Sailing Journey: Lessons Learnt, Part 2

Let’s continue the lessons learnt in this Part 2 of the sailing journey series.

If you missed Part 1 of the lessons learnt, then you may wish to read these before continuing with Part 2.

These lessons are in no particular order and just the way that they melted from my brain. Memories of living on 2 boats – Naiad and Reality – for 21 years swim through my mind. So, I wanted to share some insight with you. Maybe you’re thinking of living on a boat long-term?

Saloon, Catalina 47', Long Island, New York, USA
Reality’s Saloon (Photo credit: Colin Palmer)

Let’s continue with the lessons learnt.


Living on a boat teaches invaluable teamwork between skipper and crew.

Each person needs to trust the other to know what to do in any situation that may arise. This comes with time, experience, and making mistakes. Call it a ‘conditioning‘ of situations and hopefully, you only make the mistake once.

But, it’s not just about the sailing and discovery of secluded amazing spots.

Bruce Roberts Motor Sailor 28', Whitsundays, Australia, Oceania
Naiad in the Whitsunday region – 35mm film

Because you’re continuously living in a confined space with each other, this is also challenging.

Depending on where the boat is anchored, you can’t just step off following an argument. What can you do? Leave in a huff? Sit in your dinghy for an hour to cool off and enjoy a little space?


This may be just my experience, but the boating community is different.

Maybe it’s because everyone is in the same boat so to speak (no pun intended). If something goes wrong, typically, other yachties come to your aid. Not that I expect everyone to do everything for me – I don’t. It’s comforting to know that if you’re in trouble out there, then someone may come to help. We helped other yachties many times over the decades.

The yachting community seems to be more close-knit, but this also depends on where you’re moored. It’s not uncommon to bump into other boats whilst anchored behind an island. Before you know it everyone is invited for a BBQ, party on the beach, or to another boat.

Low Isles, Whitsundays, Australia, Oceania
Low Isles, Queensland, Australia – 35mm film

Have you ever heard of a Progressive Party?

A popular gathering while in Brisbane but also while cruising and usually involves several boats. Everyone visits the first boat for sundowners and snacks. A second boat for starters. A third for the main meal. A fourth for dessert. A fifth for after-dinner drinks and games. After a couple of drinks on each boat, hopping on and off the dinghy to change boats, becomes very challenging.

Progressive parties are loads of fun and something that you really can’t do in a house, as you can’t drive after drinking.

Coping with seasickness

Have you ever been seasick? I mean severely seasick? Not just queasy.

During rough weather or just confused seas, the motor goes on. The diesel fumes linger around your face and set’ off seasickness, for me anyway.

Sailing from USA to Cuba, Caribbean
Underway from the USA to Cuba

It starts with clammy sweats. Then, a queasy feeling creeps in. Trying to fight this off for a while until bam, you’re puking.

Throwing up over the boat’s side or with your head in a bucket on the boat’s sole – not enjoying the view – becomes the norm, for hours. Once it starts, it doesn’t stop. Dry-retching is even worse. It’s at this delirious point that I dream of being back on land.

Sailing from USA to Cuba, Caribbean
Caribbean blue

I’ve tried pressure bands, ginger, seasickness tablets, everything. Nothing works. Another sailing friend suggested eating lettuce leaves to calm this infliction – yeah right.

Once seasickness starts, the only way it stops for me is by anchoring behind the lee of an island in calm water again. Sounds like fun?

Does land sickness exist?

Yes, you read correctly. Land sickness does exist.

After being out at sea for some time, returning to land may cause land sickness. It’s because your body is still adjusting from the continual movement of the water to the land’s stability. Some sailors experience this worse than others.

Unlike seasickness, which I’ve experienced too many times that I care to remember, I did experience land sickness. But, only once in my life over a couple of sailing decades.

Klein Curaçao, Netherlands Antilles, Caribbean
Klein Curaçao – Netherlands Antilles

I remember it well. It happened after sailing along Australia’s New South Wales coast for a while, without setting foot on land.

