We're not usually “club” people. We're not exactly anti-social. We like to join in once in awhile, but we're not inveterate “joiners”, if you know what I mean. That said, when we first started living aboard, we joined SSCA … Seven Seas Cruising Association. Quite honestly, we didn't know such organizations existed until we started chatting with other liveaboards and cruisers and they suggested we check it out. We did, we joined and 12 years later, we're still active members. Why join a cruising club? Here are the reasons we joined. 1. Learn from people with more and/or different experience.
Just starting out, there was so much to learn and we were keen to learn everything we could about sailing and “the life”. But we've found that no matter how experienced you are, there's always someone with either more or different experiences. Sometimes gleaning just one little tidbit of useful information is priceless.
2. Share lifestyle notes with folks currently doing what we are doing.
Not everyone embraces this type of alternative lifestyle. It's interesting to meet other like-minded folks and trade information … and tall tales. “How do you manage your night watches?” “How big was that wave?”
3. Receive ongoing boating/sailing educational opportunities.
A good cruising association will provide opportunities to learn new skills, as well as enhance and hone your current skills whether it be docking, sail trim or engine maintenance. With advances in the internet, many of these learning opportunities are no farther away than your computer. Check out Seven Seas U.
4. Promotes camaraderie.
Again, we're not party people, but seeing a familiar burgee flying in the anchorage when you first arrive is always a welcome sight. We usually raise our SSCA burgee as soon as we're settled. Invariably, if there are members around, they'll stop by to say hi and offer local information. We, of course, reciprocate when we can.
5. Facilitates contacts in new ports.
It's great to be able to contact people in foreign ports in advance of arrival to find out what services and amenities might be available. If your cruising club is large enough, they'll have several contacts worldwide that can help you out when you arrive. SSCA has about 150+ Cruising Station Hosts in the USA and abroad and we've been in contact with a good many of them.
6. Offers discounts for services, equipment, marinas, etc.
We try to take advantage of every discount opportunity we possibly can. Each shekel saved is a penny for the cruising kitty. Most large organizations can negotiate discounts for their members. We especially like marina discounts, stuff like Sailblogs discounts (25%) and free magazine downloads.
7. Receive unbiased feedback on gear and equipment from other cruisers.
Whenever we're making a major buying decision for new equipment or gear, David does an inordinate amount of research first. One place he checks is SSCA's Equipment Survey to see what other cruisers think about we're thinking of buying. Nothing like getting the skinny from another sailor who's actually using the stuff.
8. Access to port and destination information.
Commercial cruising guides are great and we use them all the time, but again, there's nothing like having access to a fellow cruiser who's been to a port to which you're heading, especially if he's documented all the services and amenities he used while there. Using SSCA's searchable index by geographic location allows us to see what's been written about a topic or location for the past decade. Quite honestly, it's a key ingredient to researching where we might go next.
Keep in mind, you tend to get out of something, what you put into it. We've remained active with SSCA because we enjoy sharing information as well as getting information. We joined a second, somewhat more exclusive cruising club along the way, but the membership dues were way out of line with our budget. We found that though their quarterly magazines were in beautiful color and on glossy stock, we rarely got to see them because they weren't digital and we certainly had no intention of paying extra postage to have them mailed to us wherever we were. Before you join, figure out why you're joining and what you're hoping to get out of your membership and make sure the cruising organization you choose meets all of your criteria. Also consider what you might contribute to others who follow in your wake.