12 Things I Learned While Cruising

The 12 things that I learned while I was a full-time live aboard are equally applicable to my life back on land, by John Millard. 

Today, our guest blogger is John Millard. He lived out his dream aboard a 2008 Leopard 46 for three years with his wife Jenn. But as they say, all good things eventually come to an end... for now.  Three kids and one dog later they have found themselves back on land but they continue to keep the dream alive, when the little ones get a bit older the plan is to go cruising again. But for now John finds his fixes as a captain by managing yachts in Miami, FL.

Take it from the couple who has taken the leap of faith, here are 12 things that John and Jenn learned while cruising that also apply to their life back on land. (And catch up with us next week when we share their full story!)



 Keep it Simple Stupid, We currently own a 1968 Formula 233, five Gauges total and very easy to troubleshoot, I spent a lot of time and money working on my Air-conditioning and Underwater lights. Cruising will show you what you can live without. Less is more. We downsized our life to go sailing, and still try to avoid collecting "Stuff."


Ask permission to come aboard

Yacht etiquette is important, understand it! Never board a vessel without "Permission to Come Aboard." It is often not needed, but is the right thing to do, like taking your shoes off when you board. Yachting is a culture and just like any Culture, respect the history, it pays to understand it.


Feel the rhythm

The re is a pulse to life at sea-- wind, waves, current, you must have your finger on the pulse, tune in. Not only at sea, but in foreign countries. Before you set your "American" expectations, take some time to look and listen. You would not plan a passage without checking the weather first. Be aware of your surroundings.


Visual navigation-- see where you are going

This is a skill that can be the difference between a Great Adventure or Great Disaster.  Learn it, practice it, check the charts.  We have seen vessels run aground, de-masted, and destroyed, all of which could have been avoided.  I apply this to my life onshore by visualizing and daydreaming about the kind of life I want my family to live, One filled with passion and adventure, and anticipating the "navigational hazards" the may prevent it like putting my work before my relationship with my wife or children.

Don't force it, know when to quit

I have broken enough things on my boat to know that if it's really hard, you're probably doing it wrong. Take a step back and think about it. This also applies to sailing; if the weather sucks, stay put!  In 3000 NM, we only had one or two terrible days of weather, both times we were sailing on a schedule. I apply this to my life on land by trusting my gut, if it doesn't feel right, it's not.

You find what you’re looking for when you stop looking

When we Started our adventure, we were very diligent about trying to capture all the moments on camera through pictures and video.  It took me about three weeks in the Bahamas to realized that when you are trying to capture the sunset from behind a lens, you are not present in the moment and you actually miss it!  Onshore we actively are aware of our presence in the moment.  That's what I love about being under sail, it's hard to think about yesterday or tomorrow, it forces you to live in the here and now!

Collard shirt

It becomes easy to let things go the longer you live at sea. I have learned that you never know who you will meet when cruising, or when you will be invited for sundowners on a megayacht. Be prepared!  I still wear a collared shirt every day!

Do the homework!

Know what you doing, know where you're going, have a backup plan. Learn the rules. Just because you can buy a boat doesn't mean you have the knowledge to use it with putting yourself or others at risk.

Perfect is the enemy of good enough

You will never leave the dock trying to make everything 'perfect'. Safety first, if you can safely make a passage, move on.


This is one of the things I miss most about cruising.  I love the ritual of preparing to go to sea, there is an excitement to the challenge of setting off to a new country and a discipline to the preparation of the boat for her battle against mother nature. There are very few feelings as good as your preparations paying off.  A good passage is a boring one!

A gentleman never sails to windward

The boat can handle it, but can the crew?  Beating into the wind is not fun, but sometimes it must be done.  Avoid it when possible, there is already plenty of stress living on a boat. This is also a good attitude to have when dealing with the different kinds of people you will meet out at sea.  They left the dock for a reason, you will not always agree with them. This is also helpful down island as checking in to customs and immigration can be a very unpleasant experience, depending on where you are.  I always tried to open with a compliment about the island or its culture or how excited I am to learn about the island.  People in the islands are very family-oriented, I always got a smile when showing them my deckhand's passport photo, my  6-month-old son Jack. They can ruin your day, smile a lot!

Reef early and reef often

Be Prepared, it's not fun to do, but it's worth it, especially at night.  The forecast is close most of the time but is not a guarantee. In life sometimes you have to take one step back to take two steps forward. Like moving back to land after two major hurricanes to start a business (www.luxpropandyacht.com) that allows me to do things I love while I plan my next adventure... which will be crossing the Pacific Ocean in 2027 with my wife, Jenn, and our three children!



As all cruisers will tell you, living aboard a boat is not a vacation. It will test you and it will try you. But it is the freedom of the lifestyle and culture that will keep you coming back for more. There is nothing else in the world like living on a sailboat, and once you have experienced it you're life will never be the same.



To find your inspiration to get on a boat by checking out John's Instagram account. The photos are stunning!

Topics: Owner Stories, Boating Tips

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