On returning to land and while in a phone box (remember those?), the whole box started swimming slowly around me. Or, I was floating around the phone box – not sure. I felt as though I was still on Naiad until a wave of queasiness washed over me. Luckily no puking followed, as does with seasickness.

No one understands you

The number of times that I’ve been asked ‘Why would you want to live on a boat’ beggars belief. And, although I moved off Reality 10 years ago, I’m still asked this same question.

Catalina 470, Dominican Republic, Caribbean
Reality in the Dominican Republic

Friends, family, and colleagues look at you strangely when you say you live on a boat. Family hope that it’s just a silly phase that will pass or you’ll grow out of it soon. Because why would you possibly want to give up creature comforts to live in a confined space?

What people don’t really understand is that you have the sea as your backyard, not just a small piece of turf.

Each anchorage, a new island, and a different coastline become your new playground. With the bonus of if you don’t like your neighbour or new abode, you just shift your boat. Easy. Can’t do that in a house without the drama of selling, or ending a lease.

Catalina 470, Dominican Republic, Caribbean
Dominican Republic

Often, landlubbers perceive yachties as gipsies. Tramps. Vagabonds. Weird. Living a nomadic existence with ‘no fixed abode’.

There’s a stigma attached to living on a boat and it isn’t great. The nickname ‘grotty yachtie’ comes to mind.

Catalina 470, Dominican Republic, Caribbean
Provisioning in the Dominican Republic

Living on a boat is similar to living in a motorhome with a couple of major differences. You can’t sink a motorhome and it’s much easier than living in a boat.

No fixed abode

This is an issue with authorities. Or, with people that think you’re a little weird because you live on a boat. I’ve experienced both.

Bureaucracy and laws dictate that you must have an address. That address must be a street address. A post box isn’t always accepted as an address.

When renewing a driver’s licence, anything to do with banks, or any formal documentation, having no fixed abode creates all sorts of prolonged dramas.

Catalina 470, Curaçao, Netherlands Antilles, Caribbean
Curaçao – Netherlands Antilles

One way to fix this hurdle is to rent a post box. Although, this isn’t always a solution as some authorities will not accept a post box as proof of residence. You can’t live in a post box. So, “where DO you live?”

The questions begin. A boat never crosses anyone’s mind. It’s such a foreign concept to so many people that when you explain your abode, an incredulous expression transforms their face.

How do you get around this glitch? You need to use a kind relative’s or friend’s address. This solution isn’t strictly legal either for some authorities.

It’s a real dilemma and I haven’t found any other way around the ‘no fixed abode’ problem.

Wrapping up

I mentioned at the beginning of this post that living on a boat teaches you many valuable lessons. Only shared a few here and in Part 1.

Hope that you enjoyed this perspective and insight from an ex-live-aboard that spent 21 years of her life living as a nomad. First on Naiad

Bruce Roberts Motor Sailor 28', Whitsundays, Australia, Oceania
Bruce Roberts Motor Sailor – 28′ extended to 34′ – 35mm film

…and then on Reality.

Catalina 470 under sail, USA, Caribbean
Reality – Catalina 470 (Photo credit: Colin Palmer)

This sailing journey series has exploded to 16 chapters and counting, with over 22,000 words.

I still have loads more to share with you on sailing. If there’s something particular that you want to know, then leave me a comment below. I’ll respond or include this in a different post.

Visit Nilla’s Photography for more global images. More posts on sailing in Australia, the US, and the Caribbean.

More chapters on life as a liveaboard

Check out a couple more chapters in this liveaboard series!

Related posts




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16 responses to “Sailing Journey: Lessons Learnt, Part 2”

  1. Eleanor Avatar

    Hi Nilla, Thank you for replying to my comment. If my calculations are correct regarding your 21 years of being a ‘live-aboard’, you stopped sailing beautiful Reality in 2008? I hope nothing bad happened to her or yourself but wonder why you stopped sailing so soon after purchasing her? Do you know where she is now? I look forward to reading more about your travels.

