: they've shut down for the time being. Another family runs a tourism-based business in an area where tourism ground to a halt. It's different for everyone: but if you could choose between a break for adventurous living, or slogging through a downturn, doesn't the former sound better?


Other gonna-go cruisers may not see their jobs stalling: they may see them disappearing entirely. The loan they want to buy “the boat” is suddenly a priority – in order to secure it, while they can still demonstrate income to qualify! For cruisers planning a sabbatical trip, reselling the boat after a couple of years, this can make a lot of sense…but hinges on some critical timing and the unknown ETA of a pink slip.

This week: keeping socially distant from dolphins #thestruggleisreal

Life is too short

Still others have found their priorities shifted by the pandemic, and decided to make that big change in their lives. It could be precipitated by suddenly working from home, and finding that those family members are pretty fun to spend more time with. It might be awfully nice to be home read a book to the littlest ones, instead of still commuting or off on a business trip. Or it could be the loss of a loved one, forcing examination of how time is being spent. These, too, are the profiles of people who intended to go eventually and are now making concrete plans.

Guts…and logistics

The rationale for many is simple: in the face of uncertainty, floating around on a boat isn't such a option. Of course, that's easier if you're basically moving your home from a on land to a boat on the water within the same country. What about when your boat and your starting point are separated by miles or a border or a continent?

In March, we counseled clients to play wait-and-see while looking for their dream boat. Unless jumping immediately was clearly the right choice, why not wait for prices to come down as the market slows? Except… the market did not slow. Brokers are telling us they've been busier than ever, and we're seeing the same dynamic among coaching clients as well.

Life as usual: studying SAT vocabulary

Normally, we'd get hives over anyone closing on a boat sight unseen – it's best avoided. But it's possible to work through trusted proxies: a buyer's broker, who represents the buyer's interest. A local cruiser who can act as an independent third party and “be the eyes” on behalf of a remote buyer… unmotivated by the deal closing, and happy to lend a hand for beer money. One client is shopping from mainland North America for a boat on a Caribbean island who benefits from both the broker and a local cruiser assist. Another landlocked buyer had savvy local stand-in to assure that their survey went as well as possible. Both sales are moving forward and it's unlikely that buyers will set foot on board before closing papers are signed.

Perhaps there will be distressed sales later this year when plans and funds have reached their endpoint, or when the short term buyers find the reality of a snap decision doesn't match their vision. But for now, from where we sit, there's a pending cohort eager to make the leap.

Totem's 20/20 hindsight

We departed at the outset of a recession in 2008. During the first couple of years out, we heard repeatedly from home: it wasn't a lot of fun to be in a struggling work environment and dim job market. It would have been easy enough to delay our plan (the downturn affected us: no house sale to fuel the kitty), but as the slowdown dragged out, we had one more reason to be grateful for maximizing family time through a rewarding life instead of being back on the wheel.

There's an unattributed quote (feel free to educate me): nobody looks back on life and wishes they'd spent more time at the office. If covid has opened a window on the cruising opportunity and tipped more into the community, there's a sliver of light to appreciate.

Upcoming events

We're sharing experiences and engaging in conversations – please join in!

Wednesday, June 17, 5pm Eastern: Cocktails with Cruising World.

Kicking off the magazine's weekly summer series this week! Grab your beverage of choice, pull up a screen, and hang out while we talk with Cruising World editors Herb McCormick and Mark Pillsbury.

Saturday, June 20, 8pm Eastern: TOTEM TALKS: Dream

A lighter turn in our livestream series: dream cruising destinations! Join for a dose of escapism as we share a range of favorites, including places you can only access as a cruiser. 

Friday, June 26, 8pm Eastern: virtual book club discussion of  Wife

Behan just finished this gripping tale, one which hit all too well on key themes for going cruising. Sea Wife tells the story of a family's cruising sabbatical, and it nails many of the challenging dynamics of setting sail. No spoilers here, but it's a page turner – nautically inclined or not. Bonus: author Amity Gaige will join!