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      Hi again, nothing bad happened to Reality and she was also home for a while in 2010 before being sold in 2011.

      I lost contact with the chap that bought her – an ex-school Principal, his wife, and ageing dog – but believe she’s still in Mooloolaba, Queensland, just north of Brisbane.

      Since the skipper sailed her through the Pacific for 12 months back to Australia in 2009, Reality hasn’t done much sailing and mostly lives in marinas.

  2. Eleanor Avatar

    I have really enjoyed reading your posts over the past few months, thank you for sharing your travel stories and photos. Reality looks like are beautiful yacht. Would love to hear more about your travels in 2008, and where you travelled after Venezuela.

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      Hi Eleanor,
      Thank you for the great feedback and happy that you’re enjoying my travel stories. Apart from buying, trucking, fitting-out Reality in 2008, which took 3 months, these are more travel stories from 2008. Yes, Reality was a beautiful boat and sailed very well. I’m no longer on a boat but if you’d like to read more boating posts, then check out my Australia category and also my USA category.

      I still have many travel journals to digitise so stay tuned… 🙂

  3. inese Avatar

    Hi Nilla. Sorry for the long absence.
    I would never ask people why they live on a boat. I don’t think it is strange or anything. I live in apartment – how is it different except that I have to leave my place when I want to move around 🙂 Your lessons are valuable – I hope I will need them in my next life. I love boats and open space.

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      Hi Inese, no problem at all and sorry for my absence. I’ve been renovating after my tenants of 14 years left the house in a tragic state.
      I think we are different in that respect and don’t follow the ‘norm’, which I’ve never done – not intentionally, but that’s the way it’s always been in life.
      What more space could people want than seas and oceans as their backyard playground? 😉

  4. Christie Avatar

    Living on a boat is not my thing, even though I found few places where they were renting for the night. I will try one of those for sure. I totally feel for you, your reasoning of living on a boat, and I feel sad that people thing badly for such boaters. My dream is to be able to get a motorhome, and go one day around the world🙂 I guess it’s the same motivation, to be yourself and the world🙂

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      Hey Christie, think I mentioned before that we bought Reg (motorhome) in the UK and drove through the UK, France, Spain, and some of Italy. Absolutely loved this adventure and much easier than living on a boat I think. Having said that, I loved living on a boat and it peeves me when people, especially authorities perceive boaties as “sponges” and “not paying our way in society”. Not everyone chooses or wants to live in a house and why shouldn’t we be allowed a choice without criticism… 😉

      1. Christie Avatar

        I know about your travels with Reg, I followed you along, and I believe that was the time I decided I want that too😉 As for the critics, I decided awhile ago I don’t care about them, even though I am sometimes upset of what happens here, there.. But life is too short, and we need to enjoy as much as possible!!
        Cheers! Have an amazing weekend🙂

      2. Image Earth Travel Avatar

        Ah right, couldn’t remember Christie and happy that my posts helped you to decide. 😉
        So true, I decided a long time also and that’s why I always seem to be swimming against the tide of society, but I like it that way…
        Thank you, will do and you too!

  5. the eternal traveller Avatar

    What an adventure. I’m not sure I would like to do it for as long as you did though.

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      It certainly was an adventure but also a complete lifestyle – just another way of life really… 😉

  6. Puzzles of the Soul Avatar

    Really enjoyed this, you always share great photos. I can share your seasickness. Sailed from Australia to UK in the 70s the ship did not have stabilizers, I was so sick. The dinning staff thought it funny placing a whole fish face eyes next to me, I was off, just eating bread rolls. Was ill most of the 6 week journey.

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      Thank you for the kind feedback.
      That sounds awful and serious if it was on and off for 6 weeks. Bet you were glad to get off that ship?

  7. victoriarose002 Avatar

    Some really beautiful photos and i have so much respect for anyone who does something which most people wouldn’t understand. Was an interesting insight.

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      Thank you Victoria for your kind words.
      Living on a boat isn’t for everyone but it was for me… 😉
      You may want to read Part 1 of Lessons Learnt.

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